A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue 510 - 12/8/11

a burro takes a bite of a carrot held out to it firefighters fanned out across a burned slope a bighorn looks down from a rocky peak a worker takes a long step in a pond of orange water a desert woodrat on a rock


- Wild horses and burros
- Not for educators only: Wildlife trivia question of the week
- America's Great Outdoors
- Get Outdoors tip of the week
- Wildfires and prevention
- Abandoned mine hazards
- Renewable energy
- Headlines and highlights: Assorted topics from your public lands in California
- Selected upcoming events
- National and Department of the Interior items
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silhouettes of wild horse and of a burroWILD HORSES AND BURROS

"Weanlings, young mustangs and burros to be available for adoption in Redlands" (BLM news, 12/7/11)
This weekend: Six weanlings, four two-year-olds, five adult mustangs, and five burros from America’s rangelands decked in an array of seasonal color will be available for adoption at Sundance Ranch in Redlands, Calif. on Saturday, Dec. 10 through the BLM Adopt-A-Horse or Burro Program. The animals were gathered largely from the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area of northeastern California and northwestern Nevada, have been wormed and vaccinated, and are in excellent health. (None of the animals have been exposed to the EHV-1 virus.) A Friday preview runs from 1 to 5 p.m.

a burro takes a bite of a carrot held out to ittwo burros eat hay in a corral"City adopts pair from BLM program" (Santa Maria Times, 12/5/11)
The Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department recently adopted a pair of wild burros at the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Adoption to house at Los Flores Ranch Park -- "a good deal for both the city and the burros. The mild-mannered yearlings will join a pair of pygmy goats and two chickens at the ranch." Said the city recreation and parks director, "'The idea was to keep (the park) as much a ranch as possible' ....the animals are a nice attraction for Santa Maria-area 4-H and Future Farmers of America groups."

Wild horses and burros"
(BLM California website)
Wild horses and burros are managed in California in accordance with the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. This Act gave the Bureau of Land Management the responsibility to protect wild horses and burros, while ensuring their populations are managed to maintain or restore a thriving ecological balance.

"BLM review of Triple B wild horse gather finds overall safe practices, but cites incidents of aggressive handling" (BLM national news, 12/7/11)
After reviewing instances of alleged animal abuse during the recently completed Triple B wild horse gather in Nevada, a Bureau of Land Management team has found that the helicopter contractor generally demonstrated appropriate, humane handling of wild horses over the course of the six-week gather that ended August 31. The review team also cited specific incidents of inappropriate, aggressive practices. No single incident, however, generated a consensus among animal welfare experts that horses were treated inhumanely. The team’s seven-page report made 11 recommendations.


a desert woodrat on a rock
desert woodrat
Desert woodrats do not always live in the desert. But when they do, they must cope with cacti. Besides (e.), which of the following statements about woodrat-cacti relationships is false?
(a.) They avoid them – but often get caught in their spines where they are easy prey for predators.
(b.) They have learned how to crawl around on spiny cacti without getting pricked, and they often build their nests in the cactus plants.
(c.) They include spines from cactus plants in their nests, which helps protect them against predators.
(d.) They eat cacti during the drier seasons.
(e.) They tap cacti for agave syrup, which they attempt to sell at farmer’s markets. However, many people balk at purchasing sweeteners "harvested personally with these little rodent paws."

See answer -- and more wildlife stories -- near the end of this issue.

America's Great Outdoors logo features a family paddling a canoeAMERICA'S GREAT OUTDOORS

a bighorn looks down from a rocky peak"Outward Bound Adventures - Invasive fountain grass removal project" (News.bytes Extra)
A group of urban youth had the chance to work hard outdoors to benefit wildlife, during a project to remove invasive grass. The work event, sponsored by the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, will help allow the return of native forage for the endangered peninsular bighorn sheep.

water falls over a rocky area among hills"Huge property in Santa Cruz Mountains to be preserved" (San Jose Mercury News, 12/8/11)
Five conservation groups signed an agreement to buy 8,532 acres around the now-closed Davenport cement plant for $30 million. The 8-mile long property "stretches from the remote ridges of Bonny Doon almost to the Pacific Ocean" and includes "redwood and oak forests ... home to mountain lions, peregrine falcons and endangered coho salmon .... In 1998, working with money from the Packard Foundation, the Trust for Public Land in San Francisco bought the other huge property near the cement plant, the 7,000-acre Coast Dairies and Land Ranch" and transferred "six major beaches ... to state park ownership in 2006...." but several groups sued to block a land transfer of most of the inland area to the BLM.

