President Trump Signs Congressman Cook’s Public Lands Legislation

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)– President Donald Trump signed into law S. 47, the Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, which overwhelmingly passed in the Senate and House last month. Congressman Paul Cook attended the signing ceremony at the White House last week.

The Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act is a package of bipartisan public lands-related bills that passed the House or Senate in the previous Congress. It includes critical lands legislation Rep. Cook introduced in the last Congress, including the Santa Ana Wash Land Exchange Act and the California Desert Protection and Recreation Act (previously known as the California Off-road Recreation and Conservation Act).

The Santa Ana Land Wash and Exchange Act authorizes a land exchange in San Bernardino County, which will boost the economy, provide increased water storage, and protect critical habitat for threatened and endangered species.

The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act is the culmination of over five years of work in Congress by Congressman Cook, as well as over a decade of work by supporters on the ground. This landmark legislation creates the first national system of Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation areas and designates or expands 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. This bill creates additional protections for OHV users and ensures that these areas cannot be closed by a future administration. 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 open permanently for OHV use in the California Desert.

This legislation also designates approximately 18,000 acres of existing federal land as the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area. This restricts 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 are unaffected.

The California Desert Protection and Recreation Act 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 adds approximately 4,500 acres of land to the north of Joshua Tree National Park to the park and authorizes the park to acquire the Joshua Tree Visitor Center near the main entrance, while Death Valley National Park will expand by approximately 35,000 acres.

It also creates permanent wilderness areas on 375,500 acres of federal land in the California Desert, most of which are currently designated as “wilderness study areas,” while releasing approximately 124,000 acres of other wilderness study areas back to general use in the Cady Mountains and Soda Mountains regions.

This bill designates or expands approximately 77 miles of wild, scenic, and recreational rivers in the San Bernardino Mountains and near Death Valley. It prohibits the development of renewable energy generation facilities on approximately 28,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land near “Juniper Flats” outside of Lucerne Valley and conveys 934 acres of BLM land to the State of California to be included in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It also directs the Secretary of the Interior to negotiate with the California State Lands Commission on land swaps involving state school lands within the California Desert Conservation Area and establishes a Desert Tortoise Conservation Center along the California-Nevada border.

Congressman Cook said, “It’s been a long process to get to this point, but this is truly a model for how grassroots legislating should work. This bill had widespread support from local governments, recreational groups, and conservation groups, as well as significant bipartisan support. It was a great honor to see President Trump recognize all of this hard work by signing S.47 into law today. I thank President Trump, my colleagues in the House and Senate, and most importantly all of those people on the ground who worked tirelessly to get a compromise bill that we could all be proud of. This is a huge legislative victory.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *