December 2007 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee


Published on

Published in: Sports, Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

December 2007 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee

  1. 1. December 15, 2007 News of the desert from Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee BY
 ANDERSON NATIONAL LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION SYSTEM Preserving The Best Of The Rest Of The American West In June 2000, Interior Secre t a ry Bruce website, pointed out current shortfalls and identified a series of actions that Congress and the public could take to improve the effectiveness of the system. Interviews with BLM managers Babbitt established the National Landscape revealed both dedication and enthusiasm for the System and frus- tration with current problems. C o n s e rvation System, placing a variety of Primary among the problems the study identified is a severe funding shortfall. According to the study, “The 2006 budget for c o n s e rvation lands and features managed by the NLCS of $46 million translates to approximately $1.70 per acre, compared to the roughly $5 per acre that goes to the the Bureau of Land Management into one National Wildlife Refuge System and roughly $19 per acre for the National Park Service.” Because of inadequate funding, many administrative system. This new approach to NLCS units do not have adequate law enforcement presence, and baseline inventories, which provide critically important managing western landscapes was the latest in information about the extent and condition of natural and cul- tural resources, remain unfinished. This and other management a series of steps to broaden the BLM’s mission needs assessments and necessary actions such as boundary sign- ing, exotic species control, prescribed burning and re-vegetation to include protection and preservation. cannot be completed. Some specific examples of the effects of the funding shortfall Today, 5 1/2 years since its inception, the National Landscape are as follows: Conservation System (NLCS) consists of more than 800 spec- • Of the eight NLCS National Monuments in the study sample, tacular landscapes and features encompassing tens of millions of none had inventoried more that 18 percent of the area for cul- acres throughout the western United States and Alaska. NLCS tural resources. Half had inventoried 6 percent or less of the units include Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas, National Monument. Monuments, National Conservation Areas (NCA’s), Wild and • Wilderness areas throughout the California desert are plagued Scenic Rivers, Historic Trails and other designations. While the by off-road vehicle intrusions which damage vegetation and NLCS is growing in recognition and acceptance, it faces signifi- protective soil crusts, subsequently causing erosion and dust cant obstacles that must be overcome if it is to have an enduring particulate pollution. Visible and lasting scars mar these other- legacy, joining the national parks and wildlife refuges as one of wise pristine landscapes. Off-road vehicle impacts continue to be America’s premiere conservation systems. an issue despite a successful six year grant-funded effort by Five years after its creation, The Wilderness Society conduct- Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to restore and rehabilitate ed an assessment of the NLCS. The study, available on their damaged areas. continued on page 12
  2. 2. BY 
 B R I N K NATIONAL LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION SYSTEM A BLM Employee’s PerspectiveI recently attended two functions, one held in Palm Springs and the other in Washington D.C., celebrating DESERT COMMITTEE MEETINGS our National Lands Conservation System (NLCS). These ceremonies symbolize how important NLCS We have four meetings a year, usually the second weekend in February,has become to the Bureau and our partners. It was wonderful to May, August, and November. The site for the February meeting will besee how the public, BLM employees, and members from Shoshone, CA. The May meeting will be at the Wind Wolves Preserve in theCongress could come together and celebrate a common dream southern San Joaquin Valley. We especially encourage local citizens in thefor managing public lands. When I first started working in BLM area to attend, as many of the items on the agenda include local issues.28 years ago few BLM employees would have predicted there Contact Tom Budlong at (310-476-1731),, to bewould be ceremonies like these, or that this agency would have a put on the invitation list.nationally recognized system of landscapes primarily managedfor conservation purposes. Now we not only have ceremonies, DESERT REPORT ONLINEbut both an NLCS Coalition and a bi-partisan CongressionalNLCS Caucus have been formed to help the Bureau promoteand manage our “crown jewel” landscapes. Other BLM employ-ees and I all remarked at the events that this is a “dream-come- Desert Report is published at three month intervals. This means, necessarily, that some topics are rather out of date by the time theytrue.” appear in the next printed issue. In an effort to be more timely, NLCS is not only a symbolic system, but it also puts a new several departments in Desert Report will be updated on-line between thefocus on BLM’s mission. Proof of this has been the creation of an regular printings. Both the “Outings” section and the “Current Issues” sec-NLCS Directorate and staff within BLM. Only fire and law tion are now updated between the regular printings. You are encouragedenforcement offices have equivalents in the BLM. to consult the Desert Report website to find recently added outings and to All the areas are withdrawn from future mining and any gen- find information on recently developing issues in desert conservation.eral lands laws incompatible with their long term protection. Another feature which appears in the on-line version of Desert ReportThe only exceptions are valid existing rights or when directed in is an index of articles and subjects published in past issues. This has beenlegislation. In addition, within each designated area the primacy created by Tom Budlong who is also keeping the index current. The Desertof conservation of natural and/or heritage values is permanent. Committee thanks Tom for undertaking this formidable task.Unlike most conservation systems, such as in the National The web address for the Desert Report is: System or National Park System, there is a wider rangeof uses generally allowed within the multiple-use context. Within DECEMBER 15, 2006 I N THIS ISSUEthe NLCS, the uses must be consistent with the conservationand/or heritage values. Finally, for nearly all the NLCS areas, itis BLM’s goal to manage them in partnership with the surround- NLCS: Preserving The Best Of The Rest Of The American West................ 1ing communities. Unlike the Park Service, we generally will not NLCS: A BLM Employee’s Perspective ...................................................... 2provide food, lodging, and visitor services. Instead, visitors will A New Future For The Whitewater Trout Farm.......................................... 3be encouraged to see the landscapes in the context of the historyand tradition of the areas - a “self-discovery”. Saving The Forgotten Colorado River........................................................ 4 By consolidating congressionally protected areas into one Ft. Mojave Tribe/PG&E/DTSC Historic Settlement Reached ...................... 6nationally recognized system NLCS promotes a more positive Current Issues .......................................................................................... 7identity for BLM both internally and externally. Moreimportantly, the NLCS concept re p resents the Bureau’s Uncertain Future For The Desert Cahuilla Prehistoric Area ...................... 8acknowledgement and encouragement of the role of conserva- Restoring The “Eternal Silence” To Grand Canyon ..................................10tion management within the agency. Both are important not only Dramatic Change For Ivanpah Valley ........................................................11for the continued long term future of Bureau but also for the continued on page 14 Outings ......................................................................................................16 { 2} DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007
  3. 3. BY 