"Salazar, Vilsack announce important step in establishing 21st Century Conservation Service Corps" (Department of the Interior news, 12/8/11)
The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture named members of an advisory committee to provide recommendations on how to build on the ongoing work of local, state, federal and non-profit youth conservation corps that engage young Americans in hands-on service and job training experiences on public lands and open spaces. 21CSC will empower young people -- including low-income, underserved and diverse youth and returning veterans -- with valuable training and work experience, while accomplishing important conservation and restoration work for America’s great outdoors, waterways and cultural heritage sites.

view across a field to a mountaina view out over a valley and surrounding hillsGET OUTDOORS TIP OF THE WEEK...
... go hunting at Coalinga Mineral Springs National Recreation Trail. There are excellent hunting opportunities for deer, quail, and wild pig which inhabit the varied terrain.  The area past the turn-off to Kreyenhagen Peak is a popular pig hunting area.


firefighters fanned out across a burned slopea power shovel removes brush"Tip Top helps save Big Oak Flat" (News.bytes Extra)
The BLM Mother Lode Field Office has used AmeriCorp crews, inmate crews, Forest Service personnel, personnel from other BLM offices, Midnight Sun Hotshots and volunteers the last three years to construct fuel breaks on public lands managed by the office. But last week, the 3-acre Ferndale Fire, started by a vehicle on Priest Grade on Highway 120, was fanned by high winds and headed for Big Oak Flat....

"Winds trigger rash of spot fires, outages" (Calaveras Enterprise, 12/6/11)
"Strong overnight winds kicked up six wildfires that burned through more than 400 acres in Calaveras and Tuolumne counties Thursday. Cal Fire Department Information Officer Daniel Berlant said the fires were caused by a combination of high winds and low humidity. 'The low humidity makes conditions drier, which allows the fire to spread faster,' Berlant said. 'In some areas the humidity has been in the teens, which is something we would often see in the summer months but rarely in December.' BLM firefighters were among those fighting the fires.

"Take responsibility..." (California Fire Alliance)
Create your own "fuel break" to protect your home -- create 100 feet of defensible space. In California, the number of homes and businesses is growing in the Wildland Urban Interface -- and fire is an increasing threat. Reduce your home's fire danger by taking responsibility today. Now is the time to start -- before next wildfire season.


a worker takes a long step in a pond of orange waterhistorical photo of a horse pulling a mining wagon with two men"Cleaning up California's Wild West: EPA takes on polluted mercury mine in San Benito ghost town" (San Jose Mercury News, 12/4/11)
"Every second of every day it flows: a river of poison gushing from the hillsides .... a bright orange toxic brew, nearly as corrosive as battery acid, teeming with mercury, aluminum, iron and nickel .... relentlessly pouring into nearby streams. For 120 years, the mining town of New Idria in … southern San Benito County was a colorful California outpost, a Wild West community frequented by prospectors and speculators, stagecoaches and famous bandits like Joaquin Murrieta ….In September, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared New Idria a Superfund site, placing it among the most polluted properties in the nation."

"Public meeting planned on draft alternatives for Chicago and Research abandoned mercury mines cleanup" (BLM news, 12/6/11)
The BLM will hold a public meeting on Dec. 13 for review and comment on the draft Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis for the Chicago and Research abandoned mercury mines, located near Middletown in Lake County. The EE/CA will identify the BLM’s preferred alternative for the response actions to be taken at the site. The meeting will give the public an opportunity to look at the problem of abandoned mercury mines and the alternatives available to reduce or eliminate those problems at these particular mines. Participants in the meeting will hear a presentation about the site and alternatives available for remediation. There will be opportunities to ask questions and provide written comments.

