Fall 2005 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee


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Fall 2005 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee

  1. 1. Fall 2005 News of the desert from the Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee www.desertreport.org BY 
 HUGHES Mary Martin Desert HeroineI t was 1995 and I was showing Building an infrastructure with one dollar Superintendent Mary Martin her Mojave National Preserve was created by park. Technically this was Mojave the California Desert Protection Act of National Preserve and not a 1994. Congressional opponents of thenational park, but for us it always contained Preserve briefly pegged the 1995 budgetall the elements needed to become at $1. When one has only a single rangera national park. (and he is on loan from another park) We first toured the Mid Hills area and to patrol one and one-half million acres,then drove south, stopped, and hiked to a management is an up hill battle. MaryChemehuevi religious site. Returning to our Martin was equal to the task.cars we drove east, parked, and hiked to a Martin built a proper budget. She built awonderful panel of petroglyphs. These were spiritual encounters proper staff. Then she went after every special fund she couldwith the land and Mary Martin was perfectly attuned to them. find to do the jobs needing doing. She had been told by theShe loved the hiking. She loved the land. Preserve’s former manager, the Bureau of Land Management, that there might be as many as 300 burros in the Preserve. Nearly 4000 have now been removed. The ATT company wanted to remove an unused underground cable and proposed to come in B Y 
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 R and just rip up the cable and the land. Mary made them do it right and restore the land.Water Victory in Owens Valley Kelso Depot restored Kelso Depot stood in the middle of the Preserve. It was a relic from the ‘20s when trains with steam engines needed big crewsO to climb the Cima grade. It was a relic and a challenge. It would n July 25, 2005, Inyo County Superior Court certainly be cheaper to build a visitor center from the ground up, Judge Lee Cooper brought out the ‘big stick’ rather than restore the Depot. and thumped the Los Angeles Department of Martin accepted the challenge and Kelso Depot is now almost Water and Power (LA DWP) for its chronic ready for its dedication. It only awaits the installation of its inte-delays in implementing the re-watering of 62 miles of Lower rior exhibits. It is beautiful. It is a visitor center to make proudOwens River in Inyo County. This followed closely upon a three- any national park unit. continued on page 9day evidentiary hearing in April and a strong ruling in June.Legal action brought by the Sierra Club (led by ToiyabeChapter’s Mark Bagley and in coordination with the Angeles Top: For ten years, Mojave National Preserve has beenChapter), the Owens Valley Committee and the California privileged to have Mary Martin as Superintendent. She has accepted the position of Superintendent of LassenAttorney General’s Office requested assistance from the court in National Park. continued on page 19
  2. 2. View From The Co-Chair B Y E
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 S It’s All About VolunteersT his issue of Desert Report f e a t u re the contributions s of volunteers. Of course, in Desert Report even when FAL L 2 0 0 5 I N T H I S I S S U E we are not talking about volunteers, we are talking about volunteers, or, at least, we are volunteers doing MARY MARTIN: DESERT HEROINE ............................................................01the talking. Volunteers write every article of the Desert Report. Volunteers WATER VICTORY IN OWENS VALLEY ..........................................................01do the managing, editing, layout and design of every issue. We paythe printer and the mailing house. VIEW FROM THE CHAIR: IT’S ALL ABOUT VOLUNTEERS ............................02 T h e re are other organizations with volunteers and, perh a p s ,mostly volunteers, but no environmental organization relies asheavily on its volunteers on the scale of the Sierra Club. The Sierr aClub does have staff—and a good staff at that—at the localchapter, state and national levels, but the Sierra Club would be am e re shadow of itself without its dedicated volunteers. FIRST TEN YEARS OF THE MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE ........................03Why volunteers matter I remember a time nearly two decades ago when we were HIKING THE DESERT TRAIL ........................................................................04simultaneously fighting to protect 9 million acres of Californ i a DESERT STEWARDSHIP ............................................................................06D e s e rt, 3,000 acres in Bonelli Los Angeles Regional County Park,and .9-acre Hart Park in West Hollywood. It is unlikely that a paid OWLS AND THE SALTON SEA ....................................................................08staff driven organization would take on all three fights at the sametime. We did and we won all three fights. Craig Deutsche’s article speaks of the joys of being a volunteer,while Marty Dickes speaks from the agency point of view and itscritical dependence on the work of volunteers to act as the agency’seyes and ears. Mike Prather’s article on the Owens Valley water victory does THE STUDENT CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION IN THE CA DESERT ............10not explicitly use the word volunteer, yet the excellent work of thea t t o rneys (including the Attorney General of California) would BLM: PROMOTING COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION........................................12not have been possible without the meticulous re c o rds of volun- BLM: VOLUNTEERS CRUCIAL TO WILDERNESS PROGRAMS ......................13teer Mark Bagley. Year after year he attended meeting after meet-ing and wrote a detailed re c o rd of every promise and commitment NEWS UPDATES ........................................................................................14made. These re c o rds were the basis of the effective lawsuit.Seeking volunteers for Desert Report Desert Report needs volunteers to take on two jobs. My wifePatty, who is Managing Editor, and I, as Assignment Editor, mustfocus on other tasks. After the Spring 2006 issue, others must bedoing our jobs. We seek volunteers. VOLUNTEERISM AT WIND WOLVES PRESERVE ..........................................16 VOLUNTEERS CRITICAL TO WILDERNESS ..................................................17 OUTINGS....................................................................................................20 { 2} DESERT REPORT FALL 2005
