On March 13, 2006, Judge Susan Illston of the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, issued her ruling in the case brought by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the Biological Opinion (BO) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP). In her Order, Judge Illston identified a number of areas where the BO and EIS are deficient and need to be corrected before the RAMP can be implemented. The interim closures will remain in place until the USFWS and BLM remedy the errors described in the Court Order.
Judge Illstonâ€™s ruling provides a blue-print for developing a legally sound RAMP â€“ one that will withstand future challenges and ensure a proper balance between recreational opportunities and resource protection. We now look forward to providing input to BLM and USFWS as they go through the process of addressing the Courtâ€™s concerns.
What this means is that the court has clearly identified where the BLM and FWS were errant in formulating the BO and RAMP and arriving at the preferred alternative that reopens some of the temporary closures without restrictions and, among other things, creates the AMA. The lawsuit challenged only the way the decisions were made by FWS and BLM, not the actual decisions themselves. In other words, they sued and won, as usual, on technicalities. Once the deficiencies are corrected by both agencies, the only complaint the CBD will have is that they simply donâ€™t like the decisions: something that a suit cannot be based upon.
Hereâ€™s the good part: Now the FWS knows exactly what to do in order to produce a BO that is litigation proof and BLM knows exactly what they have to do to get the RAMP implemented. Had they this knowledge from the start and complied with those requirements, there never would have been a suit: there would have been no grounds. What is even more to our advantage is that now all the PMV studies can be brought before the court: including the BLM study that counted the 1.8 million last year that were the result of rainfall. It can now be argued that rainfall is the largest factor that determines PMV numbers. All of Dr. Phillips' studies can now also be included.
Notwithstanding the listing of more species in the ISDRA, eventually, the RAMP will be implemented. How long from now is a matter of how soon the legal deficiencies can be remedied and for the judge to acknowledge and accept the remedies.
Your continued contributions of time and dollars will enable us to monitor and assist the FWS and BLM as they go through the steps necessary to bring balanced management back to the ISDRA.