Where is the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range (CMAGR)?
The CMAGR consists of approximately 459,000 acres located within desert mountain terrain in Riverside and Imperial counties in southern California.
How is the CMAGR used?
The CMAGR supports military aircrew training in air combat maneuvering and tactics; airborne laser system operations; air-to-air gunnery; and air-to-ground bombing, rocketry, and strafing. Artillery, demolitions, small arms and Naval Special Warfare training are also conducted within the range.
Why is a Legislative Environmental Impact Statement (LEIS) being prepared for the CMAGR?
The current military withdrawal for the CMAGR expires in October 2014. Because there is a continuing military need for the range, the Department of the Navy (DoN) is asking Congress to renew the land withdrawal for at least 25 years, although withdrawals of other alternative duration are considered. The renewal request process requires the preparation of a Draft LEIS in accordance with NEPA.
What is the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)?
NEPA establishes our national environmental policy of promoting a multidisciplinary approach to considering environmental effects in federal government agency decision making. The essential purpose of NEPA is to ensure that environmental consequences of a federal agency’s proposed actions are weighted equally when compared to other factors, and that this information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and actions are taken.
What has Congress decided?
With the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, Congress has decided to renew the withdrawal of Department of the Interior public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) within the CMAGR and to once again reserve that land for national defense purposes.
Congress also addressed some of the proposals made in the Draft LEIS. First, Congress has decided to transfer administrative jurisdiction of the withdrawn BLM public land from the Secretary of the Interior to the Secretary of the Navy, who will administer the land for military purposes as long as there is a military need for the CMAGR. Transfer of the BLM administered parcels in the CMAGR to the Navy will eliminate the jurisdictional checkerboard and consolidate resource management and environmental stewardship responsibilities within the Department of the Navy.
Second, Congress has decided to realign the northwestern boundary of the CMAGR to conform to the southern edge of the Bradshaw Trail, a National Backcountry Byway, so that the trail is entirely on public land administered by the BLM. BLM public land north of the Bradshaw Trail that has previously been included in the CMAGR will no longer be part of the military range. Navy land north of the Bradshaw Trail, which had previously been included in the CMAGR, will now be available for potential disposal and may be evaluated for transfer to the Department of the Interior to improve management of the Bradshaw Trail. The Navy will be responsible for any decontamination requirements that resulted from defense-related uses on BLM or Navy land that was formerly part of the CMAGR. The Congressional authorization is final and no Record of Decision will be issued.
What did Congress not change?
Valid existing rights, including those held by the Bureau of Reclamation associated with the Coachella Canal, will not be affected by the land transfer. Land within the CMAGR that was previously designated as critical habitat of the desert tortoise will retain that special designation. Subject to valid existing rights, the mineral estate of the transferred land will continue to be withdrawn from all form of appropriation under the public land laws. Water rights are not affected by Congress’s CMAGR decisions.
Where can I learn more?
Links on this webpage will take you to pages that provide more information. Please, read through the additional information and check back periodically; new documents and maps will be added as they are developed and released for public review.