A publication of Bureau of Land Management in California

Issue 520 - 3/2/12

a lizard perched on a rock in an alert stance a drag racer kicks up a rooster tail of sand a group heads toward a lighthouse yellow wildflowers bloom in front of a group of people a rock outcropping looks like an old man's face


- America's Great Outdoors
- Get Outdoors tip of the week
- Not for educators only: Wildlife trivia question of the week
- Funny.bytes reprise
- Traditional energy
- Renewable energy
- Wildfires and prevention
- Headlines and highlights: Assorted topics from your public lands in California
- Selected upcoming events
- National and Department of the Interior items
This issue of News.bytes is online at:

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

a BLM ranger speaks with a young couple holding paper coffee cups"BLM invites climbers to free morning coffees" (News.bytes Extra)
The BLM’s Bishop Field Office invites climbers for a hot beverage, once a month at 8:30am. Rangers will be available to answer questions you might have on the Bishop area. Dates for the coffee talks will be posted a week ahead of time in the PV Pit campground. The BLM is attempting to cultivate a working relationship with the local climbing community to promote responsible use of public lands and hopefully, attract some new volunteers.

a drag racer kicks up a rooster tail of sandtwo Jeeps kick up sand as they start climbing up a dune"Hill climbs and sand drags at Dumont" (News.bytes Extra)
More than 15,000 people traveled to Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area over the President's Day Weekend -- the unofficial end of the riding season at Dumont. Among the visitors were members of the Las Vegas Jeep Club, who competed in hill climbs at Banshee Hill and sand drag races on flat terrain at its base.

RELATED: "Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area" (BLM Barstow Field Office)

a view from an uphill path toward a white lighthouse"Piedras Blancas lighthouse gets a facelift" (San Luis Obispo Tribune, 3/2/12)
A contractor recently finished "applying five specialized coats" to protect the lighthouse from salt air. The tower, "now sparkling white with sharply contrasting black trim" replaces "a dull beige, lead-base surface laced with rusty streaks." Volunteers put in "what’s estimated as more than 100,000 hours" toward restoration, and the site now has "a restored fuel oil house, a replica of the station’s shingled watch room" and "other repaired historic structures, such as employee housing and a strip of small offices, that now house the Piedras Blancas Light Station Association gift shop."

a group heads toward a lighthousea man in historical lightkeeper costume points out features on a sketch of a lighthouseRELATED: "Twilight tour marks Piedras Blancas 137th birthday; more tours on tap" (News.bytes Extra)
A twilight tour on Feb. 18 marked the 137th anniversary of the Piedras Blancas Light Station. The tour featured guides and assistants in 1909-era attire, historic enactments and sunset viewing. The twilight tour also celebrated completion of the first phase of lighthouse restoration -- removing the old, discolored lead-based paint. Public tours of the Piedras Blancas Light Station are offered Sept. 1 through June 14 on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10 a.m. From June 15 through August 31 tours are at 10 am Monday - Saturday.

yellow wildflowers bloom in front of a group of people"Wildflower lovers hope for a 'March miracle'" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 2/25/12)
"The drier-than-average winter has driven down the odds for an abundant wildflower season in the Coachella Valley, the kind when washes and empty desert are carpeted with yellows, purples and reds, cresting in March or April .... But the Feb. 15 rainstorm that dumped more than a quarter-inch on the valley has given wildflower season a new lease on life." Wildflower fans "are eagerly waiting to see what pops up in the next couple of weeks."

"Getting Out: Bird watching opens up the sky" (San Benito County Today, 2/28/12)
"I am not a birder, but only a barren soul is unmoved by exotic waterfowl in Serengeti-like numbers. On a recent Sunday, we joined friends on a visit to the Cosumnes River Preserve hoping to see them in big numbers and feel their powerful life force." With the help of a naturalist, "we were introduced to cinnamon teals, green-winged teals (wow), American widgeons, northern pintails and lots more lolling about in the slough. But beyond doubt, the real show was in the sky above. White-fronted geese, snow geese, and sandhill cranes crisscrossed the sky in a delightful honking chaos of comings and goings. But for me, the day’s most heart-stopping sight was watching a sandhill crane descend and land."

