A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue 341 - 7/24/08

Students warm up to their performance of "Piedras Rap" A big-eared kangaroo rat in a field Showing students how to deploy a fire tent Close-up of injured bear cub Boy Scouts raise the flag at Piedras Blancas Light Station

- Piedras Blancas celebration
- Wildfire news
- Not for educators only:
      - Wildlife trivia question of the week
      - Wildlife and wildfire
- Wildfire aftermath and prevention
- Energy
- Headlines and highlights: Wild horses and burros, BLM awardees, Headwaters, more
- Meet your Advisory Council members
- Selected upcoming events

Also see this issue of News.bytes online at:


Boy Scouts raise the flag at Piedras Blancas Light StationGroup portrait outside the Piedras Blancas Light Station"Celebrating Piedras Blancas" (News.bytes Extra)
A light station that has warned sailors of danger since 1875 is the newest shining light in BLM’s system of special places. About 200 people gathered at the Piedras Blancas Light Station at San Simeon on July 19 to celebrate the addition of Piedras to BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System. Legislation making Piedras part of the system was enacted in May. The lighthouse and surrounding historical area are now designated the Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area.

Students warm up to their performance of "Piedras Rap""Piedras Blancas Rap" (News.bytes Extra)
Students at Grover Heights Elementary School on California's central coast have long supported the restoration of the Piedras Blancas Light Station. Their "Pennies for Piedras" campaign has so far raised more than $4,000 toward the restoration of the 132-year-old lighthouse managed by the BLM. So it was fitting that their musical performance highlighted the recent event celebrating the lighthouse and surrounding historical area as "Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area."

Historic photo of Piedras Blancas Light Station
"Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area" (BLM-California, Bakersfield Field Office)
Piedras Blancas is located on California's central coast, just north of San Simeon. The point is named for a white rock out cropping located just off the end of the point. In the early 1870's, this location was chosen to fill the gap between the lighthouses at Point Conception and Point Sur. On May 8, 2008,  Piedras Blancas Light Station was designated by Congress as an "Outstanding Natural Area," and added to the Bureau of Land Management's National Landscape Conservation System.


"Bush vows not to leave California stranded as firefighting costs strain budget" (Sacramento Bee, 7/18/08)
"President Bush took a helicopter tour of charred forests above Shasta Lake on Thursday and vowed to do the 'best … we possibly can' in directing federal assistance to help California respond to devastating wildfires. With nearly 2,000 lightning fires since mid-June devouring more than 880,000 acres and burning a hole in the state budget ... the state has deployed more than 2,000 firefighters and support personnel while running up costs of more than $100 million since mid-June. Federal firefighting costs have surpassed $220 million."

Showing students how to deploy a fire tent"Training for wildfire" (News.bytes Extra)
California's unprecedented early fire season siege is winding down, but the fire season is still young, and training for fire personnel is critical. The BLM's Ted Overton Training Center in Susanville is playing an important role in fire readiness, as nearly 300 students have completed classes certifying them for fire duty.

"Northern California residents should minimize smoke exposure" (Northern California Joint Information Center news release, 7/23/08)
"Throughout the summer, heavy smoke could periodically affect residents across northern California ... 'Although the numbers of state and federal fires have been reduced, smoke from the on-going fires remaining, burnout operations and interior burning within contained fires could still affect local communities ... Northern California residents should remember to pay attention to local air quality reports.'"
PDF file:

"National fire news" (National Interagency fire center)
"July 24, 2008: Favorable weather conditions have helped firefighters in California make good progress toward containment goals. Seven large fires in California are expected to be contained within the next few days. Currently, 25 large fires or complexes in 10 states have burned more nearly 736,000 acres. Australia and New Zealand are providing 44 fire specialists and managers to assist with fire suppression operations in California. Canada is providing two crews...."
This website Includes national fire news, plus details by state. This site is updated daily during fire season.

"Wildfire updates" (Sacramento Bee, 7/16/08)
Includes links to wildfire news, photo gallery, interactive map of Northern California wildfires and related links.
Note: this news site may require free registration to view its online content.

