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Death Valley Canyon Studied as Off-Road Site

June 28, 2003

Re "Off-Roaders in Uphill Fight on Canyon," June 23: Surprise Canyon is a desert oasis of awesome scenery and biological diversity that is well on its way to natural recovery. But extreme off-road groups take over a small piece of land in Death Valley National Park and want to drive up a public stream to it, cutting down trees, hauling specialized vehicles up waterfalls, blackening canyon walls with spinning tires and spilling oil, gas and antifreeze as they go.

The Bush administration, apparently not concerned about a clear conflict of interest, puts a Bureau of Land Management man in charge [of compiling a range of proposed solutions] who owns land at the top of the canyon. Given a slew of bad decisions by Interior Secretary Gale Norton to expand damaging off-road vehicle use on public lands nationwide, one can predict that the BLM will ignore the compelling public interest for conservation and give the industry what it wants at Surprise Canyon.

California's senators should push Congress now to provide permanent protection to Surprise Canyon with wilderness or wild and scenic river designation.

Daniel R. Patterson

Desert Ecologist, Center

for Biological Diversity

Idyllwild, Calif.


Your article failed to mention some major impacts of stream crossings by off-road vehicles. When the silt of streams is stirred up by frequent off-road use, native frogs' eggs and other sensitive aquatic life will dramatically decrease in the muddied, "smoggy" habitat.

A few drops of motor oil can spread to a thin layer just one molecule thick on the surface of the water, enough to prevent air exchange. Aquatic life will drown without sufficient air.

Judy Garris

Canoga Park


Your readers need to be aware that the majority of four-wheelers are not into such extreme ventures; most of us use our vehicles on existing roads that provide reasonable access to wonderful areas containing sites of historic or geologic interest. There are many groups and organizations that promote responsible use. Ours is located at

Sue Jaussaud

Lone Pine

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