 HAN EY A New Future For The Whitewater Trout FarmI n October, 2006, the Whitewater Trout Company was stant flow of fresh water out of the ponds at Whitewater, creat- acquired by The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC) and ing a riparian woodland at the base of cliffs before the flow re- became the Whitewater Preserve. The 291 acre prop- joined the main river channel. This woodland is important habi- erty was donated to TWC by Friends of the Desert tat for Desert Bighorn Sheep, Least Bell’s Vireo, and southwest-Mountains with help from Coachella Valley Mountains ern arroyo toad. This area is also habitat for endangered triple-Conservancy under terms of a conservation easement. Cleanup ribbed milkvetch and the Little San Bernardino Mountainsof the property is now underway, aiming toward a projected linanthus. Water flow through the property will be maintained,opening to the public in the Spring of 2007—with a new focus. although trout will no longer be hatched or raised. Water willFuture plans include a trailhead to access the Pacific Crest Trail, now be used to expand the wetland areas and expand key habitat.a public campground and picnic area, an interpretive center at The historic lodge building and several of the ponds will remainthe historic lodge, and children’s education programs. The fish as well, a legacy of the former hatchery.hatchery will no longer be one of the uses, but many of the ponds Whitewater Canyon drains the east slopes of Mount Sanwill remain. Gorgonio, the highest point in southern California. It functions Set back from Interstate 10 and the windmill farms that fill the as an important wildlife corridor for large mammals, birds, andSan Gorgonio Pass outside of Palm Springs, the preserve pro- plants moving between the San Gorgonio and San Jacintovides respite from the expanding cityscape below. Native Mountains. The Whitewater River provides a reliable, year-sycamores, cottonwoods, and willows surround ponds that once continued on page 9stocked the southernCalifornia area with brownand rainbow trout.Remnants of a fan palmwoodland, high cliffs thatare home to a herd of DesertBighorn Sheep, and a por-tion of the WhitewaterRiver which is a key watersupply for the CoachellaValley cities make this pieceof land a key addition in theunfolding conservation storyof Whitewater Canyon. The Whitewater TroutCompany opened for busi-ness in 1939, selling fishdirectly out of ponds on theproperty to visiting anglers,and raising trout to stock lakesand streams all over southernCalifornia. Through time,production increased andmore ponds were built tofeed the higher demand. A view up Whitewater Canyon. The high forested ridges of the San Bernardino Mountains stand inThis created a large, con- sharp contrast to the dry lower canyon DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007 { 3}
  4. 4. BY
 D EUT SCHE WILDLIFE, LAGOONS, RECREATION, AND PROBLEMS ON THE ARIZONA/CALIFORNIA BORDER Saving The Forgotten Colorado RiverS outh of Blythe and north of decades of neglect of the original waterways Yuma, the Colorado River by government agencies. Choked with silt, winds slowly through several invasive cattails, aquatic weeds, and salt wildlife refuges, past one or cedars, navigation on the Palo Ve rd etwo small river towns, between dusty brown Lagoon to the river is now impossible andhills, and beside vast agricultural lands. the slow moving water is contaminated.These are sleepy places visited by some off- Public Health notices, warning againstroad recreationists, boaters on the river, water contact, have caused recreational usemigrating birds, hunters, and a few who are to decline steadily over the past twentysimply curious. These places are home to years. Many small businesses in Palo Verdecoyotes, fishermen, farm workers, and have disappeared due to the loss of recre-retirees who came for a quiet beauty far ation visitors, thousands of acres of wildlifefrom the larger cities in California. Many of habitat have been allowed to degrade, andthe adjacent lands are protected public lands, but there remain local fishing areas are impassible.small places that have been lost or forgotten and which deserveto be saved. This is the story of two such places and attempts to Walters Camp worth protectionpreserve them. A second “forgotten” strip of land lies twenty miles south of The quiet little desert town of Palo Verde, California, in the Palo Verde near a river access known as Walters Camp. Nearlynortheastern corner of Imperial County, was originally settled on surrounded by protected lands-several federally designatedthe banks of an ancient tributary known as the Palo Verde wilderness areas and two national wildlife reserves-are sevenLagoon, a few miles from the Arizona state line. This eight-mile- square miles of private and open public lands impacted bylong waterway historically flowed through the town and provid- California’s growing population. The visual damage consists ofed access to the mainstream of the Colorado River for thousands dozens of undesignated and illegal off-road vehicle routes wind-of residents and annual visitors. The waterway attracts a variety ing through the tamarisk, creosote, willows, and up over the dryof wildlife, and 50 years ago it was a well-known recreation area hills behind the river. Vehicles bring trash that litter randomfor camping, boating, bird watching, hunting, and fishing. campsites nearby, with noise and dust from inconsiderate campers a predictable consequence. Even with these presentRe-routing the Palo Verde Lagoon problems, there is much left to save. Changes came in the 1960’s when the Palo Verde Irrigation Wildlife habitat, scenic beauty, and above all, cultural artifactsDistrict redirected the main flow of the Lagoon, completely characterize this stretch of the river. The riparian habitat isbypassing the town of Palo Verde. In addition to the bypass, a known to attract endangered species including the Southwesternnew canal was dredged to redirect the outflow of the Lagoon six Willow Flycatcher, Yuma Clapper Rail, and the threatenedmiles south of its original confluence with the river. In 1970 the Desert Tortoise. Three Fingers Lake, an area set aside for theBureau of Reclamation completed the nearby “Cibola Cut,” endangered fish species Razorback Sucker, lies within the Cibolawhich re-routed nine miles of the Colorado River into Arizona. NWR immediately north of the RV park at Walters Camp. TheThe original and new river channels, located in the Cibola cultural history of the area has been the subject of a number ofNational Wildlife Refuge, rejoin immediately south of the studies that have documented at least sixty Yuman sites, includ-remote camping and fishing area of Walters Camp. ing a 50-meter geoglyph of Kumat the creator and the 2,000- Although the dredging projects of the 1960’s helped reduceflood damage and riverbank erosion, a negative result has been Above: Palo Verde Lagoon - sleepy and lost { 4} DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007
  5. 5. year-old Xam Kwitcam sacred trail. The sacred trail is still used • Quechan Culture Committeeas a ceremonial custom along the west bank of the river above the • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servicefloodplain. • Yuma Audubon Society • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)CLEAR insists on complying with existing laws • Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) On October 25, 2006, a community-wide association knownas Citizens Legal Enforcement And Restoration (CLEAR) filed The BLM Yuma field office is currently preparing a Regionalthe first of two lawsuits in the 9th District Court in San Diego Management Plan for a much larger area of the lower Coloradodemanding that state and federal agencies comply with existing River, and the proposed ACEC is included in one of the alterna-laws and take corrective action. The suit alleges violations of the tives under consideration. Adoption of this alternative wouldFederal Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, and the Federal complete a 45-mile “River Corridor” of protected lands extend-Reclamation Act (43 U.S.C. § 383) in conjunction with the ing from Cibola Valley to Martinez Lake.California Fish and Game Code § 5937. Collectively theserequire: Desert Rivers should not be forgotteno Any agency that creates an obstruction to navigation on waters White egrets sit among the rows of agricultural fields, fisher-in the United States must obtain in advance authorization from men enjoy a conversation on bridges over the Lagoon, canoeseveral specific government officials travelers stop overnight at Walters Camp, and migratory birds flyo The Bureau of Reclamation may not interfere with the laws of the river corridor. Today these sights still exist. Their futureany State or Territory relating to the control, appropriation, use, depends upon public concern for their preservation and upon wise decisions by our land managers. The CLEAR Water Project is funded by donations and con- tributions from concerned citizens, business and organizations. Many small businesses in Palo Verde have See or contact either: Glenn Brown, disappeared due to the loss of recreation CLEAR Water Project,/PO Box 218, Palo Verde, CA 92266, or Ron Woods, Palo Verde Improvement Association (760-854-visitors, thousands of acres of wildlife habitat 3421). Administration of the open federal lands along the lower have been allowed to degrade, and local Colorado River is the responsibility of: Bureau of Land Management/ Yuma Field Office /2555 East Gila Ridge Road fishing areas are impassible. /Yuma, AZ 85365 / Attention: Rebecca Heick, Field Manager, Micki Bailey, Planning & Environmental Coordinator.or distribution of water used in irrigation, including the Gary Niles, local resident and president of the Tamarack LagoonCalifornia State Fish and Game codes which require that “the Corporation, can be reached at: of any dam shall allow sufficient water at all times to passthrough a dam, to keep in good condition any fish that may beplanted or exist below the dam.” The first suit asks for the restoration of navigation and waterquality in the original Colorado River channel, and the secondsuit will address the Palo Verde Lagoon to preserve these scenicnatural waterways for future generations and provide boating andfishing access for the general public.Tamarack Lagoon requests ACEC In a parallel action, the Tamarack Lagoon Corporation, anon-profit organization comprised of 10 local homeowners ded-icated to preserving the desert environment, has requested thatthe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) create an Area ofCritical Environmental Concern (ACEC) from the remainingunprotected lands adjacent to the river at Walters Camp. Such adesignation would permit the BLM to place restrictions of vari-ous kinds upon the uses of this land in order to protect wildlifehabitat, scenic resources, and archeological sites. This designa-tion does not prohibit entry to the area nor does it affect many ofthe recreational uses. The ACEC has received support from a wide range of organ-izations including:• California Department of Fish and Game ORV Damage near Walters Camp DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007 { 5}
