The dust has settled after the annual King of the Hammers High Desert race in Johnson Valley, but the battle to Save “The Hammers” speeds on. The excitement leading up to the race was a great springboard and the CMRC (California Motorized Recreation Council) was able to collect 25,000 petition signatures in less than two weeks.
Here’s an update on what’s happening with the movement to preserve the Johnson Valley OHV area, threatened by proposed expansion of the Twentynine Palms Marine base onto public lands.
The CMRC is the non-profit collective of California organizations spearheading the Save the Hammers campaign. The CMRC has secured a lobbyist to battle for the cause in Washington and the 25,000 petition signatures collected means the White House must respond. An amendment was signed and passed into law back in December requiring the Marines to return and conduct more research to take a look at the financial impact and to examine alternatives promoting co-use of the land. Unfortunately, the Marines responded by submitting their “record of decision” to the House Armed Service Committee indicating they’ve had no change of plans.
Learn more at the Save the Hammers campaign page.
To date, nearly $115,000 has been raised and every bit is helping further the movement. “Raising the money to continue the fight is our next big battle,” says Shannon Welch, Ultra4 Racing’s Communications Director. “We want people to follow up their signatures with monetary support.”
- Johnson Valley is the largest OHV area in the country
- The 147,000 acres of land the Marines want to take over is roughly the size of Singapore
- 75% of the 2013 King of the Hammers course was on land that would be inaccessible to the public if preservation fails
- In the 1970s, off-roaders were permitted to recreate on 50% of California deserts – today it’s only 2%
- If the Hammers isn’t saved, the recreate-able desert would shrink to 1%
The Best Laid Plans
One source of frustration for off-roaders is that advocates approached the Marines with a plan in hand. The idea was simple – that the military be required to follow the same protocol as King of the Hammers. Permits for the annual race come from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and because the Marines only need the land two months out of the year for training purposes there should be a workaround that satisfies all parties – right?
Caption right: Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA, left) with SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting at KOH.
Taking it to the Streets
In addition to donations, and a Facebook campaign, the CMRC is asking members of the OHV community to get the word out in person. “Our goal is to dig in deep and get people in their local districts to reach out to their legislators to educate them about Johnson Valley,” says Jeff Knoll, Chairman of the Save the Hammers subcommittee at CMRC. “OHV lobby days will be April 1-5 and April 29-May 3 and we’re encouraging people to make an appointment to meet with their local legislators.”
With Friends Like These
California 8th district Congressman Paul Cook was at this year’s King of the Hammers to speak at the driver’s meeting and see firsthand what kind of economic impact off-roading has on his district. The hope is that he champions the cause and votes to keep the Hammers open to the public. Racing luminaries Robby Gordon and Jessi Combs have been outspoken in their support, and SEMA, 4 Wheel Parts, King Shocks, and GenRight are some of the big names in the off-roading industry that are actively involved in the effort. “Everybody should be proud of the work the OHV community has done,” says Knoll. “But there’s a lot to be done by citizens to make sure that their local legislators understand what’s at stake.”
Copy by: David Beran