"Attack on Calif fires one of largest tanker ops" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/17/08)
"It's mostly quiet on this day, but not long ago this corner of McClellan Airfield was sending as many as 40 aircraft a day into the smoky skies to drop the gooey red slurry onto a smoldering landscape ... They have flown more than 400 sorties and dumped more than a million gallons of slurry on at least a dozen fires. Sometimes the smoke was so thick over McClellan that the aircraft had to take off and land by instruments ... The fleet came from the Air National Guard, the Air Force Reserves, the Marines, Cal Fire, the U.S. Forest Service, the federal Bureau of Land Management and local fire departments...."

"Warming West is ground zero for wildfires" (San Francisco Chronicle, 7/20/08)
"California has been hit by 2,000 fires this year, and climate scientists are predicting that the situation will worsen as temperatures rise. The American West has been warming dramatically during the past 60 years ... This year has been particularly dry for California, with less snowfall, earlier snowmelt and lower summer river flows." That brings "increases in the length of the fire seasons, number of fires, time needed to put out the fire and size of the burned area."


A big-eared kangaroo rat in a field
Big-eared kangaroo rat

Fire season: good news and bad news for big-eared kangaroo rats. The bad news: they live among chaparral, and lose members of their population when it burns. But what is their good news?
(a.) Chaparral needs fire to grow, and it provides habitat and food for the mice.
(b.) Hot fires sterilize the ground, killing a fungus that spoils food supplies that they bury.
(c.) Fires thin the population of their most common predators, and enables kangaroo rat colonies to quickly rebuild.
(d.) Big-eared kangaroo rats don’t really like chaparral, and live among it only by habit. They much prefer when the chaparral is gone.
(e.) Kangaroo rats are a sullen bunch, and really don’t like good news.

------> See answer -- and news stories on some of the impacts of wildfire on other wildlife -- near the end of this issue of News.bytes.


"Union Pacific to pay landmark $102-million settlement for fire" (Los Angeles Times, 7/23/08)
"Union Pacific Railroad Co. has agreed to pay $102 million to the U.S. Forest Service for a devastating 2000 wildfire north of Sacramento in a landmark settlement that dramatically increases the stakes in punishing those responsible for setting forest fires ... Five Union Pacific workers were accused of neglecting safety precautions when using power tools to repair track on Aug. 17, 2000, in Plumas National Forest. By failing to use spark shields and clear the area of flammable material, smoldering bits of metal were able to ignite a blaze that consumed 52,000 acres within the Plumas and Lassen national forests over three weeks, federal officials said." The Department of the Interior received $4 million of the settlement, of which the BLM will receive a portion for affected public lands.
Note: this news site may require free registration to view its content online.

"Flood victims try to pick up the pieces" (Inyo Register, 7/22/08)
Inyo County residents hit by flash flood and mudslides (as reported in last week's News.bytes) face challenges, from mud and debris in their homes, to a new creek route that runs through some homes, to cleanup dangers such as mold, to lack of insurance.

RELATED: "Clean-up, relief efforts begin in Indy" (Inyo Register, 7/18/08)
"Inyo County Sheriff Bill Lutze opened the meeting with a brief slide show of the destruction caused by the 15-foot-tall wall of mud, water, boulders and trees as it made its way down Oak Creek from the Sierra, destroying 25 structures and numerous other outbuildings and vehicles." A U.S. Forest Service spokesman said post-fire treatment was limited after last year's Inyo Complex Fire “because the terrain is rocky and too steep" and treatments could have made things worse. He noted "that the Oak Creek area received a huge amount of rain -- more than seven inches in just a few minutes before the rain meter was destroyed by the mud slide."

"FLAME Act may snuff out state fires" (San Bernardino County Sun, 7/16/08)
Op-Ed: "The FLAME Act ... More properly known as H.R. 5541, the Federal Lands Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act establishes a long overdue emergency firefighting fund ... By creating a discrete firefighting fund, it will enable the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and National Park Service to augment cash-strapped fire-prevention programs. In the past, each federal agency has put scarce dollars and personnel to work thinning forests by cutting and prescribed burning; each has built defensible space around fire-prone communities nestled within or adjacent to public lands."

Crews work to complete shaded fuel break" (Paradise Post, 7/22/08)
"Work continued ... in what has been an eight-year project to ... make the area more fire safe. With the fuel break nearly completely surrounding the Upper Ridge, now the Butte County Fire Safe Council is trying to maintain the land with grant money from a National Fire Plan Grant from the Bureau of Land Management through the California Fire Safe Council ... The breaks are called shaded fuel breaks because they don't clear cut land but leave a canopy of larger trees that shade the ground, further lowering fire danger, by not allowing the sun to pre-heat the fire's fuel."


