A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue 511 - 12/16/11

a line of people installs fence posts sea starts in a pool a large tree with bare branches in a field a coiled snake with yellow and red colors and black strips a towering dust cloud bears down on a lighted city


- America's Great Outdoors
- Get Outdoors tip of the week
- Wild horses and burros
- Our readers write: What snake?
- Not for educators only: Wildlife trivia question of the week
- Renewable energy
- Marijuana hazards on public lands
- Headlines and highlights: Assorted topics from your public lands in California
- National and Department of the Interior items

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News.bytes will be on break for the next two weeks.  We look forward to a new year of keeping you informed with the latest news of your public lands in California.


America's Great Outdoors logo features a family paddling a canoea line of people installs fence posts"WildCorps helps protect Kingston Wilderness" (News.bytes Extra)
While visitors to the Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area were having fun and enjoying their time together over the past few weekends they may have noticed another group of individuals working along the old historic Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. The Student Conservation Association's WildCorps crew is helping the Barstow Field Office and the off-highway vehicle community by installing a post and cable fence where the open riding area comes in contact with the wilderness boundary.

a man steadies a pole in a holesticks with painted ends stick out of the ground"Lower Yuba River 'stick garden' intended to help salmon" (News.bytes Extra)
More than 1,000 cottonwood and willow cuttings were planted last month in a "stick garden" along the Lower Yuba River in an attempt to re-establish a riparian forest. More will be planted next year in the pilot
project on land managed by the BLM's Mother Lode Field Office. The project is designed to benefit salmon. Riparian vegetation is important to salmon, trout and other fish -- the vegetation provides shade, thus cooling the water.

sea starts in a poola man and a woman reach into a display with tidal life"BLM California Desert District Advisory Council tours Coastal National Monument on the Palos Verdes Peninsula" (News.bytes Extra)
On a sunny, breezy December Friday on the California coast, the BLM's California Desert District Advisory Council traded creosote bushes and roadrunners for starfish and seabirds. Beginning with a tour of the City of Los Angeles' Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, the day included a hike down the bluffs to the Abalone Cove, a visit to the interpretive overlook at Pelican Cove, and a tour of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes' Point Vicente Interpretive Center.

"Area maps" (Yuma Sun, 12/12/11)
"Whether you're a long-time resident or just here for a visit, here are some great areas to go exploring near Yuma." This page links to two PDF maps of areas in the southern California-Nevada border area. BLM-managed areas figure prominently in both maps: the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, old plank road and areas along the lower Colorado River managed by BLM Arizona.

RELATED: "Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area" (BLM El Centro Field Office)

RELATED: "Plank road"(BLM El Centro Field Office)

RELATED: "Recreation: water sports" (BLM Arizona)
Links to the BLM-managed areas of the Senator Wash recreation area.

a large tree with bare branches in a fielda stream through a field passes a large treeGET OUTDOORS TIP OF THE WEEK...
...visit Kanaka Valley -- 695 acres of diverse plant and animal habitat that provides a wildlife corridor linking federal and state public lands along the South Fork American River and protected lands of the Pine Hill Preserve. Kanaka Valley was brought into federal ownership in February 2010 through a cooperative acquisition process to preserve riparian, hardwood and oak woodland habitat as well as to help protect populations of federally listed plant species.


a horse stands silhouetted against a blue skytwo horses stand together"Wild horses a symbol of Western heritage" (Durango Herald, 12/10/11)
After a September wild horse roundup in Colorado, "12 mustangs were released,
among them five mares that received a primer injection of an anti-fertility vaccine called PZP, the first step toward sustainable herd management .... 25 horses were selected for later adoption in Cortez, and a dozen considered less adoptable were sent to the BLM short-silhouettes of wild horse and of a burroterm holding facility in Cañon City. As it turned out, all the horses – including the mustangs sent to the holding facility and four that weren't snapped up at the Cortez adoption – have been adopted or spoken for...."

“County to closely follow EA process on horses” (Elko Free Daily Press, 12/9/11)
"Elko County Commissioners voted to be a cooperating agency as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management considers changing a grazing-allotment use for wild horse activist Madeleine Pickens." She is asking the BLM to renew two grazing allotments, "but change the use from livestock to domestic horses." A county planning official said that "one of the concerns is that horses, which 'even if adopted are still wild' will damage springs in the allotment .... Pickens currently has the two allotments as part of her ranch properties near Wells, where she wants to establish an eco-sanctuary for wild horses."

"BLM: Mustangs mistreated but not inhumanely" (Associated Press in San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9/11)
Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey determined that "additional training is needed for the workers and contractors involved" in wild horse roundups, after an internal review of a roundup in Nevada. Abbey "said the roundup this summer near the Utah line was done correctly for the most part. But he said the review cited some incidents of inappropriate practices, including helicopters jeopardizing the health and safety of horses by following too closely or chasing small bands or individual animals for too long."


