California Desert Protection
and Recreation Act
Washington D.C.__Representative Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley), Wednesday,
January 9, 2019, joined
with Representative Juan Vargas (D-Imperial Valley) and Representative Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) in
introducing the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act.
This Bill is an updated version of Paul Cook’s
California Off-road Recreation and Conservation Act that passed the House
in the last Congress, but ultimately never received a final vote in the U.S.
Senate. The Bill has widespread support from local governments, recreational
groups, and conservation groups, as well as significant bipartisan support.
California Senators Feinstein and Harris introduced an identical companion Bill
in the U.S. Senate.
This Bill would designate or expand six Off-Highway
Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Areas in the California desert. These are: Johnson
Valley, Spangler Hills, El Mirage, Rasor, Dumont Dunes, and Stoddard Valley.
Also it would
create additional protections for OHV users and ensures that these areas cannot
be closed administratively. Creating the nation’s first system of
Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation areas will ensure that OHV activity is
conducted in appropriate locations, protecting other parts of the desert. The
established or expanded OHV areas would total approximately 200,580 acres.
Combined with the nearly 100,000 acres that make up the existing Johnson Valley
OHV Recreation Area, this bill will ensure that over 300,000 acres are
permanently open for OHV use in the California Desert.
This legislation would also designate approximately
18,000 acres of existing federal land as the Alabama Hills National Scenic
Area. This would restrict large-scale projects such as renewable energy
generation, while preserving all existing recreational and commercial uses of
the Alabama Hills. Activities such as filming, hiking, mountain biking, rock
climbing, hunting, fishing, and authorized motorized vehicle use would be
It would also designate approximately 375,500 acres of
wilderness in the California Desert, while releasing approximately 124,000
acres of existing wilderness study areas in the Cady Mountains and Soda
Mountains. Additionally, it adds approximately 39,000 acres of land to the
National Park System, including significant acreage at both Joshua Tree
National Park and Death Valley National Park. For Joshua Tree, it would add
approximately 4,500 acres of land on the northern border of Joshua Tree
National Park to the park and would authorize the park to acquire the Joshua
Tree Visitor Center near the main entrance.
California Desert & Recreation
Representative Paul Cook said, “This Bipartisan Bill is one of the most significant
pieces of conservation and recreation legislation in decades. It represents the
work of years of outreach to local governments, tribes, off-highway vehicle
users, conservation groups, Chambers of Commerce, miners, and other
stakeholders. The Bill protects critical OHV recreation areas, makes crucial
expansions to our national park lands and wilderness areas, and represents a
consensus on how to manage our public lands in the California desert. Given the
overwhelming bipartisan support, I’m optimistic we’ll be able to pass this
legislation this term.”
Representative Aguilar said, “I’m proud to support this
legislation, which will help Southern California families’ access and enjoy our
state’s desert wilderness areas while also expanding environmental protections
for public lands throughout the region. I’m grateful for the work of my friend
Congressman Cook in leading this bipartisan effort, and look forward to
advancing this legislation in the 116th Congress.”
Representative Vargas said, “The Imperial
Valley desert is home to an incredibly diverse ecosystem and vast terrains that
are of great importance to the people of our region and the entire state of
California. This bill would give residents and visitors the opportunity to
enjoy all the desert has to offer while ensuring that the invaluable natural
resources of Imperial Valley are protected for future generations.”