"BLM plans oil and gas competitive lease auction"
(BLM-California news release, 7/25/08)
The Bureau of Land Management will conduct an auction of oil and gas leases on federal land on Sept. 10, in Bakersfield. The competitive lease auction involves 8 parcels for a total of 3,873.54 acres of public lands in Kern and Fresno counties.

"Getting lease for oil drilling is just the start"
(Associated Press in San Francisco Chronicle, 7/20/08)
"The national debate over opening more offshore areas to oil and gas exploration has begged the question: Just what are the companies doing with the tens of millions of acres they're already leasing from the federal government? ... 68 million acres of federal land and offshore sites now leased by oil companies that sit idle ... It's part of nearly 2 billion acres overseen by two federal agencies -- the Bureau of Land Management and the Minerals Management Service -- that have potential for oil and gas exploration, the bulk of which is strictly off limits ... An oil company can spend several years after it negotiates a lease securing the permits and other approvals it needs to begin actual production."

"Rancor greets water agency" (San Bernardino County Sun, 7/20/08)
"The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power ended years of silence on some of the details surrounding a proposed path of power lines Saturday at a public meeting with High Desert residents that quickly turned hostile. David Nahai, general manager of the LADWP, the largest municipal utility in the nation, attempted to placate the audience, which occasionally hissed and booed, as he assured them that Green Path North would only be used to transmit renewable energy. Opponents say the project threatens pristine desert habitat and have questioned whether the motivations behind the plan are truly 'green.'"

RELATED: "Burying transmission lines of LA utility's proposed geothermal power project met with some skepticism" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 7/19/08)
"Los Angeles utility officials will consider burying some of the transmission lines for their ambitious renewable energy proposal that could run through desert preserves and the San Bernardino National Forest, the city's top energy officials told a boisterous and sometimes angry crowd Saturday."

RELATED: "Locals boo Green Path, Los Angeles power manager" (Hi-Desert Star, 7/23/08)
"It was a tough room for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power General Manager David Nahai and his coalition of Green Path North boosters Saturday. The multipurpose room at Yucca Valley High School was overflowing with a wide cross-section of Hi-Desert citizens who had come to let Los Angeles know what they thought about an energy corridor proposed to cut through 85 miles of Morongo Basin homes and habitats."


"Dunes' milk-vetch plant remains protected"
(Yuma Sun, 7/18/08)
"After completing a second status review of Peirson's milk-vetch plant, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has concluded that it should remain listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act ... Off-highway vehicle groups ... had petitioned the federal wildlife agency seeking to remove the Peirson's milk-vetch from the federal list of endangered and threatened plants and animals ... [a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman] said they those areas within the closures will remain closed while the BLM continues to develop a Recreation Area Management Plan for the dunes...."

RELATED: "Milk-vetch ruling renews arguments" (Imperial Valley Press, 7/17/08)
Off-road enthusiasts plan to discuss options, continue seeking to remove Peirson's milk vetch from endangered species list.

RELATED: "Service reaffirms Peirson's milk-vetch should remain protected" (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release, 7/16/08)
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it has completed a second status review of Peirson's milk-vetch (Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii) and concluded the plant should remain listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)."

Close-up of Peirson's milk vetch in the desertRELATED: "Facts About Astragalus magdalenae var. peirsonii (Peirson’s milk-vetch)" (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Information and photos.
PDF file, one page:


"Wild horses and burros available for adoption in Lakeside" (BLM-California news release, 7/2/08)
These living legends will be available for adoption at the Pillsbury Ranch in Lakeside, California, on July 25 - 27, 2008 through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Adopt-A-Wild Horse or Burro Program. Spectators are welcome. Fifty young animals will be available for adoption, forty wild horses, and ten burros. The mustangs and burros were gathered from public lands in California and Nevada and have been wormed, vaccinated, and in excellent health.

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne (left) with Lynda Roush and Henri Bisson, BLM deputy director for operations"BLM manager Lynda Roush nationally recognized for achievement" (BLM-California news release, 7/23/08)
Lynda J. Roush, manager of the Bureau of Land Management's Arcata Field Office, has been selected as a 2008 Take Pride in America National Award recipient.  She was honored with 11 other national winners at a ceremony last week at the U. S. Department of the Interior headquarters in Washington, D. C.

