Almost 50,000 acres of dunes in California’s Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area would be re-opened to off-road vehicles (ORVs) under a Bureau of Land Management proposal. The area has been off-limits to the vehicles since November of 2000, when the BLM, ORV groups, and environmentalists negotiated a settlement that closed the area to protect endangered species. The BLM now appears prepared to retract that agreement, saying the area could provide a “world-class recreation opportunity.” But Terry Weiner, coordinator of the Desert Protective Council, said, “You cannot appreciate the dunes if you’re raging across them at 40 miles an hour with smoke in your face and deafening noise.” The new plan calls for regulated use and careful policing — as much for the human inhabitants as for wildlife. Up to 200,000 people flock to the dunes on the weekends, and last Thanksgiving alone, there was one homicide, two stabbings, two fatal accidents, and innumerable brawls.

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