  6. 6. Prepared
 R T N E Y 
 C O Y
 E Historic Settlement ReachedThe Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, Pacific Gas & rock alignment on the upper hillside. DTSC agreed to expedite the regulatory process to approve the removal of the treatment facility and to conduct environ-Electric, and the California Department of mental reviews based on environmental conditions existing prior to any construction.Toxic Substances Control announce historic The repatriation of 125 acres of land will assure more direct tribal stewardship of the sacred area and ensure that the tribe hassettlement ag reements to relocate wa t e r a seat at planning and management tables. Because the remedia- tion may take several decades, the parties must work together.treatment facility from sacred area. “These unique settlements may potentially impact how both theI State of California and California’s largest utility work with n November, 2006, the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe suit Indian Tribal Governments in regard to sacred areas in the against Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the California future,” stated Chairwoman McDowell. Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), and Courtney Ann Coyle, attorney for the Tribe, expressed pleas- the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California ure at the settlement. She commented that: “Precedent has been(MWD) was settled out of court. The Tribe had challenged the set that tribes have the right to ask for better corporate responsi-construction of a water treatment facility to purportedly prevent bility and sustainability practices, that it is not too much tounderground hexavalent chromium from reaching the Colorado demand sensitivity training for the corporations and agenciesRiver (see Desert Report Winter, 2004, and Summer, 2005.) Both working in sacred areas, and that an apology to tribes is not anPG&E and DTSC directed their public apologies to Mojave admission of weakness, but is sometimes a necessary step in theTribal Chairwoman Nora McDowell at a Sacramento press con- continued on page 18ference announcing the settlement. PG&E acknowledged that the water treatment plant facilitieswere located in an area sacred to the Tribe and desecrated thecultural and spiritual nature of the area. PG&E pledged torespect the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Tribe and plan itsfuture actions in a manner that would respect and accommodatethose beliefs as it continues to clean up the environmental condi-tions associated with historical plant operations. The DTSC in its apology to the Tribe issued regrets of thespiritual consequences that have occurred and now “recognizesthat it should have taken a more active role in these mattersregarding the cultural and spiritual beliefs of the Tribe.” Both PG&E and DTSC described the settlements as historicand a model for other companies and agencies in dealing withNative American sacred places. The settlement includes the removal of a water treatmentfacility located in an area sacred to the Mojave people known asthe Topock Maze. The property, sold by MWD to PG&E with-out cultural studies, will be repatriated to the Tribe. The TopockMaze is a landscape of earth drawings and archaeological sitesand is an integral part of the Tribe’s creation story and the portalthrough which their spirits journey at the end of life. The Mazehas been formally listed on the National Register of Historic Maureen Gorsen representing DTSC, Tom King representing PG&E, and Hon. Nora McDowell watching Traditional MojavePlaces since 1978. Its most prominent feature is the maze-like dancers and singers at State Capitol { 6} DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007
  7. 7. CURRENT ISSUESA Management Plan For county, and an appeal made in August, 2006, is waiting to be heard in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Riverside, CA. Meanwhile, the effort to facil-The Carrizo Plain itate a land trade continues, which proponents see as the only real option The Bureau of Land Management has committed to preparing a full for a win-win solution. The fate of a national icon hangs in the balance.Environmental Impact Statement for the management plan for the CarrizoPlain National Monument. To this end a series of public meetings (com- A Desert Non-Profitmonly known as scoping meetings) and a period for written comments will The Mojave Desert Land Trust was incorporated in 2005 with a missionallow input into the issues to be addressed in the plan. It is expected that to protect the Mojave Desert ecosystem and its scenic and culturalthis will be done in January, and federal law requires a minimum of 30 resources. The Trust recently completed a strategic plan to guide its oper-days in which the comments may be submitted. Issues which are likely to ations over the next 3 years. Their planning also includes the Californiabe contentious, and therefore worthy of comment, include (1) manage- Desert Conservation Vision. This report, and the area thematic maps forment of grazing, (2) determination of roads to be open and closed, (3) poli- natural resources, cultural resources, community buffers, and passivecies regulating hunting and shooting, (4) need (or lack thereof) for fences, recreation lands, is available at preservation of wilderness characteristics in several areas, and (6) poli- Currently the Trust is raising funds to purchase 639 critical acres-Nolinacies regarding fire management. The proclamation which created the Peak-adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park. The Keep It Wild campaignmonument specifies that management shall be done for the benefit of has until May 11 to raise $972,000. When this section is purchased andnative species, and all the issues mentioned above are to be treated in given to the Park, a section of BLM land on its northern boundary can thenlight of this mandate. Public input on all these matters is solicited and will be transferred to the Park-a 2-for-1 deal. Donations are urgently essential. Contact information is available on the web site.Waste Treatment Plant River Or A Road?For The Mojave Furnace Creek is a rare desert stream draining the eastern slope of one The desert west of the Mojave National Preserve is being threatened by of America’s largest desert mountain ranges. This fragile green thread isan open-air sewage sludge co-composting facility. This facility will be one of a limited number of desert streams binding together the unique tap-located west of Barstow, California. This area is now a beautiful untouched estry of our desert. While Furnace Creek was protected from damagingdesert landscape, is identified as Class 1 Desert Tortoise habitat, and is 8 off-road vehicle use in 2004 through an emergency vehicle closure, themiles from a migratory bird sanctuary. Ridgecrest Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management is now propos- If approved this will be one of the largest such facilities in the west. The ing to amend the California Desert Conservation Plan to enable new roadcompany, Nursery Products LLC (NPLLC), has been forced out of its last construction throughtwo locations for using bad practices, accepting illegal waste, and violat- Furnace safety and permit procedures. In addition to immedi- NPLLC plans to transport 400,000 tons of wastewater sludge 200+ ate damage to thismiles by 200 trucks a day, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. The sludge will desert oasis, the roadbe mixed with green waste and spread on the desert floor. It will be sifted, and parking lot con-stirred, and turned at 160° for 60 days. The “finished product” can be struction planned bystored on site for 720 days. Dust from this process has been shown to the BLM will set a terri-“reactivate” when it hits water and start growing e-coli and fecal cholo- ble precedent byforms. The