Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 3:34 pm Post subject: Virtual on-line Rally to be Held by 4x4 Enthusiast
Virtual on-line Rally to be Held by 4x4 Enthusiasts
Off Highway Vehicle enthusiasts organize to hold first ever online rally over trail closures
In a landmark event, thousands of Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) users across the world will participate in a online, Virtual Rally to voice their concerns over a popular OHV area in Southern California. On Wednesday March 12th, 2008 Pirate4x4.com, a leading website for the OHV community, will hold this rally from 2 to 6 PM PST.
The Hammers trail system in Johnson Valley, California is being considered for requisition to expand the United States Marine Corps training facilities, which would effectively eliminate public access to Johnson Valley's unrivaled OHV Mecca.
Virtual Rally participants will be asked to post their experiences, photos and history recreating with their families in the Johnson Valley Area, and the concerns they have with losing this unique recreational resource. These comments will be posted and tracked in bulletin-board format, with a goal of creating a lasting record of how important this unassuming stretch of desert is to a vast number of people from many places -- some who visit Johnson Valley multiple times a year, and others who just dream of the opportunity of visiting the Hammers in the future. Interested parties are encouraged to attend the rally and read the thread, as this is a public rally, you do not need to be a member of Pirate4x4.com to read what is posted.
Families and clubs have recreated in this area for many years with OHV's, and competitive rock crawling, rock racing, motorcycling, and ATV events have been held there for more than a decade, with significant rewards for the area economy. In February, the famed "King of the Hammers" annual rock race crowned its king.
The Bureau of Land Management currently manages the Johnson Valley's varied landscape of steep red rocky mountains, rolling hills, open valleys, dry lake beds, dunes, and sandy washes. The main attraction for most visitors is family OHV recreation: trail-rides, competitive racing events, and general OHV free play. Johnson Valley sees hundreds of thousands of recreation days with users motorcycling, ATVing, 4x4ing, rallycrossing, camping, hiking, rock-hounding, and wildlife-watching.
"It is ironic that the BLM has OHV users recreate responsibly by staying on marked trails and not having campfires at certain times of the year, but now they sell the same area to the Marines who will tear all over the area and conduct live fire drills", said Todd Ockert, The United Four Wheel Drive Association Director of Environmental Affairs.
Enthusiasts prize site of potential training ground
By Michael Gardner
UNION-TRIBUNE U-T SACRAMENTO BUREAU
March 14, 2008
SACRAMENTO – California's off-road riders have launched an aggressive campaign to oppose any move by the Marines to annex Johnson Valley, a nationally acclaimed high-desert recreation area on the perimeter of an important military base at Twentynine Palms.
The potential expansion of the battlefield training ground for troops being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan has sparked a conflict between the traditionally conservative off-road community and the military.
It also may pressure Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, a former Army Ranger and outspoken advocate for the military, to choose between his loyalties to the Marine Corps and to longtime off-road allies alarmed over shrinking legal places to ride.
“We're pretty devastated,” said Ed Stovin, president of the San Diego Off-Road Coalition. “It's hard to fight national security when you're at war, but you sure hate to lose the area.”
Stovin said he hopes the off-road community can work with Hunter on a compromise, perhaps pushing the Marines to consider taking land not used for off-roading. “He's a good friend of ours,” Stovin said.
Hunter has not taken sides, said Joe Kasper, a spokesman. “Congressman Hunter supports both the interests of the off-roading community and the potential expansion of the facility to better simulate and prepare our Marines for conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Kasper said.
Hunter plans to address the issue at a meeting with off-road enthusiasts March 22.
Off-roading is a booming sport, with nearly 1 million vehicles registered in California to take to the terrain. About 4 million people ride in state parks set aside for that use, and countless others use federal land.
Off-road advocates say they are squeezed for space by urban demand and environmental-based restrictions.
Growing more alarmed as word spread of the possible land requisition by the Marines, off-roaders this week mounted a four-hour “virtual rally” over the Internet in a show of solidarity. By their count, there were 1,495 messages posted and 33,976 page views within four hours.
Many posts carried a common theme: admiration for troops, hopes that they return home safely and support for the military – but near-unanimous opposition to turning the valley over to the Marines.
“The Marine Corps has a need, but the off-road community also has needs and rights to enjoy and recreate in this well-established off-highway vehicle area,” Philip Hall of National City wrote.
“If this land were unused and dormant, it would be a different situation all together,” Hall's post continued. “But Johnson Valley OHV area already has a purpose and is owned by thousands of tax-paying citizens like myself who are not willing to sacrifice such a pristine locale to be turned into a practice war ground.”
The Marine Corps has issued a statement confirming that it is looking to expand training facilities, but it says no decision has been reached and urges patience.
“This process of simply figuring out what land the base might actually need to meet the Marine Corps training requirements and how it affects other interests could take anywhere from three to five years,” said Jim Ricker, assistant chief of staff at the Twentynine Palms base.
The statement continued: “It is imperative that the Marines receive the most realistic training before deploying into a combat environment that demands split second life or death decisions.”
The 140,000-acre off-highway vehicle area, located southeast of Barstow in San Bernardino County, also is home to the federally protected desert tortoise, a fact that could provoke strident opposition from environmentalists.
Protecting the tortoise was a key issue when the Army expanded training facilities near Fort Irwin a few years ago.
Johnson Valley is under the supervision of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Mike Pool, California's BLM director, is expected to attend Hunter's March 22 meeting with off-road enthusiasts.
John Dearing, a BLM spokesman, said the military followed a regular process before taking other federal lands.
“We have not yet received an application from the Marines,” said Dearing, referring specific questions about Johnson Valley to the military.
The Marine Corps said it plans to prepare an environmental review of alternatives once a decision is made. It promises full disclosure and public participation.
Johnson Valley is nationally known as “the Hammers” – one of the best four-wheeling, boulder-hopping areas in the country, off-roaders say.
The off-roading mecca draws thousands every year to numerous organized events, including rock-racing, rock-crawling and a “King of the Hammers” championship each February. The area's landscape is dotted with Joshua trees, steep red-rock mountains and sandy washes.
Losing the Hammers, one Internet posting read, “would be like baseball losing Wrigley Field or golf losing Augusta.”
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