Cook unveils three bills to spur California desert recreation, conservation efforts

U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) last week sponsored three bills that would promote outdoor recreation and conservation in the desert of his home state of California.

“Responsible use of and access to our public lands has been one of my main focuses while in Congress,” Rep. Cook said on Dec. 4. “These bills will provide new opportunities for my constituents to enjoy the outdoors.” 

Rep. Cook on Dec. 3 proposed the Twentynine Palms Outdoor Recreational Enhancement Act, H.R. 8848, which would convey about 80 acres of federal land to the City of Twentynine Palms, Calif., according to a bill summary provided by his office. 

If enacted, H.R. 8848 would allow for the expansion of the 29 Palms Motorsports Arena, which is an adjacent site that hosts several racing events that prior to the pandemic annually attracted more than 5,000 attendees and racers.

Rep. Cook also sponsored the California Desert Conservation Enhancement Act, H.R. 8849, which would permit the acquisition of state school lands located within wilderness areas, national parks and off-highway vehicle recreation areas in the California desert.

The 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, according to the congressman’s office. 

Additionally, H.R. 8849 would clarify language in the previously enacted California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act to ensure that lands donated and designated for conservation are used for such purposes, his office said.

Lastly, Rep. Cook introduced the Apple Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area Establishment Act, H.R. 8850, to convey roughly 4,360 acres of federal land to the Town of Apple Valley, Calif., which would take over management of the popular riding area and protect surrounding habitat by giving riders an appropriate and designated area to ride, according to the congressman’s office.

“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,” said Rep. Cook. “They strike the balance between protecting lands for native wildlife while also giving people a legal place for off-road vehicle use.”