wind in this location averages 10.9 MPH and will blow the dust impacting the Congres-eastward throughout the desert. s i o n a l l y - d e s i g n at e d The County of San Bernardino is pushing this through over the objec- White Mountains Wild-tions from environmentalists, local communities and other State agencies. erness Study Area.Get information, maps and reports on how to help at Why would our public lands agencies proposeIn The Shadow Of to build a new road through a restoredMt. Whitney desert stream that they In 2002 a Los Angeles area developer purchased 74 acres at the base acknowledge will washof Mt. Whitney with the intent of subdividing and selling it as 2.5 acre lots. out time again, and,Local citizens protested, submitting hundreds of letters and signatures in according to their ownresponse to the project EIR, and joined together to form a non-profit organ- estimates, was used byization to oppose the project. Ignoring these opinions, the local govern- The once and future furnace creek less than a dozen peo-ment unanimously approved the project. The developer subsequently ple a year? A goodturned down land swap options and began improvements on the site. question, especially given the exploding problems of unmanageable off- The fight moved to the courts last September when SRVA (Save Round road recreation already occurring across our public desert lands — aValley Alliance) Advocates for Smart Growth sued Inyo County under the question we shouldn’t hesitate to ask.California Environmental Quality Act. The judge sided in favor of the DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007 { 7}
  8. 8. BY 
 WEI NE R Uncertain Future For The Desert Cahuilla Prehistoric AreaT he Desert Cahuilla Prehistoric habitat for the endangered Peninsular Area has a wild and unearth- Bighorn Sheep. ly desert beauty and is the Late in 2005, it became known that ancestral home and hunting the Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreationgrounds of a group of Native Americans Division (OHMVRD) of state parks wascalled the Desert Cahuilla. Ancient cere- i n t e rested in acquiring the pro p e rty formonial sites, sleeping circles, dance circles, expansion of the Ocotillo Wells SVRA.rock alignments, geoglyphs, ancient trails, Their interest in becoming partners infish traps built during the time when Lake acquiring and managing the area for someCahuilla occupied the Salton Basin, and level of off road vehicle use was expressed toother unique evidence of prehistoric occu- Ruth Coleman, the Director of Californiapation and ceremonial usage are scattered State Parks.throughout the region. Off road vehicles have trespassed illegally on both public and Beginning in 2003, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) began private lands of the Desert Cahuilla area for many years, includ-working with the Native American Land Conservancy, the Anza ing organized annual four-wheel drive events with neitherBorrego Foundation, the Desert Protective Council (DPC) and permission nor permits from any landowner or state agency. ForState Parks to identify priority properties for acquisition in the decades, this unauthorized motorized use has taken place withoutDesert Cahuilla Prehistoric Area, which includes approximately oversight or management of any sort. Soils, sandstone forma-15,000 acres of culturally and biologically significant land in tions, plants, and cultural sites have been damaged. Palm oasesImperial County immediately north of highway S22 and west of have been driven over and degraded. State park resource man-Highway 86. Anza Borrego Desert State Park forms the western agers have agreed that the lands could recover and to some extentboundary of this area, the Torres Martinez Reservation is on be restored if given a rest from vehicular activity. If these parcels the north, and to the south lies the 87,000-acre Ocotillo Wells were donated to Anza Borrego State Park to manage, parkState Vehicular Recreation Area (OWSVRA), California’s managers could maintain roadways for travel by highway legallargest SVRA. vehicles in appropriate areas, as they do throughout the rest of The intent of the partners from the beginning was to eventu- the purchase and convey the entire 15,000 acres to Anza Borrego Early in 2006, a coalition of a dozen or so conservation groupsDesert State Park for protection of these unique natural and cul- signed on to a letter to Coleman urging her to approve the pur-tural resources. The partners on the project immediately began chase and donation of this land to Anza Borrego Desert Stateto seek and raise the $1.35 million dollar acquisition price. Park, rather than to co-management with the VehicularCongressman Bob Filner was instrumental in securing $680,000 Recreation Area because of the uniqueness and sensitivity of thein federal highway funds for acquisition of some 4,000 acres of cultural resources, the existence of Peninsular Bighorn Sheepthese lands for Anza Borrego State Park. The Desert Protective designated critical habitat, the presence of a number of sensitiveCouncil pledged $300,000 toward the purchase. plant species, and because the location of these lands made it a natural addition to Anza Borrego.Protecting rare and endangered species The region is a land of scenic canyons and huge desert Lack of resources to manage additional landswashes, bizarre sandstone concretions, colorful painted sand- In a Febru a ry meeting of interested parties, Colemanstone hills, Pleistocene fossils, ancient Palo Verde trees, and sev- explained that an independent source of money for future man-eral rare palm oases. The area provides habitat for several rareand sensitive plant species and contains federally designated Above: Washes and Sandstone in the Desert Cahuilla Area { 8} DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007
  9. 9. Whitewater Trout Farm continued from page 3 round water source for larger animals, migrating birds, and habi- tat for an incredibly diverse and abundant collection of reptiles and amphibians. This array of animals is complemented by an equally impressive plant community. Dense green cottonwood forests dot the wide sandy canyon bottom, providing a remark- able contrast to the dry tan of surrounding hills, which support only the most drought resistant plants. Fan palm oases hide deep in the side canyons along the river, visible only in brief glimpses. Towering cliffs at the preserve itself are reminiscent of the sand- stone canyons of Arizona and New Mexico. Their pocked faces provide habitat for bats and nesting raptors, as well as small mammals which are nimble enough to scurry across steep faces. Positioned at the end of Whitewater Canyon Road, the pre- serve will be an important public access point to the San Gorgonio Wilderness and the Pacific Crest Trail. Visitor pro- grams will be designed with an emphasis on leave-no-trace wilderness ethics, the importance of desert watersheds to sur-Prehistoric Sleeping Circles rounding urban centers, and the complex ecology of desert com- munities. Visitors to the preserve will be encouraged to sit by the ponds and view cliff-faces above, walk though a lush wetlandagement of these additional lands must be available up front in area, or hike up canyon to sweeping views of forested ridgesorder for the acquisition to move forward with the State Public beyond. This place presents a great opportunity for people toWorks Board. California State Parks are suffering from budget become familiar with the desert, to enjoy its landscapes, anddeficiencies and backlogs of incomplete maintenance projects. understand the importance of leaving it intact.Anza Borrego Desert State Park does not have the funding avail- The preserve joins the collection of other properties thatable for management of this new area. The OHMVRD does TWC manages in the area, including lands upstream on thehave money for management in a trust fund, which comes from Whitewater River, Mission Creek, Little and Big Morongoa percentage of gasoline taxes on all vehicles in the state and from Canyons, and Pipes Canyon.the registration of off road vehicles. Time was ticking on the July 8th expiration date of TPL’s Frazier Haney, who grew up near Joshua Tree National Park, is theoption on the land, and the partners decided that the priority was manager of the new Whitewater get this land into state parks hands and use the public landmanagement processes and California environmental law toarrive at appropriate land use decisions for the area. The Desert Protective Council decided to pull their fundingbecause management of the Desert Cahuilla Area for ORV usewas not compatible with the DPC’s mission to preserve thenatural and cultural resources of this area for future generations,nor did they believe off road vehicle use in this area wascompatible with the stated purpose of the federal funds whichhad been obtained. After a number of attempts to obtain funds from othersources, the acquisition was finalized on September 27, 2006,using the federal funds and $670,000 from the Off-HighwayTrust Fund. Additionally, the Trust for Public Land willcontribute $50,000 to the Native American Land Conservancyto facilitate tribal involvement in the management ofcultural resources.Controversy not over Having signatures on paper finalizing the acquisition for StateParks has by no means ended the controversy over this area. TheOHV Division, with Coleman’s approval, is planning to keep theDesert Cahuilla area open to motorized vehicle use in the inter-im period before the environmental review process has been One of many small ponds fed by the flow of water through continued on page 15 the preserve DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007 { 9}
