Winter 2006 News of the desert from the Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee www.desertreport.org               ...
View From                                                                The Co-Chair                                     ...
BY
 CRAIG
 DEUTSCHE                              THE MORE YOU LOOK, THE MORE YOU SEE                                     I...
TEJON RANCH: TAKE ACTION!                                                              B Y 
 DAV I D 
 C L E N D E N E N  ...
TEJON RANCH: TAKE ACTION!                                                              BY
 DAVID
 C LENDENEN    Stop Devel...
PHILIP
 M.
 KL ASK Y                                                  PATH OF DESTRUCTION             Desert Citizens Figh...
Tejon Permitincluding the Sheriff’s Department, Bureau of Land                      continued from page 4Management, the N...
BY
 M ARK
 SALVO                           Petition to List                         Greater Sage-GrouseS                 i...
In the Moccasins of the Artistcontinued from page 3everywhere and of all sizes. The atlatls that appear on the wall       ...
Eagle Mountain Garbage Dump Suffers Major Defeatcontinued from page 1Environmental Justice, and the Desert Protective Coun...
All American Canal                                               continued from page 1Next Steps to Protect the Eagle Moun...
BY 
 STAN
 WEIDERT                 Planning Initiated For          Northern California & Nevada DesertsT               hre...
Surprise Resource Areawould be allowed.   The one part of the Surprise RA that has been used for recre-ation is the High R...
B Y 
 D A N I E L 
 P A T
 T
 E
 R
 S
 O
 N                 The Center for Biological Diversity moves to advance protectio...
species as “known to occur or having the potential to occur” a t          NEWS UPDATESthe Algodones Dunes, ignoring the ne...
California/Nevada Conservation CommitteeDesert CommitteeOutingsThe CNCC Desert Committees purpose is to work for the prote...
Native Peoples of California Desert and                                   Desert Wilderness Service with Needles BLMMayan ...
Winter 2006 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee
Winter 2006 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee
Winter 2006 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in …5
×

Winter 2006 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee

830 views

Published on

Published in: Sports, Technology
0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total views
830
On SlideShare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
3
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
1
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Winter 2006 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee

