Rep. Cook’s California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act Passes in House
WASHINGTON- Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) today announced that his bill HR 857, the California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act passed unanimously in the House of Representatives this afternoon.
The bill will establish or expand six Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Areas in the California desert. In total, these six OHV areas cover roughly 300,000 acres. These are Johnson Valley, Spangler Hills, El Mirage, Rasor, Dumont Dunes, and Stoddard Valley. This bill creates additional protections for OHV users and ensures that these areas cannot be closed administratively. Creating the nation’s first system of 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. This bill will designate some of these areas as wilderness, primarily within these wilderness study areas and Death Valley National Park, while releasing other lands from wilderness study that were found to be unsuitable for a wilderness designation.
The bill also designates approximately 18,000 acres of existing federal land as the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area. This would restrict large-scale projects such as renewable energy generation, while preserving all existing recreational and commercial uses of the Alabama Hills. Activities such as filming, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, hunting, fishing, and authorized motorized vehicle use would be unaffected.
Lastly, HR 857 adds approximately 39,000 acres of land to the National Park System including significant acreage at both Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park.
The California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act has the support of San Bernardino and Inyo counties, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, 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.
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. The bill protects recreational and OHV areas, makes crucial expansions to our national park lands, and represents a consensus on how to manage our public lands in the California desert. This is one of the most significant pieces of conservation and recreation legislation to pass the House of Representatives in decades and I thank my colleagues in the House for passing this important piece of legislation today.”
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.