Contact: Roy Denner

ORBA President, 619/449-0778

Complaint Seeks Investigation Into Potential Misconduct Of Carson City Field Office Employees on Sand Mountain Issues

SANTEE, CA (July 21, 2003) - The Off-Road Business Association (ORBA), comprised of off-highway vehicle businesses throughout the U.S., recently filed a formal complaint and request for investigation with the Department of Interior's Western Region Inspector General's Office in Sacramento, Calif. to determine whether employees at the Carson City, Nevada BLM office engaged in misconduct arising out of their recommendation that 1,000 acres of the Sand Mountain Recreation Area be closed to protect the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly.

According to Roy Denner, president and CEO of ORBA based in Santee, Calif., the four employees allegedly joined teams of anti-access groups, participated in private meetings, and excluded off-highway vehicle and business groups during recent workshops, field surveys and planning meetings in an attempt to close 1,000 acres of the 4,795-acre Sand Mountain Recreation Area, located 25 miles east of Fallon, Nev.

"This complaint and request for investigation arises out of the proposed emergency closure of nearly one-fourth of the popular Sand Mountain area purportedly in order to protect the habitat of the Sand Mountain Blue Butterfly," Denner said. "What's interesting here is that this species is not listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, but simply listed as sensitive by the Bureau."

Denner said his organization obtained official BLM documents through the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act revealing multiple communications between BLM staff and anti-access groups discussing potential management strategies for closure, revisions to the area management plan, and field studies involving the anti-access groups and BLM staff.

"It is totally unfair to off-highway vehicle families to even consider temporarily closing this area without properly educating visitors as to why they are doing it," said Jon Crowley, who leads a group called Friends of Sand Mountain. "The bureau has known about this butterfly since 1994, but has done little or nothing to educate users about how to protect it."

Crowley said the Friends of Sand Mountain made multiple requests to the Carson City BLM employees requesting that his organization be included on Sand Mountain field trips; however, those requests were ignored and bureau employees continued to meet with the anti-access groups and the Native American tribe on the sensitive species issue.

Denner said that his organization consulted with other off-road groups and local businesses near Sand Mountain and learned that none of these groups were invited to participate in the bureau's workshops and discussions regarding Sand Mountain.

"We know for a fact that the Code of Federal Regulations requires all bureau employees to act impartially on land use issues and not give preferential treatment to any individual or group," Denner said, "and we are asking the Department of the Inspector General to investigate whether Bureau employees gave preferential treatment to anti-access groups while excluding OHV and business groups from the process in violation of these federal regulations."

The complaint also seeks an investigation into the BLM's assistance in drafting The Nature Conservancy's own conservation assessment and working with the group to develop a press release for the local media aimed at reducing potential backlash from recreationists concerning a revised management plan for Sand Mountain that was apparently being discussed.

"The regulations prohibit Bureau officials from brazenly taking sides in this dispute and we are hopeful that the Department of Interior's Inspector General will take appropriate action," Denner said. "The BLM should make sure that it is relying on good science instead of making a 'feel good' type of decision.


ORBA is a Santee, California-based trade association comprised of off-road related businesses united to promote common goals that support the prosperity and growth of the off-road industry. ORBA's goal is to become strong enough to stand up to the anti-access organizations and oppose their extreme positions on land use issues and to prevent their continuing attempts to curtail off-road recreation opportunities. - Blue Ribbon Coalition

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