A publication of
Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue date: 3/6/2003

This week in News.bytes:

Wildflower season, including:
     - NEW! Photo Album - Wildflowers in Bloom
     - Wildflower season starts at national monument
     - More wildflowers
- Not For Educators Only:
     - Wildlife Trivia Question: Lizards defend themselves
     - Weed of the Week - Yellow starthistle
     - Reader questions answered
Grazing, California desert issues
Grazing, national issues:
     - BLM considers changes to grazing rules
     - Buyout program for federal grazing permits?
     - Groups sue over grazing fees
- Energy, including:
     - Geothermal plant update
     - Statement to Senate Committee - Energy production on federal lands
- Wilderness issues, disputes - including:
    - "Ten most endangered wild places" - some BLM-managed
    - Mountain bikes in wilderness? Opposing viewpoints
- Other land use planning issues, disputes
     - "Kern bails from West Mojave Plan"
     - Yuba Goldfields
    - Differing viewpoints on Center for Biological Diversity
- Headlines and Highlights, including:
    - BLM's proposed budget: Fiscal Year 2004
    - Wild horses and burro adoption
    - Dogs and sheep in Palm Desert
    - Rest stop for migrating birds
     ... and MUCH more!
- Selected Upcoming Events


"PHOTO ALBUM - Wildflowers in Bloom" (BLM California Web feature)
Indian paintbrush - Springtime brings carpets of colorful spring blooms to large areas of California. Many of these areas are relatively unknown - visited by only a select few during the peak of color. The wildflower season generally starts with an early spring in the desert regions of southern California, and works its way northward. When the wildflower seasons occur - and how lush they are - depends on the weather and can vary widely from year to year. The window of opportunity is short, so be sure to get the latest information from the BLM California Field Office that manages the area you want to visit.
A view within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument "It's wildflower month at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument" (BLM California news release, 03/06/2003)
March has been designated "Wildflower Month" at the national monument and a free nature program will be offered each day at 10:00 a.m. at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center, located at 51-500 Highway 74, Palm Desert.
"Wildflowers" (BLM California Web page)
See where and when BLM-managed lands can be expected to put on their vibrant displays of wildflowers. (Subject to changes in weather conditions.)


Coast horned lizard. Photo credit: John H. Tashjian, California Academy of SciencesWildlife Trivia Question Mark of the WeekWILDLIFE TRIVIA OF THE WEEK:
How do coast horned lizards defend themselves against predators?"

(See answer near the end of this issue of News.bytes)

Reader question on recent Wildlife Trivia Question - from News.bytes 96, 2/20/03: The question was, "How many venomous snakes occur in California?" The answer was: "Nine - but two are not dangerous to humans."
A reader asks: "So...why are the 2 snakes not dangerous to humans even though they are venomous? The link didn't have the answer."
The answer, from the wildlife biologist who devises our questions:
"Snakes kill in different ways - some constrict, some inject venom, etc. Any snake that injects venom into its prey is considered "venomous." However, the Lyre snake and the Night snake have such mild toxins that they are not poisonous to humans. The venom they have is the perfect amount for killing small prey such as birds and rodents."

WEED OF THE WEEK - Yellow starthistle
Yellow starthistle, a native European annual, infests cultivated fields, pastures, and waste lands in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. In Nevada, yellow starthistle may dominate rangelands with annual precipitation of less than 15 inches. This weed crows out native plants, and can poison horses - see next item. (This weed was also mentioned in last week's News.bytes (Issue 97), to accompany news release on the problem of invasive weeds.)

