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Trail Access Groups Challenge Summer Closure of Popular Federal Recreation Area

SAN JOSE, CA (June 9, 2005) - Trail access groups today took legal action against a summer closure of the popular Clear Creek Management Area located near Coalinga, along the central California coast . The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently ordered 30,000 acres in the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA) closed to all users including hikers, mountain bikers, off-roaders, hunters, and amateur gem explorers. The temporary closure was announced on May 25, 2005, and is in effect from June 4 until October 15.

Paul Turcke, lead counsel for the recreation groups, states, "The BLM has previously and extensively studied the 'asbestos issue' and has properly concluded the naturally occurring short-fibered Coalinga chrysotile asbestos presents little or no risk to human health. Specifically, the size and nature of the particles in question allow them to be expurged from the lungs or broken down by natural body processes and rendered harmless. There is no bona fide emergency which justifies this drastic and hastily-reached decision."

On June 9, 2005, the Recreational Groups filed court documents seeking to challenge the legality of BLM's closure. Recreationists feel the BLM's closure violates required procedures and is based on faulty data and unfounded concerns stemming from an interim report issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about exposure to naturally occurring asbestos. The access organizations involved in the case are the Salinas Ramblers Motorcycle Club, American Motorcyclist Association District 36, California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs, Off-Road Business Association, the California Off Road Vehicle Association, and the BlueRibbon Coalition. The Recreational Groups' motion is scheduled to be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose on July 15, 2005.

Don Amador, western representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition, said, "I think it is important for recreation groups to challenge what appears to be an unwarranted closure based on junk science and an unwillingness by the BLM to properly and carefully evaluate the EPA's interim reports."

"Off-roaders have endeavored to build bridges with the agency and work in a collaborative manner to enhance recreational opportunity and protect resources at CCMA. I feel this closure is a punch in the gut and throws cold water on those efforts. It's my hope that we can reopen the unit for motorized and non-motorized recreationists to enjoy. This closure to all users simply must be challenged," Amador concludes.

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