  3. 3. B Y 
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 N REFLECTIONS OF A SUPERINTENDENT First Ten Years of the Mojave National PreserveR eflecting on ten years as Superintendent of Mojave National Preserve has been a pleasure and an opportunity for an assessment of the bigger picture, which sometimes get lost in thedaily crises or forgotten over time. I thank each of you, those whomade the preservation of this special place possible, for giving methis chance to reflect. Early in 1995, along with Marv Jensen as Superintendent, sixlongtime National Park Service (NPS) employees showed up tomanage a new 1.6 million acre national park unit. The myriad oftasks ranged from finding a headquarters location; becomingfamiliar with the resources; meeting neighbors, friends,landowners; launching the general management planningprocess; to hiring additional staff. In the fall of that first yearCongress passed an Appropriations Act which would essentiallyreturn management of this new park unit to the Bureau of LandManagement. The “limited edition” Presidential line-item vetoprevented that occurrence. In the spring of 1996, enough money was allocated forminimal staffing at Mojave. The emotions of staff ran high and, Clark Mt Barrel Cactusin defining what “success” might look like five years hence, thebar was rather low — we wanted Mojave to remain a part of ournation’s National Park System. As it turned out, we accomplished ranchers who had been interested in selling their operation, live-that and much more. stock grazing has been reduced to 200,000 acres. Non-historic Livestock grazing has been long identified as one of the fence lines, tanks, troughs, structures have been removed andimpacts which negatively affect the threatened desert tortoise. At numerous sites restored. Historic features are being preservedthe time of Mojave’s designation, 1.4 million acres were grazed. and a nomination to place the ranching district on the NationalThe California Desert Protection Act provided for grazing to Registry of Historic Places is being developed.continue into perpetuity, while recognizing the interest of When Mojave was designated a national park unit, 192,000ranchers to sell their permits and ranching operations. Through acres of private lands were within its boundary. Hundreds ofthe generosity of people who care deeply about resource preser- individuals were interested in selling their land, yet no federalvation and in partnership with the National Park Foundation and funds for acquisition were available. An expanded partnership provided private monies for acquisition, allowing preservation of these valuable resources for future generations. In ten years the National Park Service acquired more than 111,000 acres and went from owning only a few water rights to owning more than 125 appropriated water rights/springs. This successful program has now been expanded to include Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks. Restoration of desert resources is occurring throughout the park and in a variety of ways. Retiring grazing provided the o p p o rtunity to remove 8,000 head of cattle. The burro removal/adoption program eliminated almost 4,000 animals.Sheep petroglyph continued on page 9 DESERT REPORT FALL 2005 { 3}
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 A N D E R S O N A WEEK-LONG BACKPACK Hiking the Desert TrailJ oin George and his friends travel day after day without breaking down. “Dusty,” “Cactus,” and “Seldom” Human walkers seldom can do the same. as they backpack for a week in J a n u a ry along the Desert Trail, a Our next day was another easy 15-milenetwork of routes paralleling the Pacific run along and over the low-lying CalumetCrest Trail from Mexico to Canada. The Mountains. We made camp on the north-segments start at Highway 62 east of 29 east end of the mountains...”Dusty” had anPalms, and end at the Kelso Dunes in Mojave idea to continue a solo night hike on to theNational Pre s e rv e . cache vehicle near Chambless. That would be another 12 miles beyond the 15 miles we George: It rained hard into the late had already hiked that day! He had a smallafternoon east of Barstow as I drove to the headlamp, a full stomach and somemeeting and drop point at Chambless (on guidance from the North Star. The windold Hwy. 66)... an abandoned 1940s style was now blowing strong and continuedauto court complete with neatly laid out old all night.cabins. The scene was right out of theTwilight Zone or the Invaders, not some place I’d stay if I were The writer doesn’t tell us if there was a moon. We hope so. Hiking atalone. We enjoyed a hot meal amid light rain and distant light- night by starlight sounds like a good plan for running into ch o l l a .ening flashes. The next day we awoke to unsettled, blowing weather but We awoke to continued winds... Dusty walked part way out towith a forecast for clearing over the coming days. We set up a meet us and we were glad to see he had made it in one piece.cache along Route 66 just west of Chambless. After stocking up we continued our hike toward the Marble Mountains, segment J of the Desert Trail. ...