Yesterday, lawmakers in Washington passed the sweeping National Resources Management Act that affects wilderness areas across the nation. Within the NRMA is the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act, which addresses more than 700,000 acres of California desert. It designates hundreds of thousands of acres of new wilderness areas in California, expands Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park, establishes new monuments, and, perhaps best of all, makes six OHV recreation areas in California permanent.
The six OHV areas named in the bill are El Mirage, Stoddard Valley, Dumont Dunes, Rasor, Johnson Valley, and Spangler Hills. Johnson Valley is named to expand in the act’s text by 20,240 acres. In total, the bill establishes around 300,000 acres of permanent OHV area in California across the six sites.
Earlier in the month the act passed the Senate and then received substantial support in the House, passing by a 363–62 vote. It still remains to be signed by President Trump.
The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act is a long time coming for many California off-road enthusiasts. Senator Dianne Feinstein backed the latest bill and has been advocating for similar action since the start of her tenure in congress in the early ’90s. In 1994, she was able to pass the California Desert Protection Act which established Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Mojave National Preserve.
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More land was addressed in 2016 when then President Obama expanded protection of almost two million acres of desert in the state, and then in 2017 Representative Paul Cook and co-sponsor Pete Aguilar introduced the California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act, which would later become the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act.
When the bill is signed in to law, it will be a significant win for those who make use of OHV areas and those who want to see more thoughtful management of those areas. Pressure from various outside groups has at times threatened the very survival of some of the OHV areas included in the act. Hopefully this move will confirm the existence and proper management of these OHV areas for years to come.