Off Road in Tolowa Dunes

By
Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Butterfly Habitat destroyed by ORVs

Over the last two decades, EPIC Staff Attorney Sharron Duggan has assisted Crescent City activists with efforts to protect the Lake Earl and Tolowa Dunes.  EPIC is particularly interested in helping to protect Tolowa Dunes State Park and threatened species habitat from off-road vehicle (ORV) abuse.

Take action to stop off-road vehicles from destroying public trust lands that are home to threatened and endangered species.  Email the Northern Region of the California Department of Fish and Game, and ask them to protect Tolowa Dunes from this destructive ORV use.

The following history of Tolowa Dunes State Park leading up to this point is courtesy of Friends of Del Norte.

“Affected agency officials and citizens were astonished when the route was posted with signs in January 2010, and the County began handing out ORV route maps. Word spread quickly up and down the coast that there was a new ORV riding area in Del Norte County, and damage to public trust lands and other habitat increased immediately. State fencing was vandalized. We began to monitor and photograph attributable damage to sensitive Silvery phacelia plant colonies, to habitats of threatened Oregon silverspot butterfly (see photo above), Western snowy plover, and endangered Tidewater goby. Seaside hoary elfin butterfly (a lapsed proposed federal candidate) habitat has been destroyed as well.

After touring the area California Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas stated in our local paper that: “This is the most egregious violation by a local jurisdiction that I’ve ever seen in the history of the Coastal Commission.” He’s been at the helm for 25 years. Further Douglas declared: “This is rogue behavior. The way I view this is like a big finger to state law… It’s going to take a long time to restore the resource damage that was done.” According to a State Parks official, a BOS member eventually admitted that the plans were withheld from Parks deliberately, and that the coincidence with Supervisor McClure’s surgery was part of the strategy.

After the Coastal Commission threatened fines and a cease and desist order, and State Parks and Cal Fish & Game sent protest letters, the County took down the sign plates but refuses to take down the signposts or rescind the resolution as also requested. The signposts have since been used to tie on balloons marking the route for an ORV rally. The BOS maintain that they can do what they like on county roads, and that the beach is a legitimate destination ORV recreation area for their “route.” They are trying to prove that they don’t need a Coastal permit for signage.

They are silent on the subject of sanitation facilities and camping regulations for their new “recreation area.” Although the CA Highway Patrol originally approved the combined use in 2009, they rescinded their approval in April 2010. The County responded by questioning the CHP’s authority in this action. FWS have expressed their disgust privately and asked the Coastal Commission to act. Six months have passed, habitat is being trashed at an accelerating rate, and not much is happening. The abuse now has a life of its own.”