(T)he route now Judy: Like establishing a food cache in the Sierra Nevada, water worked across alluvial fan debris in a repetitious series of cobbledand food caches are common in the desert. Be sure you check with agen- ups and downs. Barrel cactus was nestled in the rocks, some morecies on rules for them. than 4 feet high, with bright reddish-orange coloring in their centers. Late afternoon we found a small flat wash to throw out We drove to Hwy 62 and got a good start at 10:15 a.m. with our sleeping bags and call it a day.strong, cold headwinds out of the north. This section of the Sunrise delighted us with a light show of yellow, white, andDesert Trail is a real joy to hike, with easy terrain and only 1730 purple hues cast down like alternating searchlights on the distantfeet of elevation gain over the 38 miles to Chambless. Many of mountains. As the sun rose and the clouds shifted, the shafts ofthe washes had plants in full yellow bloom and abundant smoke light would illuminate first one mountain range, then anothertrees.... We made camp at about 5:00 p.m. in a wash in the and another in varying colors. We got underway by 8:00 a.m. andCalumet Mountains, roughly 11 miles from Highway 62. By continued across the alluvial fan toward the old jeep road noteddinner time, the wind had completely died down and the air was in Steve Tabor’s guidebook. We shortly found it, taking fulltotally calm. We finished dinner with headlamps and watched the advantage of the improved terrain and direction, now leadingstars overhead to the south, but dark clouds still covered the directly into the Marble Mountains. At the mouth of the canyonnorth sky. is a small, old abandoned mining operation with a battered care- taker’s trailer nearby. This portion of the desert is probably totally void of man-made light,except what you bring with you. The stars pop out in impossibly brightarrays. Settlements, unless they were along railroad lines, werefrequently situated 20 miles apart. 20 miles is a distance most horses can Top: Descending a water fall { 4} DESERT REPORT FALL 2005
  5. 5. Segmenting the Desert Trail in Mojave National Preserve When the Desert Act was passed in 1994, the mining areas around IN ESTABLISHING WILDERNESS AREAS IN THE DESERT, a consciousthe Marble Mountains we re excluded. Unfortunately the mining scars effort was made to link wildernesses and parks through the use ofremain. Old abandoned buildings frequently contain interesting artifacts, h a b it at corridors, which allow species to continue to travel throughoutbut mining shafts, now home to bats, p resent a hazard . Historic buildings the desert. The Desert Trail follows much the same route, avoiding citiesoften have volunteer caretakers who monitor their condition and keep and tow n s , and sticking to the more remote Wildlands.them from falling into ru i n . Anything over 40 years of age is protected bythe Antiquities Act, so we need to leave artifacts and buildings as they are. SEGMENT I t r averses Sheephole Valley. This BLM Wilderness area is the largest valley in the California desert without a road down the center. The The Desert Trail route was now getting interesting, a light Sheepholes are on the left, the Calumet Mountains are on the right. Yourgradient through the wash with Utah-style rock outcroppings starting point is just north of Joshua Tree National Park. Unless you’reand colors of red, green and buff. We had lunch on the backside Colin Fletcher, or Barry Lopez, you don’t try backpacking during theof the Marble Mountains and reached our vehicle off I-40 by 4:30 summer, but winter presents its own challenges, including cold winds,p.m. The toughest segment, the Granite Mountains, would be rain and possible snow, especially in the Mojave Desert.challenging us the next day. We could look up to the north and SEGMENT J is the piece between Hwy 66 and I-40 over (or around) thesee the looming range of mountains and dark clouds swirling Marble Mountains, another BLM Wilderness.over it. We didn’t have heavy clothing and were not prepared for SEGMENT K takes you from I-40 into Mojave Preserve over the Granitereally cold weather and certainly not prepared for snow, which Mountains to Kelso/Kelso Dunes.looked like a distinct possibility with the weather. We drove one vehicle to the Kelso Dunes as a shuttle vehiclefor the end of Segment K and drove the other vehicles to theintersection of I-40 and Kelbaker Road to start the hike. Ourplan was to avoid camping at high elevation in the GraniteMountains. Camp was to be at Budweiser Spring that night. The Granite Mountains are in a Wilderness unit of Mojave National Segment KPre s e rve, contiguous with a BLM Wi l d e rness unit to the west. ThePreserve boundary goes down Budweiser Wash. T h e re was someg rumbling about the closure of the wash to vehicles, since one of the desertguidebooks encouraged 4WD vehicles to use it to get to the Dunes. That would allow us plenty of time to get over the crest of theGranite Mountains and to lower elevation on the backside by thefollowing day. After a couple hours of hiking, the GPS decides to Segment Jgo dark and won’t restart! One of the recurring arguments today concerns dependence uponGPS and other technology. Would the chosen route have been the samewithout the GPS units? It certainly encourages traffic into areaspreviously ignored. The east end of the Granite Mountains are withina University of California preserve, and some of the classic rockclimbing routes are now “off limits” as the preserve continues to studyecological niches found on vertical walls. Cactus fortunately brought a back-up GPS which he handedme and I began starting it up. The back-up GPS was now Segment Icooking up some bad numbers. After more frantic minutes ofstruggling, the main GPS begins operating. We rolled intoBudweiser Spring just before dark at 5:30 p.m. and fought withcold strong winds all evening. We got up an hour earlier than usual. Budweiser Wash wasslow going through periodic dense vegetation and flowing water.We soon came to the dry falls noted in Steve Tabor’s guidebook,which we worked around to the right, not forgetting to get backinto the original drainage heading north. A long slog up the verysteep slope was the only way to the top. No helpful switchbacks,no easy way, just working through steep, boulder and cactus continued on page 7 DESERT REPORT FALL 2005 { 5}
