A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue 175 - 9/23/04

Martin Balding, BLM's Northeast California Resource Advisory CouncilProfile: Frank VolasgisUltra-light aircraft at El Mirage Dry Lake Bedcloseup: Heart-leaved saltbushBookstore Feature: "100 Classic Hikes in Northern California"

- BLM Director presents Four C's Awards in California
- Assistant Secretary Watson visits California
- BLM living history
- Not for Educators Only, including:
      - Wildlife Trivia Question of the Week - and feedback
      - Our Readers Write
      - Special Status Plant of the week: Heart-leaved saltbush
- Meet your Advisory Council members: Martin R. Balding
- Profile: Frank Volasgis
- Photo album: "Ultra lights"
- Get involved
- Bookstore feature: "100 Classic Hikes in Northern California"
- Land use planning: Varied issues
- Wild horses and burros
- Law enforcement: Marijuana harvest
- Wildfire
- Headlines and Highlights: Public events, fees, jobs, permits, and more
- National and/or Department of Interior items
- Selected upcoming events

BLM Director Kathleen Clarke helps clean a fire break during her northern California visitBLM DIRECTOR PRESENTS FOUR C's AWARDS IN CALIFORNIA
BLM Director Kathleen Clarke visited California last week to present her Four C's Award to several groups. The Four C's Award is given in recognition of what Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, calls the 4C's: consultation, cooperation and communication all in the service of conservation.

"BLM Director presents Four C's Awards in California" (News.bytes Extra, BLM California website)
The Director presented awards to:
- The American Sand Association, in recognition of its outstanding contributions to the Imperial Sand Dunes’ Public Safety and Education Program.
- Imperial Sand Dunes Law Enforcement Coalition, for its well-coordinated presence to protect and enhance the recreation experience of the public in the most intensively used BLM recreation area in the nation.
- The California Oil and Gas Work Group, In recognition of its outstanding contributions to the BLM’s oil and gas program in California.
See photos, and more information:

"BLM Director presents Four C’s Award to Modoc-Washoe Experimental Stewardship Steering Committee" (BLM California website)
The Director said the group's continued efforts to work through challenging issues has benefited local ranchers, community economies and the health of public rangelands for a variety of users. See photo of the group:

"Stewardship committee earns recognition" (Klamath Falls Herald and News, 09/21/2004)

"BLM Director calls the Modoc-Washoe Stewardship group remarkable" (Modoc Record, 9/23/2004)

"BLM Director participates in National Public Lands Day work project" (News.bytes Extra, BLM California website)
The Director joined the BLM Surprise Field Office fuels crew and volunteers to work on a fuel break project along Granger Canyon Road south of Cedarville. See photos from the event:

"BLM national director honors the California Oil and Gas Work Group" (BLM California news release, 09/17/2004)

From the expanse of the nation’s largest geothermal production field to a tranquil bicycle ride along a national recreation trail, Assistant Interior Secretary Rebecca Watson experienced northern California’s stunning diversity, when she visited Wednesday through Friday of last week. In a tour through the site of the 12,000-acre Geysers Fire, the assistant secretary saw charred hillsides and scorched steam pipelines. Learn more, and see photos from the visit:

"Assistant U.S. Interior Secretary visits Lake County this week" (Lake County Record-Bee, 09/17/2004)
"A touring U.S. Department of the Interior official concerned with forest initiatives and forestry management praised the Calpine geothermal plant here for its positive economic effects.",1413,255~26901~2410322,00.html

"Federal Interior official in town: Geysers, plants, others toured" (Ukiah Daily Journal, 09/17/2004),1413,91%257E3089%257E2408672,00.html

BLM personnel with an adopted wild burro, at San Diego Old Town State Park living history eventBLM LIVING HISTORY
The Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office in cooperation with Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, staged a re-enactment of a frontier General Land Office and a GLO surveyor's camp. BLM and park staff used living history interpretation to educate visitors on the history and values of their public lands. They handed out "souvenir deeds," demonstrated how early surveys were conducted, and were joined by a wild burro that had been adopted by the park.


Which distinction do gopher snakes have?
(a) They are the largest snakes in California.
(b) They are the smallest snakes in California.
(c) They are the most poisionous snakes in California.
(d) They are the most common snakes in California.
(e) They are not really snakes, but long legless lizards.
(f) They are the friendliest snakes in California.
(Photo credit: Alden M. Johnson, California Academy of Sciences)
Take a guess - and compare your answer to those of other News.bytes readers - in our online interactive quiz:

The question was: What is the only class of vertebrates that does not have at least one poisonous/venomous species? (There is actually a difference between poisonous and venomous - but this question includes both poisonous and venomous species.)
Our INTENDED answer was: (c) birds.
HOWEVER, less than an hour after News.bytes went out last week, we received a "gotcha" - see the following item - "Our readers write."