RELATED: "Cosumnes River Preserve" (BLM Mother Lode Field Office)

two boys hold trophies"The winners list" (News.bytes Extra)
Academy Award winners were not the only celebrities holding shiny gold statues during these past few days. It’s science fair season in California and students are sharing the gold! To showcase investigation, nature, and the outdoors, the BLM Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office presented Desert Studies Awards at the Palm Springs Unified School District Science Fair. Several staff from the BLM Palm Springs office served as judges. Of the 266 projects, one stood out. Fifth graders Kevin Gonzales and Victor Lindo’s project, What Is Under My Feet?

"New National Water Trails System to promote healthy, accessible rivers" (Department of the Interior, 2/29/12)
The National Water Trails System is a new network that will increase access to water-based outdoor recreation, encourage community stewardship of local waterways, and promote tourism that fuels local economies across America. The announcement came in advance of a White House Conference on Conservation, spotlighting community-driven conservation efforts as part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

"Newsmaker: A mission to protect the beauty that surrounds us" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 2/26/12)
Interview with John Purcell, who was appointed executive director of the Friends of the Desert Mountains earlier this month. (text and video)

RELATED: "Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument" (BLM Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office)
The Friends of the Desert Mountains provide financial and volunteer support for a variety of activities within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, including environmental education and interpretation, cultural preservation, scientific research, and community outreach.

"Salazar, Duncan partner to boost use of parks and public lands as 21st century education centers" (Department of the Interior, 2/27/12)
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a new agreement to create programs that use national parks, national wildlife refuges and other public lands as classrooms for 21st century education -- designed to benefit teachers, students and parents in rural America and urban classrooms alike. The agreement enables the departments to work together in new and more effective ways to connect young Americans to the outdoors, improve environmental literacy, support experiential learning outside the classroom, and form partnerships at the local level to learn from and conserve public lands.

two vintage cars partially buried front-first in the dirta rock outcropping looks like an old man's faceBLM Flickr photo set: The Trona Pinnacles
A selection of photos from one of the most unusual geologic wonders in the California Desert -- made even more unusual in some cases, when parts of the area were used as movie sets.

rock spires stick up out of the desertRELATED: "The Trona Pinnacles" (BLM Ridgecrest Field Office)
This unique landscape consists of more than 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) pinnacles rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. These tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, were formed underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake formed a link in an interconnected chain of Pleistocene lakes stretching from Mono Lake to Death Valley. The Trona Pinnacles were designated by the Department of the Interior as a National Natural Landmark in1968 to protect one of the nation's best examples of tufa formation.

4 plantsWhat do these plants have in common?
Medusahead, Klamathweed, Scotch thistle, and Perennial pepperweed.
See the answer on BLM California's homepage:


a lizard perched on a rock in an alert stance
Desert horned lizard

When a desert horned lizard senses danger, it often stays very still and tries to blend in with the ground. If noticed by a predator, it makes hissing sounds and tries to bite the enemy. This tactic…
(a.) …is not very effective against other types of lizards, who try the same thing, after all.
(b.) …is not very effective against snakes, who are hard of hearing.
(c.) …does not work on birds, who are their main predators.
(d.) …is very effective at attracting mates.
(e.) …is quite effective in the workplace, if one does not wish to be recruited for the office Social Committee.
See answer -- and more on wildlife -- near the end of this News.bytes.


"State loosens 'fracking' ban near Taft" (Bakersfield Californian, 2/24/12)
Steam fracking "injects steam underground at high pressure to break up the area's porous soil and release oil." Berry Petrolium Co. was banned "from steam fracking within 150 feet of any seeping wells at the prolific Midway-Sunset field" until it shows "that the steam does not cause oil and other fluids to seep to the surface." A state agency linked "steam fracking and seepage of oil field fluids" to the death of a Chevron employee when a sinkhole opened beneath him at the field. The agency and the EPA had called for "closer regulation of steam fracking at Midway-Sunset as a way of protecting future drinking water sources. Industry representatives call that overprotective, saying the underground water in that area is undrinkable."

"California's controversial oil drilling" (NBC Bay Area, 3/1/12)
"You've heard of fracking, the controversial practice of splitting rocks underground with high pressure water mixed with chemicals to release natural gas or oil. It's a technique that has raised serious concerns all over the country .... it's also going on right here in California .... Fracking is usually used to mine natural gas, but ... companies here in California are after .... oil." Two environmental groups have "filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar" over an oil and gas lease sale in Monterey and Fresno counties.

