JOHNSON VALLEY, CA - With just under a week until federal sequestration cuts are set to go into effect, the Secretary of the Navy is curiously seeking Congressional approval to move forward with base expansion at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California[1]. Spanning nearly 600,000 acres[2], the combat center is the largest Marine base in the world with a comparable land mass to Rhode Island. Despite strong public opposition and a potential sequester that will cut tens of billions from the Pentagon budget this year, the Marines are asking Congress to approve an acquisition of 168,151 additional acres[3]; roughly the land equivalent of the country of Singapore.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The U.S. military can’t spend a dime on expanding a Marine base into the popular Johnson Valley off-highway vehicle riding area in California until the Navy files a report on off-highway riding with Congress, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

On Jan. 2, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310), triggering a hold on spending and a 90-day deadline for the military to report to Congress on how its proposed expansion of a Marine base at Twentynine Palms, Calif., would affect off-highway riding at Johnson Valley.

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.