PICKERINGTON, Ohio — Riders who use the popular Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Riding Area in California may not lose most of the area to a Marine base expansion after all, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.
The military is barred from spending money on expanding the Twentynine Palms military base into Johnson Valley until it completes a report on how the expansion would affect off-highway riding, under a military spending authorization bill approved by U.S. House and Senate conferees on Dec. 18.
“The report to Congress would cover the impact on off-highway vehicle recreation in the Johnson Valley region, along with alternatives for achieving the goals of the military and the OHV recreation communities,” said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. “This report would allow for more time to, hopefully, come to a solution that meets the training needs of the military while maintaining access for motorized recreation.”
The language, included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310), was offered by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) with support from Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.). House and Senate negotiators worked out their differences over the bill in a conference committee and then sent it to their respective chambers for final approval. Once approved by both chambers, it goes to the president to be signed into law.
“The AMA, in partnership with the California Motorized Recreation Council and The Livingston Group in Washington, D.C., that was hired by the CMRC to move the legislation, worked long and hard to get this important report required before the base expansion can proceed,” Allard said.
The California Motorized Recreation Council is a non-profit association comprised of the leadership of the largest off-highway vehicle recreation organizations in California. CMRC membership includes, the Off-Road Business Association, California Association of 4-Wheel Drive Clubs, California Off-Road Vehicle Association, AMA national, American Sand Association, California-Nevada Snowmobile Association, AMA District 36 (Northern California, Northwestern Nevada) and AMA District 37 (Southern California) Off-Road.
“I particularly want to thank Rep. Bartlett and Sens. Feinstein and Udall for their efforts,” Allard said.
“This was truly a team effort involving many southern California motorized groups and their elected representatives in Washington, D.C., as well as other representatives in Congress,” Allard said.
In July, the Department of the Navy released a final environmental impact statement for the expansion of the Marine base. The preferred alternative would allow public use of only 40,000 acres of the 190,000-acre Johnson Valley OHV area, and for only 10 months a year.
It’s all part of an effort by the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms to expand its land holdings to allow for more live-fire training. The Marine Corps is part of the Navy.
The proposed expansion needs congressional approval. The military had hoped to begin training on the land in 2014.
Several years ago, the Navy began the formal process to take over some 365,906 acres of public land near San Bernardino to use for live-fire training for the Marines.
At that time, the Navy filed an application with the U.S. Interior Department seeking control of the public land, which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Navy also wants priority for some 72,186 acres of non-federal land in case the federal government acquires it.