Reprieve or Empty Token Gesture regarding Johnson Valley 29 Palms
The popular Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Riding Area in California may not (yet?) be lost to a Marine base expansion. But is this just a temporary reprieve or token gesture?
The military is barred from spending money on expanding the Twenty Nine 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 non-binding report to Congress would cover the impact on OHV recreation in the Johnson Valley, along with alternatives for achieving the goals of the military and the OHV recreation communities. This report would allow for more time to come to a solution that meets the training needs of the military while maintaining access for motorized recreation. Or is it a placating stall tactic? There is nothing binding other than to complete the study. It is a study to determine if alternatives are available, not that alternatives must be found, followed or chosen by the military.
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 is an effort by the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twenty nine Palms to expand its land holdings to allow for more live-fire training. The proposed expansion needs congressional approval.
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. 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.
The fight to retain public land access for recreational use is far from a battle won in this case but it is a temporary reprieve.
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