A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue 343 - 8/6/08

Not snow, but ash surrounds blackened trees on a hillside A rancher holds a sheaf of cheatgrass against a blue sky A National Guardsman climbs out of a truck full of marijuana plants A firefighter makes his way across a smoky landscape BLM staff and other walk in the Susanville-area Relay for Life

- Wildfire news
- Wildfire effects and prevention
- Not for educators only: Wildlife trivia question of the week
- Renewable energy
- Headlines and highlights: Relay for Life, fish project, mystery hot spot, mines, jobs
- Marijuana eradication
- Abandoned mines
- Selected upcoming events
- National and/or Department of the Interior items: Wild horse dispute, Cemex bill, abandoned mines

Also see this issue of News.bytes online at:


"Updated: Eight firefighters, one crew member believed dead in Trinity County helicopter crash" (Redding Record Searchlight, 8/6/08)
"Eight firefighters and one helicopter crew member are missing and believed dead in Tuesday's helicopter crash on the north end of the Buckhorn Fire in Trinity County, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said today ... Identities of the nine who are believed dead have not been released." Although the tragedy did not involve BLM personnel or BLM-managed lands, we include it in News.bytes because the entire California firefighting community is affected.
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"Smoke jumpers help protect Inland mountains" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 8/1/08)
"Six years ago, smoke jumper Josh Mathiesen parachuted into the San Bernardino National Forest to battle a mountain wildfire... and he and his colleagues have been coming back every year since then. They've jumped along the fringes of 26 blazes since 2002 ... Jumpers also have driven or hiked to many other fires. In their spare time, they've cleared brush and cut down insect-ravaged trees ... jumpers work for federal agencies -- the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management."
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"National fire news" (National Interagency fire center)
"August 6 : Firefighters contained the Telegraph Fire in southern California at 34,091 acres. The Craig Fire, Ukonom Complex, Iron and Alps Complexes, and Yolla Bolly Complex remain active in northern California. Nationally, a total of 36 wildland fires and 512,072 acres burned were reported. " 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.
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Not snow, but ash surrounds blackened trees on a hillsideA firefighter trudges through blackened patches left by the Piute Fire"Once the wildfire is out..." (News.bytes Extra)
...there's still much more to do. The month-long Piute Fire was contained July 25, after burning more than 37,000 acres on the Sequoia National Forest and into the Bright Star Wilderness lands managed by BLM-California's Ridgecrest Field Office. A team is now looking closely at the effects of the fire, and planning to "rehabilitate" damaged areas.

A BLM ranger holds all that is left of a porta-potty at one of the campsites"Rafting the Telegraph Fire ... but no camping for now" (News.bytes Extra)
A river raft isn’t your typical firefighting tool. But BLMers in the Merced River Gorge used one to help fight the Telegraph Fire. At left: a BLM ranger holds all that is left of a porta-potty at one of the campsites

RELATED: "BLM campgrounds on Merced River closed" (BLM-California news release, 8/1/08)
The campgrounds - McCabe Flat, Willow Placer, and Railroad Flat - sustained damage from the fast-moving flames of the Telegraph Fire.

A rancher holds a sheaf of cheatgrass against a blue skyA firefighter makes his way across a smoky landscape"Beige plague" (Los Angeles Times, 8/2/08)
"On mountainside after mountainside ... in valley after valley, the richly textured, muted green of sage has yielded to a monotonous, dried-out sea of dirty-blond cheatgrass. The annual grass, a tough native of Eurasia, is fueling a devastating cycle of fire that is wiping sage from vast stretches of the Great Basin and, with it, an ancient ecosystem that is home to the pronghorn antelope, strutting sage grouse and other prized wildlife ... The Great Basin, which swallows most of Nevada and reaches into parts of Utah, Idaho, Oregon and California, is the epicenter of a plague of wildfire driven by the spread of nonnative plants. Some of the biggest ... over the last decade have burned in this cold high-desert region."

RELATED: "Secretary Kempthorne, Secretary Schafer and other leaders adopt national plan to combat invasive species" (Department of the Interior news release, 8/1/08)
"The plan we adopt today will be the federal government’s primary 'road map' for federal efforts to prevent and control invasive species over the next five years," Secretary Kempthorne said. "Its significance cannot be overstated because invasive species cause great damage to the nation’s environment, economy and human health -- harming fisheries, forests, croplands and natural areas; impairing recreation; and endangering public health through threats like West Nile virus."

RELATED: "Big burn" (Los Angeles Times)
The newspaper's five-part series on wildfire in the West includes "Beige plague" above, plus "Living in fire's embrace ... More and more Americans are moving into fire-prone canyons and woodlands. The settings are picturesque but road networks are often inadequate. In a wildfire, everyone may not be able to get out safely."

"Protecting your home from a wildland fire" (National Interagency Fire Center")
"Every year many families unnecessarily lose their homes and possessions to wildland fire. These losses can be minimized if homeowners take the time to become aware of safety measures to help protect their homes and complete some effective actions."

