A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California
Issue 320 - 2/27/08
THIS WEEK IN NEWS.BYTES:
- Not for educators only:
- Wildlife trivia question of the week: Desert tortoise
- Desert tortoise contest
- Our readers write: Desert tortoise and ravens
- Cultural/historical preservation: Native film and culture, mining history, Old Spanish Trail
- Wildflowers and outdoor recreation: Central California, desert, into Arizona
- Volunteers: Off-roaders clean up
- Recreation: Imperial Valley
- Volunteers clean public lands :
- Chidago Canyon
- Volcanic Tableland
- Wild horses and burros
- Outdoor recreation issues: Off-road areas, gold dredging mercury
- Energy: Power lines, Sunrise, wind power
- Headlines and highlights: Wild horse and burro adoption, Headwaters, deserted bunker, more
- Employee Profile
- Selected upcoming events
- National and/or Department of the Interior items
Also see this issue of News.bytes online at:
NOT for EDUCATORS ONLY:
WILDLIFE TRIVIA QUESTION of the WEEK:
What do Desert Tortoises eat?
(a.) they are insectivorous
(b.) they are herbivorous
(c.) they are carnivorous, but eat mostly carrion as they cannot catch many live things
(d.) they are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals
(e.) they eat the eggs of ground-level-nesting birds
(f.) they eat only saguaro cactus, and their existence is threatened by cactus poachers
(g.) Tortoise Desserts
------> See answer -- and more information -- near the end of this issue of News.bytes.
"Mojave Max 2008 Emergence Contest"
Sorry for the late notice, but we were not aware of this earlier: "Mojave Max is a desert tortoise who lives about 20 miles west of Las Vegas....Any student in grades 1-12 may...go on-line and register a guess when Mojave Max will emerge from his burrow for the first time in 2008. Eligibility for prizes is restricted to students enrolled in public private and registered home schools in the following counties in California: Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego. The contest will remain open until Max emerges from his burrow."
OUR READERS WRITE...about the desert tortoise
"I just recently subscribed to your newsletter and think its great! I have a question about the Desert Tortoise. I moved to the Mojave Desert about 4 years ago....My question is: Are crows/ravens killing off the desert tortoise population? I can't remember where I heard this but was wondering if it was true, I was told that the crows eat the young tortoises right out of their shells....Hope to hear from you back by email or maybe in your news letter. thank you!"
- Norman H.
From the editor:
Our BLM-California Threatened and Endangered Species biologist responded to you by email, but I am sharing this with our readers, to go with our wildlife trivia question. Part of his response:
"Raven predation is one of several threats to the desert tortoise identified in the Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan (1994), the Desert Tortoise Recovery Plan Assessment (2004), and other documents....A draft raven management environmental assessment was prepared last year, which proposes methods to reduce raven predation on the desert tortoise and other reptiles and mammals throughout the deserts of southern California. The following website link describes this document and the alternatives under consideration for reducing raven predation on tortoises:"
"Threats to Desert Tortoise Populations: A Critical Review of the Literature" (Desert Managers Group)
A summary of the state of knowledge on this topic as of 2002. Page 51 of this 91-page PDF document relates to ravens and other predators such as feral dogs.
Perhaps more than you wanted to know -- but another example of how any simple question about wildlife can have a complicated answer. Thank you for the question!
- The editor
"Diverse international films chosen for must see 7th annual Festival of Native Film and Culture" (Agua Caliente Cultural Museum)
The BLM's partner in preserving museum collections from public lands, the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, presents the Festival of Native Film and Culture. Now in its seventh season, this is one of the nation’s most highly-regarded festivals of its kind -- showcasing the best in films by, about, and starring Native people. This cultural celebration runs Wednesday, March 5 through Sunday, March 9 in Palm Springs.
