May 15th 2013 is an historic day for OHV users. While it may not have shook the earth like a SCORE Trophy Truck racing across the desert, it is a very important landmark in the race to save the Johnson valley OHV area. The “Johnson Valley National Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Area Establishment Act,” (HR 1676) sponsored by Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) was approved by the House Natural Resources Committee, with minor changes from its original form. The only Amendment was a change in the days the United States Marine Corps would be able to use the area under a permit from 42 days per year to 60 days per year. Rep. Bishop (R-UT) commended Rep. Paul Cook for introducing the legislation. He noted that the issue was not easy to deal with and that the bill does a good job in balancing needs. He observed that the bill is as close to ideal as possible in the face of challenging issues such as addressing the needs of OHV users. On its path to becoming a law, the bill has been sent to the House Armed Services Committee, Chaired by Rep. Buck McKeon, who is a bill co-sponsor.
The action sets in motion the potential end to a 5-year debate about the expansion of the 2nd largest military base in the United States. HR 1676 protects OHV activities by establishing the “Johnson Valley National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area” under continued management by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The legislation provides for public participation in determining the dates for military activities that will be the least disruptive for OHV activities.
Johnson Valley is the largest OHV area in the US, totaling nearly 189,000 acres. OHV enthusiasts, as well as Stargazers, amateur geologists, and campers use Johnson Valley year-round. The area is also home to numerous motorized events that draw thousands of competitors and spectators to the area every year, including the famous King of the Hammers event.
While this latest action gains traction in the fight to save Johnson Valley, the OHV community remains cautiously optimistic because the fight is far from over. While the Bill is doing well in the House, the Bill has yet to be introduced in the Senate. The road to the finish is going to be rough. “Are monthly expenses are in excess of $12,000 because we have employed a top Washington Lobbyists” Said Save the Hammers Chairman Jeff Knoll. He continued “We have come this far because we have employed a new strategy, I hope we make it all the way to the finish line as it’s always a struggle to raise the funds”. Those who wish to donate can do so at www.savethehammers.org.
The California Motorized Recreation Council (CMRC) and its Save the Hammers committee has been instrumental in identifying the possible solutions surrounding the needs of the Military while balancing OHV rights established by the California Desert Protection Act. The American Sand Association (ASA), American Motorcyclists Association (AMA), California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs (CA4WDC) California Off Road Vehicle Association (CORVA) California Nevada Snowmobile Association (CNSA), AMA D36, AMA D37, and the Off Road Business Association (ORBA) make up the CMRC. In addition the Save the Hammers committee is made up of business, stakeholders, local, and national associations dedicated to the preservation of this unique desert location. One such association is the Partnership for Johnson Valley who has worked to save Johnson Valley for over five years. The work to preserve the unique terrain of Johnson Valley will continue in perpetuity for the grassroots associations made up the dedicated users of the OHV area and citizens of the remote area.