H-OCEANO DUNES

Jan 10, 2012 12:37 AM by Bill Halter

Sierra Club frustrated by Oceano Dunes lawsuit being thrown out

A San Luis Obispo County court judge threw out a lawsuit by the Sierra Club that could have made a portion of the Oceano Dunes off limits to off-road vehicles. The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental group in the country.

The Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Parks and Recreation back in 2008. The Sierra Club wanted the Parks and Recreation Department to abide by a County policy that prohibits off-road vehicles on 580 acres of the Dunes.

San Luis Obispo County Sierra Club director Andrew Christie thinks the court misunderstood what they were suing about. Christie says the Local Coastal Plan written in 1982 says off road vehicles are not allowed on a portion of the Oceano Dunes between the entrance on the north and main riding area on the south.

"We weren't challenging anything, we were just saying look, this has been allegedly the law since 1982. State Parks is supposed to be required to implement that within the general management plan for the area and in 29 years they've never done that" says Christie.

San Luis Obispo County Superior Court judge Charles Crandall wrote in his ruling. "Simply put, it is too late, if the rule were otherwise, a Coastal Development Permit could be subject to endless challenges long after the 60-day period for administrative mandamus review has expired. "

This is where the Sierra Club thinks the court misinterpreted them. Christie says the Coastal Development Permit is not what they were challenging. The Sierra Club says it was trying to get the park to implement policies in the Local Coastal Plan and not trying to ban vehicles throughout the Dunes.
"We wouldn't mind seeing less vehicles than are there right now but all we were trying to do was enforce the provision in the Local Coastal Plan that says there are no vehicles allowed on this portion of the Dunes" says Christie.

Christie says the area in question is a rare and fragile ecosystem.
"It's unique because you very seldom find the kind of geographic arrangement where the sea and the land are arranged in just such a way that these Dunes form.  And wetlands form the Dune system and you have an entirely functioning habitat for rare and endangered species."

Christie says the Sierra Club will continue it's fight in some form, possibly judicially with an appeal to the State Supreme Court.

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