Off-road enthusiasts, military square off in California's high desert

Publish Date: 
Aug 10, 2012

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -  Off-highway enthusiasts shouldn't have to sacrifice their riding areas for U.S. military training purposes, according to comments made this week by the American Motorcyclist Association.

At issue is a plan by the Department of the Navy to restrict the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Riding Area in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles. The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms wants to expand its land holdings to allow for more live-fire training.

"The preferred alternative spelled out in the final environmental impact statement would allow public use of only 40,000 acres of the 190,000-acre Johnson Valley OHV area, and for only 10 months a year. Johnson Valley is currently under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management," the association stated.

Nick Haris, AMA western states representative, said that "while we certainly believe that the Marines Corps, like all of America's military branches, should be the best trained in the world, we don't believe that it is necessary to ban off-highway vehicle riders from the area to accomplish that mission.

"We, and other concerned off-highway recreation groups, will continue working with the military and Congress to ensure the needs of both the military and the OHV community are met," Haris said.

A comment period on the Navy's environmental impact statement closes on Aug. 27. It plans to issue a record of decision to finalize its proposal on Sept. 28; however, the proposal would still need congressional approval. The military wants to begin training on the land in 2014, AMA noted.

Posted by Mary Slepicka