Related: Our readers ask - About the weed feature in last week's News.bytes, issue 97:
"The yellow star thistle looks like one that I found under my bird feeder last year. Could it be that some companies add such seeds to bird seed, and do you know how we could find out?"
The answer comes from Carolyn Gibbs, Botanist/Weed Coordinator with BLM California's Eagle Lake Field Office in Susanville:
"There may be some noxious weed seed in your wild bird seed - a small percentage of weed seed is allowed. To find out how much that percentage is in your county, contact your local Agriculture Commissioner. Each county may be different and he/she will have that data for you.
"These noxious plants can be eradicated in the first couple of years - just pull out any that may appear. There is also a problem with some wildflower seed packets. Some of the most hardy plants are not necessarily the best for our environment. A good rule of thumb is to look for California native plant species.
I can send you a booklet identifying our most wanted weed species in Northeastern California -- or you can call the your local Agricultural Commissioner and obtain the literature for your area. Thank you for your interest."

Related: "Thistle no star for cattle" (Modesto Bee, 03/02/2003)
Livestock forum speaker: "Ranchers and dairy operators told that their primary enemies include yellow star thistle, a virulent weed capable of choking a productive pasture..." that has infested 10 million to 15 million acres in California. "Aside from being a poor protein source, the weed sucks moisture from the soil, making it difficult for more nutritious plants to grow. It's also lethal to horses, which develop a nervous disorder called 'chewing disease.'"


"County gives geothermal OK: lawsuits, appeals still pending" (Mount Shasta News, 02/26/2003)
"The Siskiyou County Air Pollution Control Board announced that it has certified an Environmental Impact Report for the Telephone Flat geothermal plant." BLM is involved in the permitting process for the public lands.

"Statement of J. Steven Griles before U.S. Senate Committee - Energy production on federal lands" (BLM National Office news site, 02/27/2003)
Statement of J. Steven Griles, Deputy Secretary U.S. Department of the Interior before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee U.S. Senate hearing on energy production on federal lands.

"Public lands have abundant opportunities for renewable and nonrenewable energy sources" (BLM National Office news release, 02/27/2003)
"Reducing the nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy and achieving the goal of secure, affordable and environmentally sound energy will require focused efforts on both the supply and demand side, Deputy Secretary of the Interior Steve Griles today told the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee."

GRAZING - California desert

"Cattle leaving 6 Mojave ranges; Grazing banned through June 15 for tortoises' sake" (San Bernardino County Sun, 02/28/2003)
"Livestock ranchers are expected to remove their cattle from six federal grazing allotments in the Mojave Desert today in accordance with a court order, a federal land official said. But another legal challenge from concerned environmental groups looms on the horizon."

"Ranchers ordered to move cattle" (Inland Valley Daily News, 02/28/2003)
"Livestock ranchers are expected to remove their cattle from six federal grazing allotments in the Mojave Desert today in accordance with a court order, a federal land official said. But another legal challenge from concerned environmental groups looms on the horizon."

"Cattle-grazing limits aim to save tortoise" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 02/28/2003)
"Mojave Desert: Seasonal restrictions, to aid a threatened species."

GRAZING - National issues

"BLM considering changes in grazing rules" (San Francisco Chronicle, 03/03/2003)
"The [BLM] is weighing changes to its grazing rules that officials say would give local administrators needed flexibility to deal with public land parched by drought. The agency will not issue a formal proposal until later this year. But it did outline a number of changes..."

"BLM Considers Changes to Grazing Regulations In Effort to Improve Public Rangeland Management" (BLM National Office news release, 03/03/2003)
In an effort to improve its management of the public rangelands, the Bureau of Land Management is considering changing some of its grazing-related policies and regulations, BLM Director Kathleen Clarke announced.

"BLM Publishes Notices on Potential Changes to Grazing Regulations" (BLM National Office news release, 03/03/2003)

"Lawmaker proposing buyout program for federal grazing permits" (San Bernardino County Sun, 02/26/2003)
Group proposes legislation to pay ranchers for their federal grazing permits. State livestock group opposes, says it is part of plan to eliminate all cattle grazing on public lands.

