Amid the dust, euphoria and apocalyptic overtones of last year's King of the Hammers race, there was a fight going on to save the Johnson OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) area for public use. Part of the area's 188,000 acres borders the 29 Palms Marine Base, and the Marines wanted to claim 160,000 of them for military use. If that happened, it would have robbed the public of almost all of the Johnson OHV area and, in claiming the Hammers collection of rock formations, shut down the race.

The work of numerous land-access groups went into finding a compromise, and an agreement has been struck in the US Congress that cedes 88,130 acres to the Marines permanently and leaves 99,870 acres for public access. Of those 99,870, twice a year for 30 days each the Marines will lay claim to 56,000 of them for military exercises. The caveat, though, is that the public land will be overseen by the Bureau of Land Management, so the Marines can't use dud-producing ordnance or ammunition larger than .50 caliber there.

And since the roughly 100,000 acres left to the recreational set includes features like the Hammers, Spooners, Aftershock, Soggy Dry Lake, Emerson Dry Lake and most of the Fry Mountains, the race will go on and another awesome time will be had by all. We expect we'll be out there to do it again as well...

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