  1. 1. Winter 2006 News of the desert from the Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee www.desertreport.org BY 
 DAV I D 
 C Z A M A N S K E AN UNPRECEDENTED LAWSUIT All American Canal Brings International LitigationC onsejo de Desarrollo Economic de Mexacali Department of the Interior are in violation of the National (CDEM), an organization of Mexicali business Environmental Policy Act, because: they rely on an outdated and agricultural interests, and two environmental 1994 Environmental Impact Study; violate the Endangere d organizations based in California, have filed an Species Act for failing to re-consult on project impacts tounprecedented international lawsuit challenging plans by the Peirson’s milk-vetch, the Yuma clapper rail, and other endan-Bureau of Reclamation to build a new, concrete-lined All gered species even though there is now new information aboutAmerican Canal to capture seepage and transfer it to urban San their wetland and riverine habitat; and violation of the MigratoryDiego. The existing canal delivers Colorado River water to Bird Treaty Act, in that construction of the new lined canal willImperial Valley. “take” listed bird species for which no lawful permits have been The lawsuit asserts that the canal-lining project will dry up issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by that Act.thousands of acres of farmland and wetlands in Mexico of seep- continued on page 11age from the unlined canal thereby depriving farms and wildlifeof the water they have depended on for decades following thecanal construction in the 1940s. It seeks to halt the constructionuntil a supplemental environmental impact study is drafted to BY
 HOWA RD 
 G RO SS
 &
 D O NNA 
 CHA R PI E Dupdate the 1994 out-dated Environmental Impact Statement(EIS), and a declaration that Mexico has prior appropriationrights to the seepage water. The plaintiffs CDEM, a leading civic and economic develop-ment corporation in Mexicali; Citizens United for Resources andthe Environment (CURE), a California non-profit promoting Eagle Mountain Garbagesustainable development and resource management; and DesertCitizens Against Pollution (DCAP), a community-based non-profit concerned with air quality and environmental justice Dump Suffers Major Defeat Tissues. The litigation, filed July 19, 2005, in the US DistrictCourt in Las Vegas, Nevada, near the offices of the Lower his past September, U.S. District Judge Robert J.Colorado Division of the Bureau of Reclamation, alleges that Timlin ruled to overturn the federal land exchangeconstruction of a 29 mile lined canal unlawfully will divert as needed for development of the proposed Eaglemuch as 100,000 acre feet of water which presently is used in Mountain garbage dump, which would be sur-Mexico. Seepage and runoff from the farms recharge the ground- rounded on three sides by Joshua Tree National Park. Plaintiffswater aquifer and, without the seepage, the salinity levels in the against the dump-Donna and Larry Charpied, National Parksaquifer will escalate and render it unusable. Conservation Association, Center for Community Action and The suit further alleges that the proposed actions of the continued on page 10
  2. 2. View From The Co-Chair B Y E
 L
 D
 E
 N H
 U
 G
 H
 E
 S The Big and the Little T he California Desert Protection Act (CDPA) wasWINTER 2006 IN THIS ISSUE very large. When it passed in 1994 it raised the pro- tection levels on more than 9 million acres in C a l i f o rn In Nevada, Wi l d e rness designation is ia.ALL AMERICAN CANAL BRINGS INTERNATIONAL LITIGATION ....................01 happening on a county-by-county basis.EAGLE MOUNTAIN GARBAGE DUMP SUFFERS MAJOR DEFEAT ................01 The next issue of Desert Report will tell of the addition of 14 Wi l d e rness areas in Lincoln County, Nevada with a total ofVIEW FROM THE CHAIR: THE BIG AND THE LITTLE ....................................02 768,294 acres. These are huge victories. We need to savor them. For me, savoring often takes the form of appreciating the little things, at least little when dealing on a scale of 9+ million acre s . B e f o re passage of the CDPA, Arrowhead Springs near Granite Pass in the Mojave National Pre s e rve lacked surface water. Its water was trapped below the surface and piped to cattle tro u g h s miles away so that no water actually reached the surface. With the removal of the cattle and the Preserve taking title to the springs aIN THE MOCCASINS OF THE ARTIST ..........................................................03 natural garden spot in the desert has been retrieved. Now theTEJON RANCH APPLICATION FOR A PERMIT TO HARM CONDORS ............04 water is where the bighorn sheep need it. I think the bighorn and we can all say thank you.STOP DEVELOPMENT OF TEJON MOUNTAIN VILLAGE................................05 Mountaintops are often in a natural wilderness. Springs, on the other hand, attract roads. It takes Wi l d e rness and Park designationDESERT CITIZENS FIGHT BACK AGAINST ILLEGAL ORV ABUSE ................06 for a spring’s visitors to be primarily wildlife. East of Arrowhead Springs on the other side of the Pro v i d e n c e Mountains are several square miles that are the sole habitat of the M a rtin Swallowtail Butterf l y, one of the most rare and beautiful butterflies to be found. B e f o re passage of the CDPA, it seemed possible that the Mart i n Swallowtail Butterfly could be collected to extinction. There werePETITION TO LIST GREATER SAGE-GROUSE ..............................................08 so few and such a small habitat. Now the habitat is entirely within the Mojave National Pre s e rve. The Martin Swallowtail Butterf l yPLANNING FOR NORTHERN CALIFORNIA & NEVADA DESERTS..................12 is protected and it is a joy. Big things and little things, we need to stay the course. ThereLISTING SOUGHT FOR ALGODONES DUNES SPECIES ................................14 a re still millions of acres of wilderness that need to be designated Wi l d e rness. Someday, Mojave National Pre s e rve needs to beNEWS UPDATES ........................................................................................15 Mojave National Park. Where we have done things to protect the M a rtin Swallowtail Butterf l y, this issue of Desert Report speaks of the need to protect the Flat Tailed Horned Lizard and the Mono Basin population of the Sage Gro u s e . Perhaps our biggest challenge of the future will be connecting the protected lands. Wi l d e rn Parks, and Pre s e rves tend to be ess, wildlife and plant islands. The islands need wildlife corridorOUTINGS....................................................................................................16 connections. Connecting the gene pools of life is the challenge of this century.GREED, GOLD AND TRADE AGREEMENTS ..................................................18 Martin Swallowtail Butterfly { 2} DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006