RELATED: "Abandoned mine lands" (BLM California)
The BLM estimates there are approximately 18,000 abandoned mines on public lands in California -- many of them from California’s historic gold rush. Dangers include both physical safety hazards such as open mine shafts and environmental hazards such as contaminated mine tailings.

Renewable energy graphics represent solar, wind and geothermal power, plus transmission linesRENEWABLE ENERGY

workers in reflective vests and hard hats stand amid a field of framework"Desert Sunlight solar project brings jobs while watching out for wildlife" ((Palm Springs Desert Sun, 12/4/11)
On public land about 50 miles east of Indio, the Desert Sunlight solar project "is in the first stages of construction schedule, with the first power expected to hit the grid by late 2013. More than 175 workers are now at the site -- from biological monitors who walk as far as 17 miles a day to ensure the project is environmentally responsible, to previously unemployed construction workers who were retrained at College of the Desert to work on large-scale solar plants .... As one of the first large-scale solar projects being built east of the Coachella Valley, Desert Sunlight has also become a symbol of the region's future as a potential center for renewable energy development -- and the jobs and economic growth that come with it."

RELATED: "Requests for closeup look at large-scale solar plants rebuffed" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 12/3/11)
"All I wanted to do was hang out with one of the biologists at one of the large-scale solar plants east of the Coachella Valley. After reading the descriptions of what they would be doing on the projects — being there every day to make sure no endangered plants or animals were harmed ... I thought it would make a great story. I also thought the solar companies would be eager to cooperate, to show the public how careful they were being as dozens of locally hired workers built mammoth clean, green power plants on public land, with millions of federal tax dollars in guaranteed loans. This has not been the case."

"Desert residents speak out about solar energy zones" (Imperial Valley Press, 12/8/11)
The Bureau of Land Management's 24 proposed solar energy zones were reduced to 17 after further study. "The solar energy zones are priority areas that have faster and easier permitting through a streamlined authorization process. The goal is to find areas where solar is a good fit." Residents spoke at a public meeting. "Many gave what they felt are alternatives to putting in utility-scale solar facilities in areas of the desert like the Imperial Valley" such as "millions of acres of abandoned, contaminated land that could be cleaned up and have solar put on it instead of destroying the desert."

"BrightSource adds energy storage to future power agreements" (Barstow Desert Dispatch, 12/4/11)
"BrightSource Energy Inc. -- which is currently constructing a 370 megawatt solar thermal project near the California-Nevada border -- has announced it has added the ability to store solar energy to three of its power purchase agreements with Southern California Edison. The three power purchase agreements do not include projects already in the works, such as Ivanpah at the California-Nevada border, but will include two future projects in Riverside and San Bernardino counties...."

"Renewable energy priority projects" (BLM California)
BLM-California is working to diversify the nation’s energy portfolio through the development of wind, solar, geothermal, and transmission siting on BLM-managed public lands within the state.  Many of these developments are reviewed and approved jointly with the State of California through a unique partnership among BLM, the California Energy Commission, and the California Public Utilities Commission.

"Buffett's company to spend $2 billion on solar-power facility" (San Jose Mercury News, 12/7/11)
"The agreement by investor Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Holdings to buy a $2 billion photovoltaic farm in San Luis Obispo County could bring a ray of financial sunshine to the battered solar-energy industry .... MidAmerican is buying the 550-megawatt, thin-film photovoltaic solar energy development called Topaz Solar Farm from First Solar of Tempe, Ariz. .... First Solar will build and operate the solar plant for MidAmerican." The project is in the northwest corner of the Carrizo Plain, not on BLM-managed land.

"SDG&E gets variance to work during start of eagle nesting season" (East County Magazine, 12/4/11)
"San Diego Gas & Electric has been granted a variance to continue flights within 4,000 feet of golden eagle nests through December 7 and, in the event of exceptional unforeseen circumstances, as late as December 15 for completion of Sunrise Powerlink work .... The Bureau of Land Management and California Public Utilities have approved a variance for BLM and private lands in the Barrett/Echo area. Additional variances are expected to be decided this week...." The Powerlink is intended to bring renewable energy from the Imperial Valley to the coast.


