April 3, 2014

Cook continues Johnson Valley legislative efforts

Jose Quintero
Desert Dispatch

WASHINGTON • Rep. Paul Cook took another step this week toward permanently protecting the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area by introducing a bill that would give the land a special federal designation.

Cook, R-Apple Valley, announced in a news release Thursday that he had introduced H.R. 4371, which would make Johnson Valley the first national off-highway vehicle recreation area.

Cook, who represents the High Desert in the 8th Congressional District, announced last year that he had helped engineer a compromise that would save nearly 100,000 acres of the off-roading area, including the famed Hammer trails.

A portion of Johnson Valley is explicitly designated for off-highway vehicle use under last year’s deal negotiated with the Marine Corps. Cook, a retired Marine, says federally designating the area will ensure continued off-road access. Cook says the designation might seem like a small change, but it’s an important step to keeping the land under the authority of the Bureau of Land Management.

“It will show that Johnson Valley is of national significance, raising its profile for economic purposes and within the federal government, which owns the land,” Cook stated in the release.

The BLM estimates that Johnson Valley currently generates more than $71 million annually for local economies, according to the release. The King of the Hammers race alone draws an estimated 30,000 people to Johnson Valley each year.

“I’m proud to have been a part of the national campaign to save Johnson Valley last year,” Cook stated. “Johnson Valley is a national treasure and this bill formally recognizes it as such.”