Although closed under an "emergency action" in 2001, Surprise Canyon Road remains inaccessible to the motorized public beyond the former Chris Wicht Camp site due to a stalled environmental review process.
As a result, private property owners in the Panamint City ghost town have sued for motorized access, and environmentalists opposed to re-opening the 132 year old road to anyone are seeking intervenor status.
I understand that the stalled environmental review process is now in the hands of Death Valley National Park. The extremists who sought and received a closure on the road are certainly not pushing for the review as the current and indefinite emergency closure suits them just fine. We also know that the Park Service is predisposed to closing motorized access to any backcountry destination and to do so for Panamint City would be yet another in a successful string of unnecessary closures.
News that environmental extremists had sought to intervene in a lawsuit that would have restored motorized access for private property owners in Panamint City yielded the environmentalists numerous sympathetic yet uninformed editorials from the media. The environmental extremists had successfully framed the issues as fighting the "four-wheelers" but none in the media saw this as affecting anyone else.
True, one needed a four wheel drive to successfully access Panamint City by vehicle, but not everyone who has a four wheel drive is a "four-wheeler". In recent decades history buffs, mineral enthusiasts, hunters and hosts of other recreationists have all depended on motorized access to the vast public lands served by Surprise Canyon Road.
DeathValley.com supports the efforts of the Friends of Panamint Valley and other public liberty organizations who are working tirelessly to gain the re-opening of this important Inyo County road. Surprise Canyon Road provides unique and critical access to a newly annexed area of Death Valley National Park. However, a 100-year storm, the Park's expansion, and an outgoing anti-access White House created a unique political opportunity for environmental extremists to gain the road closure they had sought for decades.
We call on the BLM and DVNP to revive the stalled environmental review process and jointly develop a management plan that allows for reasonable motorized access and does not threaten the canyon's resources. We believe it can and should be done.
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For more information visit these web sites:
- Friends of Panamint Valley