Settlement Limits Off-Road Vehicle Routes for Inyo County’s Adventure Trails
Bishop, Calif. — The Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Inyo County today settled a lawsuit on the so-called “Adventure Trails” pilot project, limiting it to seven dual-use roads totaling 44 miles. The original county proposal, as analyzed in the environmental impact report, would have opened 242 miles along 38 county and city roads across western Inyo County to dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, allowing them to drive with current street traffic and pedestrians.
The agreement requires that any potential expansion of the program to the remaining 31 roads would have to first undergo environmental review with public notice and comment.
“Limiting the number of miles of roads to be shared by street traffic, pedestrians and off-road vehicles should help reduce harmful impacts and allow research to be done to determine whether ORVs should be allowed at all on local roads in Inyo County,” said Ileene Anderson with the Center for Biological Diversity.
A fully implemented Adventure Trails program would have increased ORV traffic, noise and air pollution in the eastern Sierras, Owens Valley and beyond — as well as increasing degradation of wildlife habitat and precious water resources.
“The settlement caps the number of trails in the Adventure Trails System to the seven approved by the Board, but does not allow expansion based on the existing EIR. This provides interim protection for natural and cultural resources, as well as residents, who can still appeal to their legislators to terminate the project in 18 months,” said Karen Schambach with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
In 2011 the California legislature adopted A.B. 628, which allowed Inyo County to establish a pilot project to designate combined-use roads up to 10 miles long on unincorporated county roads to link existing ORV trails on lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to services in towns. The off-road industry itself warns against using ATVs on public roads; the state of California only approved legislation allowing a pilot project after requiring indemnification for liability by the county. Inyo’s pilot project is set to expire in January 2017 but may be re-authorized based on the outcome of this pilot.