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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 428

Students in the Wild

Spring break in Palm Springs was more than wild parties this year. A University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) student group organized students to eradicate non-native invasive species in the Coachella Valley sand dunes near Palm Springs. In essence, thanks to funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), students pulled weeds in the dunes instead of pranks in the streets. (story continues below)

students range among desert plants
In the mustard: Students remove invasive Sahara mustard plants.

The invasive species was Sahara mustard (Brassica tournefortii), which unnaturally stabilizes the dunes to the detriment of the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard (Uma inornata) – listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and endangered by the State of California.  The Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard is a small, highly specialized reptile that inhabits the windblown desert regions of the Coachella Valley.  This lizard has unique forms and structures to enable it to survive in the harsh desert habitat. Its wedged-shaped nose, for example, facilitates burrowing through loose, fine sand. The lizard’s elongated scales covers its ears to keep out blowing sand. And specialized nostrils allow it to breathe below the sand without inhaling sand particles.
The majority of the lizard’s historic habitat has been eliminated or degraded. Invasive plant species, such as mustard, are stabilizing the once free moving sand deposits, preventing the continued replenishment of the “blowsand” habitat that the lizard relies on for its long-term survival.  Approximately three acres of Coachella Valley fringed-toe habitat was weeded by the students.
The 3,709 acre Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1985 to protect the lizard and is cooperatively managed by The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management, California Department of Parks and Recreation, California Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center Natural Lands Management.

This project is one of many ARRA projects for the crews from UNLV. ARRA has funded various projects throughout the nation to create new jobs as well as save existing ones, spur economic activity, invest in long-term economic growth, and foster unprecedented levels of accountability and transparency in government spending.

A stretch of sand with many of the plants removed.
Mustard be gone: An area that after students removed mustard plants.

- David Briery, BLM California Desert District, 4/15/10

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 428

Last updated: 04-21-2010