A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue 326 - 4/9/08

A biologist holds a baby desert tortoise Trainer Charles Wilhelm works with his mustang, Willow Bay Zap the Weed! Game Over - play again? Learning to pass a solid hoop around a circular formation without breaking linked hands takes planning, communication and teamwork. Wylene Wilson with her gelding, Mojo

- Weed of the Week: A special presentation
- Mustang Challenge:
      - Photos and more
      - Upcoming wild horse and burro adoption events
- Not for educators only:
      - Wildlife trivia question of the week: desert tortoise
      - More desert tortoise in the news
      - Other wildlife news: wandering wolverine, wandering bear
- Wildfire fighting and prevention:
      - Wildfire training camp
      - Fuel breaks
      - Fire happens
- Recreation on public lands:
      - Imperial Sand Dunes
      - Bootleg ranges endanger visitors
      - Recreation fees
- Energy and public lands
- Headlines and highlights: Abandoned mines, Johnson Valley, forests, jobs, more
- Selected upcoming events
- National and/or Department of the Interior items:
      - National Landscape Conservation System
      - Border fence

Also see this issue of News.bytes online at:

WEED OF THE WEEK: A special presentation

Zap the Weed! Game Over - play again?"Zap the Weed" (News.bytes Extra Special)
Shoot the weeds and flying saucers -- to help save the environment for Buck, Ely and Festus! Warning: sound effects -- you may want to check the sound level on your computer.

"War of the Weeds" (News.bytes encore presentation)
They're back! An "encore presentation" of the villainous weeds' first invasion of Planet Earth.
Funny.bytes is an occasional look at the lighter side of BLM issues.
Note: this link will work in browsers that have the Macromedia/Adobe "Flash" plug-in -- which should be most browsers. Warning: soundtrack: you may want to adjust the volume on your computer.

Yellow starthistle closeup - Weed of the Week"Yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitalis L.)" (BLM-California, Bishop Field Office)
Meet the "star" of the Zap the Weed game and "War of the Weeds" -- but don't forget, he's the villain! A European annual, yellow starthistle infests cultivated fields, pastures, and waste lands in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. “Chewing disease,” a nervous disorder, occurs in horses that eat yellow starthistle. This may occur during poor, dry years. They end up not being able to eat and starving to death.

"Invasion" (Medford, Oregon Mail Tribune, 4/7/08)
BLM-Oregon is also battling invasive weeds: "Timed to happen with a new 'Oregon Field Guide' TV documentary on combating invasive species, local government agencies and environmental groups are teaming up this spring for a mass weed-pull and informational barbecue, a free screening of the show and an ongoing recognition/suppression campaign — with the understanding that the region's many alien weeds can only be controlled, not eradicated."

Thirty-three top trainers received wild mustangs this month in Sacramento. After 100 days to gentle and train the mustangs, they will return to Sacramento to compete at the Horse Expo. We plan to follow some of these mustangs and trainers in the coming weeks.

Wylene Wilson with her gelding, Mojo"Photos of training progress - Mustang Challenge 2008" (BLM-California website)
Bill Bumgardner has already had two requests to buy his mustang -- those people plan to be in Sacramento for the auction after training ... Dixie LaFountain of Weaverville named her mare, "Bertie" -- after Bertha Blancett, a pioneer in women's rodeo competition ... Some Mustang Challenge trainers have been kind enough to update us on their Mustang Challenge horses -- and send photos:

Trainer Charles Wilhelm works with his mustang, Willow Bay"Wild horses are a breed apart: Local trainers enter mustang competition" (Inside Bay Area, 4/6/08)
"When Diamond first arrived in Livermore, she was clearly in the rough, 'frightened out of her mind and body,' said horse trainer Beverly Vreeland....Straight out of a 115,000-acre preserve in northern Nevada, she was untouchable and filthy, dreadlocks in her mane and tail, with a liberal coating of dirt everywhere.... 'It took 48 hours for her to calm down to the point where she was approachable,' Vreeland said.... Twelve days after that, Vreeland, 52, rode Diamond for the first time." With photos.
(Note: this website may require free registration to view its contents.)