  6. 6. BY 
 DEUTSCHE REWARDS OF VOLUNTEERING Desert StewardshipT here are many ways to travel the debris - through the water, through through the desert - on roads, brush, and through heat. In the course of on trails, up peaks, through the weekend it was a privilege also to meet washes and canyons. There several of the BLM personnel who wereare different ways to enjoy the desert — directing the project and with whom I spokealone, with friends, on trips led by volun- about grazing rights in the Needles fieldteers, or leading trips for others. In many area, about abandoned mines, and aboutways the most rewarding times in the desert future trips and projects. At the end of theare ones of service. The people you meet in second day the Arundo had been leveled, thethese endeavors are of a special sort, and the spring was again visible, and if the wash isplaces where you work become your own. successfully monitored, there will be aDesert stewardship is a special calling. flowing water source for wildlife once again. In November 2004, I joined a group effort to remove a large In the Carrizo Plain, west of Bakersfield, regular service out-stand of Arundo (Giant Reed) an exotic grass that proliferates ings have been conducted to remove barbed wire fence left fromeasily. It had overtaken and choked a spring south of Interstate 40 ranching days before the national monument was created. Thesein the Mojave Desert. Sierra Club volunteers are familiar to me, trips have sometimes included a day for recreation, sightseeingbut this project had been organized by the Bighorn Sheep by car or hiking along a nearby mountain ridge, but always thereConservation Society in conjunction with the Bureau of Land is wire to cut and roll, and there are fence posts to pull. At theManagement (BLM) in Needles, CA. Some members of the end of a weekend it is impossible not to care about the extendedgroup were hunters, some were not, some arrived in RV’s, and views and the new opportunity that antelope have to run freelysome traveled more simply. In addition to the volunteers there — they don’t like to go either over or under the wire. In somewas an eight person crew from the National Park Service that has ways, however, the unexpected reward came from the monumentworked throughout the west removing invasive plants. They staff. These persons have included visitor center managers, main-came, both men and women, with hard hats, chainsaws, tenance personnel, wildlife biologists, and even the monumentprotective chaps, and commitment to a purpose. While the pro- superintendent. They have spent hours discussing the manage-fessional crew cut the reeds the volunteers carried and stacked ment of grazing and wildlife; they have suggested many sites to Top: Volunteers removing Arunda at Bonanza Springs Above: The pleasures at the end of a long day of volunteering { 6} DESERT REPORT FALL 2005
  7. 7. explore; they have joined groups for potluck meals; and they havetaken volunteers to pictograph sites that were not open to thegeneral public. The appreciation which these people have Hikingexpressed is astonishing. Managers of public lands are certainlyunderpaid and are not sufficiently appreciated. Perhaps the continued from page 5efforts and concern of volunteers are a kind of validation for their strewn terrain. As we climbed, our hands became almost as use-efforts, but the welcome which they have given to volunteers is ful as our feet in pulling up, over and around large rock slabs andvery gratifying. around cactus, each following a slightly different route to the top. There are also special rewards for volunteers who become stew-ards for particular wilderness areas and return regularly to mon- There are two ways to travel in an environmentally friendly manneritor them. I have personally adopted two areas in the Ridgecrest in the desert. In a well-used area, one should stick to existing trails. In anfield area: the Bright Star Wilderness and the Coso Mountains area without trails, avoid creating a new one by hiking in single file. OurWilderness. On solo trips I have driven the dirt roads outside the climbers, using different routes, reduce their impact.boundaries looking for off-road vehicle intrusions. When theseare found, the next step is to report them, with photos, coordi- At noon, we reached the top. The steep 1.25-mile climb tooknates, and descriptions to the wilderness resource specialist in the nearly 3 hours! We relished the incredible views from the 6000-office. We have been associated for a sufficient length of time that foot crest, particularly to the south where our earlier routeI am trusted with maps, signs, and tools to re t u rn and mark these through the Calumet Mountains was plainly visible.boundaries. On several occasions she and I have installed barriers At this point, the stress and exertion made Dusty fearful thatat the entry points, and at other times we have organized service his pains were from a reopened fracture from a skiing accidentoutings with the Sierra Club or the Desert Survivors to disguise years earlier. My mind raced, wondering how could we assist himthe unauthorized vehicle routes and to photograph the results. down the backside of the Granite Mountains? Would one of us R e t u rning to these wilderness areas over a period of years I see need to go ahead for help? Painkillers eventually kicked in, andthe success of the eff o rts and am frustrated by inevitable failure s although still in pain, he was