"Tales of Keyesville and the 1849 Kern River Gold Rush" (Kern Valley Sun, 2/27/08)
"During Whiskey Flat Days, more than 80 persons learned about the mining history of the Lake Isabella area from Bernard McGregor (1885-1939), aka Dr. Gregg Wilkerson, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, who lead two tours of Old Kernville. McGregor worked at the Keys Mine (1850-1941) from 1906 to 1939 and was called back from permanent retirement to lead the tours. He drove his 1928 Model A Phaeton."
RELATED: "Geology and mining history field trips" (BLM-California, Bakersfield Field Office)
The Bureau of Land Management and Buena Vista Museum of Natural History have initiated a program of earth science field trips to points of mineralogic, geologic, paleontologic and historic interest throughout central California. These trips are designed for persons of high school age and older." Dr. Gregg Wilkerson has led many of these tours, and more are scheduled. Reservations are required.
"Growth threatens Old Spanish Trail" (Grand Junction, CO Sentinel, 2/23/08)
"If it weren’t for the landowners, we would not be able to tread along the same paths as ancient Native Americans, or the trappers and fur traders who followed them. But...the trails may be blocked from public access by the new developments. Portions of the trail cut across Bureau of Land Management lands, and while the BLM would love to see these trails remain open to public use, 'protecting access to public lands is a challenge nationwide'....The Old Spanish Trail is designated as a national historic trail, traveling more than 2,700 miles from Santa Fe, New Mexico, through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California."
RELATED: "Old Spanish National Historic Trail" (BLM-Arizona website)
"The trail takes its name from the old Spanish colonies in northern New Mexico and southern California that were linked by this rugged route. The Old Spanish Trail was designated by Congress as a National Historic Trail in December 2002."
WILDFLOWERS and other outdoor recreation
"Trip of the week: Rainbow Basin Natural Area provides recreation, unique geology" (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2/24/08)
"A splendid cool season destination, Rainbow Basin Natural Area north of Barstow, Calif., offers high-desert camping, picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, scenic touring, wildlife watching and plenty of photo opportunities. This spring it may also offer a bonus with a fair showing of wildflowers. Administered by the Bureau of Land Management as an area of critical environmental concern, Rainbow Basin protects unique geology and extensive fossil beds....The area includes both public lands and private in-holdings...."
RELATED: "Rainbow Basin Natural Area" (BLM-California, Barstow Field Office)
Many visitors come to see exciting multi-colored rock formations and walk the scenic canyons. A variety of desert wildlife is found here, including the desert tortoise. Vehicle trespass is a major concern, so all routes not signed as "open" are closed to vehicles. Due to recent vandalism to the potable water tanks, there is no water available in Owl Canyon Campground.
"It's wildflower time" (Lathrop-Manteca Sun Post, 2/21/08)
"Where to go to see great wildflowers?....If you're in pretty good physical condition, you might want to stop about ten miles east of Yosemite’s boundary...where the south fork of the Merced joins the main river. The South Fork Trail is arguably the best wildflower hike in the world. No Jive! In March and April the wildflowers along that stretch of trail are unsurpassed anywhere on earth. Watch your step, because the trail drops off very steeply to the South Fork. After a couple miles or so, the trail flattens out and becomes less steep."
RELATED: "Spring in the Merced River Canyon" (BLM California, Folsom Field Office)
The Merced River is a very special place for viewing wildflowers. A most spectacular display can be seen during the spring and summer months. (Includes photos from previous years.)
"It should be a banner year for blooms" (Hi-Desert Star, 2/16/08)
"Of course, it’s foolhardy to make any predictions. A spell of hot, dry and windy weather, for instance, could put an end to all spring wildflower hopes in short order. Barring any such climate challenge, though, this fool’s prediction is that it’s going to be a great wildflower year. Don’t miss it. There’s no telling when we’ll see another one."
"Where the wildflowers are" (Yuma Sun, 2/24/08)
Continuing from the California border into Arizona: "Wildflowers such as Sand Verbena and Ajo Lily are in bloom this season and Yumans can go out and enjoy the colors displayed throughout the desert landscape. 'It is so pretty,' said Karen Reichardt, a botanist with the Bureau of Land Management's Yuma Field Office. 'The colors are just exquisite (and) it shows the desert in a different light.'...This is the month to see the desert's vibrant-rich blooms in selected locations."
