This month, I’m turning the 4Word over to Assistant Editor Kevin Blumer, who’s going to update us on what’s happening in Johnson Valley, California.
Access to public land for responsible recreation is insanely important to the off-road community, and it’s important to let our voices be heard.
When it comes time to write letters about land access, what should we say? Everyone’s story is different, so write from the heart. Let people know what a given off-roading area or trail means to you.
One of the highest-profile land access issues lately has been the Marine Corps’ request to use some or all of the Johnson Valley OHV Area in California for training purposes. The Marines recently released a series of alternatives for Johnson Valley. Written comments were allowed to be submitted. Although this writing is well after the fact, blogs posted on our website apprised online users of the situation and of the deadline for written comments.
Even though the May 26 deadline is long past, it’s relevant to talk about how to write a letter. This isn’t the first time off-roaders have had to speak up about land access, and unfortunately it won’t be the last.
What follows is my letter to the USMC regarding the proposed expansion into Johnson Valley:
Dear United States Marine Corps,
Back in 2004 while working as a freelancer, I reported on the MDR Lucerne 400 desert race for Off-Road magazine. I called the story “Desert Soldiers,” drawing a parallel between the intrepid desert racers themselves and the men and women of the armed forces who protect our freedom in the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The request of the Marine Corps to withdraw land from the Johnson Valley OHV area leaves me in a quandary. I remain grateful for national defense. At the same time, the off-road community has lost millions of acres over the years either to urban development or to aggressive moves by anti-access groups.
In California, there are about 14 million acres set aside as “Wilderness.” Contrast this with just a few hundred thousand acres left for designated OHV areas. Johnson Valley is one of these. We don’t have much land left, so the proposed expansion of the 29 Palms Marine Corps base amounts to a huge blow to the off-road community.
What alternatives would I personally support? Those would be the No Action Alternative, Alternative Three, Alternative Four, and Alternative Five. Obviously, the No Action alternative is the best one for the OHV community, and Alternative Three is almost as good because the 29 Palms Marine Base would then expand to the east and south. Alternatives Four and Five seem like a good way to let the Marines train in Johnson Valley for two months of the year while the OHV community is allowed access the other ten.
What does Johnson Valley mean to me? I’ve visited there many, many times over the years for both recreational off-roading and for work as an off-road journalist. In the Johnson Valley OHV Area, I’ve covered competition events, shot vehicle features, attended organized trail rides, and tested off-road products. Access to Johnson Valley helps me make my living.
As an off-road enthusiast and as a professional off-road journalist, I request that you avoid Alternative Six and instead choose from the No Action Alternative, Alternative Three, Alternative Four, and Alternative Five.
For more information about the USMC’s 29 Palms project, please visit www.marines.mil/unit/29palms/las.