"Groups sue feds over grazing fees" (San Jose Mercury News, 02/28/2003)
"Eight environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service ... for failing to ... to increase fees that ranchers pay to graze livestock on public lands." The groups "say below-market fees have resulted in taxpayer losses and damaged landscapes across millions of acres of national forests." In California, 20 percent of the land is managed by the Forest Service, including much land in the Sierra Nevada where grazing is allowed.


"Accord reached in canal suit" (Appeal-Democrat, 03/01/2003)
Settlement reached in lawsuit filed against BLM - had alleged BLM failed to do environmental assessment in granting Yuba County Water Agency a utility right-of-way through Yuba Goldfields.

Related: "Deal proposed for Hammonton Road" (Appeal-Democrat, 03/04/2003)
Gravel company mining in BLM-managed area called Yuba Goldfields, wants to settle dispute with some area residents over whether road it uses for access is public or private. Proposal: company would create three parks totaling about 100 acres along the Yuba River - in return for keeping road closed to the public.

"Sand dunes management plan takes priority" (Imperial Valley Press, 03/03/2003)
New resources branch chief at BLM's El Centro field office says her first priority is to finish Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area Management Plan. "Surveys on the threatened Peirson's milkvetch and other species are at the heart of a debate on how to manage" the dunes.

"Kern bails from West Mojave Plan" (Barstow Desert Dispatch, 03/02/2003)
"A federal plan to protect endangered Mojave Desert plants and animals may be in jeopardy after Kern County officials announced they would no longer agree to sponsor the blueprint as it navigates its way through California's regulatory maze."

"Survival of the species: Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity's top priority not making friends but protecting environment" (Yuma Sun, 03/02/2003)
Story on group that has filed a number of lawsuits against BLM in California and elsewhere, over issues including grazing and off-road vehicle use in areas such as the Imperial Sand Dunes.

Related: "Off-roaders, business owners, government officials question Center's motives" (Yuma Sun, 3/2/2003)
"The Center for Biological Diversity may think it's trying to save the planet, but there are those in Yuma who believe its intentions here are more dubious. Off-roaders see the center as a threat to their way of life," as do some desert businesspeople. Some government officials question if the lawsuits filed against them hurt rather than harm the environment in the long run.


"Group calls to save lands" (Bakersfield Californian, 03/05/2003)
Annual list of California's "10 most threatened wild places" released by the California Wilderness Coalition, includes Panamint mountain range in Inyo County, lands managed by BLM California.

Related: "Dunes near Glamis on 'threatened' list" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 03/05/2003)
Related: Off-road enthusiasts say closing of parts of Imperial Sand Dunes near Glamis was unfair. Environmental group says reopening the area would threaten existence of four species. Sidebar to story lists all 10 areas on "most threatened" list.

Related: "Coalition says new land management plan threatens state
wilderness, animals"
(San Bernardino County Sun, 03/04/2003)
List of "10 most-threatened wild places" in California include two on BLM-managed lands in the desert. Group cites reopening of about 49,000 acres in the Imperial Sand Dunes to off-road vehicles, and plans for open-pit gold mine in the Panamint Range near Death Valley National Park.

Related: "Group says sites threatened" (Redding Record-Searchlight, 03/05/2003)
Among Northern California sites on "10 most threatened wild places" list is Medicine Lake area, site of proposed geothermal power plant that requires BLM permit.

"Let bikers in, and we'll stand behind wilderness" (High Country News, 03/03/2003)
Op-ed piece: Board member of International Mountain Biking Association, a California resident, argues against push by some environmental groups to ban mountain bikes from new wilderness areas....

Related: "Get off and walk - wilderness is for wildlife" (High Country News, 03/03/2003)
Opposing op-ed piece: Mountain biker -- and a Wilderness Society employee - argues that mountain bikes do not belong in wilderness areas.


"Fiscal Year 2004 proposed budget" (BLM National Office news release, 03/04/2003)
BLM budget justifications for Fiscal Year 2004 (Oct. 1, 2003 through Sept. 31, 2004) are available on the Web. On this same Web page are Frequently Asked Questions about the budget process, and related information.