  10. 10. B Y 
 D E N N I S 
 B R O W
 E THREE-DECADE BATTLE COMING TO A HEAD? Restoring The “Eternal Silence” To Grand Canyon“O ne feature of this ever-varying spectacle never changes-its eternal silence….there is always that same silence, a silence that keeps its secret.” Novelist Zane Grey penned those words in aGrand Canyon guest book a hundred years ago. Today, silence is FAA agree that natural quiet means no aircraft are audible. However, the park service defines substantial restoration to mean that half the park can have unlimited noise while the other half is allowed up to three hours of noise per day. Astonishingly, the agencies’ research shows that even that weak goal has notthe hardest thing to find at the Canyon-and in many of our other been met, despite decades of analysis, proposals, regulations, andwildlands-thanks to pervasive aircraft noise. On a busy day, litigation.nearly a thousand tourist planes and helicopters fly over the There has been progress. Air tours now follow prescribedCanyon, with an even greater number of commercial jets. The air routes, and pilots agree that’s a good thing. Tours are concen-traffic is so heavy you can often hear two or three machines at trated in the east end-the scenic heart of the park-and in the westonce, echoing off the cliffs. Last August I watched from a remote end. For the two east end routes, known as the Dragon and Zuni,spot on the north rim as helicopters roared by every 50 seconds, there is a cap on the annual number of flights, and a curfewmany of them barely clearing the treetops before diving steeply limits tours to 8 AM to 6 PM May through September, and 9 AMinto the chasm. to 5 PM the rest of the year. Still, the area around the Dragon Air tours are the most expensive way to view the Canyon, and suffers nearly continuous noise on a busy summer day.many people regard them as elitist joyrides with no business in a There are no limits in the west end, which boasts the Canyon’snational park. But they’re big business. The popular Dragon deepest gorge and caters to the booming Las Vegas tourist trade.Loop tours charge up to $155 per person for just fourteen min- The Hualapai Tribe has developed an airport and attractions onutes over the Canyon. Their sound carries so far that each flight the south rim, with helicopters that dropspreads noise over several hundred square miles. Aircraft are also tourists 4,000 feet to the Colorado River. Thethe most dangerous way to see the Canyon, thanks to rugged Canyon north of the river is national park, buttopography, tricky weather, and hot-dogging pilots. Some 63 south of the river four-fifths of its 280-milefatal crashes have killed 375 people over the years-far more length is owned or controlled by the Hualapai,deaths than from all other mishaps combined. continued on page 15 Aircraft became a problem in the late 1960s when jet travelmushroomed and an airport was carved out of Kaibab NationalForest, just outside the park entrance. By 1971, an acoustic studyconcluded that “ubiquitousa i rcraft noise is clearlydegrading the Canyon expe-rience for most people.” In 1987, Congress passedthe landmark NationalParks Overflights Act. AtGrand Canyon, that lawprohibits aircraft “below therim” and requires “flightfree zones” that “provide forsubstantial restoration ofthe natural quiet and experi-ence of the park.” TheNational Park Service and Lighter shading indicates the areas most heavily impacted by sound from Grand Canyon tours { 10 } DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007
  11. 11. BY
 DEMEO MAJOR COMMERCIAL AIRPORT PROPOSAL Dramatic Change For Ivanpah ValleyA major commercial airport Lake, and to the Desert Tortoise relocation is being proposed to relieve area near the state border. future air traffic at The EIS consultant, Vanasse Hangen McCarran International B rustlin (VHB) of Watertown,Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clark Massachusetts, was hired at a cost of $14.2County Department of Aviation’s preferred million to oversee the process and hirefacility is situated on a 17,000-acre dry subcontractors. They are now in the scopinglakebed in the Ivanpah Valley, east of I-15, phase and are addressing the publicbetween Jean, Nevada, and the California comments that were submitted by theb o rd e r, and 6-10 miles from Mojave November 6, 2006, deadline. The leadNational Preserve. agencies for the EIS are the Bureau of During a recent visit to Nipton, a dry Land Management and the Federaland tiny intersection in the Ivanpah Valley, a storekeeper in this Aviation Administration.village said, “I lived near McCarran Airport forty years ago. After The Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport EIS is availablea few years I could tell from the sound what kind of plane was at: www. s n v a i r p o For further information on theoverhead, how high it was, and whether it was taking off or efforts that the National Parks Conservation Association islanding. It was horrible, so I came out here. We don’t want it.” making on behalf of the Preserve and other affected national parkIndeed, well over a million visitors come to the Mojave National units, please email Deborah DeMeo at for the quiet desert experience that this person hadsought - but now this may be lost. Deborah DeMeo is California Desert Field Representative for the This airport and ensuing incompatible growth threaten to National Parks Conservation Associationdiminish two of Mojave’s most treasured ambient values-itspiercing quiet and its dark night sky. Even though the IvanpahAirport project requires the development of an airspace manage-ment plan that avoids Mojave National Preserve, jumbo jetsclimbing towards and turning at the boundary of the Preservewill impact Mojave’s natural soundscape. The New YorkMountains immediately to the west could absorb the aircraftnoise in a bowl like in an amphitheater. Additional growth that this airport will fuel in the Nevadaborder towns of Jean and Primm will increase traffic and conges-tion and potentially blot out that rare experience of viewing theMilky Way, which is invisible to urbanites. Initial plans call for a 14-gate terminal with two parallel runways for concurrent takeoff and landings. The airport, sched-uled to open by 2017, will initially serve 6 million passengers ayear, and ramp-up to 35 million passengers once it reaches build-out. The Southern Nevada Supplemental Airport EnvironmentalImpact Statement (EIS) was initiated at the end of 2005, and itrecognizes the possibility of several airport site alternatives. The Ivanpah Dry Lake. A quiet desert playa now, but the future is uncertain. Top: Clark Mountain. Bighorn sheep habitat nearEIS will also explore impacts to wildlife such as the Big Horn the flight pattern for the proposed Ivanpah AirportSheep on Clark Mountain, a Penstemon cultivar on Roach Dry DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007 { 11 }
  12. 12. Preserving The Best Of The Rest Of The American Westcontinued from page 1 In June 2005, in response to the threats to NLCS cultural and fer of lands slated for protection to other agencies was consistentnatural resources, the National Trust for Historic Preservation with historic practice. Then, in 1996, in a precedent settingnamed the entire National Landscape Conservation System, one action, the newly created 1.9 million acre Grand Staircase-of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. Escalante became the first National Monument retained by The BLM is completing resource management plans for each the BLM.of its Monuments and NCA’s. The plans determine how the unitwill be managed for the next ten to twenty years, including the Advocating for the NLCSacceptable range of uses. In a number of plans, the BLM has pro- In 2002 a diverse group of state, local and national organiza-posed management prescriptions for uses such as off-road vehi- tions ranging from the American Society of Landscapecle use and grazing which conservation organizations and other Architects, to Trout Unlimited, and Great Old Broads forgroups argue is in direct conflict with protection and preserva- Wilderness united to advocate for the NLCS seeking greatertion mandates. In short, the BLM is struggling to define and support and permanency for the system. Each year an outreachembrace its new mandate. week is held in Washington D.C. Activists from Alaska and Another issue is budget transparency and accountability. TheBLM budgets according to “activities” such grazing manage-ment, recreation, or law enforcement rather than according to NLCS IN CALIFORNIA AND NEVA D Aplace, such as for a National Monument. Consequently it is dif-ficult to tell the real extent of resources