Law & Order

Court Blocks Environmental Groups From Intervening in Oceano Dunes Lawsuit

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

A California Superior Court judge ruled against six environmental and community groups that had requested to intervene on behalf of the California Coastal Commission (CCC) in a lawsuit challenging the CCC’s authority to ban off-roading at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA). The SVRA is California’s only OHV park on the Pacific Ocean and has been under threat of closure for many years, primarily by groups that object to motorized recreation based on environmental arguments that off-roading causes more airborne particulate matter (dust) and/or threatens plants and animals. The CCC decided in March 2021 to ban OHV use in the SVRA within three years.

The action by the CCC triggered multiple lawsuits seeking to protect OHV access at Oceano Dunes by SEMA and Ecologic Partners Inc., a nonprofit group comprised of the Off-Road Business Association, the American Sand Association and the American Motorcyclist Association District 37, along with Friends of Oceano Dunes. The groups that filed a motion to intervene in the case, including the Sierra Club and Oceano Beach Community Association, were attempting to defend the CCC’s decision to end OHV recreation at the Dunes. The motion was denied, with the Judge writing that “The court finds that allowing the applicants to intervene would not promote fairness.” The Judge agreed with arguments by the off-road groups that the lawsuit focuses primarily on whether the CCC had exceeded its authority in banning OHV use, for which the environmental and community groups “have no special expertise.”

The lawsuit is expected to be tried in late 2022 or next year.

For more information, contact Caroline Fletcher at