SEMA Hammers Message to Save Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area

SEMA News—May 2013

FROM THE HILL
Dan Sadowski

SEMA Hammers Message to Save Johnson Valley HV Recreation Area

National Coalition Encourages Shared-Use Solution to Military Expansion

  The 2013 King of the Hammers, known as the ultimate desert race, was held at the Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area in Southern California.
The 2013 King of the Hammers, known as the ultimate desert race, was held at the Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area in Southern California. One hundred and twenty-five race teams and more than 60,000 spectators attended this year’s event.
   

Earlier this year, more than 50,000 off-highway vehicle enthusiasts gathered at the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Area in California for the seventh annual King of the Hammers. The event, known as the ultimate desert race, has evolved from 12 teams racing for bragging rights to more than 150 competing teams. Johnson Valley is the largest OHV area in the United States and draws at least 200,000 visitors annually while generating at least $260 million each year for the national economy. During the King of the Hammers event, racers take advantage of the area’s unique geography to race “Ultra 4” vehicles on a dry lakebed at speeds of more than 100 miles per hour and rock crawl through challenging boulder fields. This year, Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA) attended this important event in his home district and addressed a standing-room-only crowd at the drivers’ meeting.

King of the Hammers also allowed SEMA members and other enthusiasts to coordinate their efforts to save Johnson Valley from expansion of the nearby Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base. The U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) wants to expand its base to include ownership of nearly 147,000 acres of Johnson Valley land in order to conduct large-scale training exercises for two months a year. The land has been controlled for decades by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which provides special-use permits for various motorized recreation activities. SEMA has joined with the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) and a coalition of other land-use advocacy organizations to propose a solution whereby the Marines would conduct their training exercises by obtaining BLM special-use permits.

“OHV racing is one of SEMA’s fastest-growing market segments,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting during the King of the Hammers Event. “Many of our member companies participate in these events while also providing the equipment necessary for teams to compete. Given the strong interest our members have in preserving Johnson Valley for enthusiast use, SEMA will continue to work with the Marine Corps to find a solution that allows for both military training and recreational opportunities.”

  Randy Slawson, the winner of the 2013 King of the Hammers, celebrates his team’s victory at the start/finish line in Hammertown, USA.
Randy Slawson, the winner of the 2013 King of the Hammers, celebrates his team’s victory at the start/finish line in Hammertown, USA.
   

When considering expansion of the Twentynine Palms base, the USMC considered six different expansion options and approved an option that would permanently close nearly 104,000 acres of Johnson Valley. Although another 43,000 acres would be available for shared-use purposes, including the unique rock crawling terrain known as the Hammers, the land could be later closed since live-fire munitions could make the area unsafe for recreational activities. To obtain the land, the Marines are required to request a land transfer from the U.S. Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

“The current perimeter between Johnson Valley and the Marine Corps base is not secured or properly identified, and base incursions occur frequently,” said Fred Wiley, president and CEO of ORBA. “The Marines’ preferred option does not address costs to secure a new base perimeter or guarantee public safety. In fact, Johnson Valley has been open to the public for so many years that families recreating will not be aware that they are trespassing on the expanded military base.”

The USMC has acknowledged the significant economic impact this base expansion plan could have on the local community but offered no solution to replace the lost revenue generated. Under a law passed by Congress earlier this year, the Marines were required to submit a report to Congress describing potential alternatives for sharing the land and addressing potential economic harm. The report concluded that there was no available alternative.

Randy Slawson, the winner of the 2013 King of the Hammers, celebrates his team’s victory at the start/finish line in Hammertown, USA.
Detailed map of the Johnson Valley in Southern
California.
  Randy Slawson, the winner of the 2013 King of the Hammers, celebrates his team’s victory at the start/finish line in Hammertown, USA.
Map of Johnson Valley and the SEMA-supported
“Alternative 4” proposal.
     

“The OHV community is offering a solution for sharing the land that was first identified by the USMC itself,” said Jeff Knoll of the California Motorized Recreation Council. “Only three changes need to be made to an alternate plan first proposed by the Marines: reverse the direction of maneuvers (to west-to-east), have live fire only on Twentynine Palms land and retain BLM management of the land via special-use permits.”

“This is a reasonable approach that relieves the USMC from managing and securing the land, protects the local economy and preserves OHV recreation,” added Greg Adler, president and CEO of Transamerican Auto Parts and a member of the boards of directors for SEMA and ORBA. “The Marines will be able to meet their military training objectives, and future generations will enjoy public access to the remote backcountry of the California desert.”

The fight to save Johnson Valley is not over. The OHV community has petitioned the White House for support of the special-use permit approach. Coalition members were critical in helping gather more than the 25,000 signatures required for an official administration response in just two weeks. The community is now awaiting the White House response.

SEMA PAC President’s Club In the Spotlight

  Randy Slawson, the winner of the 2013 King of the Hammers, celebrates his team’s victory at the start/finish line in Hammertown, USA.
Van Woodell (right), accompanied here by his wife Carol, is a nine-year member of the SEMA PAC President’s Club.
   

Van Woodell is the President of SEMA member company Weathers Auto Supply, which is located in Petersburg, Virginia. Woodell is a nine-year member of the SEMA PAC President’s Club and currently serves on SEMA’s Board of Directors.

“SEMA PAC allows us to foster critical relationships with key lawmakers,” Woodell said.

 “Over the years I have developed a strong working relationship with my own Congressman, Rep. Randy Forbes, as a direct result of my involvement with SEMA PAC.

Through the work of our Government Affairs office in Washington, SEMA is very fortunate to have many champions in the U.S. Congress. Please join me and many of our fellow SEMA members in supporting SEMA PAC.”

For more information on SEMA PAC, contact SEMA PAC Manager Christian Robinson at 202-783-6007 x20 or christianr@sema.org.

 

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