"Board debates federal public land surveillance" (Ukiah Daily Journal, 12/7/11)
The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors approved "a letter supporting "Congressman Mike Thompson's request to add a provision to the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2012 (H.R. 1892) to counter drug traffickers who use public lands. The supervisors generally agreed the effort was largely to combat illicit marijuana gardens on forest land." Two supervisors opposed the letter, with one "arguing for federal legalization of marijuana instead," and another "calling the proposed intelligence-gathering 'domestic spying'."

"Zombie water projects" (Forbes, 12/7/11)
OpEd: "Another effort to turn a public water resource into a private good is the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project (or the Cadiz groundwater mining project). This project is the brainchild of another private investment group and hopes to mine groundwater from an aquifer located in the eastern Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County. This project is unsustainable: it takes more groundwater out than nature recharges." An earlier version of the plan plan involved rights-of-way across BLM-managed public lands.

"BLM statement regarding taser incident in El Centro" (BLM news, 12/7/11)
Regarding the incident involving a BLM Law Enforcement Ranger deploying a taser in the El Centro Field Office on October 22, 2011.

“Elden Hughes dies at 80; longtime Sierra Club leader” (Los Angeles Times, 12/4/11)
“"Hughes was among a dozen environmentalists invited to the White House in 1994 when President Clinton signed the landmark California Desert Protection Act,” which Hughes had fought for. “At the center of his work was the Mojave Desert.  Hughes gave speeches at fundraisers in support of the Bureau of Land Management's ultimately successful effort to save the remote Union Pacific Railroad depot in Kelso, Calif., from demolition.”

RELATED: "Wilderness" (BLM California)
The California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-433) created 69 new BLM wilderness areas in and near the southern California desert region.

"Falling branch kills biologist" (Monterey County Herald, 12/3/10)
"Wildlife biologist Michael Tyner was killed by a falling branch in Big Sur on Wednesday after caring for one of the California condors he was dedicated to saving, colleagues said." He had "worked with the Bureau of Land Management, where he studied endangered plants in the Algodones Dunes of southeast California."

"Current job openings - BLM California"
(USAJOBS website)


Congressional testimony: "H.R. 976, Termination of Hydropower Reservations Relating to Specific BLM Patents in California"
(BLM National Office)

“Economists say public lands provide jobs, boost economy” (KSL TV Utah, 12/4/11)
"Public lands such as wilderness and national parks fuel the economy and are a job creator in the West, luring the best companies and most talented employees to enjoy the country's playgrounds. That assertion is the impetus behind a letter sent Wednesday to President Barack Obama and signed by more than 100 economists and academics in related fields, asking him to protect existing public lands."

"Bill aims to inform homeowners of mineral rights" (Associated Press in Fort Collins Coloradoan, 12/6/11)
A Colorado lawmaker says that "many people are unaware when they buy a home that any mineral rights on their property can be a 'severed estate' not attached to the house they just bought .... 'When we purchased our property, why wasn't there ever a disclosure that somebody may be knocking on our door and telling us -- not asking us, but telling us -- that they're going to put a rig on our property? And they're going to put that rig where they believe it needs to go?' .... property owners can find whether there's a severed mineral estate on their land through their county clerk and recorder or through the Bureau of Land Management if there is a federal interest."


Dec. 10 - First Piedras Blancas Twilight Tour - reservations required - at Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area

WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites
False answer: (a.) They avoid them – but often get caught in their spines where they are easy prey for predators.
Bonus points if you exclaimed upon reading answer (e.), “Hey, agave plants are not cacti!”

SOURCE: "Desert woodrat - Neotoma lepida" (BLM California wildlife database)

More wildlife stories from your public lands:

"Federal agencies announce initial step to incorporate greater sage-grouse conservation measures into land management plans" (BLM national news, 12/8/11)
The Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service announced the initial steps in a formal planning process to evaluate greater sage-grouse conservation measures in land use plans in 10 Western states (including northeastern California). The two public land management agencies are opening a 60-day public comment period.
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