Rep. Paul Cook Introduces the California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act
WASHINGTON- Today, Rep. Paul Cook (R- Apple Valley) introduced HR 3668, the California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act. This bill presents a balanced approach to protecting, managing, and using our desert and forest areas in San Bernardino and Inyo Counties. This bill would deal with the management of existing federal land and would not result in an increase in federal landownership.
This bill establishes a Mojave Trails Special Management Area (SMA) in an area south of the existing Mojave Preserve and northeast of the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. This designation protects existing mining operations and allows for future mining exploration as long as mining projects never exceed ten percent of the total acreage. It would also prevent the installation of any industrial-scale renewable energy projects. Additionally, this bill would protect from development any lands within the management area donated to the federal government for conservation purposes. Over 1,200 miles of roads and off-road vehicle trails are written into law as well.
This bill establishes five new National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Areas in Spangler Hills, El Mirage, Rasor, Dumont Dunes, and Stoddard Valley, together creating the first system of National Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Areas in the nation. Additionally, it redesignates Johnson Valley as a National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area and expands it by nearly 20,000 acres. This bill affords additional protections to OHV users and ensures that these areas cannot be closed administratively. In total, this legislation preserves a total of 300,000 acres for OHV recreational use.
Additionally, this bill protects many desert landscapes in pristine areas and in areas of particular environmental value. The Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa area north of Yucca Valley would be designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern. This will protect the scenic vistas and historic Native American cultural sites from industrial-scale energy projects. It would also establish the Sand to Snow National Monument covering approximately 140,000 acres of federal land near Morongo Valley. The vast majority of this exists as part of the San Gorgonio Wilderness or the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve between the Joshua Tree National Park and the San Bernardino National Forest in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.
Cook said, “The desert is our home, and most importantly this bill ensures those who live here have a voice in how existing federal lands are used. It offers a sensible solution that addresses the needs of our off-highway vehicle recreation areas, protects mineral and mining sites, while still preserving our majestic desert landscapes for future generations. I’m proud of the work that’s gone into this historic bill and look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to pass it.”
San Bernardino County First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood pledged his support for the bill, saying “I’m pleased to support Col. Paul Cook’s bill because it takes a balanced approach that protects our desert while also protecting mining jobs and economic opportunities. It strikes a responsible compromise among recreational activities and environmental preservation. Unlike a possible presidential executive order, this bill is good policy because it incorporates the voices of local residents and elected bodies. And it maintains the long-standing philosophy that the desert is a land of many uses.”
For the text of HR 3668, a list of all the accompanying maps, and the executive summary, please click here.