While I am the first and foremost a supporter of our military, I have to say that the proposed expansion to the Marine Corps Ground Air Combat Center Twenty Nine Palms is a really bad idea. The Marines already have 900 square miles of dirt to roam around in.
The Marine’s argument for the expansion is that the additional space is needed for exercises involving a Marine Expeditionary Battalion (15,000 troops), and that the maneuvers require three corridors through which troops can advance. Twenty Nine Palms only has two corridors. The 146,000 acres that the Marines are planning on taking would add 228 square miles to the base, bringing the total land the base occupies to 1,128 square miles.
The Marine Corps is quick to point out that – while they’re taking 146,000 acres, they’re going to leave “almost 40,000” acres available 10 months out of the year to off-road enthusiasts.
This is ridiculous. Even the Homestead Valley Community Council which represents community associations of four homestead settlements on Highway 247 – on and near the borders of the 29 Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center – say that “two months for air-ground combat, 10 months for public access not workable.” In a letter to federal officials, the HVCC stated “…many Off-Highway Vehicle groups, San Bernardino County officials, business groups, and hundreds of individuals have poured out opposition to the takeover of Johnson Valley OHV area. We stand amazed at the landslide of thoughtful and acute comment on the subject, and grateful for it. These observers and users who love Johnson Valley far outnumber our small populations. But in the last analysis, they only visit. We live here. Many of us are off-highway enthusiasts, too, but we don’t leave when the weekend is over.”
Jeff Knoll, who chairs a subcommittee on the expansion for the California Motorized Recreation Council says the “Johnson Valley area is the largest OHV area in the U.S., currently. In 1978 in California, we could use 50 percent of the desert for recreation. We’re down to 2 percent. If we lose the Johnson Valley area, it would be less than 1 percent.”
George Barnes, co-chair of the Sierra Club’s California/Nevada off-road vehicle task force says his organization is concerned that the planned intensive military exercises would result in more impact than the current OHV use. His concern isn’t just about the military destroying the area, either. “This is going to displace a considerable amount of off-roaders to someplace else. We don’t know where that would be, but most of the places we could imagine they would go, it would be more environmentally damaging than where they are now.”
If the expansion does move forward, Twenty Nine Palms will lose the Johnson Valley OHV Area – the largest OHV recreation area in the nation, as well as an annual revenue $71 million that visitors bring to the area.
The planned expansion – proposed in 2005 – was already obsolete by ten years. It’s completely out of date now, and doesn’t follow the Marine’s mission, now that the wars abroad are winding down.
There are many groups who are opposed to this unnecessary expansion, including the Sierra Club, the California Motorized Recreation Council, and the California Off-Road Vehicle Association. The Marines aren’t going to win this without a fight.
The California Off-Road Vehicle Association is calling for all off-roaders to mobilize and participate in targeted outreach during the week of August 6-15th. They are asking that we all call or fax our representatives and voice our opposition to the proposed expansion. Congress is on recess, so your representative should be in their District Offices.
Recommended talking points are available HERE.
The California Off-Road Vehicle Association website also provides a course of action:
Monday August 6, 2012 Call:
Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) or District Director Tevor Daley Los Angeles 310-914-7300 fax 310-914-7318
Tuesday August 7, 2012 Call:
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA 22) or District Director Vince Fong Bakersfield 661-327-3611 fax 661-637-0867
Wednesday August 8, 2012 Call:
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA 25) or Deputy COS Bob Haueter Santa Clarita 661-254-2111 fax 661-254-2380
Thursday August 9, 2012 Call:
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA 41) or District Director Rachel Khalili Redlands 909-862-6030 fax 909-335-9155
Friday August 10, 2012 Call:
Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA 45) or District Director Marc Troast Palm Desert 760-320-1076 fax 760-320-0596
Monday August 13, 2012 Call:
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA 44) or District Director Jolyn Murphy Corona 951-784-4300 fax 951-784-5255
Tuesday August 14, 2012 Call:
Rep. David Drier (R-CA 26) or District Director Mark Harmsen San Dimas 909-575-6226 fax 909-575-6266
This month could be the most important 30 days in the last three years of this fight. Please help us activate every OHV enthusiast in the United States with this message.
Public comments are due by August 27
UPDATE: A great YouTube video “Save The Hammers – Save Johnson Valley” has been uploaded, and I’m embedding it here.
Additional information is available below:
To view the HVCC Military-Public Use Press Release click HERE.
For California Off-Road Vehicle Association Access Issues click HERE.
To see the USMC’s final EIS FAQs click HERE.
To visit the Save The Hammers website (somewhat outdated), click HERE.
To visit the Blue Ribbon Coalition website click HERE.