LATimes.com-A near decade-long dispute between the Marine Corps and off-road vehicle enthusiasts over a rocky patch of desert west of the base at Twentynine Palms has ended in a compromise brokered by Congress.
Neither side got all it wanted in the tussle over the nearly 200,000 acres of forbidding Johnson Valley — a place of rugged beauty that off-roaders say is virtually without peer for their sport. The Marines say the same about their training needs.
As included in the 2014 defense bill signed by President Obama, approximately 43,000 acres of Johnson Valley will be for recreational use only, 79,000 acres will be for the Marine Corps, and 53,000 acres will be shared between the off-roaders and the Marines.
Just how that sharing will be accomplished has yet to be decided.
“Generally we’re pleased,” said Steve Egbert, a Tulare pig farmer and president of the 6,000-member California Assn. of Four-Wheel Drive Clubs, one of several off-road organizations involved in the issue.
Maj. Gen. David Berger, commanding general of the base at Twentynine Palms, said that without the additional training area, Marines would not be able to train effectively to fight at the brigade-level.
With the additional area, he said, Marines will “learn to fight the way [they're] actually going to fight in a conflict, at that size level.”
For the off-roaders, the annual King of the Hammers race, billed as the toughest desert race in the nation, drawing more than 20,000 spectators and participants, will continue, although its course will have to be redrawn slightly, officials said.
At a public meeting this week in Yucca Valley, Bureau of Land Management field manager Katrina Symons said the arrangement calling for the Marines and the off-road community to share a part of Johnson Valley is the first of its kind. For the rest of this story>link