The Decision Process
We're in the middle of the decision process right now. When the Marines first announced they were considering a request for additional land in late 2008, a series of scoping meetings were held where the Marines provided information about their needs and intentions. These scoping meetings also provided an opportunity for the general public (including the off-road community) to make comments about the potential closure of the Johnson Valley OHV area.
After the scoping meetings, the Marines spent some time considering their options.
At press time (July 2010) we're in a holding pattern waiting for the next steps.
Here's what's coming up:
The Marines will release a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in September 2010. After the EIS is released, there will be a 90-day public comment period. Yes, this story is in our November 2010 issue, but we're guessing you're reading it well before then. That means you've still got a chance to make a comment.
After the 90-day public comment period is over, the Marines will take the comments into consideration and release another draft of the EIS. This draft of the EIS is scheduled to be released in July 2011.
After the EIS is released in July 2011, we'll be holding our collective breath until October of that same year. That's because the Marines will make their decision public in October 2011. After that, if the Marines have decided to ask for a chunk of public land, their request will go to the the U.S. Congress for approval. Congress will then vote and we'll all have to live with the outcome.
Alternatives for the Marines
At press time, there are six alternatives that the Marines are considering. One alternative is the "no action" alternative, meaning things will be left as they are. Another alternative is for the Marines to use 40,000 acres in Johnson Valley part time for training, allowing off-roaders into that same area when it's not being used for training.
There are also areas to the north and to the east of the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base that are options for the Marines. There's historic precedent here, as General Patton used the area to the east for training during World War II.
The Ripple Effect
If Johnson Valley is closed, the results won't be small or benign. Instead, it will be the same as what happens when you toss a rock into a glassy, calm lake. The ripples will radiate in all directions. "Since Johnson Valley is the largest OHV area in the United States, closing it will actually ripple throughout the entire western United States," said Wayne Nosala of the Partnership for Johnson Valley. We've already talked about how Johnson Valley's potential closure will affect off-road enthusiasts. Let's examine the ripple effect into the communities near Johnson Valley.
Ripple Effect Into Big Bear
If you've been there, you know that you won't find the comforts of home in Johnson Valley unless you truck them in with you. On the other hand, driving up into Big Bear means lodging, dining, and almost any other needed service. "It's hard to document all of the effects that closing Johnson Valley would have," said Ray Currie of Currie Enterprises. "Some people go to Johnson Valley to play, but stay in Big Bear. On the way home, they might drive down the hill and through Lucerne Valley to get home. On the way out, they'll probably stop for gas and get a bite to eat. That's money spent as a direct result of Johnson Valley."