"Maybe you can help me. Recently I have been the lucky person to have a baby snake crawl into my home .... I live in Placer County, and the snake was mostly black with two twin red racing striped along its edges…..could this wonderful (actually scary) snake be the topic of a future animal trivia? I am curious to know the species and anything about it."
- L.E.

Peggy Cranston, wildlife biologist with the BLM's Mother Lode Field Office, answers:
I believe the snake you are describing may be a ringneck snake. They are small, so you may have had an adult. The reddish-orange on the sides extends to the belly. Underneath, they have a reddish-orange belly, especially towards the tail. There is also a reddish-orange ring on the neck. It is also possible that it was a young garter snake. There are several different garter snakes, all quite colorful. However, with a garter snake, there is often a center stripe down its length on top (usually white, beige). You can enter the common name and search to view several photos of various snakes, at:

Also see the next item:


a coiled snake shows red and yellow areas with black strips
ringneck snake
One method ringneck snakes use to subdue their prey is:
(a.) Injection
(b.) Projection
(c.) Convection
(d.) Rejection
(e.) Reviction
(f.)  Constriction
(g.) Malediction
See answer -- and more -- near the end of this issue of News.bytes.

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

"Solar tower project gets federal approval" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 12/15/11)
"An $850 million solar energy tower project slated for northeastern Riverside County has received federal approval for a 10-mile transmission line that would traverse public land. It was the final step in the federal and state approval process for SolarReserve LLC's 150-megawatt Rice Solar Energy Project...." The Bureau of Land Management approved the transmission line, which will deliver power to Pacific Gas & Electric.

RELATED: "Secretary Salazar approves transmission for solar thermal 'power tower' project in southern California" (BLM news, 12/8/11)
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar approved a transmission line, access road and substation on public lands that will connect a 150-megawatt solar energy project to the power grid in California.  The proposed project, Rice Solar Energy Project, will be built on private land in Riverside County and, when constructed, the facility is expected to power 68,000 homes, create up to 450 jobs, and generate more than $48 million in state and local tax revenue over the first 10 years of operation.

aerial view of a cleared area in the desert“Solar zones would focus development west of Blythe” (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 12/9/11)
"The Obama administration is winning support from some major environmental groups to create solar energy zones on public land in the West, with the goal of focusing the developments in areas deemed less valuable to wildlife, views and other resources." But "several desert residents" at a public meeting in Palm Desert said "that solar development in eastern Riverside County would permanently damage vast and sacred landscapes."

"Flyover follow-up: where to put solar" (Green Desert Blog, Palm Springs Desert Sun, 12/12/11)
"Many environmental groups have repeatedly criticized solar development on federal lands, saying smaller-scale projects -- rooftop solar, projects on previously disturbed or fallow agricultural lands -- are a better way to go .... The issue with rooftop solar is putting together financing packages to get it on the roofs and overcoming homeowners associations' aversion to it ... they don't like the way panels look .... Everyone likes the idea of solar, it seems, but conflicts over where to put it and how to pay for it, are ongoing roadblocks .... we need it all -- energy efficiency and both rooftop and large-scale solar, along with other renewables -- to meet the ever-shortening time line of climate change."

"Our Voice: Solar projects should be open for our inspection" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 12/8/11)
Editorial: "Great things are happening in the remote desert east of the Coachella Valley" with construction of "several massive solar power farms." While The Desert Sun is excited about the project as a major step toward the goal of generating one-third of California's electricity with renewable energy by 2020, we were sorely disappointed by the company's refusal to let a reporter and photographer tag along with biologists at the site .... This project has a $1.4 billion federal loan guarantee. The taxpayers deserve documentation of the important work of making sure these projects have a minimal impact on the sensitive species that inhabit the desert."

"Scientific literature review finds opportunities for more research on solar energy development and impacts to wildlife" (U.S. Geological Survey news release, 12/9/11)
"More peer-reviewed scientific studies of the effects on wildlife of large-scale solar energy developments and operations are needed to adequately assess their impact, especially in the desert Southwest," said a U.S. Geological Survey paper. The authors "found that out of all the scientific papers they examined, going back well before the 1980s, only one peer-reviewed study addressed the direct impacts of large-scale solar energy development and operations on any kind of wildlife."

“The real story on solar — growth, not Solyndra” (Green Desert Blog at Palm Springs Desert Sun, 12/14/11)
“The photovoltaic side of the industry ... had a record breaking third quarter …. What's driving the growth, besides the 40 percent plunge in panel prices this year and the growth of third-party leasing agreements, has been a key government incentive, called the 1603 program ... 1603 is set to expire at the end of the year, and renewable companies and trade associations across the country are lobbying Congress hard to extend it for at least another year."