able to make progress. We crunchedthat sometimes occur. I also get to know these places as well as through occasional snow patches, pleased to know that wenearly anyone does, whether local citizen or public land manager. weren’t going to be spending the night anywhere near the top.The interiors of “my” wilderness areas include petroglyph sites, By late afternoon, we arrived just above the confluence of Bullold corrals, springs, wild horses, rocky canyons, Joshua tree flats, Canyon. After some deliberation on where to continue tomine shafts, stamp mills, and old cabins, some derelict and some descend, we choose Steve Tabor’s route down the right (east)still standing. I have explored cross-country travel routes that side, following an old burrow trail, and dropped cleanly into Bulllater became backpacking ventures for organized trips. Old Canyon. We were instantly transformed into a Sierra-like settingroutes which appeared on maps are sometimes still visible on the with a flowing stream of mountain water surrounded by graniteground and sometimes vanished. Exploring a mapped road I once boulders! Instead of pine trees, we gazed around at cholla,found an astonishingly well-maintained cabin, and at a later date I creosote and barrel cactus, what a strange feel to the place! Itmet its caretaker. As a private citizen he had brought the needed was approaching dark, and nearly 10 hours since we leftmaterials into the wilderness on foot, and he had camouflaged the Budweiser Spring.approach which I had attempted to follow. With even more effort he I tried out water shoes sloshing down the middle of thehad rolled rocks onto a mile of the road that had once led into the canyon through the water. The canyon is beautiful with polishedwilderness to discourage motor entry where it was not permitted. gray rock...twin falls; the lower one was impassible and we had to Recently I returned to the site of another cabin within wilder- backtrack and detour around them. Our last challenge was theness which had nearly collapsed. To my amazement, this cabin “plunge pool”, a tight narrows in the canyon where the waterhad been entirely rebuilt in the preceding three months, the rushes down into a pool of scoured bedrock. We were able to nav-barricaded approach road had been opened, tire tracks led back- igate down these narrows alternating down the middle and sidesand-forth into the wilderness, trash had been removed, and fur- and then working around the bottom pool in waist deep water.niture had been supplied. The signs which once closed the routehad not only been removed, but the holes into which I had When water makes it out of the mountains to the desert floor, you canhelped plant their posts had been filled and could not be found. be sure of interesting canyons upstream.The appearances suggested that one, or several, persons hadconstructed a private hunting lodge for their own use. Ultimately We were now at the end of our seventh day on the trail andmy report was confirmed by a BLM patrol ranger, and there are could see the end in sight as the walls of Bull Canyon receded tonow detailed plans to level the cabin, to remove the materials, to open desert and views out to the looming Kelso Dunes. Thecamouflage the road, to post signs, and to create barriers to s t ream had reduced to a mere trickle of its former self. In anotherprevent future motorized intrusions. few miles, as the sun was setting, we reached our shuttle vehicle. These have become my places. They are truly wilderness, asCongress intended at the time of their creation. Anyone is Like any other extended adventure, our hikers made good use of thewelcome, but I have become caretaker. There is a responsibility drive time to gradually re-orient themselves to the “civilized” world.and a reward in this, and it is an opportunity which can be offeredto many others who choose to accept. George “Grubstake” Huxtable enjoys hiking in the desert.Craig Deutsche is the Desert Committee Outings Chair and DesertReport Outings Editor DESERT REPORT FALL 2005 { 7}
  8. 8. BY
 MABEN WORKING WITH IMPERIAL VALLEY FARMERS Owls And The Salton SeaW hen we think of birds Imperial Valley Farm Bureau (IVFB). One and the Salton Sea, we of the main efforts of the Farm Bureau has usually have a picture been to help farmers learn how to reduce in our minds of white their TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load)pelicans or Caspian terns flying just off the of nutrient-carrying silt in their drainagesurface of the sea, scooping up fish. But ditches which run into the Alamo and Newbarn owls and burrowing owls are the birds Rivers, and eventually into the Salton Sea.that may play an important role in helping The farm bureau conducts annualimprove the quality of the water of the TMDL workshops. All valley farmers aretroubled sea. expected to attend these workshops and file The Water Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization, TMDL farming plans. Nicole Rothfleisch, executive director ofrecently completed a project to help farmers in the Imperial the IVFB, suggested Audubon coordinate the Audubon work-Valley look at ways to incorporate wildlife friendly activities into shops with their TMDL workshops, since they had similar goals.their farming practices. With funding from the California Four workshops were scheduled for late May.D e p a rtment of Water Resources (DWR) and the help ofAudubon California they organized a series of workshops. The basic premise of the workshops was to encourage farmersto build barn owl and burrowing owl boxes to increase the The basic premise of the workshops was tonumber of these predatory raptors, thereby reducing the numberof rodents that burrow into agricultural drainage ditches. The encourage farmers to build barn owl androdent burrows may weaken the walls of the ditches as they burrowing owl boxes to increase the numbercreate erosion, dumping large quantities of silt into the drainageditches, which