"Valley has places to see, things to do" (Imperial Valley Press, 2/24/08)
"Ariel Jutras is typical of most Imperial Valley teens in that she thinks there isn’t a whole lot to do locally.... It’s a common misperception that Brawley Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Nicole Gilles would love to see put to an end." To help spread the word, she helped create an "Escape to Adventure' pamphlet...." The 151 places of interest it details include a number of BLM-managed sites. (Gilles is also president of United Desert Gateway, a partnership with BLM to promote safety in the region's off-road-vehicle areas.)
Note: this online news site may require free registration.
"Escape to Adventure" (Brawley Chamber of Commerce)
Includes a number of BLM-managed sites, such as the Imperial Sand Dunes, Old Plank Road, long-term visitor areas, and more.
(PDF file, 2.3 megabytes, 20 pages with many photos.)
"Long term visitor areas" (BLM California, El Centro Field Office)
Every year, thousands of visitors come to enjoy the natural beauty and recreational opportunities offered at BLM´s Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVAs), where visitors may camp for as long as seven months. Winter visitors who wish to stay in an LTVA, must purchase a long term permit or a short visit permit. Contact BLM field offices for the latest information.
"Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area" (BLM California, El Centro Field Office)
WILD HORSES AND BURROS
"Wild horses and burros available for adoption in Brawley" (BLM-California news release, 2/27/08)
Strength ... endurance ... spirit ...qualities that define our country ... are embodied in America’s wild horses and burros that roam our nation’s rangelands, and these living legends are available for adoption in Brawley, California, on March 7-8, 2008. Spectators are welcome. There are 50 young animals available for adoption, 40 wild horses, and 10 burros. The mustangs and burros were gathered from public lands in California and Nevada, have been wormed and vaccinated, and are in excellent health.
"A new novel breaks horses - and stereotypes" (KPBS, National Public Radio, 2/28/08)
"In those days, even before the war had swept up all the young men from the ranches, there were girls who came through the country breaking horses. The first sentence from author Molly Gloss's latest work, The Hearts of Horses, sets the scene for a novel that busts some classic Wild West myths....Rancher Lesley Neuman hasn't read much about the history of horse-gentling; she's all hands-on and self-taught. The two women met while Neuman was demonstrating 'whispering' techniques while breaking mustangs for the Bureau of Land Management, and Neuman served as a consultant when Gloss was writing the book." Neuman has worked with BLM-California at many adoption events, demonstrating her gentling techniques.
OUTDOOR RECREATION ISSUES
"BLM set to shut off Greenhorn riders" (Grass Valley Union, 2/27/08)
"Years of trespassing, illegal dumping, erosion and damage to archaeological sites have pushed the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to shut down areas in the Steep Hollow and Greenhorn Creek areas....Plagued by numerous complaints of vandals, loud parties, illegal dumping, shooting and trespassing, the region is considered a nuisance by local law enforcement as well." But "Friends of Greenhorn formed last fall in response to the proposed land closure. Since then, members have organized clean-up days and route mapping trips to save the four-wheel drive playground from becoming a 'de facto wilderness'...."
"Mercury fears spur limits on Yuba dredging" (Grass Valley Union, 2/26/08)
The BLM will not issue "recreational dredging permits for a two-mile stretch of the South Yuba River this year, citing concerns about stirring up mercury particles before a long-anticipated water test. During controlled studies, the Bureau of Land Management will investigate whether dredging releases methyl mercury to the sediment's surface where fish and aquatic insects could then ingest the toxin."
RELATED: "Recreational dredging locations" (BLM-California, Folsom Field Office)
Dredging Permits will not be issued this 2008 season due to a Mercury Study by the BLM on the South Yuba River. For further information, please contact the BLM Folsom Field Office.
