The Progressive


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For Immediate Release
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After Deaths, BLM Permits Bigger Off-Road Race This Weekend

Problem-Plagued Vegas-to-Reno Race Marked by Inability to Enforce Permit Rules


Still reeling from the death of eight
spectators at an off-road vehicle race this past Saturday, the U.S.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is slated to host an even bigger, faster
and more wide-open race this weekend. The "Vegas-to-Reno" Race is even
harder to police than last Saturday's California 200 Race in San
Bernardino County, according to Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER).

The 534-mile Vegas-to-Reno Race
crosses the scenic and fragile Mojave and Great Basin Deserts. Its fast
open course crosses roads and public lands near towns where spectators
can gather. The race also cuts through the Hawthorne Army Ammunition
Depot. This race has a history of problems and is notoriously difficult
for BLM to monitor to ensure that permit conditions for the event are

To date, BLM has yet to announce
any new restrictions or safeguards for this weekend's event in Nevada.
In a telephone message to PEER yesterday, BLM Tonopah manager Tom Seley
indicated that he will have to rely mostly on the speed racers
themselves to monitor the course and try to avoid coming close to

Following last year's race, Stacey
Antilla, a BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner at the Tonopah BLM station,
resigned in frustration, after her efforts to properly plan and mitigate
the damage resulting from the Vegas-to-Reno ORV race were thwarted by
her own agency management. A PEER whistleblower complaint to BLM
Director Bob Abbey, the former BLM Nevada Director, disappointingly has
not produced admission of fault or promises to reform.

"Just like last weekend, this race
has high danger risk and is nearly impossible to patrol, but BLM puts
its head in the sand during every one of these big events," stated
Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist who formerly
worked with BLM in the Mojave Desert. "As Stacy Antilla's experience
last year demonstrated, these off-road races can go wrong but BLM has
simply looked the other way."

Besides the danger to participants,
spectators and BLM staff, off-road races wreak havoc on fragile desert
landscapes and devastate sensitive species, such as desert tortoises and
plants. BLM typically does not deploy sufficient rangers to maintain
more than a token enforcement presence.

"BLM has a responsibility to ensure
permit stipulations are carried out, especially for public safety,"
said Edward Patrovsky, a retired BLM Law Enforcement Ranger who is also a
member of Rangers for Responsible Recreation, a national safety
network. "During last weekend's tragic event it appears some safety
restrictions were not followed, allowing unprotected spectators to get
too close to racing trucks. These events need to be adequately monitored
by BLM, or they shouldn't be allowed."

"Off-road speed races can be like
driving the Indianapolis 500 in snow. Racers get out of control,"
Patterson added. "After the tragic preventable deaths in California,
BLM must immediately reconsider if they can safely handle these desert


Read the complaint about last year's race

View the notice for this year's race

See inability of BLM law enforcement to cope with ORV events

Look at the growing ORV toll on public lands

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.