then carry the silty water, laden with nitrogen and of these predatory raptors, therebyphosphorus, into the Salton Sea. Nitrogen and phosphorus are nutrients that can produce algae reducing the number of rodents that burrowblooms. When the algae die and sink to the bottom of the sea,they are decomposed by bacteria in a process that uses oxygen into agricultural drainage ditches.and creates hydrogen sulfide (that rotten egg smell). Steadywinds can stir up the Sea’s waters, bringing the low oxygen/highsulfide laden water to the surface. This can result in large fish Al Kalin, the TMDL coordinator for the Farm Bureau and akills (that rotten fish smell familiar to summer-time Salton Sea local farmer himself, is also a bird watcher and had developed avisitors). great interest in owls as a way of controlling rodents. Audubon California developed its expertise in a landowner B a rn owls eat huge quantities of gophers and groundstewardship program in Yolo and Solano counties, run by Vance squirrels. Barn owls frequently nest in hay bale stacks. However,Russell. Vance and his executive director, Glenn Olsen, success- when the stacks are moved, baby owls may be inadvertentlyfully work with farmers to help them develop practices that are d e s t royed. Kalin has designed an owl box which can be mounted onbeneficial to both wildlife and to the farmers. a pole. Since barn owls are not territorial, farmers can have multi- The Water Education Foundation, which has had extensive ple boxes on their farms, resulting in increased rodent control.experience working on Colorado River, Imperial Valley and continued on page 18Salton Sea issues, introduced the Audubon staff to the staff of the Top: Owl boxes { 8} DESERT REPORT FALL 2005
  9. 9. Ten Years of MNP Mary Martincontinued from page 3 continued from page 1The benefit to springs was immediately noticeable. The elimina-tion of water diversion for grazing, with reducing burro impacts, A sense of discoveryresulted in an immediate regeneration of springs, increasing Martin worked well with the stakeholders of the Mojave, fromsurface water, vegetation and wildlife. cowboys to environmentalists, in-holders and the gateway Mining claims, which numbered over 9000 in 1994, have been communities. Martin, her staff, and her Citizens Advisoryreduced to approximately 400. A number of mining areas have Council worked together to build a strong master plan.been cleaned up, re s t o red, and mitigated. A public-private One concept seemed to have universal acceptance. This parkpartnership has been developed to detoxify and restore the unit must allow visitors a sense of discovery. Every picture oppor-Morningstar mine site, while returning $1 million of public funds tunity need not have a Kodak sign. In fact, none should. Letused for emergency mitigation. Several arrests and convictions people wonder as they explore the extraordinary diversity of thehave occurred of individuals who were illegally dumping Mojave. They can then return to the visitor center and find thehazardous materials, poaching barrel cactus, baiting wildlife, and books, exhibits, and docents to help one understand.illegally collecting reptiles. The Kelso Depot restoration is nearing completion. The Martin becomes superintendent of Lassen National Parkbuilding is complete. Interpretative exhibits should be installed For ten years, Mojave National Preserve of the National Parkby the time you read this and the last two contracts (landscaping Service has been privileged to have Mary Martin asand parking) have begun. The building is amazing and provides a Superintendent. She will now move on for she has been assignedunique opportunity for educating the public about our mission, to be Superintendent of Lassen National Park.natural and cultural resource preservation and recreation We will miss her. The Mojave National Preserve is special andopportunities. Efforts to find a concessionaire to run the beanery Mary Martin is special. Any person has to be special who eachare underway. Christmas Day with her family climbs Kelso Dunes. Mojave has developed a professional science and research In the accompanying article (see page 3) Mary describes herprogram and hired a Science Advisor at the park level, something special moments while serving as Superintendent of Mojaveonly a few other parks have done. The benefit to the resource National Preserve.with our increased knowledge is exponential. Research hasfocused on surface and groundwater, the endangered tui chub, Elden Hughes is Co Chair of the Sierra Club’s California/Nevadathe threatened desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, climatic Desert Committee.change, exotic plants, fire ecology, prehistoric human habitation,changing desert landscapes, etc. Cooperative agreements havebeen developed with the California State University system andUniversity of California, Riverside (UCR). Through UCR wehave contracted for research which resulted in the documentationof several new species of plants. None of this would have been possible without the dedicated,professional staff working at Mojave. I have, indeed, been fortu-nate to work with an exceptional group of individuals. These folksgive me confidence that the momentum and accomplishmentsof the last decade will be carried into the next.Mary Martin has been the Superintendent of theMojave National Preserve from 1994-2005. DESERT REPORT FALL 2005 { 9}