"How to Extract Gas Responsibly" (New York Times, 2/27/12)
OpEd columnist Joe Nocera: "Fracking isn’t going away. To put it another way, the technique of hydraulic fracturing, used to extract natural gas from once-impossible-to-get-at reservoirs like the Marcellus Shale that lies beneath New York and Pennsylvania, has more than proved its value. At this point, shale gas, as it’s called, makes up more than 30 percent of the country’s natural gas supply, up from 2 percent in 2001 — a figure that is sure to keep rising. Fracking’s enemies can stamp their feet all they want, but that gas is too important to leave it in the ground."

"Oil exploration along Rocky Mountain Front has residents curious and concerned" (Ravalli Republic, 3/1/12)
More than 200 people showed up at a meeting on impacts of new oil wells on their northern Montana county. Bureau of Land Management petroleum engineer Don Judice said fracking would be used, but, "it should be very different than fracking in the eastern United States" and take place "several thousand feet below the drinking water aquifers," making it very unlikely it could contaminate a drinking water supply. "There are one million fracking wells drilled in the U.S. And we haven’t had a problem yet," Judice said. An incident in Wyoming where contamination is suspected from fracking involves a 900-foot-deep well – much shallower than the projects proposed on the Rocky Mountain Front."

"Rock-Heating for Oil Pits Shell Against Environmentalists" (Bloomberg, 2/27/12)
Companies "are seeking to tap into as much as 4.29 trillion barrels of oil .. by heating rocks until petroleum sweats out. Much of it is on lands controlled by the federal government in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah." The BLM "this month proposed reducing access for research and development of oil shale in the region by three quarters." That prompted the House "to pass legislation that would require the agency to conduct at least five commercial lease sales in the oil-shale region by the end of 2015." A spokesman for one project says the industry needs that land for research and development, because it "still needs a lot of testing to reduce the environmental impact of the production."

"Chevron leaving Western Slope oil shale project" (Denver Business Journal, 2/28/12)
"Oil shale formations, and the thick, sludgy 'kerogen' they produce, are different from shale oil formations ... which produce crude oil. Supporters of oil shale have said the rock layers could be a significant supply of domestic crude oil — if the kerogen could be removed and heated. But many believe that research breakthroughs are years away."

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

"Search for artifacts begins on Genesis solar site" (Palm Springs Desert Sun, 2/29/12)
"To date, about 100 artifacts have been uncovered during regular grading, including two grinding stones called metates that some tribal officials say could be part of a sacred site" at the site of the 250-megawatt Genesis solar project, being built on public land east of the Coachella Valley. "The metates find had stopped all construction on a 200-acre area on the Genesis site since late November, while the controlled grading plan was developed by the BLM, California Energy Commission and NextEra. Some tribal groups providing input argued the site should be left alone and no further evaluation done."


"Fire Safe Council preps for dry season" (Kern Valley Sun, 2/29/12)
The Kern River Valley Fire Safe Council discussed fuel reduction projects, 42 of them "in various stages of completion." Plans include "a kid-friendly publication 'Ready, Set, Go'" that explains fire prevention techniques such as defensible space. The president of the council said that the council needs to get its fire-prevention message not just to residents, but to "weekenders and property owners who rent their properties" – and let them know of "the efforts the council, USFS, BLM and County Fire are expending for the safety of the people who live in the community and the preservation of the unique landscape surrounding the valley."

"BLM plans pile burning in Amador and Calaveras counties" (BLM California, 2/27/12)
BLM crews plan to start burning brush piles on March 13, as weather conditions allow. The piles are from thinning of the forest understory, to help protect homes in the area.

dried grass on a hillside"Another bad year seen for wildfires" (Arizona Daily Star, 3/2/12)
"Conditions that pushed fire through a million acres of Arizona grassland and forest last year could return this spring to Southern Arizona. The warnings are out, and some early fires have already proved difficult to manage."

"Take responsibility..." (California Fire Alliance)
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.

Funny.bytes logo includes a cartoon man laughingan evil-looking cartoon weedFUNNY.BYTES REPRISE: "War of the Weeds"
What are these alien invaders? Can they be defeated? We bring you this encore performance to help mark National Invasive Weeds Awareness Week - this week.

