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August 22, 2008
3:58 PM

CONTACT: Center for Biological Diversity

Rob Mrowka, (702) 249-5821

Center for Biological Diversity Challenge Prompts Bureau of Land Management to Reroute Nevada Off-road Race to Protect Imperiled

LAS VEGAS - August 22 - In response to an administrative challenge by the Center for Biological Diversity, a federal agency has required the organizers of a 550-mile off-road race to change the race route to protect the imperiled Amargosa toad.

The Center's challenge raised concerns over the Bureau of Land Management's environmental analysis of the TSCO Vegas to Reno race, especially the damage racers would inflict on the toad's habitat. In February, the Center had petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the toad as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

"Off-road vehicles wreak havoc on fragile desert ecosystems and wildlife," said Rob Mrowka, a conservation advocate with the Center. "While changes to this year's race afford a short reprieve for the Amargosa toad, this doesn't solve the broader problem of off-road vehicles destroying Nevada's fragile deserts at an alarming rate."

The 12th annual Vegas-to-Reno race, billed as "the longest off-road race in the United States," was scheduled to begin today in Pahrump, a town in southern Nevada about 50 miles west of Las Vegas. The original course traversed mountains, desert playas, dry washes, springs, and wetlands that are home to the toad, which now ekes out a living only along a 10-mile stretch of the Amargosa River and interconnected spring systems in the Oasis Valley and adjacent desert uplands around Beatty, about 40 miles northwest of Pahrump.

The main threat to the species, and the reason for its decline, is habitat destruction, degradation, and fragmentation due to urban, residential, and recreational uses - including unrestricted off-road vehicle use and high-speed racing events such as the Vegas to Reno race.

As a result of concerns raised by the Center, the Bureau of Land Management required race organizers to change the course to protect the toad. It is now 456 miles in length, and will begin in an area north of Beatty to avoid habitats critical to the toad's survival.

"Deserts heal slowly, and damage from one off-road vehicle can take decades or even centuries to recover," Mrowka said. "So we intend to continue to actively participate in planning and environmental analysis of future, similar races on Nevada's public lands."


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