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Jeep on the dunes at Glamis
| Jim Bramham | Feature Stories

Cal4Wheel's contributions to Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (Glamis)

Cal4Wheel board member Jim Bramham details how the California Four Wheel Drive Association has contributed to the ongoing fight to preserve access at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA), otherwise known as Glamis.

  • 1970's


    • Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II)
      • This was a study of the California Desert to identify those areas that would be recommended to Congress for Wilderness Designation. The area north of Hwy 78 was identified as the North Algodones Dunes Roadless Area. The entire dune area south of what is now Gecko Road to the north edge of Dune Buggy Flats was identified as the South Algodones Roadless Area.
    • Cal4 Wheel fought to minimize the size of these roadless areas and to protect access to other dunes in the California Desert including Kelso, Eureka, and Dumont.
  • 1980's


    • California Desert Conservation Area Plan (CDCA) outlined the uses and permissible levels of activities of the entire California Desert.
    • It changed the designation of selected roadless areas from “roadless” to “closed”, and allowed other areas to have open cross-country travel.
    • This plan closed the Kelso and Eureka Dunes and set the North Algodones Dunes as closed. Negotiations caused the shrinking of the “North Algodones Dunes Closed Area” to allow motorized access to the last 4 miles going north in the dunes, also known as the Mammoth Wash Area.
    • Cal4 Wheel fought hard to keep the “South Algodones Dunes Closed Area” from becoming permanently closed leaving it open to motorized activity.
    • Cal4 wheel was part of the litigation that went to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concerning this plan. The Court upheld BLM’s planning process that allowed for intensive use of open areas. By winning this lawsuit, it established the legal framework to allow OHV use across the California Desert in places like Johnson Valley, Stoddard Valley, Jaw Bone Canyon, Spangler Hills, Dumont, and Glamis. It also reinforced the State’s planning effort to manage Ocotillo Wells SVRA as an open area.
  • 1990's


    • Cal4 Wheel worked closely with the BLM and the State Parks Commission to gain funding for virtually every improvement at the ISDRA. These included:
      • The completion of Gecko Road, the hardening of camping pads, the installation of restrooms in this area.
      • In the Buttercup area, restroom and hardened camping areas were developed.
      • In the Midway area, the installation of restrooms, the Plank Road Interpretative area, and the maintenance of Evan Hewes Road were undertaken.
      • The need for a safe connection between the Buttercup area and Dune Buggy Flats was accomplished by the construction of the Herman Schneider Bridge across the All American Canal.
    • After legal ingress and egress was negotiated with the Irrigation District, Dune Buggy Flats received restrooms and the improvement of the entry road.
    • Cal4 Wheel worked with the OHV Commission to ensure funding for the continued maintenance, operations, and law enforcement of the ISDRA.
    • Alan Cranston and then Dianne Feinstein pushed for a Desert Protection Act until it finally passed in 1994.
    • Cal4 Wheel and its partner California Desert Coalition lobbied in Washington DC and in California to modify or outright stop this bill. Those efforts stopped the center part of the dunes from becoming a Wilderness area, established the North Algodones Wilderness Area with the exclusion of the Mammoth Wash area. This also stopped a large part of Dumont Dunes from becoming Wilderness, also transferred management of the Eureka Dunes from BLM to the National Park Service with the expansion of Death Valley. The Kelso Dunes were closed and their management turned over to the Mojave Preserve.
  • 2000's


    • Cal4 Wheel was instrumental in the creation of and participated in the Technical Review Teams and Desert Advisory Council Subgroups. These groups supplied invaluable information to the BLM about user concerns, needs, and communicated BLM regulations and desires to the visiting public.
    • In 2000, the environmental community filed suit against the BLM demanding the complete shutdown of the entire ISDRA
    • Cal4 Wheel was the first intervener on this lawsuit along with San Diego Off Road Coalition (SDORC).
    • The negotiated Court order led to the temporary closure of the entire center part of the dunes (the old roadless area) along with temporary closures in the Buttercup area and adjacent to Gecko Road. These closures stayed in effect until 2014.
    • In 2004 and 2005 Cal4 members played an invaluable role in the largest endangered species monitoring effort in US history at the ISDRA. From these studies critical habitat was determined, and more litigation occurred in which Cal4 Wheel, American Sand Association (ASA), and SDORC teamed with the legal arm of the Blue Ribbon Coalition to bring scientifically driven analysis and planning to the dunes
    • The BLM created a first and then an improved Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP).
    • Also created was a Critical Habitat Management Plan in consultation with US Fish and Wildlife Service.
    • Cal4 Wheel was there to give input on these plans and comments as they worked through the planning process.
    • These plans weaved their way through the Court system until 2013 when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the last arguments from the Environmental community.
    • With our victory in this lawsuit, in May 2014 the stakes came out and 22,000 acres of dunes were re-opened.
    • Cal4 Wheel supported further improvements in the Buttercup area including the construction of the South Dunes Ranger Station.
  • 2020's


    • The implementation of the RAMP and Critical Habitat Management are of ongoing concerns to Cal4 Wheel.
    • Re-establishing access corridors to Patton Valley and other key locations in the South Dunes are the highest priority of Cal4 Wheel.
    • The need for an OHV legal crossing of the railroad tracks at the Glamis Store is long overdue and supported by our organization.
    • Cal4 Wheel did not do this all alone. We’ve had partnerships along the way with many OHV organizations including CORVA, AMA, SDORC, Blue Ribbon Coalition, and most recently the American Sand Association (ASA). Also the United Desert Gateways (UDG) organization of local Chamber of Commerces have also played key roles.
    • The next time you are zinging around in the dunes and you stop to survey how lucky you are to have an area the size of this for your recreational pursuits, think of the thousands and thousands of hours put in by Cal4 Wheel clubs, individuals, and staff to ensure that this area has remained open for your use.



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