RELATED: "2012 National Invasive Species Awareness Week" --
February 26 - March 3, 2012: A week of activities, briefings, workshops and events focused on strategizing solutions to address invasive species prevention, detection, monitoring, control, and management issues at local, state, tribal, regional, national and international scales.


"Public invited to review BLM's OHV grant applications" (BLM California, 2/28/12)
The public is invited to comment on applications the BLM has submitted to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. The OHVMR grants and cooperative agreements program supports well-managed off-highway vehicle recreation in California by providing financial assistance. BLM's California Desert District field offices that have grant applications for public review are: Barstow, El Centro, Needles, Palm Springs-South Coast and Ridgecrest.

a volunteer looks at the remains of an old fish trap"Volunteers clean litter from archaeological site" (News.bytes Extra)
Members of the Coachella Valley Archaeological Society and the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians recently teamed up with the BLM Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office, to clean-up accumulated trash from an archaeological site near the famous Lake Cahuilla fish-traps site.

"WEMO Route Network Project subgroup meeting set" (BLM California, 2/27/12)
The BLM's California Desert Advisory Council West Mojave Route Network Project subgroup has set its first meeting for Tuesday, March 13, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Barstow. All subgroup meetings are open to the public.

"Cannabis destruction shocks lawmakers" (Arcata Eye, 3/1/12)
The watershed impacts of marijuana growing were described as being highly destructive at a state hearing and legislators have vowed to take action." Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture Hearing in Sacramento. Chairman Wes Chesbro said, "This not an anti-marijuana discussion – this is about how to protect the environment from the irresponsible growing of marijuana." One witness said that "he’s seen drastic impacts in the central valley from large-scale use of pesticides, fertilizer and water diversion" including on Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and national parks lands.

""County in Brief: Los Flores burro has new name" (Santa Maria Times, 2/26/12)
"Katherine Rosalee Sutterfield’s suggestion of Solomon was chosen as the winner in Santa Maria’s "Name That Burro Contest," which culminated Feb. 10. Solomon was one of two burros the Recreation and Parks Department adopted late last year from the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burro Program.The other burro was named Mojave by the benefactor who donated the money used to adopt the pair."

"Opposition forms against sending desert water to Orange County" (San Bernardino County Sentinel, 2/26/12)
"Belated opposition is hurriedly forming to a plan that would pump an average of 50,000 acre-feet of water per year out of the aquifer in San Bernardino County’s eastern Mojave Desert and convey it in a pipeline to Riverside, Orange and Los Angeles counties...." The Cadiz Valley Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project "is a modified version" of a plan "was ultimately rejected ... after conservationists raised concerns over possible environmental damage." The plan was "revived ... in modified form, emphasizing less the drawing of water from the Colorado River and instead proposing to obtain much of the water from sources feeding the area’s dry lakes that are subject to evaporation."

RELATED: "The Cadiz Valley Project" (Santa Margarita Water District)
The water district released the Draft Environmental Impact Report on Dec. 5, with a 70-day comment period through Feb. 13. "Although the initial comment period exceeded the minimal time requirements set forth under the CEQA process, SMWD has received requests to further extend the comment period. A Notice of Extension was issued by the District announcing a 30-day extension of the public comment period through March 14, 2012. A copy of the DEIR can be downloaded ...."

RELATED: "Complaint lodged against Cadiz project" (Needles Desert Star, 2/29/12)
A Needles woman "alleges the conduct of the Santa Margarita Water District is in violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act, better known as the open meeting law ... by holding a ruse California Environmental Quality Act hearing in Joshua Tree located outside of the district's jurisdiction" and a 300-mile round trip from "the east Mojave communities that will be most affected by the project."

aerial view of a blue lake surrounded by hills"Hundreds attend discussion on proposed Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area" (Lake County News, 2/26/12)
"Two United States congressmen, six panelists, representatives of wilderness organizations and nearly 200 community members packed the Highlands Senior Center in Clearlake last Thursday for an informative town hall meeting on the proposed Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area." Questions raised during the two-hour meeting included effects on the Walker Ridge Wind Project and on cattle grazing. "The Tuleyome organization is planning more informational meetings, including one in Napa in March."

