Marines May Expand Into Johnson Valley OHV Area

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The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) in Twentynine Palms, Calif., has submitted a withdrawal application to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to put a hold on 422,000 acres while it studies those areas for possible annexation into the base. Uses allowed in the area will continue, but no new uses or projects would be permitted.

A large portion of the Johnson Valley OHV area is in that study area. Besides taking public comment, the purpose of the meetings is to help people understand both the proposed action and the decisionmaking process.

Johnson Valley OHV area is about 189,000 acres and is in California's high desert, just east of Los Angeles. The area is a Mecca for off-road recreation and is home to many events including off-road racing and competitive rock crawling.

The public meetings are scheduled for Oct. 23 at Hay’s Gym, Twentynine Palms Junior High School , 5798 Utah Trail, Twentynine Palms, from 4 to 9 p.m. and Oct. 24 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 12603 Mariposa Road, Victorville, Calif., from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m.

The Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) is urging the OHV community to attend the meetings and "make it known how important this area is to the families that recreate there."

ORBA says the Marines have yet to demonstrate that their need to train outweighs the impact the loss of the area would have on the off-road community, and suggests a better option would be to have the Marines expand to the east of the base.

Not all OHV dealers agree with ORBA's position. Former Marines and Backstage Motors owners Bill and Toni Barowski are firmly on the side of the USMC and say they are outraged at people opposing the expansion.

"The use of the area is as an Air Ground Combat Training Center area. What that means is that US Marines will be training there to perfect their combat skills [for] when they go into combat to lay down their lives to protect your freedom," they said in a letter to Dealernews. "This is a very high price to pay for a group of people who want to cruise around this area in their ATVs and do a little rock climbing just for fun."