Rep. Cook’s California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act receives subcommittee hearing
Rep. Paul Cook’s (R-8th District-Apple Valley) H.R. 857, the California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act, was recently heard by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. The bill would establish six National Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Areas in the California desert. These six sites would encompass some 300,000 acres and three of them would also include expansion study areas.
The Mojave Desert was left with hundreds of thousands of acres of Wilderness Study Areas following the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. In the decades since then, these areas have been reviewed extensively for their suitability as wilderness. H.R. 857 would:
- Designate approximately 329,000 acres of wilderness, primarily within the wilderness study areas and Death Valley National Park
- Release approximately 121,000 acres of wilderness study areas that were found to be unsuitable for “wilderness” designation
- Designate approximately 18,000 acres of existing federal land in Inyo County as the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area.
By creating the nation’s first system of National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation areas, it would ensure that OHV activity is conducted in appropriate locations, protecting other parts of the desert. The bill would also create other protections for OHV users as well as ensuring that these areas could not be closed administratively.
“This bill is the product of years of outreach to local governments, tribes, off-highway vehicle users, conservation groups, Chambers of Commerce, miners, and other stakeholders,” Rep. Cook said. “It represents a consensus on how to manage our public lands in the California desert (and) I thank the subcommittee for hearing this bill today and look forward to it progressing through the legislative process.”
Rep. Cook’s office has indicated that this new legislation has strong support from San Bernardino and Inyo counties, local cities and virtually every major off-road vehicle group. Other supporters include environmental groups such as the California Wilderness Coalition and the Pew Charitable Trusts, local chambers of commerce and the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation.