About 85 percent of an extensive dune system near the U.S.-Mexico border would be open to off-road vehicles under a new federal management plan opposed by environmentalists.
The Bureau of Land Management released the plan Monday. Nearly 180,000 acres of the 210,000-acre Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area and surrounding public lands would be available to ATVs, dune buggies and other off-highway vehicles.
Federal officials say about 11,700 acres in the recreation area would be off-limits to protect a threatened plant. The remaining acres would be open to non-motorized recreation.
Since 2000, the BLM set aside 50,000 acres for the plant - called Peirson's milk vetch - pending approval of a final plan.
Environmentalists say it amounts to a conversation rollback and fear plant and animal species would suffer habitat loss.