RELATED: "Secretary Kempthorne honors 2008 national Take Pride in America award winners" (Department of the Interior news release, 7/18/08)
Winners include BLM-California's Lynda Roush, manager of the Arcata Field Office.

"EPIC gets Supreme Court win on Palco" (Eureka Times-Standard, 7/18/08)
"The Environmental Protection Information Center has won a major victory in the state Supreme Court against Pacific Lumber Co. in a suit that reaches back to the Headwaters Forest agreement." The court ruled "that the California Department of Forestry approved an inadequate 50-year timber management plan required as part of the 1999 Headwaters deal ... The ruling likely will have little effect on the ground for Palco ... but it may affect how the state issues permits to protect companies from endangered species regulation in the future."

RELATED: "State Supreme Court gives new protection to endangered species" (Los Angeles Times, 7/18/08)
"The state high court said the Department of Forestry had approved an 'unidentifiable' plan that was still a work in progress and then delegated its completion to the logging company" calling that "action illegal and an abrogation of its duties." The decision grew out of lawsuits that followed the historic Headwaters Agreement, a 1996 pact between Pacific Lumber Co. and the state and federal governments. It was designed to resolve litigation and disputes over the logging of old-growth forests."
Note: this news site may require free registration to view its content online.

"Headwaters Forest Reserve" (BLM-California, Arcata Field Office)
The Headwaters Forest Reserve is 7,472 acres of public land located 6 miles southeast of Eureka, CA. 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.

RELATED: "Headwaters Elk River Trail closure extended due to construction" (BLM-California news release, 7/23/08)
A temporary closure of the Elk River Trail in the Headwaters Forest Reserve has been extended into the first week of August, while workers complete construction of a new parking area.

"S. 3069, Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act" (BLM national news site)
Statement of Henri Bisson, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Land Management to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests, regarding S. 3069, Eastern Sierra and Northern San Gabriel Wild Heritage Act.
Note: Click on the link for to open the testimony as a Microsoft Word document.

"Boxer/McKeon bill headed for Senate committee study" (Inyo Register, 7/19/08)
"Table Mountain may be incorporated into the Wild Heritage Act as part of the compromise and negotiations between co-authors Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). The Act will designate 430,000 acres as Wilderness in Inyo and Mono counties." The wilderness bill would apply to some California areas managed by the BLM.

"On mustang range, a battle on thinning the herd" (New York Times, 7/20/08)
"Environmentalists’ attitudes toward the horses have evolved so far that some are willing to say what was heresy a few years ago: that euthanasia is acceptable if the alternatives are boarding the mustangs for life at taxpayers’ expense or leaving them to overpopulate, damage the range and die of hunger or thirst. The federal Bureau of Land Management ... has been running the Adopt-A-Horse program, selling mustangs from the range to those who would care for them. But 30,000 once-wild horses were never adopted and are being boarded by the agency at facilities in Kansas and Oklahoma (another 33,000 run wild). As feed and gas grow more expensive, the rate of adoptions plummets."

RELATED: "Wild horses may face death sentence" (National Public Radio, 7/21/08)
"The federal agency is responsible for managing about 250 million acres of public lands throughout the West. 'Protecting, managing and controlling wild horses' falls under these responsibilities, and every year the organization captures about 10-12,000 horses, about half of them in Nevada alone. Not enough, according to ranchers; too many, according to animal rights activists ... wild horses don't have a natural predator -- their population doubles every four years ... But once they are captured, BLM faces another dilemma; what to do with the horses." Includes link to five-minute audio report.

"Managing to minimize mosquitoes - award" (News.bytes Extra)
Organic rice fields and mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus can be a bad mix. But management practices at the Cosumnes River Preserve, managed by BLM’s Folsom Field Office, have minimized the mosquito population without using chemicals banned from organic crops. The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District presented the preserve with an Ecological Mosquito Management Award last week in recognition of those efforts.

"Tronans speak out on allegations against plant" (Ridgecrest Daily Independent, 7/15/08)
"Dozens of Trona residents entered a meeting ... at a Searles Valley Minerals conference room nervous and angry. After a series of articles in the San Francisco Chronicle ... the plant called a community meeting to offer explanations and answer questions about [a former employee's] allegations ... The stories stirred up concern among plant employees and Trona residents."

