EUGENE, Ore. (CN) – Five environmental groups say the U.S. Forest Service broke federal laws to approve an off-road vehicle park in the pristine Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area. The 40 miles of dunes along the Oregon Coast is “the most extensive and unique expanse of sand dunes along the Pacific Coast in all of North America,” according to the federal complaint.
The dunes include areas of wetlands and forests.
“Unique geologic features occur in the Oregon Dunes NRA, including tree islands, huge parabola dunes (defined by their unusual U-shaped ridges), and oblique dunes (with slanted weathering patterns) found nowhere else in the world,” lead plaintiff Umpqua Watersheds claims. (Parentheses as in the complaint.)
The dunes provide habitat for rare and sensitive plants and the snowy plover, a threatened shorebird.
The contested Riley Ranch Access Project violates the Forest Service’s own Oregon Dunes Management Plan by allowing a 12- to 24-foot-wide trail through the designated roadless area. The Forest Service’s 1994 management plan allowed it to add roads to the area only until 1997, Umpqua says.
Joining Umpqua as plaintiffs are Cascadia Wildlands, Wildlands CPR, Oregon Wild and the Center for Biological Diversity. They seek declaratory judgment that the federal agency violated the law by declaring that the project would not hurt the dunes, and they want the Riley Ranch Access Project enjoined “until the violations of federal law set forth herein have been corrected to the satisfaction of this court.”
The environmentalists are represented by Susan Brown with the Western Environmental Law Center.