A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue 394 - 8/6/09

Close-up of western terrestrial garter snake moving through green plantsA young man takes a short break while working in grassy hills above the oceanHead-and-shoulders photo of a smiling Mike WestphalA sign warns against eating fish contaminated with mercury from an abandoned mineMan in cowboy hat holds microphone, horses are behind him in corral


- Youth and BLM: Spotlight on Partners
- Not for educators only: Wildlife trivia question of the week
- Employee profile
- Wild horses and burros
- Headlines and highlights: ---
- Selected upcoming events
- National and/or Department of the Interior items: ---
Also see this issue of News.bytes online at:

Department of the Interior logo features a buffaloYOUTH AND BLM
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar recently established an Office of Youth in Natural Resources, "to provide jobs, outdoor experiences and career opportunities for young people." News.bytes will feature occasional stories on youth who take part in BLM-California programs.

A young man digs part of a trailA young man takes a short break while working in grassy hills above the oceanSPOTLIGHT ON PARTNERS:
Student Conservation Association - WildCorps Program
The BLM and the Student Conservation Association partnered to reconnect America's youth with the wild outdoors. The goal is to train a cadre of youth leaders to enhance public lands, by providing on-the-ground WildCorps youth crews to help with trail construction and maintenance, invasive weed eradication, restoration of degraded lands and reclamation of old roads, dump sites and mining scars on National Landscape Conservation System lands. The WildCorps Program has been a huge success over the past four years. Hundreds of youth have benefited from the program while helping the BLM.

"Hands on the Land" (News.bytes Extra)
Middle school and high school students worked and learned through the month-long, “Hands on the Land” program. Students laid their hands on the land by rebuilding a trail to design standards with proper slopes and switchbacks. The program helps BLM by getting maintenance work done while teaching students about resource management, said Tracy Rowland, BLM San Joaquin Gorge manager. Students who built the trail won’t be taking shortcuts when hiking. “They’ll get their friends and families to stay on the trail,” she said.


Close-up of western terrestrial garter snake moving through green plants
a western terrestrial garter snake, from a photo by Sally King, National Park Service
When garter snakes are threatened, they:
(a.) Roll up in a ball and play dead, somewhat like an opossum
(b.) Drop part of their tails as a decoy, somewhat like certain lizards
(c.) Spit a caustic substance from its mouth, that can burn skin
(d.) Release a foul-smelling musk, somewhat like a skunk
(e.) Watch their lives flash before their eyes, and regret all the times they didn’t listen to their mothers
------> See answer near the end of this issue of News.bytes.

Head-and-shoulders photo of a smiling Mike WestphalEMPLOYEE PROFILE: Mike Westphal..
...ecologist, joined BLM-California's Hollister Field Office in October 2008. His most memorable experiences include collecting terrestrial garter snakes (like those in the wildlife trivia question above) and researching other reptiles. Read more:


"Firefighters gain upper hand on Knight Fire" (Calaveras Enterprise, 8/6/09)
"The Knight Fire has been burning for more than a week, but firefighters are increasing containment and slowing the gargantuan blaze as their carefully placed fire lines work as planned.
Despite recent success, the fire is the largest blaze of the year in the Calaveras-Tuolumne area and had burned 5,078 acres as of Wednesday. "

Crews Responding to Fire Reports Following Heavy Thunderstorms (BLM News Release, 8/2/09)
The Susanville Interagency Fire Center (SIFC) is dispatching ground forces and aircraft to nearly 100 reported fires in the wake of widespread thunderstorms.

"Lightning Throughout Northern California Starts 216 New Fires" (YubaNet.com, 8/2/09)
"Nearly 216 new fires have been reported t... with smoke reports still coming in, according to the Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC). The Susanville Interagency Fire Center (SIFC) is dispatching ground forces and aircraft to nearly 100 reported fires in the wake of widespread thunderstorms over the past two days."


"Cartels turn U.S. forests into marijuana plantations, creating toxic mess" (Greenwire at New York Times, 7/30/09)
"The drug plantations are as much an environmental menace as they are a public safety threat," using "a cocktail of pesticides and fertilizers many times stronger than what is used on residential lawns to cultivate their crop ... Bankrolled by sophisticated drug cartels, suppliers are sidestepping border patrols to grow in relative obscurity on Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service lands across the West and even into the Southeast."
(Note: This news site may require free registration to view its content online.)

"Deputies uproot pot garden" (Pasadena Star News, 7/30/09)
About 510 marijuana plants were located and eradicated Wednesday morning on a private property...[partner agencies and] Bureau of Land Management agents found no growers on site."

"Deputies Eradicate $26M In Marijuana" (KERO, 8/4/09)
"Deputies assigned to the Kern County Sheriff's Office Major Violators Unit were assisted by Agents of the Bureau of Land Management."

Task force uproots more pot (Lassen County Times, 8/4/09)
A Lassen County Narcotics Task Force, which includes officers from the Bureau of Land Management, entered a ravine in the Beaver Creek area just south of Pittville in the northern part of Lassen County and located an illegal marijuana garden where 8,100 marijuana plants were found.


"Officials seek economic, environmental balance" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 7/31/09)
"A classic conflict between two compelling priorities is brewing around plans for four solar plants just east of the Coachella Valley that federal authorities have designated for fast-track development ...finding a balance between economic and environmental interests could be difficult but not impossible ... three solar thermal plants also must go through a dual-approval process involving both the Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission, while the photovoltaic only needs federal approval."
(Note: This news site may require free registration to view its contents online..)