Horse painter Smokey daubs a canvas with a brush held in his mouth"His name is Smokey, but maybe they should call him Old Paint" (Arlington Heights, IL Daily Herald, 3/3/08)
An adopted mustang in Illinois is learning to paint artworks for a fundraising auction. An organizer says his works are "'very Jackson Pollock-y, very abstract and artsy.' Six years, ago the shaggy, off-white mustang was living in the wilds of Wyoming. He was adopted by the equestrian center through the Bureau of Land Management....The center has adopted several horses through the federal program. None is as artistically inclined as Smokey."

"Wild horses and burros available for adoption in Perris" (BLM-California news release, 3/28/08)
Spectators are welcome. There are 65 young animals available for adoption in Perris on April 19-20 -- 20 fillies, 20 colts, 15 two- to four-year-olds, and 10 burros. The mustangs and burros were gathered from public lands in Nevada, have been wormed and vaccinated, and are in excellent health. Animals arrive at noon on Friday April 18, and potential adopters may view the mustangs and burros from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

"Wild horses and burros offered for adoption in San Jose" (BLM-California news release, 4/7/08)
Mustangs fresh from the range will be on display April 26 in San Jose when the Bureau of Land Management offers wild horses and burros for adoption. The BLM will offer 30 horses ranging in age from under 1 to about 5, along with 10 burros at an adoption. Anyone interested can preview the animals when they arrive at the fairgrounds at about 4 p.m. April 25. 

"Wild horse and burro adoption schedule" (BLM-California website)


Where should desert visitors keep a watchful eye out for desert tortoises, when visiting the Desert Tortoise Natural Area?
(a.) Near trash cans
(b.) In the vicinity of rattlesnake dens
(c.) Near their picnic cooler
(d.) Over desert rabbit burrows
(e.) Under their car
(f.) At various centers for the burgeoning "slow food" movement

------> See answer near the end of this issue of News.bytes -- and more news stories on the desert tortoise, below.


A biologist holds a baby desert tortoise"Plan calls for killing ravens to save desert tortoise" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 4/2/08)
"Ravens caught preying on desert tortoises will be killed...to protect the reptiles threatened with extinction." A two-person crew "will scour parts of the desert when tortoises are most active, from about early March through early June....They will kill only ravens that appear to be preying on tortoises by shooting them, poisoning them or trapping and then euthanizing them....The wildlife service crafted the plan with the National Park Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and military bases in the desert."
(Note: this site may require free registration to view its content.)

"Tortoises airlifted to new home to make room for Fort Irwin expansion" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 4/5/08)
"The helicopter sweeping above the desert scrub Friday northeast of Barstow carried rare and precious cargo....The specially built boxes held 11 desert tortoises...'It's better they take a nine-minute helicopter ride than a bumpy two-hour truck trip' on dirt roads, said...a scientist contracted by the Army to oversee the relocation.... The Army is expanding its training grounds by 131,000 acres to accommodate faster-moving tanks and longer-range weaponry. Some of that land, which had been under U.S. Bureau of Land Management jurisdiction, is considered critical for the tortoises to survive."
(Note: this site may require free registration to view its content.)

A wildlife biologist weighs a desert tortoise in a sling"Tortoise Transfer: 800 being moved out of fort's way" (San Bernardino County Sun, 4/4/08)
"The helicopter carrying unusual cargo circled once before setting down Friday on a rocky patch of desert just east of the Calico Mountains and south of Coyote Lake. It was loaded with desert tortoises - 11 of them - that had been tenderly placed in individual, clear Sterilite boxes secured in aircraft-grade aluminum bins attached to each side of the helicopter." Links to photo gallery.

"Army moves ahead with tortoise transfer" (Barstow Desert Dispatch, 4/4/08)
"Before releasing them into the wild, biologists check the tortoises' radio transmitters, small boxy units affixed with epoxy onto the reptiles' shells. The transmitters will allow the tortoises to be tracked from miles away, enabling biologists to research how tortoises adapt to the relocation and interact with tortoises already living on the land, Boarman said. Some of the tortoises were moved into man-made burrows and others were left to redig their own homes."