"Victims named from weekend fatals" (Imperial Valley Press, 2/25/08)
"Two separate fatal crashes...occurred within hours of each other at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area...." One passenger died after being "partially ejected" from a rented off-road vehicle despite wearing "the stock lap- and shoulder seat belts that came with the vehicle," investigators said. The other passenger was "unrestrained" and ejected from a vehicle, officers said.
Note: this online news site may require free registration.
"New checkpoint opens on Interstate 8" (Imperial Valley Press, 2/24/08)
"Drug trafficking and illegal-immigrant smuggling through the sand dunes in eastern Imperial County have prompted federal authorities to open a new immigration checkpoint on westbound Interstate 8...."
Note: this online news site may require free registration.
ENERGY: Power lines, wind power
"Congressman chides LA for power plans" (Hi-Desert Star, 2/22/08)
U.S. Congressman joins "burgeoning list of opponents to Green Path North, a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power plan to build a 118-mile power corridor through the desert to deliver power to LA....The congressman’s objections were made...in the form of an official letter dated Feb. 6. While lauding the department for its commitment to renewable power, he denounced the planned route of the transmission lines through unspoiled desert when other corridors designated by the Bureau of Land Management are available."
"Geothermal needs more transmission lines to grow" (Nevada Appeal, 2/24/08)
"There’s no shortage of energy locked in the earth in northwestern Nevada -- geothermal steam fields permeate" several counties. The problem "is that northern and southern Nevada have their own power grids that are not interconnected. 'You cannot route power from Reno to Las Vegas in any economical way,” says [a power company spokesman]. “There is a cost to moving power. The other problem is that there is very little capacity available from Northern Nevada to Los Angeles.'"
"BLM announces scoping meeting for proposed wind farm" (BLM-California news release, 2/26/08)
The Bureau of Land Management and the county of San Bernardino have issued a notice of intent and notice of preparation, respectively, for the preparation of a joint draft environmental impact statement/environmental impact report for the proposed Granite Mountain wind farm in San Bernardino County. A public scoping meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday, March 18, 2008 in Apple Valley, California.
"Hearing kicks off week of power-line talk" (North County Times, 2/26/08)
"More than 200 people jammed county offices in downtown San Diego and close to half of them spoke Monday as the California Public Utilities Commission convened three days of public hearings on the Sunrise Powerlink, a 150-mile power line that would run through the North County backcountry. Opponents of San Diego Gas & Electric Co.'s proposed $1.3 billion project outnumbered supporters two to one. And two prominent county officials...were on opposite ends of the issue."
RELATED: "Powerlink fans, foes face off" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/26/08)
"The ground war over San Diego Gas & Electric's proposed Sunrise Powerlink entered a new phase yesterday, as state utility regulators convened the first in a series of public hearings on the high-voltage transmission line. The hearings are intended to help the California Public Utilities Commission decide the fate of the 150-mile project that SDG&E estimates will cost $1.3 billion. The five-member PUC could decide by late summer."
RELATED: "Crowd gathers in east county to rail against power line" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/25/08)
"The second of five public hearings held by the state agency that will decide whether Sunrise Powerlink should be built attracted more than 200 people Monday night to the Mountain Empire High School gymnasium near Pine Valley. And they were unhappy. Very. Of the more than 60 people who spoke, not one favored San Diego Gas & Electric's proposed $1.3 billion, 150-mile-long electric transmission line between Imperial Valley and San Diego."
RELATED: "Sunrise public participation hearings" (State of California Public Utilities Commission)
"The CPUC and BLM are preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR, under CEQA) and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS, under NEPA), which will be published as a single joint document, an EIR/EIS." Includes background information and link to draft EIR/EIS.
HEADLINES and HIGHLIGHTS
"Feinstein: Palco reorganization should honor Headwaters" (Eureka Times-Standard, 2/20/08)
"California Sen. Dianne Feinstein...one of the most deeply involved public officials in the Headwaters Forest negotiations, wrote to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Corpus Christi, Texas that any restructuring of the company should adhere to the terms of the 1996 and 1999 agreements. The deal represents an 'extraordinarily serious" commitment from the state and federal governments, she wrote."
