Cook Bill Receives Hearing in Subcommittee on Federal Lands
WASHINGTON –Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) announced that his bill H.R. 857, the California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act, received a hearing today from the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands.
H.R. 857 will establish six National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Areas in the California desert. Three of these OHV areas would also include expansion study areas. In total, these six OHV areas cover roughly 300,000 acres. This bill creates additional protections for OHV users and ensures that these areas cannot be closed administratively. Creating the nation’s first system of National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation areas will ensure that OHV activity is conducted in appropriate locations, protecting other parts of the desert.
The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 left the Mojave Desert with hundreds of thousands of acres of Wilderness Study Areas. 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 these wilderness study areas and Death Valley National Park, while releasing approximately 121,000 acres of wilderness study areas that were found to be unsuitable for “wilderness” designation. Additionally, the bill designates approximately 18,000 acres of existing federal land in Inyo County as the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area.
Rep. Cook said, “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. It represents a consensus on how to manage our public lands in the California desert I thank the subcommittee for hearing this bill today and look forward to it progressing through the legislative process.”
This legislation has strong support from San Bernardino and Inyo counties, local cities, virtually every major off-road vehicle group, environmental groups such as the California Wilderness Coalition and the Pew Charitable Trusts, local chambers of commerce, and the Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Reservation.
A member of the House Natural Resources, Armed Services, and Foreign Affairs Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.