"Tortoises give way to tanks in the desert" (Associated Press in San Francisco Chronicle, 4/4/08)
"Scientists have begun moving the Mojave Desert's flagship species, the desert tortoise, to make room for tank training at the Army's Fort Irwin despite protests by some conservationists. The controversial project, billed as the largest desert tortoise move in California history, involves transferring 770 endangered reptiles from Army land to a dozen public plots overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management."

Bear climbing back down a tree"Bear tranquilized after climbing trees, wandering Redding neighborhood" (Redding Record-Searchlight, 4/3/08)
The bear, "estimated around 175 pounds and several years old, was docile and apparently looking for food or water...Authorities asked neighbors, who were taking pictures with their cameras and video recorders, to back off, and the bear climbed down the first tree" but climbed up another. "The bear was hauled away about 5 p.m. and was going to be released on Bureau of Land Management property outside the city limits." With photo and video of the bear.
(Note: this site may require free registration to view its content.)

"Scientists: Tahoe wolverine not from state" (San Francisco Chronicle, 4/3/08)
"The mysterious wolverine captured in photographs from a remote camera in the Tahoe National Forest is not a native of California or Washington, U.S. Forest Service scientists revealed Wednesday....the animal is a male that shares genetic traits with wolverines in the Rocky Mountains, but it was not clear exactly where it came from or how it got to California."

RELATED: ""Wolverine photographed in Sierra Nevada likely not a California native" (Sacramento Bee, 4/3/08)
"The animal may have wandered into the state, perhaps from the northern Rockies of Idaho. Or it may have escaped from captivity or been deliberately released by someone."
(Note: this site may require free registration to view its content.)

An earlier story on the wolverine was reported in News.bytes issue 322:

"Seeking the elusive sage grouse" (Bend, Oregon Bulletin, 4/6/08)
Oregon wildlife biologists seek 20 birds to start a new colony in central Washington. "While Oregon has about half a dozen different kinds of grouse, the sage grouse is set apart because it’s the only one dependent on sagebrush for its survival....designating the bird as threatened or endangered could impose specific regulations on activities such as grazing and oil, gas and wind farm development."

RELATED: "What is a lek?" (News.bytes issue 324)
Sage grouse leks were the subject of the Wildlife Trivia Question of the Week in News.bytes issue 324:


Learning to pass a solid hoop around a circular formation without breaking linked hands takes planning, communication and teamwork."Fire training ' boot camp'" (News.bytes Extra)
Assembling two working chainsaws from parts in 15 minutes...passing a hoop around a circular formation without breaking linked hands -- these are just two of the exercises in planning, communication and teamwork these aspiring firefighting leaders must complete a training course offered by the BLM NorCal fire organization....

"Hwy 299 fuel reduction plans to be discussed in April 16 public meeting" (BLM-California news release, 4/3/08)
Plans to improve fire safety by thinning trees and brush on public and private lands between Redding and the Whiskeytown National Recreation Area will be presented in a public meeting Wednesday, April 16, at 7 p.m.

"Prescribed burning to begin on northeastern California public lands" (BLM-California news release, 4/4/08)
The Lassen National Forest, Bureau of Land Management and Lassen Volcanic National Park will soon begin spring prescribed burning programs in Northeastern California.  Burning will begin when weather conditions allow for safe and efficient burning.

"Fire Safe Council gets two grants" (Grass Valley/Nevada City Union, 4/1/08)
The Fire Safe Council of Nevada County: "A $150,000 grant from the Bureau of Land Management will be used to buy a chipper" and A U.S. Forest Service grant will be used to "create a two-mile by 300-foot fuel break."

RELATED: "The Fire Safe Council" (Partner website)
View information on fire-prevention grants awarded by BLM-California and other agencies.

