The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports that the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area in California won’t be fully taken over by the military because of language included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 that was approved by a U.S. House-Senate conference committee on Dec. 11.
The Johnson Valley area, an expanse of desert between Yucca Valley and Barstow, is one of the largest off-road riding areas in the country. The military sought the remote area to expand the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.
U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R-Calif.) drafted language that designates the Johnson Valley OHV area as the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area, which will be managed by the Secretary of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management in San Bernardino County, Calif. The area is designated specifically for recreational uses including, but not limited to, OHV use, camping and hiking. Parts of the land can be borrowed by the Marine Corps up to twice a year for a total of 60 days. Use of the land by military requires non-dud producing ordnance.
Under the compromise, the base expansion will cover approximately 88,000 acres — less than half of the 168,000 acres originally requested by the military. Transfer of the area to the Marine Corps begins immediately, but the military will have to purchase private land holdings in the expansion area, officials said.
The Cook amendment was inserted in the NDAA in June by the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, of which Rep. Cook is a member. The measure then went to a House-Senate conference committee, where conferees worked out House and Senate differences in the bill. The final conference committee bill released on Dec. 11 contains the Cook amendment. The bill now goes to the House and Senate floors for approval before going to the president to be signed into law.
"It was the strong leadership and exceptional ability of Paul to work with the Natural Resources Committee and Armed Services Committees in the U.S. House and Senate that protected the popular off-highway area in Johnson Valley," said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president. “The Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area is the first federal land-use designation for off-highway use and becomes a precedent for future motorized recreation."
A map of the compromise plan for Johnson Valley can be found at the following link: http://cook.house.gov/johnson-valley-map.