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ISSUE UPDATE: Sycamore Canyon closure, San Diego County


Provide background for the July 21, 2006 closure of BLM lands to motorized vehicles in Sycamore Canyon, located in near Dulzura, San Diego County, California.


In 1994, the BLM signed an MOU for Cooperation in Habitat Conservation Planning and Management with City, County, State, and Federal agencies in San Diego County whereby, in part, the BLM agreed to acquire lands as additions to proposed habitat reserve systems and to manage these lands for conservation purposes. 

From 1998 through 2001, the BLM acquired 2,418 acres of habitat lands in and adjacent to Sycamore Canyon in close consultation with cooperating agencies and using Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) monies.  In 2003, much of Sycamore Canyon was burned by the Otay Fire.  As a result, the BLM initiated an extensive fire stabilization and rehabilitation program including revegetation of 250 acres in Sycamore Canyon and established a temporary closure of the area to vehicular access by public.  This vehicular closure was lifted on May 31, 2005.

The BLM, however, observed a substantial increase in off-highway vehicle (OHV) activity and a firearm shooting in Sycamore Canyon shortly after this vehicular closure was lifted.  The OHV activity was characterized by a proliferation of surface disturbances including hill climbs, play areas, and new parking and staging areas.  The firearm shooting created a substantial increase in trash, soil disturbance and girdling of old oak trees that were used as both targets and target backstops.  In addition to general surface and habitat disturbance, the BLM determined that these activities were damaging a significant archaeological site located in the canyon as well as habitat for the Quino Checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha quino), listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended.  These activities were also impacting the areas stabilized and restored after the Otay Fire.

Another fire burned within Sycamore Canyon on July 20, 2006 resulting in additional acres of surface and habitat disturbance.  As a result of these impacts and the proliferation of OHV and shooting related disturbances, the BLM again closed Sycamore Canyon to vehicular use by the public.  Several public requests have been received since enactment of this closure requesting that BLM lift the closure and make these lands available to a wide range of vehicular related recreation.

The BLM is now developing a plan for Sycamore Canyon that will analyze ways to open the area for motorized access while protecting these very important resources.  The public will have ample opportunity to provide input during this twelve to eighteen month planning process.  Information on this plan will be available on our web site at: http://www.blm.gov/ca/palmsprings/

In the interim, the public will have access to Sycamore Canyon for non-motorized recreational activities such as hiking, wildlife viewing, and hunting. Due to the restrictions of parking along the State highway (legal and safety), BLM is preparing maps identifying other access points where vehicles/trailers can be safely parked until the longer term planning effort is completed. 


This motorized vehicle closure is based on a proliferation of unacceptable impacts in Sycamore Canyon and a lack of other reasonable means to stop new impacts.  The BLM encourages public involvement in developing a plan that allows for vehicular access while protecting the very resources for which these lands were acquired using the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 


BLM California News.bytes, issue 272

Last updated: 04-26-2007