Author Topic: San Bernardino County supervisors/OHV enthusiasts fight to keep Johnson Valley  (Read 623 times)

Offline Peter Vahry

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San Bernardino County supervisors/OHV enthusiasts fight to keep Johnson Valley open
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Created:   06/23/2012 04:12:21 PM PDT

Two San Bernardino County supervisors, backed by off-roading enthusiasts, are hoping a Congressional action will block a plan by the Marine Corps to seize control of most of the Johnson Valley Off Highway recreation area.

The Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center says it needs 146,000 acres of the 189,000-acre off-highway vehicle recreation area, the largest in the world, for live-fire and maneuver training, citing rapidly evolving defense requirements due to the "global war on terrorism" and the introduction of new weapons systems as the reasons.

Of the 146,000 acres sought by the Marines, more than 108,530 of them would be for exclusive military use. The other roughly 38,000 acres would be used for military training two months of the year, then the acreage would be opened to off-road recreators for the remainder of the year, said Chris Proudfoot, program manager for land acquisition at the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.

In addition, a 45,000-acre swath on Johnson Valley's western edge would go unused by the Marine Corps and be available to off-roaders year-round, Proudfoot said.

San Bernardino County Supervisors Brad Mitzelfelt and Neil Derry, both former Marines who served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, have another plan in mind: They recommend that Johnson Valley remain under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and that the Marine Corps obtain a special-use permit to train on the land two months of the year.

On June 1, the supervisors sent letters to Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) and U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta with their proposal, but got no response.

Neither McKeon nor Panetta could be reached for comment Friday.

Mitzelfelt and Derry still support base expansion to the east, where the impacts would be minimal to off-roading, filming and mining activity, all of which are essential to the area's economy.

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