Hollister, CA March 28, 2007 - The Bureau of Land Management is closing public lands to off-highway vehicle use in the Kettleman Hills area in southern Fresno County to prevent damage to natural resources, including endangered species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, and San Joaquin woolythreads.
The closure is effective March 26, 2007 for the Kettleman Hills portion of the Panoche/Coalinga Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
"The closure is necessary to prevent OHVs from causing considerable adverse effects to soil, vegetation, wildlife, endangered species and authorized uses on the public lands including livestock grazing," said Rick Cooper, BLM Hollister Field Office manager.
BLM's 1984 Resource Management Plan called for the public lands in the area to be designated an area of critical environmental concern. In March 1997, the Pancoche/Coalinga ACEC was designated for the area due to the presence of the endangered animals. The ACEC plan established guidelines for surface disturbances, primarily oil and gas leasing and grazing. The plan called for vehicles to use existing roads or trails to avoid sensitive areas and to keep the number of roads to a minimum.
The new BLM management plan (to be finalized upon completion of consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) will designate all roads and trails in the area closed. The proposed management plan was released last year following public meetings and other opportunities for public involvement. It addresses land use planning decisions, including motorized access and other allowable uses on public lands administered by the Hollister Field Office.
The following persons are exempt from the identified restrictions:
1) Federal, state, or local law enforcement officers, while engaged in the execution of their official duties.
2) BLM personnel or their representatives while engaged in the execution of their official duties.
3) Any member of an organized rescue, fire-fighting force, or emergency medical services organization while in the performance of their official duties.
4) Any member of a federal, state, or local public works department while in the performance of an official duty.
5) Any person in receipt of a written authorization of exemption obtained from the authorized officer from the Hollister Field Office.
6) Private landowners with in-holdings within the restricted area who have a responsibility or need to access their property, and persons with valid existing rights-of-way or lease operations, or their representatives.
During the closure, informational signs will be posted at main entry points to all affected locations. Maps of the area and more information may be viewed on the web at http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/hollister.html. Maps of the area also will be posted with a notice at key locations that provide access into the closure areas, and may also be obtained, along with further information, at the Hollister Field Office, 20 Hamilton Court, Hollister, Calif., 95023, call (831) 630-5000.
This closure order will be implemented as provided in 43 Code of Federal Regulations, subpart 8341.2 Penalties for violations of this closure, pursuant to 43 CFR 8340.0-7, are punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed 12 months.