dedicated to the NLCSand to hold managers accountable for how resources are spent. California AcresThe Evolution of Conservation in the BLM Carrizo Plain National Monument .........................250,000 Historically, the BLM was charged with managing the activi- Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountainsties on the ‘remaining’ public lands, those not privatized or set National Monument...............................................272,000aside as national parks, wildlife refuges, and forests in the 19thand early 20th centuries. Initially, activities on these lands cen- California Coastal National Monument ........................883tered on mining, oil and gas leasing, grazing, timber harvesting, King Range National Conservation Area .................57,000and disposal. Early legislation affecting these lands was aimed at California Desert Conservation Area (NCA) ......10,600,000*either disposing of land (e.g., the Homestead Act) or sustaining Headwaters Forest Preserve (NCA)...........................7,400the yield of renewable resources such as forests and waterresources. The primary focus was utilization or conservation, not Wilderness Areas - 76........................................3,578,000preservation. Wilderness Study Areas - 77.................................975,000 Some of the lands retained by BLM possessed the same qual- *Acres managed by BLMities as parks and refuges. Matching a shift in public opiniontoward greater public land protection which led to the passage ofthe Wilderness Act in 1964, BLM lands began to be examined forresources needing protection. A signature event marking the Nevada Acresexpansion of BLM’s role as a land management agency occurredin 1970 when Congress designated King Range National Black Rock Desert High Rock CanyonConservation Area. Emigrant Trails NCA .............................................799,165 In 1976 Congress passed the Federal Land Policy Red Rock Canyon NCA .........................................195,819Management Act (FLPMA), giving BLM a unified mandate. The Sloan Canyon NCA .................................................48,438legislation included the term ‘multiple use’ management, explic-itly recognizing non-extractive uses such as wilderness. For the Wilderness Areas - 38........................................1,759,000first time, conservation of resources for future generations was Wilderness Study Areas - 70..............................2,878,000codified as part of BLM’s mission. FLMPA created the CaliforniaDesert Conservation Area, added to the King Range NCA and In addition, California has six NLCS Wild and Scenic Rivers, several Nationalexpanded BLM’s role to include wilderness. Historic Trails including portions of the Juan Bautista de Anza, Pony Express and BLM’s conservation role increased dramatically in 1994 with California trails, and The Pacific Crest Trail. Nevada has NLCS historic trailsthe designation of almost 3.5 million acres of wilderness in including portions of the California and Pony Express trails.California’s deserts with passage of the California Desert Note: the chart does not include the Northern California Coastal Wild HeritageProtection Act (CDPA). However, over the objections of many Wilderness Act (H.R. 233/S.128) signed into law in October 2006. This measurewithin BLM, the CDPA also transferred lands to the National would designate an estimated 300,000 acres of forest Wilderness and 21 milesPark Service, creating the Mojave National Preserve and expand- of Wild and Scenic River in California’s Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Lake,ing the size of Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks and Napa counties. Over 121,000 acres of BLM Wilderness were included in(prior to the passage of the CDPA both areas were National H.R. 233; the measure would also expand the existing King Range NationalMonuments managed by the National Park Service). This trans- Conservation Area. { 12 } DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007
  13. 13. throughout the west converge on the U.S.Capitol, meeting with members ofCongress, Congressional committees, andthe BLM, to discuss issues facing the NLCSand encouraging them to lend their supportto the System. The coalition has also worked with mem-bers of the House and the Senate to circulatea letter to the Secretary of Interior urgingprioritization of NLCS, and earlier this yeara NLCS Congressional caucus was created.Representative Mary Bono, 45th DistrictCalifornia, is one of the founders and co-chairs. By July the caucus had 17 members. Efforts are underway to obtain additionalNLCS designations in a number of westernstates. In California, H.R. 233, sponsored byRep. Mike Thompson was recently signedinto law designating approximately 100,000acres of new BLM wilderness. In NewMexico, Senators have joined to ask a 5,400acre National Monument to protect fos-silized prehistoric animal tracks in theRobledo Mountains of New Mexico. NLCS coalition members are activelyengaged in the development of resourcemanagement plans for Monuments andNational Conservation Areas to help ensuretheir proper stewardship. And they areworking with Friends groups andMonument Advisory Committees to ensurethe proper implementation of managementplans and to provide for public educationand access. Other advocacy tools are emerging.Recent studies have shown that westerneconomies can benefit from conservation BLM National Conservation Area, BLM Wildernesslands. They include two studies by the Cooperative Management and Protection Area, OutstandingSonoran Institute, Prosperity in the 21st Natural Area, Outstanding Natural BLM Wilderness Study Area Area, Forest Reserve, orCentury West and The NLCS’s Contribution to National Recreation Area National Scenic or Historic TrailLocal Economies, BLM National Monument Wild and Scenic Riverprograms/prosperity. html. Public Lands managed by BLM America’s newest conservation system,the NLCS, provides a unifying theme for abroad array of landscapes and features man- Units in the National Lands Conservation Systemaged by the BLM, helping to bring themneeded attention and management. In its sixth year, BLM’s whether it is a high desert mesa, the top of a snow covered peak,Conservation System is struggling to gain the recognition and a Native American pictograph site in a lava flow, or dinosaursupport it merits, but there is reason to be hopeful. An NLCS trackways in ancient sediments will profoundly reveal why it is socaucus has been established, and new groups continue to join the important that we prevail. For more information on the NLCSCoalition. As these advocate for proper funding and go to:,,management, the NLCS is becoming a source of pride for many BLM. CS2005.cfm. Clearly, there is still much that needs to be done if we are toensure a bright future for the NLCS and the cherished land- Geary Hund is the California Desert and Monuments Programscapes it protects. A visit to any remote corner of the these lands, Director for the Wilderness Society. DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007 { 13 }
  14. 14. A BLM Employee’s Perspectivecontinued from page 2continued protection of the lands, the habitat we manage, and for Area) now has its own staff and manager. In California, five of thethe people we serve. six Resource Management Plans have been completed outlining The NLCS is important to the continued future of BLM. each area’s future management direction. We are now in theAbout 50 years ago, BLM managed over 1/2 billion acres of pub- process of implementing them.lic land. Now BLM manages half that acreage. Why the Reaction has been very positive. An NLCS Coalition and andecrease? Whenever local citizens discovered a “crown jewel” of NLCS Congressional Caucus have been organized, and the pub-BLM landscape, that jewel was eventually given to another lic is showing tremendous support for their individual NLCSagency. The public perceived, rightly or wrongly, that other areas. All the NLCS Monuments have active public advisoryagencies could better protect the area’s conservation and/or her- councils; nearly all the NCA’s and Monuments have “friendsitage values. From 1946 to 1996 almost every large new national groups” who help in projects for the areas.monument established under the Antiquities Act was formerly BLM has provided nearly $10 million per year to NLCS inunder BLM jurisdiction. As former Interior Secretary Bruce California alone to help ensure success. Funding for MonumentsBabbitt said, “… at this rate, BLM would be out of business in the and NCA’s is now directed to each individual unit. Last year’syear 2047”! He believed the formation of NLCS would help to line-item appropriations from Congress included $100,000 forstem this tide. management of the Pacific Crest Trail; Congresswoman Mary Babbitt’s vision was to create a new conservation system that Bono’s (R-CA) secured $1 million dollars for the Santa Rosa andrequired BLM to put more attention on conserving natural Santa Jacinto Mountains National Monument in her district, andand/or heritage values within the BLM’s multiple-use spectrum. there were millions of dollars to support land acquisitions withinIt would