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Off-roaders to pull up stakes at re-opened dunes

BRAWLEY, Calif. (AP) -- Off-roaders are hitting the dirt again on 40,000 acres that had been closed for 14 years to protect an endangered plant.

Volunteers will gather Saturday near Gecko Campground to begin removing closure stakes and mark the reopening of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

The acreage was closed in 2000 to protect the Peirson's milk vetch, a perennial herb listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. A federal judge overruled environmentalists' objections last month and shrank the amount of habitat deemed necessary for the plant's survival.

The 250-square-mile recreation site, which includes Glamis and the Algodones Dunes, is one of the most popular off-roading areas in Southern California, drawing an estimated 1.2 million visitors a year.

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