Bureau of Land Management expands review of off-road racing on its federal lands nationwide

Friday, August 20, 2010

BLM expands off-road race reviews nationwide

LAS VEGAS — Federal officials promised tighter scrutiny of off-road racing Friday, expanding nationwide its review of the sport run on public lands as a race in Nevada went forward less than a week after a deadly accident in California.

More than 200 teams of off-road enthusiasts sped across 530 miles of Nevada desert terrain Friday, but race officials don’t expect anything similar to the accident that killed eight people and injured 10 Saturday at a race on BLM land in California’s Mojave Desert. Promoters expect fewer spectators, and they’ll be kept far away from the track.

The California crash, in which a truck sailed over a jump and hurtled into a crowd of spectators, initially spurred a review of racing permits in the BLM’s California desert district. Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey announced Friday that the agency will now look at its permits throughout the country.

Abbey said the agency had also launched an internal review of the Mojave Desert race.

“When we permit any activity on the public lands, our first priority is public and employee safety and health,” Abbey said. “We will look at these requests carefully and consider the safety record of the individual or organization requesting a permit.”

Best in the Desert Racing Association Director Casey Folks said spectators can only watch from the race’s start, its finish or one of 16 pit stops along the rocky, winding track.

And Folks said drivers would be required to come to a complete stop before entering the pit areas, and limited to 25 mph driving through them.

“Ours is a controlled atmosphere,” Folks said.

The point-to-point nature of the race means folks in one place will see vehicles drive by just once unless they make their way to a different pit area to see them go by again.

Leo Drumm, who oversees off-highway vehicle racing in Nevada, said less than 200 spectators who aren’t affiliated with the 800 racers are expected.

Folks said perhaps 2,500 to 3,000 people, including drivers, crews, volunteers and BLM officials, would watch the race.

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