"Wildfire flares up along Colorado River" (Yuma Sun, 4/4/08)
Fire in the area of the California-Arizona border "'is a wake-up call that people need to be careful when they're out recreating,'" said a BLM-Arizona spokeswoman. "People should make sure camp fires are completely out before they leave the area. If they smoke, they need to make sure to do so well away from vegetation." 'One little cigarette butt could start a fire like this,' she said."


"Off road: BLM making changes for rec users" (Imperial Valley Press, 4/3/08)
"There will be two major changes in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area fee program next season, the Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday. BLM will be soliciting bids for the administration of the fee program in the 2008-2009 season and beyond....he second change could impact how much you pay to recreate in the ISDRA." Permits will cost more unless "purchased at a vendor outside the ISDRA, over the Internet, over the phone or at an off-highway vehicle show."

"Public meetings scheduled for revised dunes recreation management plan" (BLM-California news release, 4/4/08)
Meetings are scheduled for April 22, 23 and 24.

"Dune assessment considers changes" (Eureka Times-Standard, 4/5/08)
"State and federal agencies are airing an environmental assessment of its plans to improve public access to the 444-acre Ma-le'l dunes on the Samoa Peninsula. The area is managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Coastal Conservancy." Proposed improvements and changes include "adding thousands of feet of trail -- for pedestrians and equestrians -- to the nearshore dunes and wave slope, but also eliminate some casual trails in the area, adding bridges over wetlands, and signs."

"Bootleg ranges put people in line of fire" (Chico Enterprise-Record, 4/3/08)
"So many people have used remote spots in upper Butte Creek Canyon for target practice over the years that large trees have been killed, or literally cut in half, and no longer stop bullets....residents have reported hearing semi-automatic and fully automatic gunfire, as well as explosions....Bullets from the shooting areas also endanger recreational users on Bureau of Land Management property, which attracts hikers, prospectors, campers and swimmers." More patrols are planned for what a deputy says is "the 1 percent who don't use common sense that are ruining it for the rest."

"National Forest fees grow like trees" (San Luis Obispo County Tribune, 4/4/08)
"We’re trying to walk that fine line between having reasonable access to the great outdoors … and providing the money needed for maintenance," said a member of the California Recreation Resource Advisory Committee, "an 11- member panel now quietly shaping what people will pay to use Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management recreation facilities. Together, the two federal agencies manage 35 million acres in California...."


Fire danger of Powerlink debated" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 4/9/08)
"The chance that SDG&E's proposed Sunrise Powerlink project might pose a fire risk in the backcountry was the subject of rebuttal testimony yesterday in hearings being held this week in San Diego by the state Public Utilities Commission. Experts for and against the 150-mile, 500-kilovolt transmission line have given radically different testimony about the possibility that it could pose a fire danger."

RELATED: "San Diego Gas & Electric Company's Sunrise Powerlink Project" (State of California Public Utilities Commission)
The CPUC is the lead agency for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is the lead agency under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Draft EIR/EIS was released to the public on January 3, 2008.

"Agencies announce intent to prepare a joint Environmental Impact Statement/Report for the Barren Ridge renewable transmission project" (BLM-California news release, 4/8/08)
The Los Angeles Water and Power Department is proposing the project to access renewable energy resources in the Tehachapi Mountain and Mojave Desert areas. The EIS/EIR will describe and analyze potential environmental impacts from the proposed project and a range of reasonable alternatives.


"Suit targets Area 51 federal land swap"(Redding Record Searchlight, 4/9/08)
BLM-California traded 216 acres in the Redding area for 566 acres in the Trinity River watershed. A group filed a lawsuit to overturn the decision.

"Abandoned mines: Close the door on public hazards" (San Bernardino County Sun, 4/4/08)
Editorial: "With some 12,000 abandoned mines hiding in the hills and crags of San Bernardino County, federal legislation to clean and shutter these old work sites stands to make a big imprint on the local landscape.....The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Act of 2008....would inventory sites mined for gold, silver, lead, minerals and precious gems, and establish priorities for cleanup....According to the Bureau of Land Management, old mines have contaminated 17 major watersheds in California alone."