"Pot plant seizures in county decline" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/8/11)
"Drug enforcement authorities seized fewer marijuana plants in San Diego County for the second year in a row, and found less growing on public lands .... Agents have been keeping pressure on the growers, with aerial surveillance and arrests that have prompted many other marijuana farmers to leave the county, said a top U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official .... Of the total plants seized this year, 133,604 were found on private property and 65,955 were on public lands held by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, officials said."

tv screen says "marijuana busts"a gun leans against a tree near a marijuana growRELATED: "Nearly 200,000 marijuana plants seized in San Diego County this year" (KFMB-TV San Diego, 12/8/11)
"More than 65,000 of the plants were seized from public lands, with the help of the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and tribal partners on reservations .... The team also seized more than $1.2 million in assets, including real estate, vehicles and cash, made more than 100 arrests and seized 71 weapons between January and November, down from previous years..."

agents cut marijuana plants"Drug cartels pushed from our forests"(Medford, Oregon Mail Tribune, 12/11/11)
"By this time in recent years, local police agencies already would have trudged miles into remote forestlands to jerk hundreds of thousands of marijuana plants linked to Mexican drug cartels out of the ground and burn them." The marijuana grows are "a danger to the public and an environmental catastrophe. Some cartel operations have been booby-trapped and guarded by armed sentinels. Police in Northern California have engaged in gun battles with suspects in large marijuana gardens." But "we saw a 93 percent reduction this year in cartel marijuana in southwest Oregon," said one sheriff. "So, mission accomplished? Not so fast...."

RELATED: "Drug cartels leave a scarred forest legacy" (Medford Mail Tribune, 12/13/11)
"Southern Oregon's forests carry the scars created by drug cartels that abuse them to make money in the lucrative marijuana market. An intense crackdown on Mexican drug cartel growing operations in Southern Oregon's hills appears to have pushed the cartels elsewhere, but they have left behind a legacy of environmental damage -- and, potentially, a threat to other forest users" including "environmental hazards marked by hills of trash, scattered fertilizer and pesticides and contaminated creeks that spill into fish-bearing streams."


"Greens challenge oil, gas leases" (Monterey County Herald, 12/15/11)
"Environmental groups are challenging the lease of nearly 2,400 acres of federal land in South County for oil and gas drilling in a new federal lawsuit. The Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in U.S. District Court in San Jose to prevent opening up what the groups say are 2,500 acres of environmentally sensitive land in Monterey and Fresno counties." Companies need to complete several steps before drilling could begin.

"The fight against fracking in California" (East Bay Express, 12/14/11)
Environmentalists say that a recent oil and gas lease auction by the Bureau of Land Management "has put more than 2,500 acres of California public land, mostly in Monterey County, at risk of being fracked -- an oil and gas extraction technique that environmentalists say is one of the dirtiest in the industry. But with hopes of stopping the fracking before it begins, two environmental groups are suing."

a Native American rubs sticks together to start a firea firefighter uses a torch to burn grass"Grass is burned to study Indian culture" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/12/11)
"A small prescribed burn at Pinnacles National Monument last week "loomed very large for the American Indian community in California." It was "part of a project by the National Park Service, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the Amah Mutsun tribal band to learn more about the traditional Indian uses of fire in Central California before European contact." Deergrass, woven into baskets by California tribes, "apparently required regular burning … that caused the plant to flower and grow straighter stocks, which make better baskets." The project received a grant from the Joint Fire Science Program of the Bureau of Land Management.

"Fees added at San Joaquin River Gorge"(Fresno Bee, 12/14/11)
"One of the best places to hike, mountain bike or ride horses in the foothills east of Fresno is no longer free. Starting Feb. 1, visitors to the San Joaquin River Gorge will pay $5 each, and there will be additional charges for camping and interpretive programs in what the Bureau of Land Management is a calling a 'modified fee plan.' Annual passes will be $25." In response to public comments, "the agency did reduce previously announced costs for annual passes and interpretive and educational programs."

"Environmental review on water storage plan released" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 12/6/11)
"The $225 million Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project would involve building 44 miles of pipeline to carry water in surplus years from the Colorado River Aqueduct to the company's property, which lies between the Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park. In dry years, water would be pumped from the aquifer underneath the 35,000 acres owned by Cadiz Inc. .... public comment meetings will be held Jan. 24 at 6 p.m. at Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County and on Feb. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Joshua Tree Community Center."

