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 Cause
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.

As many of you know, the Department of Defense has proposed a major expansion of the Twentynine Palms Marine base. The DOD proposal would significantly disrupt OHV use in the popular Johnson Valley OHV Area.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prepared for the base expansion has been released for public review and comment. The comment deadline is May 26, 2011. Please see the Action Item below for tips and pointers on how to comment.

Many off-highway enthusiasts feel conflicted on this issue; on one hand they support the US Military and understand the economic importance of the Twentynine Palms base to adjacent communities. On the other hand, off-highway vehicle users have, over the years, been “crammed” into the Johnson Valley area after decades of Wilderness designation, administrative closures, and lawsuits that closed millions of acres of the California desert.