Firm News

Court Ruling Requires Greater Protection Against OHV Abuse In California Desert

January 31, 2011 Announcement

In follow-up to a ruling on off-highway vehicle routes in the California desert, federal judge imposes deadline for new plan and imposes protective measures

SAN FRANCISCO - January 31, 2011:  Ten environmental organizations secured a favorable ruling in a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages 25 million acres of public land in southern California known as the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA). 

The January 29, 2011 remedies ruling from the Hon. Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is the follow-up to a 2009 decision in which Judge Illston held that BLM did not adhere to its own regulations and violated the National Environmental Policy Act and Federal Land Policy and Management Act in its 2006 Plan allowing off-highway vehicle (OHV) use on thousands of miles of trails within West Mojave planning area.  The court's remedies ruling addresses the status of OHV routes during the pendency of BLM's remand to comply with the court's 2009 decision, and implements measures to protect the desert during that time period.

The January ruling ordered several key protective measures, including: 

  • BLM must complete a new designation of OHV routes by the end of March, 2014
  • BLM must place signs on all the OHV routes where use is legal, and inform visitors which routes are legal for use
  • BLM must create a monitoring plan that will determine whether illegal OHV use is occurring
  • BLM must provide additional enforcement capacity to prevent illegal use

The judge declined to implement several protective measures the plaintiffs had requested, including closing some specific areas with lengthy histories of illegal OHV use.   

Plaintiffs' counsel David Lazerwitz and Matt Bostick of Farella Braun + Martel in San Francisco, Sky Stanfield of Keyes & Fox in Oakland and Robert Wiygul of Waltzer & Wiygul in Ocean Springs, Miss., together represented six of the ten plaintiff environmental organizations. 

Sky Stanfield of Keyes & Fox said, "We are pleased that the judge has ordered these important protections for the CDCA and all the creatures that depend on it.  These measures will force the agency to better manage the rampant illegal use plaguing the Western Mojave."

Robert Wiygul of Waltzer & Wiygul noted, "We are certainly disappointed that some of the broader protections we requested were not granted, but overall the new measures the judge ordered will provide a foundation for curbing destructive OHV use.   The real test will come when its time for BLM to actually implement these measures.  If the agency wants to get a handle on OHV use, it will cooperate.  If it doesn't, it will fight any new requirements."       

David Lazerwitz of Farella Braun + Martel explained, "We are particularly glad to see the court impose specific protective measures during the remand period, which will likely take several years and involve significant public input.  The plaintiff organizations filed this case in 2006 and, despite the favorable ruling on summary judgment in 2009, have waited many years to see on-the-ground action to address OHV impacts.  This ruling finally gets us heading in the right direction."

Farella Braun + Martel LLP, Keyes & Fox LLP and Waltzer & Wiygul represent the following plaintiffs: Alliance for Responsible Recreation, The Wilderness Society, Friends of Juniper Flats, Western San Bernardino Landowners Association, California Native Plant Society and Community ORV Watch. The Center for Biological Diversity and the Stanford Law School Environmental Law Clinic represent four additional plaintiffs: The Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and Desert Survivors.


David Lazerwitz and Matt Bostick
Farella Braun + Martel LLP
(415) 954-4400
[email protected]
[email protected]

Sky Stanfield
Keyes & Fox LLP
(510) 314-8204 / [email protected]           

Robert Wiygul
Waltzer & Wiygul
(228) 872-1125 / [email protected]