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Johnson Valley Report on BLM Meeting

By   /   May 12, 2014  /   Comments Off

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Johnson Valley, Ca.-Betty Munson attended the joint meeting of the BLM and Marines to discuss the off road sharing of the popular site. Here is Part 1 of her report:

So, how do you prevent trespass onto 79,000 acres of Marine Base that until recently was set aside for off-highway recreational use? Joe Public brings his kids and grandkids, like his dad and grandpa brought him, and they travel all the trails. Families come hundreds and even thousands of miles and arrive anytime of day or night. How do you do it?

Expanding the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms into Johnson Valley was hashed over for years. This was probably the first question asked. When the proposal came up to share part of the land between public and military, it became even more urgent.

Shared use was established by the Congress and signed into law by President Obama in December. Now it’s up to the Bureau of Land Management and the Marine Corps to answer a lot of questions, still as thorny as when thousands of us first asked them.

Lt. Col. Valerie Bérubé (formerly Maj. Valerie Hodgson, who early acquired the nickname Major Val), is now Project Manager. With Katrina Symons, BLM Barstow Field Office Manager, they are currently the two who will be the Resource Management Group tasked to work out these and other problems with help from the public. They decided to hold an informational meeting last Wednesday night. A limited number of stakeholders got notice in time to travel to the Yucca Valley Community Center. The notice did trickle down to some others, including JVIA members Helen and Harry Baker, Dale Buzza, Chuck Roney, Bill and Joanna Wright, and myself.

We were given updated maps with details and landmarks which look like modifications of the BLM map of the area! Training, now established by law for twice a year, was outlined.

There were old acquaintances in the small audience, from earlier meetings over the years, who quickly pinpointed concerns: accidental trespass; difficulties of traffic and timing; how to make it all work. Doesn’t look any easier than it did at first glance, and there are no precedents to go by.Our Number One worry has always been, how to spread the word of closure to public access, when that public arrives from anywhere and everywhere. This meeting spotlighted the problem, very few stakeholders heard about it in time to make plans to travel to Yucca Valley. We were assured that training planning is done far in advance, and both the BLM and the Marines will try to reach out by every avenue available to warn vacationers that their plans to visit certain parts of the Johnson Valley OHV Area might have to change.

We asked for a meeting in Johnson Valley or Lucerne Valley, as these communities are the most affected, so neighbors unable to make it last Wednesday might be included. Stay tuned.

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