"BLM takes some operations online" (Bakersfield Californian, 03/03/2003)
"At the BLM, officials say [accepting oil and gas permit applications and reports online] saves money, plus it's efficient and convenient. No longer are operators or permit agents required to physically bring permit applications into the office or mail them."

"Successful burn conducted on refuge" (Needles Desert Star, 3/5/2003)
BLM California's Needles Field Office reports a successful prescribed burn, to improve wildlife habitat in the Lake Havasu National Wildlife Refuge on the Arizona-California border. Taking part in the burn operation with other local, federal and state agencies and tribal police, were BLM personnel from California, Arizona and New Mexico.

"Dogs lose out to sheep in Palm Desert" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 02/28/2003)
"The Palm Desert City Council voted unanimously Thursday to ban dogs from a trail on city-owned land near the [BLM]'s visitors center and the Bighorn Institute, a recovery center for endangered peninsular bighorn sheep.

"Security tightens in North State" (Redding Record-Searchlight, 02/28/2003)
Among precautions in wake of heightened terrorist security alert: permits across Shasta Dam suspended. Road across dam had been a popular access route to BLM-managed Gene Chappie-Shasta OHV (off-highway vehicle) Area.

"National monument advisory committee meetings to take place in Palm Desert" (BLM California news release, 03/01/2003)
The (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service have scheduled meetings for the advisory committee to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

"Harper Dry Lake soon to shed arid reputation; Crews restoring wetlands for birds" (Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, 03/02/2003)
"By spring, migratory birds winging along the Pacific Flyway will again find a welcome rest stop at Harper Dry Lake, which for years has been a rather inhospitable place for waterfowl." Volunteers and BLM employees are restoring remote marshlands near Barstow. "We've installed a new pump along with water lines, ponds, and trails to revive the wildlife refuge and create a quiet place where visitors can observe as many as 250 bird species," says BLM Field Office manager.

"Wild horses and burros available for adoption in Lakeport" (BLM California news release, 02/27/2003)
They are wild horses and burros, and they'll be available for public adoption, when the BLM brings its Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program to the Lake County Fairgrounds in Lakeport, Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23.

"Mitsubishi, groups work on strategy; Mining company cooperating to soften environmental blow when it expands" (Victorville Daily Press, 02/27/2003)
"The mineral-rich northern slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains are a unique ecosystem providing a habitat for four plants, three of them endangered, that can't be found anywhere else on Earth. The U.S. Forest Service and the [BLM] have forged a cooperative relationship with mining interests and the California Native Plant Society to protect the plants as well as the rights of private landowners, including mining corporations."

"Recreation Fees Here to Stay in Bush's Budget" (The Olympian, 02/27/2003)
"President Bush's proposed federal budget would make permanent a controversial recreation fee on public lands." BLM has participated in the Fee Demonstration Program discussed in the article.

Wildlife Trivia Question Mark of the WeekANSWER TO WILDLIFE TRIVIA OF THE WEEK: How do coast horned lizards defend themselves against predators?"
When threatened, coast horned lizards first open their mouth wide and make a hissing noise. If that doesn't work, they will bite the predator. If the predator still persists, coast horned lizards have the ability to spray blood form the corners of their eyes. These lizards are also able to inflate themselves to a large size, making it difficult or impossible for many predators to swallow them.
Learn more in our BLM California wildlife database:
(Note: the Wildlife Database is hosted on the Department of Interior's secure Web server - see note under "Selected Upcoming Events" below.)



(Note: the Upcoming Events database is on a secure Web server, and your browser may state "You are about to view pages over a secure connection" and ask you to "Trust a Security Certificate" from the Department of Interior that hosts this site. To view the pages, you must select "Yes" or "OK" for both questions.)

03/27/2003 - California Desert District Advisory Council

03/08/2003 - Carrizo Plain National Monument Advisory Committee meeting
Carrisa Plain

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News.bytes published by
Bureau of Land Management
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