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Congress Passes Bill Saving Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

Johnson Valley hosts the famous “King of the Hammers” Race, which drew more than 50,000 people to the 2013 event.

SEMA praised the U.S. House of Representatives for passing the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with a measure to protect off-highway vehicle (OHV) access to Johnson Valley, California. The Senate is scheduled to approve the bill on December 19. The vote will end a six-year clash over access to 189,000 acres of Southern California desert between the military and OHV users. The bill will then be signed into law by the President.

Under a provision included within the NDAA, 79,000 acres of Johnson Valley is being transferred to the adjoining Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, California. The legislation also creates the “Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area,” providing federal protection to more than 96,000 acres established in 1980 for OHV recreation by the state of California. It is the first time an OHV area has been provided national recognition. Twice per year, 53,000 acres of the OHV area will be provided to the Marine Corps for 30 days of military training exercises. No dud-producing ordinance will be used at that time in order to ensure safety and continued access to the area.

“SEMA commends Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) for the instrumental role he has played in reaching a reasonable shared-use solution,” said Chris Kersting, SEMA president and CEO. “SEMA joined with a number of other organizations representing the off-road community to support this provision that addresses the nation’s military training needs while providing access for recreational activities. We consider this ground-breaking provision a positive result for both the OHV community and the United States Marine Corps.”

The Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area will continue to be controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It contains a unique mix of open desert, dry lake beds and formidable rock-crawling formations that attract four-wheeler enthusiasts from around the world. The area hosts the famous “King of the Hammers” Race, which drew more than 50,000 people to the 2013 event. The BLM estimates that Johnson Valley generates more than $71 million annually for local economies—a number that will continue to grow.

Prior to being elected to Congress in 2012, Rep. Cook served a 26-year distinguished military career in the Marine Corps before retiring as a colonel. He has lived for years in the area that includes Johnson Valley and the Twentynine Palms base and represented those communities in the California state legislature before his election to Congress.

SEMA worked collaboratively with the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA), California Motorized Recreation Council (CMRC), Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA). CMRC includes ORBA, California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs (Cal4Wheel), California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA), American Motorcyclist Association National (AMA), AMA District 36, AMA District 37 Off-Road, San Diego Off-Road Coalition (SDORC), American Sand Association (ASA) and California-Nevada Snowmobile Association (CNSA).

For more information, contact Dan Sadowski at dans@sema.org.


2014 National Defense Authorization Act
Map of Johnson Valley