RELATED: "Headwaters Forest Reserve" (BLM-California, Arcata Field Office)
The BLM is not a party to the Habitat Conservation Plan, which is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of California, but one result of the negotiations was acquisition of the Headwaters Forest Reserve, managed by the BLM.
"Mattole watershed plan hatched" (Eureka Times-Standard, 2/25/08)
"The Mattole Restoration Council believes it's found a way to rehabilitate some Lost Coast forests, while helping timberland owners cut costs for moderate logging. The program it's proposing calls for a broad, landscape-level environmental analysis to cover the 300-square-mile Mattole River watershed, which would reduce permitting and paperwork requirements. It would apply to landowners interested in performing light-touch logging on their land....CalFire is taking comments on the plan...."
RELATED: "King Range National Conservation Area and the Lost Coast" (BLM California-Arcata Field Office)
The King Range covers 64,000 acres and extends along 35 miles of coastline between the mouth of the Mattole River and Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. Here the landscape was too rugged for highway building, forcing State Highway 1 and U.S. 101 inland. The remote region is known as California's Lost Coast, and is only accessed by a few back roads.
"BLM offers free guided hikes at Sacramento River Natural Area" (BLM-California news release, 2/26/08)
Outstanding vistas of the Sacramento River and surrounding volcanic landscapes will highlight free guided hikes to be led by the U. S. Bureau of Land Management on Saturday, March 22, and Sunday, April 6, on public land just north of Red Bluff. Reservations are required because each hike is limited to 20 participants. Call the BLM Redding Field Office to reserve space for either hike.
"Swasey area to be drop zone for smokejumpers" (BLM-California news release, 2/27/08)
Residents of west Redding and visitors to the BLM’s Swasey Drive Recreation Area could see parachutes billowing in the sky in early March, and possibly through the summer, as U. S. Forest Service smokejumpers use the site for training. The first training jumps could occur March 4 or 5. If the site meets the needs of the smoke jumpers, it could be used for proficiency training throughout the fire season.
"BLM, Fire Safe Council plan juniper thinning projects near Madeline" (BLM-California news release, 2/27/08)
Crews from the Bureau of Land Management will be conducting juniper thinning projects beginning this summer and fall at several public land locations near the Madeline Plains, about 30 miles south of Alturas. The ongoing projects will take several years to complete.
"BLM Northwest California Resource Advisory Council to meet in Trinidad, Arcata" (BLM-California news release, 2/27/08)
Members of the Bureau of Land Management’s Northwest California Resource Advisory Council will focus on public land recreation and tourism topics, when they meet Thursday and Friday, March 6 and 7, in Trinidad and Arcata.
"Mongolians compare notes with Carrizo Plain partners" (News.bytes Extra)
The vast grasslands of Mongolia may be a half-world away, but they still have similarities with Central California rangeland. A group of seven Mongolians visited the Carrizo Plain National Monument last week as part of a tour through Arizona and California. The group included biologists, government officials, a herder and the sole ranger for a million-acre preserve. The Carrizo, with low grasses extending across the valley floor, looks similar to the Mongolian landscape.
"Destruction of bunker expedited" (Victorville Daily Press, 2/26/08)
"The abandoned military bunker where two local teens were executed could be destroyed as early as May. The Air Force has been in the planning stages of destroying the bunker since 2003.... They are currently evaluating bids from subcontractors...."
RELATED: "Background: The bunker" (Victorville Daily Press, 2/26/08)
"It started as a World War II Army Air-Cops training field in the 1940s....In 2003, the Air Force began formulating plans to demolish the bunker and turn the land back over to the Bureau of Land Management. However...Edwards Air Force Base is interested in acquiring the land."
RELATED: "Desert bunker closer to fate" (San Bernardino County Sun, 2/25/08
"The abandoned military bunker where a teenage couple was slain in January could be demolished within the next two months if the Air Force gets its wish."
