SENATE BILL WOULD TAKE JOHNSON VALLEY FOR MARINE EXPANSION

SENATE BILL WOULD TAKE JOHNSON VALLEY FOR MARINE EXPANSION

A Senate committee gave unanimous approval to expand the use of public lands for military training, passing three bills that attempt to reach agreements on conflicts involving mining, wilderness trails and private development. The bills include one for expansion of Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the bills are not controversial and he expects the measures will be added to the Senate’s version of the 2014 defense authorization bill. The Congressional version of the bill, sponsored by Yucca Valley Republican Paul Cook, would put the Johnson Valley Off-Road Recreation area off limits. The Navy is seeking to expand the training area around the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center to include Johnson Valley. Navy officials said they need more land at Twentynine Palms to “train in a realistic setting, which the current installation configuration cannot provide.” The area is popular for off-road recreation, but Navy officials said their request was crafted with public input and “preserves public access to Johnson Valley, the area prized by off-highway vehicle recreation enthusiasts due to its unique terrain features.”

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