"I hate to do this to you folks, but I think the return of the triia quiz ran into a mistake its first time out. As I can see by the vote tallies at this writing, many people think the Class Aves [birds] contains no poisonous or venomous species. This would be the status in many, fairly recent reference books, but in only the past few years the first poisonous bird species was discovered. This bird belongs to the rather descriptive genus Pitohui...from Papua New Guinea. And by 2000 an additional species had also been found."
      - J.B., Riverside
J.B. cited the January 2001 issue of Environment for his information.

We also found two articles from the Smithsonian about this discovery - online:

"The intoxicating birds of New Guinea" ("Zoogoer" - Smithsonian National Zoological Park, March-April 2001)

"Tropical ecosystems: Birds in Papua New Guinea" (Also a Smithsonian website)
This web page summarizes the discovery, among other things - and links to a 5-page color article on the discoverer's work with poisonous birds.

To check the latest results from last week's online interactive quiz:

Another comment from a reader:
"Oops, not a great question to bring back the trivia poll. I am assuming that the answer you were expecting is "Birds." Recently the Hooded (Black-headed) Pitohui of Papua New Guinea has been found to have poisonous feathers. I enjoy your News.Bytes and often use it in my high school class room as a resource for students."
      - B.W., Fresno

closeup: Heart-leaved saltbushAnnual herb 4 - 20 inches (1-5dm) long, with 1 to a few stiff stems growing upward from the base. Branches are gray and scaly, with densely matted hairs covering the tips. Leaves are sessile, thickish, pear-shaped, 1/4 - 5/8 inches (6-15mm) long, with a cordate base on the lower leaves, and a rounded base on the upper leaves. Fruit bracts are pear-shaped to roundish, fused half-way up, deeply toothed on the edge, and 1/8 - 1/4 inches (3.5-5mm) long. Both male and female flowers are mixed in clusters. Seeds are red-brown, 1/16 inch (1.5-2mm) long.

Martin Balding is an energy use consultant and represents environmental and conservation interests on the Northeast California Resource Advisory Council.  He is a resident of Susanville and has extensive knowledge of northeast California.
Read more in this News.bytes feature:

Frank VolasgisPROFILE: Frank Volasgis
The BLM is Frank's second career. He is now Information Technology Specialist with the Barstow Field Office. With his associate Randy Bales, Frank administers to the computer needs of four satellite offices in addition to the Barstow Field Office.

An ultra-light aircraft flies past another one on the ground, at El Mirage Dry LakebedPHOTO ALBUM: "Ultra lights"
Because of its unique flat surface, the El Mirage Lakebed is a destination for many visitors. There is ultra-light and other aircraft activity that would not be found in other off-road riding areas. El Mirage also has opportunities for hiking, rock scrambling, rock hounding, and plant, bird and wildlife watching.

Related: "El Mirage Dry Lake Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area" (BLM California website, Barstow Field Office)
The El Mirage OHV Area is located in the Mojave Desert on the western edge of San Bernardino County near the Los Angeles County Line. During summer months, temperatures can reach a high of 120 degrees F. Winter lows can fall to 5 degrees F. at night, with highs in the 60 to 70 degree F. range during the day. Spring and Fall temperatures are moderate and fall between these extremes. The Main Entrance (Mountain View Road) will be closed for construction beginning for about three months. More details:


"Volunteer opportunity" (BLM California website)
Saturday, September 25 is "National Public Lands Day" at Fort Ord. Volunteers will perform trail maintenance, native seed collection, weed removal, improve facilities, and habitat restoration. Join the Fun!

"Volunteers spruce up Desert Discovery Center in Barstow" (Barstow Desert Dispatch, 09/19/2004)
"Whether they were picking up trash, painting or fishing muck out of the pond, the volunteers at the Desert Discovery Center Saturday were all there to help out as part of National Public Lands Day." About 60 volunteers finished all projects that were planned for the day at the BLM-sponsored event. "Volunteers built a stage for the center, cleaned out dead and unwanted plants in the pond and beautified and improved the "Desert Adaptive Interpretive Community Garden.",74919,

BOOKSTORE FEATURE: "100 Classic Hikes in Northern California"BOOKSTORE FEATURE: "100 Classic Hikes in Northern California"
This book includes: elevation gain, estimated hiking times, and seasonal considerations; Advice on safety and wilderness etiquette; Day hikes or overnight backpacking trips. Illustrated with more than 100 color photos and 95 maps; and close-to-home or more remote trails.


"BLM accepting comments on Draft Coastal Monument Plan" (BLM California news release, 09/17/2004)
Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP)/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the California Coastal National Monument details a range of alternatives for managing approximately 20,000 rocks, small islands, pinnacles and exposed reefs off the entire 1,100-mile California coastline. Comments will be accepted until Dec. 16, 2004 - and will be used to prepare a Proposed RMP/ Final EIS.