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 N WILDERNESS AND HABITAT RESTORATION The Student Conservation Association in the California DesertI n 2001, the Student Conservation Association (SCA) C a l i f o rnia/Southwest Regional Office in Oakland, California. launched its California Desert and W l d e rness i This comprehensive restoration project in the California Restoration Project. D e s e rt is a partnership between the Student Conservation Conceived of and implemented in partnership with the Association and the Bureau of Land Management. It is funded inB u reau of Land Management (BLM), the goal of the project is to large part by grants from the California Off Highway Motorizedrestore closed Off Road Vehicles routes (ORV routes) to their Vehicle Commission, funding which must be supplemented bynatural condition, with an emphasis on doing so in designated foundation grants and individual donations to SCA.wilderness areas, Limited Use Areas, and Areas of Environmental At the present time, the Desert Restoration Program consistsC o n c e rn (ACEC). These are important land management and of five 8-person crews working out of the BLM’s Californiaconservation priorities in the California Desert. Desert District Office and the Barstow, El Centro, and Palm “SCA is very proud of our wilderness and restoration work in Springs Resource Areas. When linked together, the efforts ofthe magnificent California Desert. We are restoring the wilder- these five teams amount to a major restoration effort. To date,ness landscape and in the process, collecting data that will assist SCA has provided hundreds of thousands of volunteer servicethe BLM in its stewardship efforts,” said Rick Covington, SCA’s hours and has restored hundreds of damaged sites or incursionsCalifornia/Southwest Regional Director. into protected areas. During the 2004 field season in the The Student Conservation Association is the nation’s largest, California Desert, SCA crews completed 49,000 hours of servicenonprofit conservation organization dedicated to volunteer con- to the land, valued at $842,000.servation service and to the personal and career development of While the wilderness areas are largely pristine and free ofAmerica’s youth. The mission of SCA is to mobilize young people permanent impacts, decades of off-highway vehicle use hasin hands-on conservation service, inspire lifelong land stewardship, impacted the landscape of the California Desert. Moreover,and help train the next generation of conservation leaders. while stark and rugged, desert environments are surprisinglyFounded in 1957, the organization is headquart e red in New fragile. Tracks, routes and ways, or illegally bladed roads willH a m p s h i re and has 6 regional or satellite offices, including the remain for decades without active restoration efforts.Left: A roaded area before beginning Rehab. Right: A roaded area after Rehab completed. { 10 } DESERT REPORT FALL 2005
  11. 11. In 2001, SCA responded to these desert conservation needs by realizing the promise of the California Desert Protection Act,”initiating the Desert and Wilderness Restoration Project. Since said Covington “We are committed to securing the funding tothat time, SCA has been at the forefront of landscape and habitat continue and expand this exciting program.”restoration efforts in the desert and has pioneered many of the Experienced SCA staff supervises each of the five SCA interntechniques and methods in use today to repair damaged lands in crews. These crew leaders work with BLM staff to develop workarid environments. plans. The crew leaders are responsible for procuring food, materials, vehicles, tools, camping equipment, and handling allThe Project the pre-field season logistics needed to put crews in the field for The goal of the California Desert and Wilderness Restoration extended periods.Project is to inventory, remove, and rehabilitate every illegal off- Crewmembers also undergo an extensive orientation andhighway vehicle route in designated wilderness, limited use areas, training session. Training is vital for learning successfulor Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in the restoration techniques and preparing crewmembers to live andCalifornia Desert. This is a multi-year project, involving 69 work in remote and rugged locations for weeks at a time. Thewilderness areas. The rehabilitation and restoration of these training program covers the following:vehicle intrusions is critical to the continued ecological integrityof desert because they fragment vital wildlife habitat, prevent Arid lands restorationre-growth of native vegetation, degrade wilderness, and encour- Desert ecology and natural historyage continued illegal use that exacerbates and perpetuates Working with agency contactslandscape and habitat damage. Wilderness First Responder certification: patient assessment, wound In reflecting on the BLM’s partnership with SCA in the care, environmental emergencies, and risk mgt.California Desert, Paul Brink, State Wilderness and National Navigation skills: map and compass, GPSLandscape Conservation System (NLCS}Coordinator for the 4 WD and Trailer driving skillsBLM recently said “Our partnership with the SCA is perhaps one Introduction to government land managementof the proudest accomplishments of my career. My dream is to Tool use and maintenanceexpand our SCA partnership into other wilderness stewardship Equipment selection and packingactivities, eventually establishing a Primitive Skills Center. This Food and menu planningCenter could provide the BLM with experts who could accom- OHV historyplish on-the-ground work in wilderness areas using primitive Wilderness historytechniques, as well as serve as a training ground for future wilder-ness managers who will carry the wilderness torch.” Once on site, and after base camp is set up, SCA restoration Each year, SCA teams complete a four-step restoration teams circumnavigate wilderness areas on foot, using maps, com-process in selected areas: inventory, removal, restoration, and passes, digital cameras, and Global Positioning System (GPS)post-project monitoring. Monitoring is necessary to measure technology to locate wilderness boundaries. Vehicle routes with-project effectiveness, to perfect restoration techniques used in in these boundaries are inventoried and restoration strategiesthe challenging desert environment, and to determine if follow developed. The crews then tackle