"Groundwater scientists share their findings" (Ridgecrest Daily Independent, 2/21/08)
"There is no water flowing into the Valley outside of supplies from the area's surrounding mountains and annual recharge amounts are lower than previously believed. Apparently there's also plenty of good water available but it is located deep within the ground....The Indian Wells Valley Cooperative Groundwater Management Group is overseeing some extensive studies of the Valley's groundwater as part of Assembly Bill 303...." The Group includes 11 "signatories" including the BLM.
"Current job openings - BLM California" (USAJOBS website)
Current openings include law enforcement ranger, contact representative, firefighting jobs and park ranger (river patrol).
SELECTED UPCOMING EVENTS
Unless otherwise noted, find more details online at:
March 1 - National Monument Advisory Committee meeting
Palm Desert (Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument)
March 1 - Family excursion, Amazing Adaptations outdoor study
March Fridays: Friday wildflower walks
Santa Rosa San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, Palm Desert
March 6-7 - Northwest California Resource Advisory Council meeting
March 12 - Oil and gas lease sale
NATIONAL AND/OR DEPARTMENT of the INTERIOR ITEMS
"Park rangers, retirees oppose bid to ease ban on guns in national parks" (Associated Press, 2/25/08)
"Park rangers, retirees and conservation groups are protesting a plan by the Interior Department to reconsider regulations restricting loaded guns in national parks."
"Guns in national parks bill stirs controversy" (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/27/08)
"It began as a letter, turned into a Senate bill amendment and now a move to allow guns in national parks is under consideration by the Department of the Interior....The Interior Department said this week it would review laws that ban guns on lands administered by the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. The department will draw up new rules by April 30 for public comment, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said."
(This news site may require entering ZIP code and age, before viewing pages.)
"'Virtual Fence' Along Border To Be Delayed" (Washington Post, 2/28/08)
Problems are "delaying completion of the first phase of the project by at least three years and shifting away from linked, tower-mounted sensors and communications and surveillance gear, federal officials said yesterday.Technical problems discovered in a 28-mile pilot project south of Tucson prompted the change in plans...." A combination of virtual and physical-barrier fences is planned for public and private lands along the U.S.-Mexico border.
(This news site may require free registration.)
WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites
(b.) they are herbivorous
SOURCE: "Desert tortoise - Gopherus agassizii" (BLM California wildlife database)
Desert tortoises are herbivorous. They eat a variety of desert plants, although forbs and green vegetation are their preferred foods. They will drink water if it is available, but they get most of the water they need for survival from the plants they eat.
"DesertTortoise.gov" (Partner website)
Links to more information, including desert tortoise recovery efforts, the Desert Tortoise Preserve, and more. This website was "developed by the Mojave Desert Ecosystem Program, in co-operation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Redlands, and the Desert Managers Group." The BLM is a partner in the Desert Managers Group.
"Desert tortoise" (Joshua Tree National Park)
More information on desert tortoises (informal language, not scientific)
BONUS WILDLIFE STORY:
"Biological moon shot" (Science News, 2/2/08)
The "Encyclopedia of Life" website "will provide access to roughly 30,000 Web pages of specialists' data -- one page for each of the known species of fish. And that's just a baby step....the project envisions such powerful tools for managing and centralizing biological information that a decade from now anyone...should find the Mother Nature of all encyclopedias: easy access to a Web page with definitive, current information on each species on Earth."
UPDATED: "Life encyclopedia: Too popular to live" (Associated Press in San Francisco Chronicle, 2/26/08)
"The concept of a comprehensive encyclopedia of life on the Internet proved too popular....The encyclopedia, which eventually will have more than 1 million pages devoted to different species of life on Earth, quickly crashed on its first day of a public unveiling, organizers said....The encyclopedia's Web site logged 11.5 million hits over 5 1/2 hours, including two hours of down time, according to organizers." Organizers were asking Wikipedia for technical advice on handling the rush of visitors. The site was still having problems Wednesday evening, Feb. 28.
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