The SEMA Action Network (SAN) has been actively engaged in defending the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Area for future enthusiast use. The U.S. Marine Corps wants to expand its base at Twentynine Palms, California, in order to conduct large-scale training exercises for two months a year. The land has been controlled for decades by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which provides special-use permits for various motorized recreational activities. Thanks to the efforts of SAN members, the message to save Johnson Valley and find a reasonable solution is being heard from coast to coast.
SAN members were active in securing a congressional amendment to the 2013 Defense Authorization Act that requires the Marines to study alternative ways to share the area with the OHV community without taking ownership of the land. Unfortunately, the Marines have now issued a study that states there is no alternative.
The Marines are moving forward with plans to take ownership of 147,000 acres of Johnson Valley. Nearly 104,000 acres would be permanently closed to off-roading. Another 43,000 acres, including the unique terrain known as “Hammers,” would be available for dual-use purposes. However, this land could be closed in the future since munitions from live-fire training could make the area unsafe for recreational access. The Marines will ask Congress to approve the land transfer as part of the upcoming 2014 National Defense Authorization Act.
The fight to save Johnson Valley is not over. The OHV community has petitioned the White House for support of the special-use permit approach. SAN members were critical in helping gather more than the 25,000 signatures required for an official administration response in just two weeks. The community is now awaiting a White House response.
The SAN will continue to lobby Congress for continued BLM ownership of the land and issuance of special-use permits to the Marines, with no live-fire training. Stay tuned HERE for further developments.