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


BLM Arizona:

"Law Enforcement Patrol Yields Archaeological Find"
(BLM Arizona news, 2/21/12)
BLM Ranger Grady Cook was part of "a law enforcement surge against smuggling activities in the national monuments" in Arizona. He spotted "an interesting rockpile" along a "smuggling road." With a degree in anthropology and archaeology, Cook knew that it was more than a rockpile. "I knew it was something historic, most likely prehistoric," he said. Indeed, it turned out to be a site where an ancient group of people likely lived year-round and farmed, a site that had never before been recorded by archaeologists.

"BLM celebrates Arizona Archaeology Month" (BLM Arizona news, 2/28/12)
The BLM Colorado River District has scheduled tours of archaeological and historic sites in Parker and Kingman, Arizona, during the month of March.

BLM Nevada:

a sketch of a person in an apron"Exhibit displays art rubbings of Basque sheepherders"
(Reno Gazette-Journal, 2/24/12)
"Many of the Basque sheepherders who spent the summer months in the early 20th century in the Sierra Nevada used the aspen trees as their canvases. With a pocket knife or nail as their tool, the men who came to the West from the Pyrenees region between France and Spain would carve figures into the soft skin of the tree." The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management give tours groves where these aspen carvings can still be seen.

sketch of a dirt road leading to colorful hills"Beauty, solitude await in Gold Butte region" (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 2/26/12)
"The remote Gold Butte region of Clark County lies south of Mesquite between the Overton Arm of Lake Mead and the Arizona-Nevada border. Listed by the Bureau of Land Management as a scenic backcountry byway in 1989, a long, lonely road accesses unpopulated expanses of desert, mountains, canyons and eroded sandstone formations between the Virgin River and the remnants of the old mining town of Gold Butte."

"Nuclear energy group sues over uranium mining ban in Arizona" (Bloomberg Business Week, 2/28/12)
"The two organizations, representing mining and nuclear power companies ... asked a federal court in Arizona to reverse a U.S. Interior Department ban, announced Jan. 9, on new hard-rock mining claims on about 1 million acres of land" near the Grand Canyon.


March 3 - Coachella Valley Wildflower Festival 2012
Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center - Palm Desert

See website for dates - Public tours - Piedras Blancas Light Station

WILDLIFE TRIVIA answer and related websites
(c.) …does not work on birds, who are their main predators.

SOURCE: "Desert horned lizard - Phrynosoma platyrhinos" (BLM California wildlife database)

More wildlife news from your public lands (and elsewhere):

"Service identifies area to be assessed for potential northern spotted owl critical habitat, proposes broad exclusions, ecological forestry, and barred owl control" (Department of the Interior, 2/28/12)
In compliance with an order from a U.S. District Court, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a science-based critical habitat proposal for the northern spotted owl that begins a public review process to determine what forest lands should be designated as critical habitat in a final rule that will be published in November.

a weasel-like Pacific fisher climbs a tree to get bait from a white socksketch of a Pacific fisher"Sierra animal researcher deluged with sock donations" (Sacramento Bee, 2/27/12)
Researcher Rick Sweitzer "uses socks to hold chicken meat as bait" to lure Pacific fishers to an automated camera, "so biologists can record the travels of the elusive species." The week before Christmas, he issued a news release asking for socks, hoping to cut his budget, "since the project uses about 200 socks per month .... he has received 'well over 10,000' socks from all over North America, including Alaska and Canada" -- some with personal notes, a few "heartrending." He said, "Now people all over the country know what the Pacific fisher is and that there's an effort going on to understand more about them." He is "not actively seeking" more socks.

"California wolf trek shows importance of wilderness" (Los Angeles Times Greenspace, 2/28/12)
"The incredible ramble of California’s only wolf shows more than determination, as OR7 has trotted more than 1,000 miles to look for a mate and a new home. It also demonstrates the necessity of wilderness areas that serve as safe corridors for migrating wildlife .... Some national groups ... have mapped and proposed continent-wide corridor planning for years. However, corridors often remain somewhat abstract until a creature like OR7 comes along to show how they’re all strung together." A 2001 effort helped "identify and map large chunks of national forest, lands managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management and other habitat that would be best preserved as wilderness."

"California's lone wild wolf crosses back into Oregon" (Sacramento Bee, 3/2/12)
"The gray wolf known as OR7 crossed back into Oregon around noon Thursday, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has been monitoring its GPS collar along with the California Department of Fish and Game."
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