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Rep. Cook Introduces Legislation to Promote Outdoor Recreation and Conservation

WASHINGTON – This week, Rep. Paul Cook (R-Apple Valley) introduced new legislation to promote outdoor recreation and conservation in the California desert.

H.R. 8848, the Twentynine Palms Outdoor Recreational Enhancement Act, would convey approximately 80 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land to the City of Twentynine Palms. This parcel is adjacent to the 29 Palms Motorsports Arena, which is the site of a number of racing events that would attract more than 5,000 attendees and racers each year before the pandemic struck. It would allow for expansion of the racetrack, drawing in additional events, and boost the city’s economy.

H.R. 8849, the California Desert Conservation Enhancement Act, would allow for the acquisition of state school lands located within wilderness areas, national parks, and off-highway vehicle recreation areas in the California desert. These purchases were agreed to more than 20 years ago as part of a structured exchange of lands between the federal and state government but have been held up for decades. Additionally, this bill would add clarifying language to the previously enacted California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act, ensuring that lands donated for and designated for conservation are used for those purposes.

H.R. 8850, the Apple Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area Establishment Act, would convey approximately 4,360 acres of BLM land to the Town of Apple Valley. These lands are a popular OHV riding area north of the town that had been used heavily for recreation for more than 30 years, and users in the area can number several thousand on certain high-use weekends. It’s easily accessible from I-15 and is a popular location for camping, riding, and racing. Conveying this land to Apple Valley allows them to take over management of the area which reduces the strain on the BLM, preserves a popular riding area, and protects surrounding habitat by giving riders an appropriate area to ride.

Rep. Cook said, “Responsible use of and access to our public lands has been one of my main focuses while in Congress. These bills will provide new opportunities for my constituents to enjoy the outdoors. COVID has taught us how critical it is that we have a variety of options for outdoor recreation and these bills will provide new opportunities for both motorized and non-motorized recreation. They strike the balance between protecting lands for native wildlife while also giving people a legal place for off-road vehicle use.”

A member of the House Natural Resources and Armed Services Committees, Cook served as an infantry officer and retired after 26 years as a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. During his time in combat, he was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. Rep. Cook will retire from Congress next week when he takes a seat on the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

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