the work of physically removingup restoration treatments are needed. and restoring the route scars to natural conditions. In the 2005 field season, SCA crews completed restoration Wilderness areas are, by definition, large expanses of land inprojects and monitoring in no less than thirteen designated which biodiversity is encouraged to function on its own withoutwilderness areas: the interference of motorized vehicles. However, decades of off- highway vehicle use have adversely affected these areas to such anOld Woman Mountains Wilderness extent that natural regeneration cannot take place withoutChemehuevi Mountains Wilderness effective restoration efforts. For example, native seeds cannotDead Mountains Wilderness germinate within these routes where soil has become compactedWhipple Mountains Wilderness and virtually impenetrable.Stepladder Mountains Wilderness Restoration techniques to remedy these problems includeKingston Range Wilderness “pitting” the soil and planting native vegetation, placement ofBigelow Cholla Gardens Wilderness downed vegetation to help catch naturally dispersed seeds andPiute Mountains Wilderness redirect water collection to assist regrowth. Another importantBristol Mountains Wilderness technique is berm removal - the raised outer edges of routesKelso Dunes Wilderness created by repeated passage of motorized vehicles. B e rms causeCadiz Dunes Wilderness habitat fragmentation, effectively creating barriers or even deadlyPicacho Peak Wilderness e n c l o s u re for the desert tortoise and other endangered species sLittle Picacho Wilderness that can become trapped or unable to re t u rn to their nests. Eliminating these berms can help ensure free access to their nativeIn addition, SCA teams conducted restoration projects in non- habitat by these endangered species. These restoration tech-wilderness locations, such as the Ord Mountain Limited Use niques require hard, physical, labor. Moreover, SCA is commit-Area, the Meccacopia Mountains, Big Morongo ACEC, and ted to using no mechanized tools or motorized vehicles as setJuniper Flats Limited Use Area. forth by The Wilderness Act of 1964. Indeed, SCA has a rich “The work being done by SCA is critically important to continued on page 19 DESERT REPORT FALL 2005 { 11 }
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 THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT: COMMUNICATION Promoting Community ParticipationO nce a month like clock- “round table” format reduces formalities, work, the Ridgecrest office and promotes participation. The public is of the Bureau of Land invited to participate in discussions on equal Management (BLM) holds footing with the Steering Committeean evening “Steering Committee” meeting members.at their offices. The purpose is to establish a Meetings start with public comment.foundation for more effective communica- Anyone can comment, respond, or asktion, as well as provide a forum for questions on topics not on the agenda. Toinformation exchange with the public. It my mind, this is one of the most importantmay not be a meeting that steers the functions. It serves as an early warning sys-direction of the BLM, but it’s a marvelous tem to the BLM, and it reveals rumors thatdevice just the same. Other land management offices would do could spiral out of control or that indeed are situations requiringwell to copy the practice. attention. Often a previously unseen member of the public Steering Committee meetings facilitate the communication attends specifically to talk about a previously unrecognizedvital to successful management. In these meetings, BLM problem or concern. employees discuss what’s going on, and the public can state theirconcerns and bring up the inevitable rumors that circulate.Without this information exchange, rumors often grow andmultiply, BLM actions can develop silently without public inputprior to when the plans become known, and unnecessary acrimony BLM Ridgecrest’s Steering Committeepotentially develops. At the meetings, BLM staff explain their is a forum for information exchange andoperating parameters and why they are doing what theyare doing. direct community involvement. The Steering Committee is an open exchange. Correct infor-mation spreads beyond the meeting, since attendees are able tospeak with authority to members of the community at large.Because of my involvement, I usually have several items to share Items on the agenda follow the public comment period.at Sierra Club Desert Committee meetings. Agenda items range from formal presentations with slides and maps, or discussion among members.How the Steering Committee works It’s all too easy to be suspicious of the BLM as agents of the The semi-formal organization has about 20 local residents oppressive hand of Big Government. At least in the BLM’sdesignated as “members”. Each represents a specific group or R i d g e c rest Resource Area, the Steering Committee is theconcern, such as Small Mining, ORV, and Wilderness. Most opportunity for direct interface with the government staff tomembers attend every meeting. The group chooses a Chair who address concerns head-on.assumes that position for a year. The Chair shares responsibility Desert Committee activists in other Field Offices should askwith BLM employees for selecting discussion topics, and chairs that their manager set up a similar group. It’s worth the timethe meetings. Either the Field Office Manager, Hector and effort.Villalobos, or one of the office branch managers attends eachmeeting. Other BLM employees, attend as needed to support Tom Budlong is a desert activist on the California/Nevada Desertscheduled topics, or out of general interest. Meetings are open to Committeethe public, and usually attract several dozen interested citizens. Steering Committee members sit around a large conferencetable, with space for public attendees behind the members. The Top: Steering Committee Meeting { 12 } DESERT REPORT FALL 2005