29 PALMS

Resources Management Group holds annual meeting

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YUCCA VALLEY, CALIF. Representatives from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, and Bureau of Land Management answered questions on land use in the Johnson Valley Shared Use Area, and confirmed 2020 and 2021 closure dates during the Resource Management Group's annual public meeting April 6, 2019, at the Yucca Valley Community Center.

The two federal entities established the RMG in 2014 to co-manage the Shared Use Area after Congress passed and the president signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014. NDAA 2014 expanded Combat Center training lands and established the Shared Use Area for joint-use by the public and the Marine Corps. The law allows the Marine Corps to close the Shared Use Area for up to two 30-day periods each year to conduct congressionally required military training. The BLM manages the popular off-roading area when it's not in use by the Marine Corps.

Jim Ricker, Combat Center Government and External Affairs director; Kristina Becker, GEA deputy director; and Katrina Symons, BLM Barstow Field Office manager, facilitated the meeting. Also representing the Combat Center were Jonell Kosa, GEA range sustainment program manager; Amber Bilderain, GEA community analyst; Terry Hansen, GEA senior airspace engagement specialist; and Mary Lane Poe, biologist, Combat Center Environmental Affairs Division.

Five members of the public attended, including Tim Itnyre, district director for Congressman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, and Rick Denison, a Yucca Valley town councilman who is Cook's field representative.

"The purpose of the meeting is to make sure the public is aware of what's happening in the Shared Use Area," Ricker said. "We always look forward to engaging with the public on Johnson Valley. We really appreciated seeing members from Congressman Cook's office and the town of Yucca Valley."

Ricker also thanked the town for allowing the RMG to use the community center for the meeting.

Also attending the meeting was John Stewart of the California Four Wheel Drive Association, who spoke with Marine Corps and BLM officials as he made his way around the room.

"Is there a no-fly on drones?" at the Combat Center, Stewart asked Hansen.

"We've always had a no-fly on drones," Hansen said, showing Stewart the scope of the Combat Center's military airspace on a large map set up at his station.

Shared Use Area closure dates

While the Marine Corps initially planned to close the Shared Use Area for military training in August 2019, revisions in the scope of training made the closure unnecessary. Instead, the scheduled training exercise will be conducted only on ranges located within the Combat Center boundaries.

Closure dates announced for 2020 are April 30 to May 11 and Oct. 30 to Nov. 9. Closure dates for 2021 are April 10 to May 10 and Oct. 29 to Nov. 8. The closures will not affect recreation in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area adjacent to the Shared Use Area.

Becker said if the scope of training exercises scheduled for 2020 and 2021 are revised and make closure of the Shared Use Area unnecessary, the RMG will notify the public of the changes via press releases, website and social media announcements, and via the Discover Johnson Valley mobile app.

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