"Hinkley man helps deputies chase down suspected metal thieves" (Barstow Desert Dispatch, 7/23/08)
"A Hinkley rancher helped deputies chase down two men suspected of stealing scrap metal from Bureau of Land Management property ... Anthony Chavez, range land management specialist for the Barstow BLM office, said in the past several months a number of steel fence posts and four cattle guards ... had been stolen from the area, with the replacement cost approaching $30,000. But scrapping is nothing new on public lands. Thieves have targeted everything from brass parts on fire hydrants to the solar voltaic systems that power well pumps, he said."

"Current job openings - BLM California" (USAJOBS website)
Current openings include archaeologist, park ranger, contact representative, fire dispatcher and more.

Unless otherwise noted, find more details online at:

July 26-27 - Wild horse and burro adoption
Lakeside, CA

July and August weekends - Free guided hikes
Headwaters Forest Reserve - Hikers must reserve space for specific days by calling the BLM Arcata Field Office

WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites
(a.) Chaparral needs fire to grow, and it provides habitat and food for the mice.

SOURCE: "Big-eared Kangaroo Rat - Dipodomys elephantinus" (BLM California wildlife database)
Big-eared kangaroo rats live in chaparral areas and are most often found under dense vegetation that offers a variety of food. Chaparral habitats burn regularly as a way of restoring the community. Many of the plants that are found in chaparral require fire to stimulate the seeds to grow. Some mice are lost in the fires, but most are able to escape and come back into the area within a year.


"Wildfires often result in survival of the fastest" (Sacramento Bee, 7/17/08)
"As a wall of flames roared down the mountainside, a firefighter unfurled a protective tent over himself and discovered a chipmunk had scrambled into his fireproof shelter with him. After the danger passed, the chipmunk slipped away unscathed by last summer's Angora fire. Not all wildlife caught in wildfires are so lucky ... Some, like a rattlesnake that made its home under an outhouse near Big Sur, stood no chance against fires there. Others, like deer that prefer soft new growth on the forest floor, will benefit from the flames...."
Note: this news site may require free registration to view its online content.

"Fire forces critters to flee, burrow ... or die" (Chico Enterprise-Record, 7/11/08)
"When a big burn cuts across their habitat, wildlife will usually have one of two responses -- leave the area or seek shelter, said Kevin Shaffer, biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game in Sacramento. Animals react to heat and smoke, he explained. Animals with the ability to move quickly will flee. Smaller animals, amphibians and insects that can't fly will burrow. Shelter might come in the form of bark, soil or rock."

"Calif condors' animal instinct takes over in fire" (Associated Press, 7/18/08)
"As wildfire whipped toward a remote sanctuary of the endangered California condor last month, the rare birds got their biggest test in survival after years of pampering by biologists: They had to live completely on their own . Forced away by flames, their scientist handlers could only hope the birds' animal instincts would kick in. To their delight, they did. The birds found fresh air, and food: a beached whale and decaying California sea lion at the edge of Big Sur's cliffs. After the blaze swept through the area, many even returned home."

Fireman holds bear cub injured in wildfire"Firefighter rescues bear cub burned in Northern California wildfire" (Los Angeles Times, 7/20/08)
"Some colleagues have questioned whether [firefighter Adam] Deem, who has earned the nickname Grizzly Adams, made the right choice taking an animal out of the wild." But the mother could not be found, and officials at the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center say the cub would have died. "Fish is served in water, and giant worms and grubs are served in rotten logs so the cubs learn how things work in nature, skills that caretakers hope will let them return successfully to the wild."
Note: this news site may require free registration to view their online content.

Close-up of injured bear cubUPDATE: "Not yet hungry, burned bear cub shows signs of healing" (Sacramento Bee, 7/22/08)
"He has not regained his appetite, but 'Lil' Smokey,' a 6-month-old black bear severely burned in the Northern California fires, is beginning to show signs of healing. The cub, being treated at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care in South Lake Tahoe, has new tissue growing on his rear feet
... The 8 1/2-pound cub remains uninterested in food, however, and caregivers speculate that medicine being administered to the animal is interfering with his appetite."
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