As you may recall, on October 24, 2001, The ASA, The SDORC, and ORBA filed a petition with the Secretary of the Interior to remove the Peirson's milk-vetch (PMV) from the list of Threatened and Endangered Species.

We did so because the PMV is the excuse for the closures in the Imperial Sand Dunes, and because recent studies indicate the survivability of the PMV is not in jeopardy.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires that, within 90 days of receiving the petition, the Secretary make findings whether the petition presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating the PMV should be removed from the list.

As of March 19, the Secretary had not done so. The Secretary had until January 24, 2002 to make the findings and thus failed to meet the 90-day deadline. Therefore, our attorney David Hubbard has sent to the Secretary the legally required 60-day notice of intent to sue. We intend to sue the Department of the Interior, the Secretary herself, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Again, this will be a joint action with ORBA and The SDORC.

This is going to get interesting… and very, very expensive. Stay tuned, and get out your checkbook.

Our press release follows.

Press Release - American Sand Association

American Sand Association
PMB 108
1911 Foothill Blvd
La Verne, CA 91750

3/24/2002, Phoenix AZ
Sand Sports Group Fights Misuse of Endangered Species Act
The American Sand Association filed a 60-day "Notice of Intent to Sue" last Thursday charging the US Department of Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service with failing to respond within the 90-day time limit to a petition for removing the Pierson's Milkvetch from the Endangered Species List. The DOI acknowledged receipt of the de-listing petition on October 25, 2001 making the expiration date January 24, 2002. The ASA filed the petition to de-list the Pierson's Milkvetch after receiving the results of a scientific study performed by Hemet, CA based Thomas Olsen and Associates, a well-respected, independent environmental science firm.
The study was performed on behalf of the American Sand Association in order to provide independent science data on the Pierson's Milkvetch and other desert plants that would stand up to detailed scrutiny by other scientists and the US Government.
A settlement of a lawsuit filed by PEER, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity in 1999 forced the Bureau of Land Management to temporarily close 49,000 acres of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area to off-highway vehicle use in order to protect the Pierson's Milkvetch and its habitat. "The original listing of the Pierson's Milkvetch was based on data from a study that was later shown to be flawed," said Jerry Seaver, ASA President and Phoenix resident. Seaver also stated that the ASA had to find a way to force the DOI to re-consider the listing of the plant and to force them to use valid science, and this is only one of a few ways it can be done. When a species is added to the Endangered Species List it is not automatically removed if further study indicates it should not have been listed in the first place. With the faulty study removed from consideration and the new data showing the abundance of plants, the ASA argues that the Pierson's Milkvetch does not require protected status and the temporary closures should be lifted immediately.
The Olsen study includes a detailed plant census that was performed in 2001. The census identified over 71,000 individual plants in the open-to-OHV areas of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, and locates each area with GPS coordinates. The biologists were not allowed to enter the ISDRA's temporary closure areas with their equipment to perform a ground-study so they were forced to estimate the populations from aerial surveys. The aerial survey estimate in the report "appeared to be similar in number and abundance of plants to adjacent open areas." Additionally, the report states, "less than 1% of the plants located had been affected by OHVs," which is in line with every statement made by OHV enthusiasts.
The Olsen report further states in the conclusion that "OHVs do not appear to be a threat to the health of the Algodones Dunes population of milkvetch, which flourished in 2001 in areas that were open as well as closed to OHV use."