The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) strongly supports a provision to end a six-year clash over access to 189,000 acres of Southern California desert between the military and off-highway vehicle (OHV) users. The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a solution to create a dedicated OHV recreation area and provide land for training to the United States Marine Corps. The Senate is set to ratify the measure next week. The bill will then be signed by the President to become law.
Under a provision included within the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), 79,000 acres of Johnson Valley is being transferred to the adjoining Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, CA. The legislation also creates the “Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area,” providing federal protection to over 96,000 acres established in 1980 for OHV recreation by the State of California. It is the first time an OHV area has been provided national recognition. Twice a year, 53,000 acres of the OHV area will be provided to the Marine Corps for 30 days of military training exercises. No dud-producing ordnance will be used at that time in order to assure safety and continued access to the area.
“SEMA commends Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) for the instrumental role he has played in reaching a reasonable shared-use solution,” said Chris Kersting, SEMA President & CEO. “SEMA joined with a number of other organizations representing the off-road community to support this provision that addresses the nation’s military training needs while providing access for recreational activities. We consider this ground-breaking provision a positive result for both the OHV community and the United States Marine Corps.”
The Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area will continue to be controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It contains a unique mix of open desert, dry lake beds and formidable rock-crawling formations that attracts four-wheeler enthusiasts from around the world. The area hosts the famous “King of the Hammers” Race, which drew over 50,000 people to the 2013 event. The BLM estimates that Johnson Valley generates more than $71 million annually for local economies, a number that will continue to grow.
Prior to being elected to Congress in 2012, Rep. Cook served a 26-year distinguished military career in the Marine Corps before retiring as a colonel. He has lived for years in the area that includes Johnson Valley and the Twentynine Palms base and represented those communities in the California state legislature before his election to Congress.