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“That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” As I sat there listening to the famous speech by Abraham Lincoln, staring out the window that was etched with those very words on a cold, rainy day in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the gravity of our trip, and the important task that had been laid out before us started to sink in.

When I was asked to join a group of promoters, event organizers and concerned recreationalists for a regularly scheduled “meeting of the minds”, I had no idea that it would lead me across this great nation, into the office of the National Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Washington, DC. Following the California 200 and leading up to the 5th running of the Griffin King of the Hammers my concern for Hammerking’s ability to obtain a permit was of the foremost concern. In preparation, I had attempted to educate myself on all the Special Recreation Permit (SRP) stipulations and possible changes. In doing so, I found myself immersed in what seemed like a flowing tide of changes in policy for the California Desert District (CDD).

American Motorcyclist Association District 37 President Jerry Grabow and Off-Road Business Association President Fred Wiley extended an invitation to join them on a trip to Washington, DC. I was shocked that I would be chosen, and wondered if there might be someone better suited to lead the charge for the 4 wheel vehicles interests. What I learned on the way, with the support of the California Association of 4 Wheel drive Clubs, was that, as citizens, it is our duty to participate in the government rather than sit idle and wait for others to create policy for us. Because the diverse group of Off Highway vehicle (OHV) users was able to work together for the greater good of all parties, we found ourselves able to break down the walls between the leaders of the BLM. In addition, we were able to explain our concern for the continued reciprocating relationship OHV leadership and local BLM offices have forged for over 40 years. Our group was able to drive home the importance of organized recreation to the public, and show that OHV recreation is the first opportunity many have to learn about responsible use of our public lands, and create lifelong stewards of them in the process.

While we all understand that the opinion of the safety of OHV events has become suspect in the eyes of the uneducated, I firmly believe that this trip has shown BLM at the highest levels that the OHV community believes that by working together we can create a model for efficient safety at OHV events across the country, and standardize the requirements in a manner that will encourage participation in the process rather than outcast the very fabric of our community.

While I don’t believe that every issue facing SRPs is magically been resolved because of one meeting in DC, I do feel strongly that in time by working with the field offices in the CDD we will find solutions that will make our events safer and managed in a manner that the chain of events that lead to the California 200 tragedy will not easily be repeated. The public’s involvement in the Desert Advisory Committee (DAC) meetings which lead to the formation of a sub-committee of event organizers was a big win for OHV special events. Only four months earlier the feeling in the OHV community was seemingly bleak. Using proactive unified pressure and offering potential solutions, OHV will be a part of this policy, and not simply left to decide if it wishes to continue hosting events inside the subjective guidelines of the SRP handbook.

What should not be lost in all of this is how effective OHV groups can be when they lay aside their indifference toward another type of activity and work together toward a common goal. Our meeting in Washington DC was a success due in large part because of the respect we had shown to all forms of OHV recreation. While the AMA was able to utilize its political presence in Washington DC, the largest voice came from the average citizen and not the AMA lobbyist. Our industry leaders in Washington DC added the needed balance to help drive the point across, but the passion of the enthusiast was the strongest message that could be sent. Because all forms of this industry worked together we have won a battle. The irony of my trip to Gettysburg the day after our meeting in Washington, DC was not lost as I pondered the turning tide of the Army of the Potomac, and how the political opinions of the war shifted as Meade struck a crushing blow to General Lee’s advancement. Lee’s words following his Gettysburg defeat offer a somber reminder of what lay ahead in the battle for the Johnson Valley OHV area, “We must now prepare for harder blows and harder work.” (Robert E. Lee, July 26, 1863). I cannot imagine that our United States Marine Corps would be a bit offended at the thought of a worthy opponent comprised of many like minded individuals, from many states, and many cultures exercising their rights in solidarity much like those who stood on that hill on July 3rd,1863 and held the line because it was the right thing to do.
Public meetings on the 29 Palms training land acquisition will be held
5-9 p.m.
April 12th Copper Mountain College
Bell Center Gym
6162 Rotary Way
Joshua Tree, CA
April 13th Ontario High School Gym
901 W. Francis St.
Ontario, CA
April 14th Hilton Garden Inn
Mirage Sahara
Conference Center
12603 Mariposa Rd.
Victorville, CA

Mail written comments to:
Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest
ATTN: 29Palms EIS Project Manager
1220 Pacific Highway
San Diego, CA 92132-5190
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