Johnson Valley Land Use Issue

Please Read! This is not an “overwhelming” or “dry” press release. This is from my experience at the Scoping Meeting Friday, December 5th, 2008. At the end I will ask for you to ACT…and give you suggestions on how. ~Charlene~

Land Issues are not at the top of anyone’s list of favorite topics. They are frustrating, overwhelming, and spur a lot of emotion as people try to “take our land” from us the off-road community. However, land use issues should be at the top of all of our lists. We need to stand united as the off-road community to keep the land open that we still have available to utilize for our enjoyment and recreation.

There are land issues that are happening everywhere in the US that demand attention.  One of the issues in Southern California is the Johnson Valley Land Acquisition Project.  I attended one of the three scoping meetings and learned some very interesting facts that I wanted to share in “layman” terms. At the end, I will ask for you to ACT…and give you suggestions on how. Please take a moment to read the information with an open mind, knowing that some of the suggestions can be taken back to your local fights. (I know it is a little long, but it is important…)

First, let me explain my source of information. I have been receiving emails and press releases on the Johnson Valley closure so I was up on the main issues, and recently received a notice of a Scoping Meeting. This meeting was to be an informal Open House model with representatives from the Marine Corps, BLM, and the project managers in charge of the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement). Within the large room were multiple poster boards with each of the current options and people to talk about each and inform us of the pros and cons. We, as concerned citizens, were allowed the opportunity to talk to, question, and inform the individuals of our concerns. I started my evening by just listening to both groups. Then I started asking my own questions and got to the bottom of what we really need to know.

MOST IMPORTANT: We are at the very beginning of this fight and we still have a lot of VOICE for CHANGING options and opinions!!

THE PURPOSE:

“Off-roaders support the military because they bring us the freedom we enjoy in America …so we can enjoy the outdoors and the land where we live. Now you are taking that land away from us?”

The Military:  “Threat drives what we do for training.”
The Johnson Valley Land Acquisition Project seems to be different from most of the Land Use Issues that we track. The main difference is the group on the other side of the fence. In this case, it is the Marine Corps in need of additional land for training purposes.  The first easel was very eye-opening to me (who never did very well in world geography)…Did you know that Afghanistan is as big as CA, AZ, NV, UT, CO and more…ok, that’s big, not to mention the other countries that the military poses as threats, including Iraq. The military is looking at the size of the threat vs. what they are currently utilizing as a training facility and seeing a need for expansion.

The 29Palms Training base is currently the largest in the US, however, with that said, they have outgrown their facility with over 90% of the Marines filtering through for special training before heading overseas to combat.  This training facility is important right now because of the desert aspect.  The Marines believe in true combat style training with live ammunition and real situations.

With advanced technology and the large area that Marines face in the field, the military is trying to find a solution to training so that they don’t go over with less than realistic training. These new training ideas are initiated from action reports that come back from Afghanistan and Iraq with an end goal of fewer fatalities.

THE RESPONSE:

The Off-Road Industry:  “I have eight employees who I don’t want to give walking papers too…the economy is hard enough, without closing more area where people won’t use their vehicles as often and have the need for fixes or upgrades.”

I was so proud to see the abundance of the off-road industry at the Scoping Meeting. It was great to look around and see not only friends, but business owners who understand that all of these fights directly affect their business. We all know that, as land gets tighter and a farther drive to access, more people get discouraged and hang up their helmets for longer periods of time. As this happens, there is a direct relation into the off-road industry as we see lower sales on new upgrades and replacement parts. I made a point of walking one particular business owner around to two key people who I found needed this perspective explained. They had previously thought of the local Johnson Valley businesses as being impacted, but not the outside off-road industry. Key success of the evening: Industry Businesses will be considered in the EIS.

The Off-Road Community:  “My kid gets to ride his dirt bike in the dirt; his friends sit in front of the computer playing the motocross game.”

All ages, some with their club affiliation jackets, joined in the room to learn and voice their concerns about the Johnson Valley issues. Moms talking about wanting their kids to be able to get out of the city if only for the weekend for quality family time where they have to learn responsibility on the trails. Men speaking about the amazing trails that are available only there. Clubs talking about the events that they hold to preserve the riding area and doing clean up’s. Another Key Success of the Evening: Both groups (Marines and EIS Directors) were very impressed with the off-road community and the way that we came out in force, and they didn’t realize until these meetings, that there was such a widespread problem of land being taken away from the off-roader. They were impressed with the respect that everyone gave the Marines for protecting our country, while at the same time helping them understand that there is a large group of respectful and responsible off-roaders who just want to use the land that they keep us free. They Got It!  In fact, I think we got them in the passenger seats to go out and have fun in the desert so they can see for themselves, and I got one high-ranking officer lined up to get his Jeep fixed!

