Rep. Cook Desert Lands Bill Advances in Congress
WASHINGTON– Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) announced today that his bill HR 2365, the Desert Community Lands Act, passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee this morning.
Cook’s bill would transfer various federal lands to four cities in the Eighth Congressional District: Twentynine Palms, Barstow, Victorville, and Apple Valley. These conveyances are intended to facilitate a variety of projects including building vital infrastructure projects, the expansion and establishment of local off-highway vehicle parks, and expanded commercial development.
In Twentynine Palms, the city would take over 80 acres which are adjacent to the 29 Palms Motorsports Arena, which is the site of a number of racing events that draw more than 5,000 attendees and racers each year. It would allow for expansion of the racetrack, drawing in additional events and boosting the city’s economy.
In Barstow, a 320 acre transfer would allow the city to complete an alternative route connecting Barstow’s neighborhoods to its primary commercial sector, reducing gridlock, and increasing traffic efficiency. The land is located adjacent to the I-15 freeway and its commercial development could bring in as much as $1,000,000 annually in sales tax revenue for the city.
In Victorville, this bill will allow the city to carry out a number of key objectives. One 80-acre parcel located near the city’s industrial wastewater treatment plant would allow for the construction of a drying bed for reclaimed water that has a high concentration of salts. Currently the city has to haul the liquid concentrate to a treatment site roughly 50 miles from the facility, a far less cost effective and environmentally efficient means of treatment. Another 40-acre parcel adjacent to National Trails Highway would allow the extension of Rancho Road, significantly improving emergency access. The remainder of the land is along the northern edge of the city and is part of a planned area to accommodate future population growth.
In Apple Valley, the town would receive about 4,360 acres which would allow it to take over management of a popular OHV riding area north of the town. These lands have been used heavily for recreation for more than 30 years, and users in the area can number several thousand on certain high-use weekends. It’s easily accessible from I-15 and is a popular location for camping, riding, and racing. Conveying this land to Apple Valley allows them to take over management of the area, reducing the strain on the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), preserves a popular riding area, and protects surrounding habitat by giving riders an appropriate area to ride.
Rep. Cook said, “This legislation is important to my district. It allows local communities to control their own destiny, rather than bureaucrats in Washington. For the most part, the lands conveyed in this bill are essentially vacant lots located in or adjacent to these cities. This bill ensures these lands are put to productive use by preserving and expanding recreational opportunities, allowing for the construction of critical infrastructure, and boosting the economies of these desert cities. I thank Chairman Bishop and the Natural Resources Committee for passing my legislation and look forward to the House of Representatives passing it soon.”
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.