"Solar energy proposal in Lucerne Valley opposed"(Riverside Press-Enterprise, 7/30/09)
A company official "said it's more expedient for Chevron to develop solar energy on public land because the company can do 'one-stop shopping' with the BLM to get access to large amounts of land and get environmental reviews completed. Buying private land would require dealing with multiple landowners and still require environmental reviews." Some at the meeting worried about "a rush to develop energy on undisturbed land that is home to threatened desert tortoises and other wildlife." Others said "energy developments should be built on former farms and other private land that has less value as wildlife habitat."

Agencies Extend Public Comment Period for Solar Energy Study Areas (BLM News Release, 7/27/09)
The Department of Energy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will extend the public comment period on solar energy study areas and maps by an additional 45 days.  A notice published in the Federal Register on July 27 [74 FR 37051] provides for a public comment period ending on September 14, 2009.

"Solar projects could be built at Riverside landfills" (Energy Current, 7/29/09)
"Large-scale solar energy projects could be built on 1,800 acres of closed landfills and vacant property owned by Riverside County. 'Most of these are isolated facilities. ... You can't use (the land) for much else,' said county Supervisor Marion Ashley, whose district includes some of the affected properties."

"BLM awards permits for Coso geothermal facility" (Energy Current, 8/3/09)
"ArcLight Capital Partners affiliate Terra-Gen Power's Coso geothermal facility has obtained critical permits from the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to construct a nine mile (14 km) pipeline to recharge the existing geothermal reservoir that will allow Coso to significantly increase generation of renewable baseload power. Coso is a renewable facility located on the Navy's China Lake base in Inyo County, California."


Man in cowboy hat holds microphone, horses are behind him in corralClose-up of horses in corral"Pony up" (Fox News, 7/29/09)
Video report from BLM's Ridgecrest, California wild horse and burro corral: "Critics blast plan to spend millions on horse contraception."

"Wild horse sense" (Los Angeles Times, 7/27/09)
"The animals have become an environmental problem. Creating refuges for them and controlling their numbers is the practical, humane solution."
(Note: This news site may require free registration to view its content online.)

"Wild horses aren't ecological villains" (Los Angeles Times, 7/31/09)
OpEd: response by Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, to a Los Angeles Times editorial.
(Note: This news site may require free registration to view its content online.)

A rider on a horse approaches a burro"Wild donkeys to be removed from area" (Barstow Desert Dispatch, 7/30/09)
"Up to 100 burros -- wild donkeys -- at Fort Irwin and areas bordering Death Valley National Park will soon be rounded up and relocated over 100 miles away. Why? Fort Irwin officials have said that burros roaming outside designated areas are causing a nuisance and have contracted with the Bureau of Land Management to remove the animals."


A sign warns against eating fish contaminated with mercury from an abandoned mineMinerals stain the drainage from an abandoned mercury mine"Mercury rising" (San Luis Obispo New Times, 7/29/09)
"Wind rustled short stalks of dry, brown grass at the abandoned mercury mine just outside of Paso Robles. What used to be 320 acres of mercury mining operations is now known as the 'Klau/Buena Vista Mine' and it’s the site of a federal attempt to keep mercury from spreading more than it already has.... Inactive mercury mines and other mining relics left to fester in California have slipped through a legislative loophole. New mineral mines fall under stringent contemporary regulations. Old mines, on the other hand, are still dictated by the Mining Act of 1872."

"Army seeks to move more than 1,100 desert tortoises" (Los Angeles Times, 8/5/09)
The Army is seeking the approval of the federal Bureau of Land Management to move the tortoises from nearly 100,000 acres in portions of the National Training Center to lands managed by the BLM. The environmental assessment is under BLM review and the proposed action is open for a 15-day public comment period.

BLM Announces Availability of Draft Environmental Assessment for Desert Tortoise Translocation (BLM News Release, 7/31/09)
As a result of the expansion of Fort Irwin by legislation (December, 2001), the National Training Center is converting approximately 24,000 acres known as the Southern Expansion Area and approximately 70,000 acres known as the Western Expansion Area into useable military training lands.  The Army is required to move (translocate) tortoises from these expansion areas before military training my take place on these lands.  The BLM is considering allowing the translocation of tortoises from the Army expansion areas to BLM managed lands to facilitate fulfillment of this requirement.   

Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area Subgroup Members Selected (BLM News Release, 7/31/09)
The California Desert Advisory Council (DAC) has selected members for the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA) subgroup.

"Current job openings - BLM California" (USAJOBS website)
Currently accepting applications for Recreation Assistant, Motor Vehicle Operator, Park Ranger, River Patrol, Archaeologist, Hydrologist, and more!

Unless otherwise noted, find more details online at:

Aug. 12 - Events to Celebrate Headwaters Anniversary

Aug. 28-29 - California Desert District Advisory Council Meeting


"New efforts needed for handle off-highway vehicles on public lands, GAO says" (Greenwire in New York Times, 7/31/09)
"With a lack of resources and staff leaving federal land managers unable to handle the increasing use of off-highway vehicles on public lands, the agencies must change their planning, communication and enforcement efforts, a government watchdog has found. Use of OHVs on public lands increased from 2004 through 2008, emerging as a national issue and bringing environmental, social and safety impacts, a new Government Accountability Office report says."
(Note: This news site may require free registration to view its content online.)

RELATED: "Enhanced planning could assist agencies in managing increased use of off-highway vehicles" (U.S. Government Accountability Office, June 2009)
Full report - PDF file, 60 pages:
Highlights page:

WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites
(d.) Release a foul-smelling musk, somewhat like a skunk

SOURCE: "Western terrestrial garter snake - Thamnophis elegans" (BLM California wildlife database)
Like other garter snakes, threatened western terrestrial garter snakes release a foul-smelling musk as a warning to the predator.

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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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