"Shooting range makes concessions" (San Bernardino County Sun, 09/18/2004)
(NOTE: this is the second item on this Web page, about halfway down the page.) "Compromise and common sense prevailed in Highland in a dispute between a shooting range and neighbors who complained about its noise." The BLM recently renewed a lease for the range.,1413,208%257E12585%257E2411145,00.html

"A rumble over Clear Creek" (Hollister Free Lance, 09/21/2004)
"Emotions ran high between off-highway vehicle users and environmentalists at a public comment meeting concerning land use of the Clear Creek Management Area Wednesday night, however a desire to work together toward a solution emerged through the animosity. More than 60 people attended the meeting...the majority of them off-highway vehicle enthusiasts, to voice their concerns to the [BLM] staff about a plan that could limit the amount of routes available for public use."

"House committee debates bill to give land to Pechanga tribe" (Associated Press in San Diego Union-Tribune, 09/22/2004)
"The House committee...appears poised to add 990 acres to the Riverside County reservation of California's wealthy Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians....[A tribal spokesperson] said the tribe wanted to add the land to its existing, 5,500-acre reservation to preserve more of its ancestral territory, gain greater ability to fight fires and ensure access to drinking-water runoff from the rocky terrain in the proposed new territory." A critic expressed concern related to the tribe's casino.

Related: "BLM land vote expected today" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 09/22/2004)
"Chad Calvert, a deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Interior, testified Tuesday that the BLM supports the bill. The BLM has said it wants to dispose of the land because it's not adjacent to other federal lands."

Update: Pechanga land deal moves forward" (North County Times, 9/23/2004)
The committee passed the bill on to the full House of Representatives - where it may be approved by the end of the year,

Update: "Tribe could gain acreage" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/23/2004)
"The House Resources Committee passed the legislation unanimously by voice vote. It now heads to the House floor."
(Registration required)

"Dune rec area remains closed" (Yuma Sun, 09/17/2004)
"The battle over a 49,000-acre portion of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, temporarily closed since 2000 as a result of a lawsuit, rages on and federal authorities are uncertain when a final decision will be made about reopening it."


"Wild horses and burros up for adoption in Brentwood" (BLM California news release, 08/24/2004)
Wild horses and burros from public rangelands in northern California and Nevada will be available for public adoption in Brentwood, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25 and 26. Interested adopters can preview the animals when they arrive at the equestrian center at about 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23, and all day Friday.

LAW ENFORCEMENT: Marijuana harvest

"Marijuana garden raided west of Fort Jones" (Siskiyou Daily News, 9/22/2004)
"In March of this year before the marijuana growing season got underway, the Bureau of Land Management, the California Department of Justice, the Sacramento office of the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, the U.S. Forest Service and the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department began tracking people suspected of engaging in the trafficking of marijuana and methamphetamine in northern California."

"$8 million in marijuana plants seized from hillside west of Paso" (San Luis Obispo County Tribune, 09/18/2004)
"The seizure is the largest so far this season....The plants were raised on rugged, mountainous property" managed by BLM.

"Four Arrested in California Pot Bust" (BLM California news release, 09/16/2004)
A multi-agency drug enforcement team including BLM agents arrested three Mexican nationals in Sacramento and Placer counties last week for conspiring to manufacture marijuana. The individuals are responsible for more than 9,000 pounds of processed and unprocessed marijuana.

"Siskiyou pot garden discovered" (Redding Record Searchlight, 9/23/2004)
"A lengthy probe into methamphetamine trafficking and marijuana cultivation has yielded more than 13,000 mature marijuana plants and the arrest of four suspected drug cartel members....",2232,REDD_17533_3202932,00.html


"Wildfire control effort launched" (Marysville Appeal-Democrat, 09/17/2004)
"Fire officials want to spare landowners...from losing all they have by implementing a fire safety program called Project Slapjack, which could lead to removal of dangerous underbrush that provides easy fuel for a fire....Slapjack resulted from meetings between U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials and residents to formulate a plan on how to reduce the fire risk."

"Western states dodged wildfire threats this summer" (Christian Science Monitor, 09/21/2004)
"But experts do know that southern California's ultra-hot, ultra-dry Santa Ana winds come in October and November, and thus they're hesitant to pronounce the fire danger for 2004 over. 'When the Santa Anas come to southern California, all bets are off,' says [a fire official]. 'Last year the state did not even have bad fire conditions prior to their arrival ... and when they came, they changed the whole picture in an instant'.

"BLM plans prescribed fire near Madeline" (BLM California news release, 09/21/2004)
In Ash Valley, area managed by BLM's Alturas Field Office.