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


a huge dust cloud bears down on a lighted city"Quality of air? That's as murky as Western sky"
(New York Times, 12/10/11)
"The question of how clean the air is in the American West has never been an easy one to answer, strange to say. And now scientists say it is getting harder .... It is at least partly about dust, something that has been entwined with Western life for a long time, and now appears to be getting worse." One unclear indicator is an increase in asthma in dustier areas. A BLM-commissioned study of Nellis Dunes Recreation Area near Las Vegas "found dust samples with naturally occurring arsenic and palygorskite, a mineral similar to asbestos, which could under certain circumstances pose potential health risks."

a rocky area near hills"U.S. tar sands? Canadian company seeks to drill in Utah" (Popular Mechanics, 12/9/11)
Oil sand or tar sand is "a mixture of sand, clay, water, and a hydrocarbon called bitumen." Getting fuel from it takes steam, soda, water and "a hydrocarbon solvent called naphtha, which takes out the remaining minerals. Mining oil sands accounts for more than 31 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta; it requires 2 tons of sand and up to 10 barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil." As part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, "the U.S. Bureau of Land Management was required to begin a leasing program for tar sands and oil shale in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, where those resources are most abundant."

boats spray water on a blazing oil rig"Safety seemed to be an afterthought before the BP oil spill" (Los Angeles Times, 12/15/11)
"The petroleum industry and federal regulators focused more on exploration and production than safety in the years leading up to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill ... according to a new independent report by the National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council." The report, ordered by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, includes findings similar to earlier reports. "But it added new levels of detail and put the nation's top engineering peer group behind a call for redesigning a massive set of valves, rams and hydraulic devices once thought to be fail-safe: the blowout preventer that failed to stem the flow of more than 200 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico."

"Alton mine brings jobs and fear" (KSL TV Salt Lake City, Utah, 12/11/11)
"The conflict over a proposed expansion of Utah's only strip mining operation pits fears about an endless line of big trucks hauling dirty coal against the allure of new, desirable jobs and the ability to stay put where you grew up .... To lease the land, the Bureau of Land Management must complete an environmental study of potential impacts — from air and water quality to possible interference with national parks and disturbance of wildlife and habitat." Critics say the coal will be used mostly "to power California."

"BLM announces key appointments in Arizona, New Mexico" (BLM news, 12/12/11)
Raymond Suazo has been selected as the State Director in Arizona, where he will oversee nearly 500 employees and the management of more than 12 million surface and 17 million subsurface acres of BLM public lands in Arizona. Jesse Juen, Associate New Mexico State Director, has been named as State Director for the more than 13.4 million acres of public lands and 26 million acres of federal oil, natural gas, and minerals where about 855 employees work in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

"Hard times have Silicon Valley partnership considering unusual prospects"(San Jose Mercury News, 12/15/11)
Their financial prospects dimmed by the current economy, three Silicon Valley men are looking for investors in their plan to mine gold in the Arizona desert. "The claims that grant rights to mine are relatively cheap -- about $190 to the Bureau of Land Management for each of the 30 or so claims they hold -- but the mining machines are pricey." The article quotes a businessman who has succeeded in the gold prospecting field -- "California's Gold Country business is booming." He is selling equipment to prospectors.

WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites
(f.) Constriction

SOURCE: "Ringneck snake - Diadophis punctatus" (BLM California wildlife database)
Ringneck snakes feed on worms, slugs, snakes, lizards, frogs, and salamanders. These snakes use constriction as one method of killing their prey. (They wrap coils around the prey and exert pressure.)

"Distemper virus killing kit foxes" (Riverside Press-Enterprise, 12/15/11)
"A distemper outbreak has killed at least six kit foxes in and near" the 1,950-acre Genesis solar energy project about 23 miles west of Blythe. "Biologists were removing foxes from the construction area and have stopped the evictions to avoid spreading the disease...."

a wolf stands on a grassy areacoyote and wolf compared graphic"Will cry of the wolf return to California?" (Sacramento Bee, 12/11/11)
"A lone gray wolf in the prime of his life roams 730 miles to seek a mate and a new home, crossing nearly the entire state of Oregon in two months. He skirts small towns, crosses numerous highways, surmounts the Cascade mountain range and pauses just 30 miles from California. It sounds like the stuff of legend. But this journey is very real, and it holds huge implications for California. If the wolf, known to Oregon officials as OR7, resumes its southbound trek it will make history as the first wild wolf confirmed in California in nearly 90 years."

two sage grouse flap wings at each other"Interior Secretary Ken Salazar: Protecting sage grouse saves jobs"(Associated Press in Denver Post, 12/10/11)
"Wyoming's approach to conserving habitat for sage grouse can be adopted by other Western states that are home to the chicken-sized, ground-dwelling bird, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Friday at a meeting aimed at developing a regional strategy for protecting the birds .... Wyoming officials have been working for years to try to keep the sage grouse off the endangered or threatened list. Key to those efforts is the state's designation of core sage grouse habitat where restrictions are in place on disruptions, including energy development."
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