Johnson Valley, one of the most renowned off-road spots in California, if not the American West, has lately been the center of controversy in a land use battle between the U.S. Marine Corps and off-road enthusiasts, who have been enjoying the area for recreational purposes for years.
The adjacent Twentynine Palms Marine base has sought control of the area for training purposes, a move many enthusiasts thought would bring an end to the use of the 189,000 acre area as a publicly accessible Off-Highway Vehicle recreational area.
Congressman Paul Cook, a Republican representing the area of San Bernardino county that encompasses Johnson Valley, and himself a retired Marine Corps colonel, has offered compromise legislation that would allow for shared use of the area between the Marine base and off-road enthusiasts.
Cook's proposal would keep control of the area within the hands of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the agency currently responsible for Johnson Valley. The Marine Corps would get use of the area 42 days of the year, with final discretion of the days made by BLM officials, making sure it did not interfere with the many organized off-road activities throughout the year. The most famous of these events is the annual King of the Hammers off-road race, bringing competitors from throughout the region and across the country, as a grueling test of off-road skill and endurance.
The legislation is scheduled to go before committee this Friday, April 26, in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. Full text of the proposed legislation can be read here.