YOU HAVE THE VOICE TO ACT

There are currently six options, including a “No Action” Alternative where this whole deal goes away. They are looking at options that involve lands to the south, east, and west. There are alternatives that include “sharing” the land…where the military gets to use the land for operations a few weeks out of the year and is open to off-roaders the rest of the year. These slides will be available online at http://www.29palms.usmc.mil/las/.

This scoping period is very important because they still have the most ability to change some of these proposed options. Some of these options have already been derived after talking with off-roaders.

This is the time when they begin to prepare the EIS (Environmental Impact Statement).  THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. They are asking for all of us to submit statements of interest. Tell ‘em what you think! Tell ‘em what impact this is going to have on you!  And, maybe more importantly, they want to know what to study. They admit to being data geeks…that is their job. They know the general stuff…but what do non-off-roaders need to know? The job that they do is dependent upon our responses and information, and the conclusions they come back with will affect our future riding days at Johnson Valley.

Take 15 minutes and write down how this will affect you while being as specific as possible.

Emotion is always our first reaction. Go for it. Write down how this will affect your family, your vacations, your group of friends that you only get to see while camping there, your peace of mind while out there. Are you a responsible wheeler who leaves the area cleaner that you found it?

Second, think of the money that you spend to go to the desert. (I know, I know, this has a good purpose though…) What businesses are going to be affected because you no longer have Johnson Valley to go to…what local businesses in Johnson Valley do you use and support? What off-road shops do you use that you won’t be supporting anymore because you don’t need the “upgrades” or “fixes”?

What other land closures have affected you? Did you previously go somewhere else closer…but now because land has been closed you have to go “X” miles farther somewhere else…and now with this possible closure I would have to go to “X”… How have you seen these other closures affect you and your riding group? Turn that example into a “what if” situation for the Johnson Valley closure.

If you are a racer or a club member who participates in events out there…who will lose?  I know there are events that support different organizations…who are they? When do they happen? Will they happen somewhere else?

TAKE ACTION…

Now that you have some general information on the issue itself, you have an opportunity to make a difference…DO IT NOW. It’s not that difficult.

Mail or Email before January 31, 2009 to:

Land Acquisition Program Manager
MAGTFTC, MCAGCC
Box 788104, Building 1554, Room 138
Twentynine Palms, CA 92278-8104

Email to:   [email protected]smc.mil

Be sure to include your full contact information if you would like to be included on the mailing list for additional updates on the progress of the project.

THE TIMELINE:

Scoping Period: Oct. 30, 2008  - Jan 31, 2009. The scoping process uses public input to identify environmental issues and a range of reasonable alternatives for the proposed action. Public comments must be received by the close of the scoping period to be considered in the Draft EIS. The scoping period closes on Jan 31, 2009.

Draft EIS: Spring 2010. The Draft EIS analyzes the potential environmental effects of the proposed action and alternatives.

Notice of Availibility: Spring 2010. The Draft EIS will be available. Public meetings will be held during the 90-day comment period to receive comments on the Draft EIS.

Final EIS: Winter 2010. The Final EIS Documents will be prepared.

Notice of Availability: Winter 2010. The Final EIS Will be available. Interested parties have 30 days to review and submit comments on the Final EIS.

Record of Decision: Spring 2011. After considering environmental effects of the proposed action and alternatives, other factors such as cost and feasibility, and public comments received on the EIS, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy will select a course of action and sign a Record of Decision document.

Once there is a transfer of land from Public to Military lands then Congress must still pass it.  And as everyone on the Military side said (with a shaking head) we can get through all of this and Congress may not pass it because they have their own agenda that may or may not include this transfer of land.  Therefore, it is also very important that we start now by communicating to ALL Congress leaders about the issues.

We are a long ways from the end…but you must act now to make the most significant difference in the process!

MORE INFORMATION:
http://www.29palms.usmc.mil/las/

SEE PROPOSED ACTIONS & DOWNLOAD WRITTEN STATEMENT FORM

Friends Of Johnson Valley   http://www.pfjv.org/

See Video Clips from the Meeting via Totally Off Road Radio:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNxIbbGvxro

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Ben Says:

    I have trained at 29 Palms. They are probably out there looking at Johnson Valley during the quiet week…NOT the weekends. If they include live fire THAT will close it forever….(after we make peace?) Maneuvers…it won’t stay closed, and could be shared. Actually real life maneuvers include civilians and accounting for them. I can still remember being sought in the Dunes at night by black and silent helicopters. The winter Marine Base near Sonora Pass is shared. There are many unused training lands near that area owned by the other services that could be utilized. The spaceing and logistics would be more similar to overseas operations probably anyhow.Just thinking out my letter.

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