RELATED: "California fire information" (State of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection)
Includes current fire information plus related information such as "Living and building in the wildland urban interface" and "Make your home safe with 100 feet defensible space."

  Northern pocket gopher in the wild
Thumbnail from a photo by Dr. Lloyd Glenn Ingles, California Academy of Sciences

How do Northern Pocket Gophers dig their burrows?
(a.) with their webbed back feet
(b.) with their sharp-clawed front feet
(c.) mostly with their teeth
(d.) they don’t dig burrow, they just “steal” them from other animals
(e.) with a patented Mini Folding Pocket Shovel®

------> See answer -- and more information -- near the end of this issue of News.bytes.


BLM announces Record of Decision for Truckhaven Geothermal Project" (BLM-California news release, 8/1/08)
The Record of Decision is available for geothermal leasing and subsequent exploration and development in the Truckhaven area in western Imperial County. Of three alternatives analyzed, the decision is to offer all BLM managed lands within this area for lease, subject to certain stipulations and mitigation measures to be applied at the leasing stage.

"SDG&E Likely Won’t Meet Deadline as Stirling Project Awaits OK" (San Diego Business Journal, 8/4/08)
"Stirling Energy Systems, which has applied to build a $1 billion, 750-megawatt solar power plant that could partially power San Diego Gas & Electric Co.’s proposed Sunrise Powerlink transmission line, says it has been 'quietly perfecting' its technology. But with Stirling Energy President and Chief Executive Officer Bruce Osborn claiming that no set deadline is specified in its contract with the utility, the 10-square-mile power plant likely will not arrive in time for SDG&E to meet state energy requirements."

"SDG&E lied about power line project, PUC believes" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/2/08)
"The California Public Utilities Commission declared yesterday that San Diego Gas & Electric Co. officials appear to have deliberately misstated facts about the proposed Sunrise Powerlink in talks with PUC staffers ... SDG&E spokeswoman Jennifer Briscoe said the order reflected a misunderstanding and expressed confidence that the matter can be resolved." The issue centers around whether an alternate southern route would have to cross tribal lands.

RELATED: "Sunrise Powerlink best way to transport renewable energy" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 8/2/08)
Op-Ed: "There is no real debate about the fact that this transmission line would access abundant sources of clean, renewable energy in the Imperial Valley, one of the richest sources of untapped renewable energy in the country. But the paradox is that it is met at every turn by opposition based on environmental issues, borne largely of misinformation ... Bill Keese is former chairman of the California Energy Commission" and now member of a group that supports the Sunrise Powerlink.

"Desert Hot Springs City Council takes stand opposing Green Path North" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 8/6/08)
"The Desert Hot Springs City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday to adopt a resolution opposing the Green Path North project, a proposed transmission line that would funnel renewable geothermal energy from the Salton Sea area to Los Angeles and Orange counties. A path for the line has yet to be chosen, but city officials and local environmentalists are troubled by the routes proposed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power ... LADWP officials 'want us to accept visual blight, loss of homes through eminent domain,'" said a council member. Proposed routes would require rights-of-way permits for portions crossing BLM-managed lands.

"Renewables attract Anschutz" (Denver Post, 7/30/08)
"The Anschutz Corp. said Tuesday it has acquired the rights to a proposed $3 billion, 3,000-megawatt transmission project that will run from Wyoming to Southern California, Las Vegas and Phoenix. The 900-mile project will carry power from a 2,000-megawatt wind farm Anschutz is developing in Carbon County in south-central Wyoming ... The project will have to go through a permitting process with the Bureau of Land Management because it crosses federal land."


BLM staff and other walk in the Susanville-area Relay for Life"BLM Eagle Lake takes part in Relay for Life"
(News.bytes Extra)
Susanville employees of BLM-California's Eagle Lake Field Office and the Lassen National Forest joined forces Aug. 2 and 3 to support the annual American Cancer Society's Relay for Life held at Lassen High School. Similar events are held across the country. Participants pledge to walk specific distances or times in the 24-hour event, raising money for cancer research. The Susanville event reportedly generated $80,000.

"Lower Clear Creek Anadromous Fish Restoration and Management Project Environmental Assessment" (National Park Service news release, 8/4/08)
"The National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management have released" this document "for a 30-day public comment period. This project addresses potential restoration activities on federal lands that may occur over approximately a 10-year period along lower Clear Creek between Whiskeytown Dam and the confluence with the Sacramento River. These restoration activities are planned to improve habitat for native fish including the federally listed Sacramento River spring-run Chinook salmon and steelhead trout."

"Ventura County hot spot puzzles experts" (Los Angeles Times, 8/4/08)
"A patch of land in Ventura County's Los Padres Forest where the ground heated up to 812 degrees Friday continues to puzzle firefighters and geologists after a month and a half of monitoring ... Firefighters first responded to the hot spot a month and a half ago ... There were no visible flames, but they created a containment line about 2 feet wide and monitored the two-acre plot. Because the smoke was not going away, the containment line was widened to about 30 feet Friday..." Includes video report.
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"Appeal over use of Indy gravel pit now settled" (Inyo Register, 8/5/08)
"Following 18 months of negotiations and appeals over aggregate sources for state highway improvement projects, Caltrans and the Bureau of Land Management have reached a settlement with Independence citizen groups ... Caltrans has agreed to make 'every reasonable effort' to identify aggregate sources closer to the 11-mile" road project and reduce the amount from the Independence pit. Alternate sources include gravel pits on BLM land. "Other outcomes of the negotiated settlement include possible closure of the Independence pit once Caltrans’ easement expires in 2016. The action requires a change in BLM’s resource management plan which is up for revision in 2009."