"BLM and Lassen National Forest lift fire restrictions" (BLM California news release, 09/21/2004)
The recent cooler weather, rain, and snow in higher elevations have encouraged officials to evaluate the current situation and lift all fire restrictions. Permits are still required for campfires. Fire officials remind wildland visitors to keep campfires small and be sure they are dead out and cold to the touch before leaving camp.

"Forest-thinning plan lauded" (Redding Record Searchlight, 09/22/2004)
"A Bush administration official credited the president's Healthy Forests Initiative on Tuesday for reducing the threat of wildfire to homes across the West. U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who was in Redding to address a California Farm Bureau meeting, said the initiative and a relatively mild fire season have enabled crews to clear 4 million acres of underbrush from national forestland this year.",2232,REDD_17533_3200621,00.html


"National Monument Celebrates Wilderness Season" (BLM California news release, 09/15/2004)
Bald eagles, wilderness anniversaries, and desert cuckoos are all part of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument's Fall Wilderness Season programs. All the programs sponsored by the National Monument are free and open to the public.

"Secretary Norton announces appointments to BLM Central California Resource Advisory Council" (BLM California news release, 09/21/2004)
Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced the appointment of a new member and three reappointments to the California citizen-based Central Resource Advisory Council (RAC), which advises the Bureau of Land Management on public land issues.

"Current job openings - BLM California" (USAJOBS website)
Current openings include geologist, civil engineer, natural resource specialist, engineering equipment operator and administrative technician.

"Sunset interpretive walk on the South Spit" (BLM California news release, 09/21/2004)
A sunset "time-trek" will offer participants the chance to discover connections between past and present landscapes at the South Spit, Humboldt Bay, on Friday, Oct. 1.

"Electronic permitting taking off" (Bakersfield Californian, 09/17/2004)
"Companies can submit all of their oil and gas permits electronically to the Bureau of Land Management. That includes applications to drill and sundry notices. Anything an operator wants to do to a well, whether it's a work-over or abandonment, requires a sundry notice."

"Former Joshua Hills site sold" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 9/23/2004)
"The environmental groups said the property deal will mostly benefit plants and animals at the Coachella Valley Preserve, a wildlife refuge that relies on sand and water from the newly acquired land to maintain dunes and oases." BLM and several partners co-manage the Preserve.

"Senate panel puts off claims fee increase" (Elko Daily Free Press, 09/20/2004)
Senator "won Senate Appropriations Committee approval for a measure that delays a hike in mining claim fees until federal agencies develop tracking systems for mining permits. The provision that also requires the federal agencies to come up with recommendations for faster permitting is tacked onto the Interior appropriations bill voted out of committee this week....The U.S. Bureau of Land Management raised the fee for each mining claim from $100 to $125 on Sept. 1 and raised the fee for the initial filing of a claim from $25 to $30, but the bill could halt that hike and require refunds."

"Celebration of Wilderness Act's 40th year Saturday" (Mt. Shasta News, 09/15/2004)
Party last weekend celebrated the 40th anniversary of the National Wilderness Preservation Act, signed into law in 1964.

"County settles costly Coso tax dispute" (The Inyo Register, 09/16/2004)
"The Coso Geothermal Project's property tax roller coaster ride should level off after the county and the company agreed to settle a four-year dispute over property values used to determine the company's local property tax....Coso, which leases land from the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of Defense for its plant site, asked the courts to find the land in question was an 'enclave' of federal land, thus the state and county could not tax the plant."


"Bill may extend forest, park fees" (Ventura County Star, 9/23/2004)
"The bill that passed the House committee...allows the agencies to extend the fees for a decade, but sets some restrictions on where they can and cannot be charged. The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, for example, would not be permitted to charge solely for parking or for use of nondeveloped areas, but could charge a basic fee for use of campgrounds and other facilities.",1375,VCS_251_3203631,00.html

"Genes from engineered grass spread for miles, study finds" (New York Times. reprinted in San Francisco Chronicle, 09/21/2004)
"A new study shows that genes from genetically engineered grass can spread much farther than previously known, a finding that raises questions about the straying of other plants altered through biotechnology and that could hurt the efforts of two companies to win approval for the first bioengineered grass....the companies' plans have been opposed by some environmental groups as well as by the federal Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Critics worry that the grass could spread to areas where it is not wanted or transfer its herbicide resistance to weedy relatives, creating superweeds that would be immune to the most widely used weed killer."

(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.)

09/25/2004 - Fort Ord National Public Lands Day event
Fort Ord

10/01/2004 - BLM booth at San Benito County Fair
Tres Pinos, CA 95075

10/02/2004 - Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Advisory Committee meeting
Palm Desert

10/02/2004 - Wild horse and burro adoption

10/09/2004 - Pebble Beach Fire Safety Fair
Pebble Beach

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