not only bring national recognition to the “crown jew- wilderness areas, NCA’s, and Monuments.els” managed by the Bureau, it also put BLM on notice to “step Yes, this is a “dream come true.” In my first years with BLM,up to the plate” when managing these areas. In March 2000, just I inventoried areas for wilderness potential, where I was able tobefore the NLCS was created, Secretary Babbitt summed up his witness some amazing BLM lands. I dreamed as I looked over theapproach. wide-open and quiet prairies supporting huge herds of antelope and countless waterfowl, deep coulees (or what I called “inverted “I think it is time to think more directly about the land conservation mountains”) that you could get lost in, and thousands of teepeemission of the BLM, about systems and approaches that can bring rings used by the prairie Indians side-by-side with 19th centurytogether the agency’s specially protected units across the landscape. homestead treasures. I was also fortunate to work on the Upper…(F)or BLM to keep its special areas within the agency and not ulti- Missouri Wild and Scenic River along the White Rocks area, amately have them transferred to others, the Bureau must show it is com- place nearly unchanged since Lewis and Clark’s expedition.mitted to, and capable of, delivering on the conservation part of its exist- It was a continual struggle for many of us to demonstrate toing legal mandate.... the public and even to other BLM staff that these unique areas “The new BLM must have at its core a system of specially protected were something important, maybe even national treasures. Weand managed conservation units, including landscape monuments and wondered if any one cared. Now, when I meet some of my oldnational conservation areas. It is a system that both protects our own colleagues at NLCS celebrations we can smile in satisfaction atcrown jewels, and interprets them to the public. It is a system that stands the changes. It is apparent people do care. We all believe theproudly alongside parks and refuges as part of our national heritage.” NLCS concept is perhaps the best proof. In the few years since NLCS was created an NLCS Paul Brink is the BLM NLCS Coordinator for California. Ed. Note:Directorate and staff at the Washington Office level been estab- Paul was recently named the first recipient of an award by the NLCSlished, and each monument and NCA (National Conservation Coalition for advocacy and leadership.Three California Units in the National Landscape Conservation System { 14 } DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007
  15. 15. Restoring “Eternal Silence” to Grand Canyon four million annual visitors, who avoid the wilderness backcoun- try where the noise is most noticeable. Operators have proposed that some tours should be allowed to fly deeper in the canyon, that sunset curfews be removed, that additional tour routes be opened up for what they call “quiet technology,” and that the noisiest trails should simply be closed to park visitors. In early 2007, the agencies are expected to release alternative proposals for public comment. In September, they floated five draft plans, which may be modified by the time you read this. None of the plans mentions jets, but Alternative E is otherwise the same as the environmental proposal. For current informa- tion, go to the agencies’ joint internet site, http://overflights The Quiet Canyon Coalition plan, with maps and a detailed analysis of the issue, is on that site at http://over- Geographer and teacher Dennis Brownridge has been exploring the Grand Canyon for 45 years, mostly on foot, and has been following the aircraft issue for 24 of those years.Part of Papillon’s tour fleet - A small part of the GrandCanyon air tour fleet, ready for the first salvo at 8 a.m.continued from page 10Havasupai, and Navajo Tribes. Air tours have become critical tothe Hualapai and Havasupai economies, and the Navajo are Desert Cahuilla Prehistoric Areaplanning to get into the business as well. Still, the tribes want air-craft restricted over some areas, and environmental groups continued from page 9support them. followed and a management plan for the area has been complet- The remarkable acoustics of the Canyon make it a place ed. This could be for as long as two years.where quiet is legendary and noise travels many miles. While air The next phase of the process requires that the Department oftours are inaudible in half the park, high-flying jets, military, and Parks and Recreation initiate an endangered species consultationgeneral aviation (private) aircraft are noticeable everywhere. with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department ofSurprising as it might seem, in most of the park commercial jets Fish and Game. They have to meet the requirements of Sectionare both louder and more numerous than the low-flying but 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act as well as of thedistant tours. Although the FAA routinely modifies jet routes, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They also have toagency has adamantly refused to discuss the possibility of moving meet the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historicthem at Grand Canyon, fearing it would set a precedent that Preservation Act.other parks might wish to follow. There is talk of amending the The OHV Division has begun cultural resources surveys inOverflights Act, to remove jets from consideration. the area, but they have not been completed. It has been custom- In 2004, under court pressure to comply with that law, the ary for State Parks to close a new acquisition area to public entrypark service and FAA jointly began an ongoing “Alternative until resource surveys have been completed and a managementDispute Resolution” with the various stakeholders. At this plan has been finalized. If interim motorized use continues in thiswriting, more than a hundred hours of exhausting meetings had fragile area, what are the risks of further damage to the resources?failed to produce a consensus. How will motorized use in the interim be mitigated without a Last March, the Quiet Canyon Coalition of environmental management plan in place? What steps will the state park rangersactivists submitted a detailed aircraft management proposal to and resource managers of Ocotillo Wells and Anza Borregothe agencies, designed to restore quiet to the heart of the park- Desert State Park be able to take to protect the valuable archeo-the most scenic and diverse half-for at least some months of the logical, paleontological, historical, and natural resources on theyear. The plan would not affect current tribal businesses and property without having complete inventories and surveys?would have minimal impact on other aircraft interests, jetsincluded. A key element is seasonal alternation of the Zuni and Terry Weiner is the Imperial County Projects and ConservationDragon routes, so that park visitors could plan a noise-free trip Coordinator for the Desert Protective Council, a resident of San Diego,in either area. and a long-time desert activist. Air tour operators say there are too many restrictions already.They correctly note that aircraft don’t bother most of the park’s DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007 { 15 }
  16. 16. California/Nevada Regional Conservation CommitteeDesert CommitteeOutingsThe Desert Committee offers several different kinds of outings. Outlaw Mine - Joshua Tree National ParkThere are carcamps, tours, day hikes, backpacks, and service January 13, 2007 Saturdaytrips; as well as ones that combine two or more or those activi- The Outlaw Mine is located in the southeastern area of the park.ties. Outings are not rated, but the degree of difficulty can usual- A cross-country walk leads to an Indian trail (pottery chards canly be ascertained from the write-up. For instance, a day hike or be found along this very old path) which crosses the Pintobackpack will list mileage and elevation gain and perhaps a men- Mountains at a low saddle. Because this mine is way off the beat- en path, much of the supporting timber and many artifactstion of the condition of trail. remain. Bring your boots for this one and layerable clothing. Two While the main intent of the outings is for participants to enjoy quarts of water and a hardy lunch should take care of the rest. E-themselves, it is hoped that participants will come to appreciate mail Ann and Al Murdy or call directly (nothe desert and develop a desire to promote its protection. For messages please) at 760-366-2932. San Gorgoniothose readers who are not familiar with Sierra Club Outings, the Chapter/CNRCC Desert Com.following definitions are offered: Service and Hiking in the North Algodones DunesLugsoles: Hiking boot or shoe with incised patterns on the soles — Wilderness Areadesigned to grip trail surfaces better than a smooth sole. February 3-4, 2007 Saturday-SundayCarcamp: Overnight trip involving staying at a camping area that can We will have two outstanding projects in this Imperial Countybe driven to. Generally held in developed campgrounds, but can also wilderness area. On Saturday we will assist Erin Dreyfuss, natu-be primitive camping. ral resources specialist in the