Through a collaboration with Ecologic Partners, Inc. (Ecologic) and Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA), the American Sand Association (ASA), has filed suit against the California Coastal Commission (CCC) to oppose all efforts to shut-down motorized off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (ODSVRA). ASA and SEMA are joined in these efforts by other Ecologic members: Off Road Business Association (ORBA) and District 37 Competition American Motorcyclist Association (AMA District 37).
The ODSVRA was created in 1974 by an act of the California State Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. It had the support of local environmental communities including the Sierra Club and Native Plant Society. With their help, areas of significant environmental concern were identified, and management prescriptions were implemented. As new environmental concerns were asserted over the years, The California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks) has worked diligently to identify the best science and best response. This has led to protection levels acceptable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Recently, an issue was raised concerning dust levels in the surrounding communities, especially the Nipomo Mesa. In spite of a lawsuit finding that the studies used by the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District were unreliable, State Parks was required to implement dust mitigation efforts and visitor use reductions at ODSVRA. Additional data collected during the nearly year-long closure of the park due to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that (OHV) use has virtually no impact on the amount of dust in neighboring areas.
The ODSVRA is a major economic driver for the Central Coast, with an annual impact of $243 million. Now, in a move calculated to eliminate preferred coastal access for 2.2 million annual visitors, CCC has voted to essentially eliminate OHV recreation within three years. By ignoring the efficacy of State Parks’ management, as well as sound scientific evidence, members of Ecologic and SEMA were left with no choice but to proceed with litigation.
Ecologic and SEMA are represented in the litigation by the law firm of Gatzke Dillon & Balance LLP. Lead counsel will be David Hubbard, a respected land-use attorney, whose work has led to victories in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA aka “Glamis”), Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle Recreation Area (OWSVRA) and other riding areas. Over the last several years, he has closely followed the legal and regulatory environment at Oceano Dunes. He is well-positioned to lead the charge moving forward. Members of Ecologic have worked extensively with Mr. Hubbard on countless land-use projects over the years. His concise analysis, legal acumen, and pragmatic approach have contributed greatly to the parties’ many successes.
ASA has a long history of being involved in sand dunes and general off-road management issues, recently celebrating 20 years as one of the leading organizations for OHV advocacy. ASA has always supported the best available science, proactive resource management, common sense law enforcement, and extensive visitor education. In addition, ASA has been at the forefront of legal actions to return public lands to public use. The recent victory to reopen 40,000 acres of OHV riding areas in ISDRA is just one example of such leadership.
ASA is excited to see the growing support for the direction we are headed via our partners in Ecologic and will continue to advocate on behalf of OHV access to public lands. For more information on ASA and its efforts to support access to public lands, please visit our website at www.americansandassociation.org or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.