"BLM to host meeting on Rathburn-Petray Mine cleanup" (BLM-California news release, 8/5/08)
A public meeting to discuss cleanup at the Rathburn-Petray Mercury Mine site in western Colusa County will be held Aug. 26. The mine site is on 300 acres of BLM-managed public land east of Walker Ridge. The most active mercury mining occurred from 1892 to 1893. Mining resumed or a more limited and sporadic scale in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Waste rock at the site contains high levels of mercury which can be dangerous to humans. There are also concerns about runoff and watershed contamination.

"Current job openings - BLM California"
(USAJOBS website)
Current openings include archaeologist, biology technician/aid and survey technician/aid.


A National Guardsman climbs out of a truck full of marijuana plants "Marijuana sweep nets big payoff" (Visalia Times-Delta, 8/6/08)
"Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies say they have seized more than 340,000 marijuana plants with an estimated street value of $1.4 billion and arrested 36 suspects in a sweeping crackdown on marijuana cultivation on public land in eastern Tulare County over the last week. The joint operation involving 14 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, which started July 27 and will continue through Aug. 9, brought President Bush's drug czar, John Walters, to a press conference at the National Guard Armory in Visalia yesterday, where officials announced the program."

"Tulare County's Marijuana Eradication Gets National Help" (KMPH-TV Fresno, 8/5/08)
"Operation LOCCUST has already confiscated hundreds of thousands of marijuana plants ... LOCCUST stands for Locating Organized Cannabis Cultivators Using Saturation Tactics, and is a 14-agency federal, state and county operation aimed at eradicating marijuana gardens in the national parks in Tulare County. 'We're not giving up one inch of our county to marijuana as long as I'm sheriff,' said Tulare County Sheriff Bill Wittman." Links to video report.

"Massive valley marijuana bust" (KFSN-TV Fresno, 8/5/08)
"Aerial video taken early Tuesday morning shows the massive amounts of gardens and thousands of marijuana plants growing illegally in our local national parks. U.S. Drug Czar John Walters says, these operations are mostly the work of Mexican drug cartels who make money here and spread fear in their home country." Includes link to video news report.

Find more details online at:


"Horse lovers fight BLM plan to cull wild herd" (Sacramento Bee, 8/6/08)
Wild horses: "The Bureau of Land Management says there are simply too many of them, filling holding pens and roaming freely on public lands in 10 Western states, including California ... many of the nation's horse lovers, including singers Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson, are out to kill the euthanasia plan. But federal officials and other supporters of the plan say it must be considered because a birth-control program has not worked and adoptions are declining, mainly due to rising fuel and feed costs."

"Largest wild horse, burro show coming to Reno" (Associated Press in ---Las Vegas Sun, 8/5/08)
"The largest wild horse and burro show in the country is coming to Nevada later this month at a time organizers say it is important to educate the public about the animals and their fate on the range. The National Wild Horse Center will host the Western States Wild Horse and Burro Expo at the Reno Livestock Events Center Aug. 15-17. The event has been around for 17 years but sponsors say this year's event is especially important because of the large number of horses that are increasing both on the range and in captivity."

"Cemex bill stuck in committee" (Santa Clarita Signal, 8/3/08)
"The bill, named the Soledad Canyon Mining Act, would cancel Cemex's mining contracts with the federal Bureau of Land Management and provide the company with land in Victorville equal to the value of the mining contracts." A staff member says "We're hoping for a hearing in September" before a "key House committee."

"Old mines, new dangers" (New York Times, 8/5/08)
Editorial: "The cause of mining law reform -- long the province of the environmental community -- has now gained an important ally in Earl Devaney. Mr. Devaney is the independent-minded inspector general of the Interior Department, which oversees the antiquated 1872 mining law, approves new mining leases and has responsibility for nearly all the 160,000 or so abandoned mine sites that dot the western landscape ... Mr. Devaney’s is the first federal report to document their threat to life and limb. As such, it could refocus Congressional attention on a much-needed reform of the mining law — an issue that has made headway in the House but almost none in the Senate."

WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites
(c.) mostly with their teeth

SOURCE: "Northern Pocket Gopher - Thomomys talpoides" (BLM California wildlife database)
Northern pocket gophers dig their burrows mainly with their teeth, but they may use their feet for assistance.

"Thomomys talpoides - northern pocket gopher" (University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web)
More information from this website "written largely by and for college students."

"Thomomys talpoides - northern pocket gopher" (Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History)
Short description, plus a sketch.

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News.bytes published by
Bureau of Land Management
California State Office
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(916) 978-4600

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