Groups want to help defend off-road ban at Oceano Dunes

Six environmental and community organizations want to help the California Coastal Commission defend its decision to ban most all-terrain vehicles from the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area by 2024.

The groups – the Center for Biological Diversity, the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, the Oceano Beach Community Association, the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, the San Luis Obispo Coast Guard and the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club – have filed a motion to intervene in San Luis Superior Court in Obispo on Monday.

The motion to intervene was filed in a lawsuit challenging the validity of the Commission du littoral’s decision of March 18, 2021 to ban off-road vehicles (ORVs) on the majority of the dunes by 2024.

This court case was the origin of four separate lawsuits that have been consolidated into one due to overlapping legal arguments that all seek to overturn the Coast Commission’s vote.

The Friends of Oceano Dunes allege in the consolidated lawsuit that the Coast Commission violated state environmental laws by ordering state parks to ban ORV use in the Oceano Dunes by 2024. No proper environmental analysis has been conducted to examine the potential impacts of the vehicle ban on the dunes. reportedly, the lawsuit alleges.

By filing the petition, the organizations are seeking to join the case on the Coastal Commission’s side of defending its March vote. The organizations are represented by law students and attorneys from the University of California, Irvine School of Law.

“These sensitive dunes have been damaged by all-terrain vehicles for far too long, and now this important coastal habitat should have a chance to recover,” said Jeff Miller, a senior conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, in a prepared statement. . “The amended permit better protects endangered species and the climate, and allows everyone to enjoy this special place.”

The motion notes that without the organizations’ intervention, their “narrow and specific interests” would be “insufficiently represented” in the trial.

“The candidates call for action to protect endangered species, restore dune health and the vitality of surrounding communities, protect public rights to low-impact recreational access, and safeguard the cultural practices of the Northern Chumash, the ancestral guardians of the dunes. “, says the motion. “The Coast Commission and State Parks are collectively unable to adequately represent the interests of the nominees, as evidenced by four decades of failure to cooperate meaningfully to protect the dunes,” the motion reads.

In a statement to The Tribune, Friends of Oceano Dunes president Jim Suty said his organization would oppose the motion to speak. The other two entities opposing the Coast Commission’s vote in the lawsuit, EcoLogic Partners Inc. and the Specialty Equipment Market Association, will do the same, according to court documents.

The Coast Commission has indicated that it will not oppose the motion. State Parks and San Luis Obispo County, which is also named in the lawsuit, have not yet taken a position on the motion, according to court documents.

The motion to intervene will be heard by Judge Tana Coates in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on March 9 at 9 a.m.

The second lawsuit regarding the Oceano Dunes decision is still before the court

The consolidated lawsuit is one of two that remain in court following the Coast Commission’s decision to ban ORVs in the popular park.

The second lawsuit asks a judge to grant silent title for the entire Oceano Dunes park, alleging the land has an “implied dedication by law” to be used for ORVs, beach driving and camping, and therefore cannot be used for any other purpose.

Because the Coast Commission’s vote to ban ORV use in most areas of the park would prevent such implied uses, the lawsuit asks the judge to overturn the vote and return all land in Oceano Dunes to their implicit use. If granted, it would mean that all of Oceano Dunes SVRA land would be open for OHV use – even land set aside for court-mandated dust mitigation efforts.

Quiet title suits of this type are usually brought against private landowners. They are generally used to “appease” a dispute over land ownership.

In this case, Friends of Oceano Dunes in its lawsuit does not dispute who owns the land, merely that the owners would be using it improperly by banning ORVs and camping in certain areas of the park.

The group says in its lawsuit that California State Parks, San Luis Obispo County, and the California Department of General Services — the park’s landowners — hold title to the land and are therefore subject to quiet legal action.

The case is scheduled for trial beginning March 13, 2023, according to court documents.

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Mackenzie Shuman writes primarily about Cal Poly, SLO County education, and the environment for The Tribune. She is from Monument, Colorado and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in May 2020. When not writing, Mackenzie spends time outdoors to hiking, running and rock climbing.

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