El Centro BLM office, perhapsPrimitive camping: No facilities, in particular, no toilets or water taps. doing a census of the (famous, or infamous) Pierson’s Milkvetch,Dry camp: No water available, participants must bring all they need or else sifting seeds of native plants for future restoration efforts.with them. Sunday will be a longer hike to find and inventory five smallCentral Commissary: Leader plans the meals and purchases the game guzzlers for the BLM office, data they need for wildernessfood. Participants reimburse leader for the cost and carry a share of management and cooperation with the California Dept of Fish and Game. Saturday evening will be a potluck, a campfire, andthe food on backpacks. stories about our desert. Contact leader: Craig Deutsche,Service trip: Work party in a wilderness or other protected area to, (310-477-6670). CNRCC Desert Comhelp restore the landscape to its natural setting. Examples includeremoval of invasive species or fences, disguising illegal vehicle tracks, Paymaster Mine - Joshua Tree National Parkor picking up trash. February 3, 2007 Saturday This is a textbook mine; all precautions were exercised in its con- The listing that follows is only a partial one. For various rea- struction which may be the reason it still stands much as it wassons some scheduled outings do not appear in the Desert Report. left. We’ve only been to this mine once but found the remnantsFor more up-to-date information, check the web at of the road in and the mine itself to be a delightful The online outings list is updated every We’re looking forward to doing it again. Could be cold. Bring thesix weeks. If you would like to receive an outings list by e-mail, warm things and a couple quarts of water and lunch. E-mail Annplease contact me through the e-mail address below. and Al Murdy or call directly (no messages For questions about a particular outing or to sign up, please please) at 760-366-2932. San Gorgonio Chapter/CNRCCcontact the leader listed in the write-up. For questions about Desert Com.Desert Committee Outings in general, or to receive the outings listby e-mail, please contact Kate Allen at or 661- Amargosa Wild and Scenic River exploration February 18-19, 2007 Sunday-Monday944-4056. We’ll set up camp Saturday night near Tecopa and spend two Like nearly all organizations that sponsor outdoor travel, the days hiking along the stretches of the Amargosa RiverSierra Club is now obliged to require participants to sign a stan- proposed for wild and scenic status under Congressman Buckdard liability waiver at the beginning of each trip. If you would McKeon’s “Eastern Sierra Rural Heritage and Economiclike to read the Liability Waiver before you choose to participate Enhancement Act”. One day will be an easy one-way hike (withon an outing, please go to: http://www s i e r r a cl u b . o r g . shuttle) along the “scenic” part, the other part a more strenuous/outings/chapter/forms/, or contact the Outings Department at out-and-back hike on the “wild” part. For more information or(415) 977-5528 for a printed version. to reserve a spot contact John Wilkinson,, (408) 947-0858. { 16 } DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007
  17. 17. Southern Desert Clean-up and Hike Pronghorn Antelope Protection in the Carrizo PlainFebruary 24-25, 2007 Saturday-Sunday March 24-25, 2007 Saturday - SundayImmediately south of the Coyote Mountains Wilderness Area in Antelope Protection Carcamp (Nature Study/Work Party). WithImperial County lies an unbelievable pile of trash - shotgun little rainfall and few water sources, the species that live here areshells, a refrigerator, electronics, the works. We, together with both hardy and endangered. Particularly beautiful are the prong-representatives from the Border Patrol, will assist the Bureau of horn antelope, which evolved in these wild, open spaces. ThenLand Management in cleaning up the site, placing signs, and cattle ranching left a legacy of endless fences - which are deadlyrestricting access. Saturday evening will be a pot-luck, a campfire, to the pronghorn. Join us for a weekend in this remote areaand stories about our desert. Sunday is reserved for a recreation- removing fencing for their benefit. Work hard on Saturday, takeal hike in the southern part of the nearby Anza Borrego State some time Sunday to enjoy the monument. Camp at Selby camp-Park. Contact leader Craig Deutsche,, ground, bring food, water, heavy leather work gloves, and camp-(310-477-6670) for details. ing gear for the weekend. Potluck Sat night. Alternate date in case of rain. Resource specialist: Alice Koch. For more informa-Wonderland of Rocks - Joshua Tree National Park tion, contact Leaders: Cal and Letty French, 14140 ChimneyMarch 3, 2007 Saturday Rock Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446, (805-239-7338). Prefer e-Should be beautiful this time of year. The Wonderland of Rocks mail: CNRCC Desert Committee/Santais exactly what its boastful name indicates. We’re going to enter Lucia Chapterthem from the south and head north past a couple of good picto-graph sites, then we’ll begin picking our way along the eastern Birds and Beat the Tamariskedge. At a high point, we’ll start heading west towards Willow April 14-15, 2007 Saturday - SundayHole, probably have lunch amid the tall rock formations there Service and Carcamp. Help remove the invasive salt cedar on theand do a leisurely stroll out. All very pretty. Bring two quarts of wetlands along the shore of Owens Lake at the base of the spec-liquid, sturdy boots, food. E-mail Ann and Al Murdy aemur- tacular eastern Sierra Nevada scarp. Work several hours each day, or call directly (no messages please) at 760-366-2932. probably, and take time to enjoy the birds and scenic attractions.San Gorgonio Chapter/CNRCC Desert Com. We’ll car camp at Diaz Lake just south of Lone Pine where birds congregate. Then watch the migratory birds on the re-wateredService in the Santa Rosa Wilderness, part of the Owens Lake. Can also visit the new Lone Pine FilmSan Jacinto National Monument History Museum and Manzanar N.M. Bring camping essentialsMarch 10-11, 2007 Saturday-Sunday (though motels are close), food, water, work clothes and gloves.Service and Hike in Santa Rosa Wilderness. We will assist the Resource specialist: Mike Prather. For more information and toBLM in the Santa Rosa Wilderness Area within the recently cre- sign up for trip contact leaders: Cal and Letty French, 14140ated San Jacinto National Monument. Campout Friday night, or Chimney Rock Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. (805-239-7338).arrive Saturday morning for a day removing tamarisk. Pot luck Prefer e-mail . CNRCC Desertand happy hour Saturday evening and then a hike on Sunday. Committee/Santa Lucia ChapCome discover this National Monument before the rest of theworld does.Justin Seastrand, Wilderness Coordinator for the Places We’ve Saved Navigation Noodle in thePalm Springs BLM, will be our mentor.Contact Leader: Kate Mojave National PreserveAllen (661-944-4056), CNRCC Desert Com April 28-29, 2007 Saturday - Sunday Join us for our third annual journey through this jewel of theGhost Town Extravaganza Mojave now preserved under the California Desert ProtectionMarch 17-18, 2007 Saturday-Sunday Act, because of the efforts of Sierra Club activists and others. AnCome with us to this spectacular desert landscape near Death intermediate cross-country navigation day-hike workshop will beValley to explore the ruins of California’s colorful past. Camp at conducted out of a car camp in the pinyon and juniper forests ofthe historic ghost town of Ballarat (flush toilets & hot showers). the Mid Hills. Potluck and social on Saturday, and also for thoseOn Saturday, do a challenging hike to ghost town Lookout City arriving early on Friday. Send sase or email to ldr: Virgil Shields.with expert Hal Fowler who will regale us with tales of this Wild Asst: Harry Freimanis LTC, WTC, DPS, Desert CommitteeWest town. Later we’ll return to camp for Happy Hour, a specialSt. Patty’s Day potluck and campfire. On Sunday, a quick visit to Birds, Flowers, and Fences in the Carrizothe infamous Riley town site before heading home. Group size April 28-30, 2007 Saturday - Mondaystrictly limited. Send $8 per person (Sierra Club), 2 sase, H&W This is an opportunity to both visit and serve an outstanding andphones, email, rideshare info to Ldr: Lygeia Gerard, P.O. Box relatively unknown national monument. On Saturday we will294726, Phelan, CA 92329, (310) 594-6789. Co-Ldr: Don assist monument staff in the removal of fence wires to allowPeterson (760) 375-8599. CNRCC/Owens Peak Group pronghorn antelope freer access to the range. Sunday is reserved for sightseeing. The views from the Caliente Mountains are spec- tacular; spring flowers may still be blooming; and the monument is known for the number and variety of raptors present. Those Sierra Club who can stay through Monday will continue fence work with the Outings Leaders monument staff. Contact leader Craig Deutsche, 310-477-6670, or Co-sponsor your desert trips with the CNRCC Desert Committee. Contact: K ate Allen at (661-944-4056) continued on page 18 DESERT REPORT DECEMBER 15, 2007 { 17 }