"Surveyors eye Johnson Valley" (Victorville Daily Dispatch, 4/8/08)
"Bureau of Land Management and United States Marine Corps officials this week confirmed that permits have been issued to look into expanding the facility at Twentynine Palms -- possibly by as much as 100,000 acres into Johnson Valley." Said a Marine spokesman: "“The Marine Corps is looking at areas contiguous to the base, including the Johnson Valley, but no final decisions have been made regarding what alternatives will be pursued and analyzed. When the alternatives are finalized, we will inform the public."

"Palco parties launch opening salvo" (Eureka Times-Standard, 4/9/08)
"Tempers flared the first day of bankruptcy hearings on how the Pacific Lumber Co. will be reorganized, revealing what appeared to be irreconcilable differences even at the looming end of the case."

RELATED: "Headwaters Forest Reserve" (BLM-California, Arcata Field Office)
The BLM is not a party to Palco's 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 the acquisition in 1999 of the Headwaters Forest Reserve, managed by the BLM. The reserve is set aside to protect and preserve the ecological and wildlife values in the area, particularly the stands of old-growth redwood that provide habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet, and the stream systems that provide habitat for threatened coho salmon.

"2008 Congressional testimonies: S.2593, Forest Landscape Restoration Act -- Statement of Henri Bisson, Deputy Director, Bureau of Land Management, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee" (BLM national newsroom, 4/1/08)
"It is important for us to look at management from a landscape perspective beyond geopolitical boundaries and isolated ecosystems. Forests, woodlands and rangelands are a mosaic where the lands, resources and communities are all interconnected....The BLM proposes to expand [the Healthy Lands Initiative] to California as an addition to the six initial project areas...."
Note: documents are in Microsoft Word format. After you click on a link on this page, your browser should ask if you want to download or open the file.)

"Current job openings - BLM-California" (USAJOBS website)
Current listings include park ranger (river patrol), hydrologist, and firefighting jobs including hotshot wildland firefighter, fire engine captain and fire lookout.

Unless otherwise noted, find more details online at:

April 10, 17 24 - National Monument hike
Palm Desert

April 12 - Wildflower tour
Fort Ord - see details in this calendar listing

April 12 - Cosumnes River Preserve Spring Workday Extravaganza

April 13 - "Clear Creek wildflowers and wild plants" walk
Horsetown-Clear Creek Preserve

...and follow the calendar link above for more!


"Conservation systems protecting 26 million acres deserves permanency" (Harrisburg, PA Patriot-News, 4/5/08)
Editorial: " Whether located in California, Montana or other states, the nation's public lands belong to all Americans.....But not all special places have been set aside as national parks, nor should they be. Many, in fact, are scattered among the 264 million acres administered by the Bureau of Land Management....Now an effort is under way in Congress, with a vote in the House scheduled for Wednesday, to give the [National Landscape Conservation System] permanent status."

"Parry and thrust" (Newsweek, 4/4/08)
"The reaction was swift and angry. After Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced Tuesday that he would speed up construction of the wall along the U.S.-Mexican border by sidestepping three dozen federal environmental laws....Public outrage was the easy part. Fighting back effectively will be more difficult."

"Our opinion: Ignoring the real issue" (Imperial Valley Press, 4/2/08)
Editorial on the border fence.

"Finished Sentences: Interior's Dirk Kempthorne" (U.S. News & World Report, 4/3/08)
"Lots of people like to tell the story of ditzy pop star Jessica Simpson congratulating the secretary of the interior (then Gale Norton) on her decorating job in the White House. But how many people really know what's involved in running the U.S. Department of the Interior and serving as a member of the president's cabinet?" A short feature visits current Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne.

WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites
(e.) Under their car

SOURCE: "Desert tortoise - Gopherus agassizii" (BLM-California wildlife database)
"Desert tortoises seek shade in hot weather, and they occasionally find shade under a parked car." This web page includes links to more information about desert tortoises.

For related stores see "More wildlife news" near the wildlife trivia question above.

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