PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has announced the reopening of the 31,000-acre Serpentine Area of Critical Environmental Concern in California’s San Benito and Fresno counties to limited street-licensed vehicle use, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.
At the same time, the BLM says, about 5,070 acres of public lands within the Clear Creek Management Area “exhibit Wilderness characteristics” and “will be managed to emphasize primitive, non-motorized recreation opportunities.”
The BLM decision also means all-terrain vehicles will have access to the parts of the Clear Creek Management Area that were never closed, but were rendered inaccessible.
The 75,000-acre Clear Creek area, which includes the Serpentine ACEC, was closed in 2008 after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency raised concerns about asbestos exposure.
Under the decision signed Feb. 11 by the California state director of the BLM, only vehicles licensed for highway use may obtain permits to enter the Serpentine area, and the BLM retains the right to limit the number of annual visitor-use days “to reduce human health risks associated with exposure to naturally occurring asbestos.”
Currently, the BLM is limiting vehicle touring to five days a year and pedestrian activity to 12 days a year.
The BLM says it may “reassess its decisions on access and vehicle travel in the Serpentine ACEC if significant new information becomes available on human health risks from exposure to airborne asbestos fibers.”
The BLM’s notice marks the beginning of a 30-day appeal period for the public to challenge implementation decisions in the document. The temporary closure order for Clear Creek Management Area will remain in effect until the end of the 30-day appeal period on March 14, 2014.
The AMA supports the Clear Creek National Recreation Area and Conservation Act, introduced in congress in May 2013.
The bill, H.R. 1776, would reopen the Clear Creek Management Area for recreational use and designate about 21,000 acres of BLM land adjacent to Clear Creek as the Joaquin Rocks Wilderness.
The bill instructs the BLM to develop a rigorous plan to minimize the risk from asbestos exposure and to educate visitors to the recreation area about the natural asbestos. The BLM also would be required to reduce the impact of off-road vehicles to protect the area’s habitat.