California's popular Johnson Valley riding area may get reprieve from military base expansion

PICKERINGTON,
Ohio -- Riders who use the popular Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle
Riding Area in California may not lose most of the area to a Marine base
expansion after all, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

The
military is barred from spending money on expanding the Twentynine
Palms military base into Johnson Valley until it completes a report on
how the expansion would affect off-highway riding, under a military
spending authorization bill approved by U.S. House and Senate conferees
on Dec. 18.

"The report to Congress would cover the impact on off-highway vehicle recreation in the Johnson Valley region, along with alternatives for achieving the goals of the military and the OHV recreation communities,"
said Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. "This
report would allow for more time to, hopefully, come to a solution that
meets the training needs of the military while maintaining access for
motorized recreation."


The language, included in the National
Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (H.R. 4310), was offered
by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) with support from Sens. Diane Feinstein
(D-Calif.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.). House and Senate negotiators worked
out their differences over the bill in a conference committee and then
sent it to their respective chambers for final approval. Once approved
by both chambers, it goes to the president to be signed into law.

"The
AMA, in partnership with the California Motorized Recreation Council
and The Livingston Group in Washington, D.C., that was hired by the CMRC
to move the legislation, worked long and hard to get this important
report required before the base expansion can proceed," Allard said.

The
California Motorized Recreation Council is a non-profit association
comprised of the leadership of the largest off-highway vehicle
recreation organizations in California. CMRC membership includes, the
Off-Road Business Association, California Association of 4-Wheel Drive
Clubs, California Off-Road Vehicle Association, AMA national, American
Sand Association, California-Nevada Snowmobile Association, AMA District
36 (Northern California, Northwestern Nevada) and AMA District 37
(Southern California) Off-Road.

"I particularly want to thank Rep. Bartlett and Sens. Feinstein and Udall for their efforts," Allard said.

"This
was truly a team effort involving many southern California motorized
groups and their elected representatives in Washington, D.C., as well as
other representatives in Congress," Allard said.

In July, the
Department of the Navy released a final environmental impact statement
for the expansion of the Marine base. The preferred alternative would
allow public use of only 40,000 acres of the 190,000-acre Johnson Valley
OHV area, and for only 10 months a year.

It's all part of an
effort by the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms
to expand its land holdings to allow for more live-fire training. The
Marine Corps is part of the Navy.

The proposed expansion needs congressional approval. The military had hoped to begin training on the land in 2014.

Several
years ago, the Navy began the formal process to take over some 365,906
acres of public land near San Bernardino to use for live-fire training
for the Marines.

At that time, the Navy filed an application
with the U.S. Interior Department seeking control of the public land,
which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The Navy also wants priority for some 72,186 acres of non-federal land
in case the federal government acquires it.

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Comment: The headline does not match the story. I highlighted the "alternatives" statement.

We
hope the OHV groups are not willing to give up any of JV, but you'll
notice we were not included in the list of stakeholders. We were not
even asked by anyone except the California Off-Road Association, and I
don't know how much input they had in this language.

A recent informal survey of Johnson Valley residents and weekenders was 100% against the takeover of any of the OHV area, and they think the idea of "shared use" is laughable.

The Go East alternative would still subject us to noise and vibration, but we hope from further away. Further away is better.

The
No Action alternative is absolutely the best for residents, businesses
and visitors alike, and the Marines could make it work if they wanted
to. After all, they're Marines.

Anyway, that's my opinion. Please reply with yours, we'll expand this survey.

Betty