  3. 3. BY
 CRAIG
 DEUTSCHE THE MORE YOU LOOK, THE MORE YOU SEE IMAGES FROM THE PAST In The Moccasins Of The ArtistI t is not enough to only look at pictures of rock art and wonder what they mean. You must stand in front of the panels, in the canyons and beside the cliff faces, in the places where the artists themselves stood. Then yourealize that they too were humans but that their view of theuniverse and their way of representing it were worlds and worldsaway from our way. In spite of this, you are overcome by thebeauty that they saw and the wonder in their lives. These thoughts come back to me again and again as I thinkabout several recent weekends that I’ve spent in the deserts ofeastern California looking at these images from the past. Wherethe darker desert varnish has been removed from the surface theimages appear in the lighter colored rock that is exposed. Theages of these images are thought to range from 15,000 yearsbefore present up to historic times. Always these seem to befound in magical, nearly silent places, and where sometimes it ispossible to also find arrow points, grinding stones, and even rockalignments nearby. Places such as these are very special. The highlight of a recent trip which I led was a visit to an Two Bighorn sheep in Little petroglyph Canyon at China Lakeastonishing petroglyph site at the China Lake naval weaponsstation. At the outset it must be stated that access to these rock All of this requires considerable advance notice, the presence ofart sites is carefully managed by the Navy. Visits may be arranged two approved escorts, personal background information aboutthrough the Matarango Museum in Ridgecrest, or groups may the participants, and an inspection of vehicles at the entrancecommunicate directly with the public relations office on the base. gate. While military security is certainly the principal goal of these restrictions, they have the additional effect of preventing any possible vandalism. The overwhelming quantity of the figures, their magnificent state of preservation, and the ambiance of the canyons and mesas where they are found is unforgettable. To reach Little Petroglyph Canyon requires a 45 mile drive through the base on a variety of dirt roads. Eventually you arrive at a small parking area at the head of a seemingly insignificant wash. A trail into this wash gives little indication of what lies ahead. Initially you see a few pecked figures along the sides, but as you start down the wash the dark basalt banks become cliff faces, the canyon narrows, and there is only sky above and ahead. Someone says, “Here are some figures,” and then some more will be seen. Within moments you realize that the figures are everywhere around you, on boulders resting in the sand, on faces of the canyon, on boulders 50 feet up on the slopes, and on and on for the next mile and a quarter. The more you look, the more you see. There are circles, lines, spirals, and figures called “shields.” The recognizable figures includes stylized bighorn sheepPetroglyphs at China Lake in Little Petroglyph canyon continued on page 9 DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006 { 3}
  4. 4. TEJON RANCH: TAKE ACTION! B Y 
 DAV I D 
 C L E N D E N E N Tejon Ranch Company’s Application For A Permit To Harm CondorsT he U. S. Fish and Wildlife requiring hunters to use non-toxic altern a- Service (USFWS) is consider- tives to lead bullets, but they chose not to. ing issuing an “Incidental Take The USFWS and TRC already signed a Permit” (ITP) for the endan- 75-year condor protection agreement ing e red California condor, in association with a 1999, with minimal protections for condorsproposed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and some of their habitat on Tejon Ranch.for Tejon Ranch. The Tejon Ranch Company This agreement was supposed to limit(TRC) is currently seeking a permit from the development density in condor habitat andUSFWS that would allow it to harm, harass, restrict the height of buildings in condor fly-and even kill endangered condors during ways, but these restrictions would be bru s h e dc o n s t ruction and operation of proposed aside by recently proposed Tejon develop-major developments. The USFWS has never ments. The agreement was supposed togranted such a permit for the extre m e l y allow development only in areas rarely usedimperiled condor and environmental groups by condors, but recently proposed develop-are opposing issuance of such a perm i t . ments and operations would clearly violate TRC has an unfortunate history of opposing condor recovery that provision as well. The USFWS also has not enforced theefforts. TRC has actively opposed the re i n t roduction of native provision that re q u i re TRC to submit an annual monitoring and scondors to T ejon Ranch, going so far as to file a lawsuit against the compliance re p o rt. (The 1999 Memorandum of AgreementUSFWS seeking to block any re i n t ro duction near the ranch and to (MOA) was a negotiated settlement agreement arising from TRC’shave condors listed as an experimental and non-essential popula- litigation against FWS. It actually re s e rved TRC’s right to develoption, thus denying them the full protections of the Endangere d condor habitat areas of Tejon Mountain Village (TMV) (andSpecies Act. Although the condor was not listed as an experimen- around “Old Headquarters” at mouth of Tejon and El Pasotal population when the lawsuit was settled, release sites near Tejon Canyons) without fear of objection by FWS. The provisionRanch were blocked and TRC was promised assistance in obtain- continued on page 7ing an Incidental Take Permit for harming condors. In Febru a ry of 2003 a hunter illegally shot and killed a re i n t ro-duced wild-born condor, AC-8, on Tejon Ranch during aT R C - s p o n s o re pig hunt. The death of AC-8 was a terr i b l e dtragedy, since she was the second-to-last condor taken from thewild. Condor AC-8 played an important role in the re c o v e ry eff o rt ,producing numerous chicks and providing critical guidance andwisdom to young captive-re a red condors that are now in the wild.She was one of only nine condors with experience living in thewild, and her re t u rn to the wild was considered one of the gre a tsuccesses of the re c o v e ry program. The hunter who shot AC-8 wasnominally fined. The Center for Biological Diversity requestedthat the USFWS and the California Attorney General investigatethe role of TRC in the killing, but no action was taken againstTRC. Hunting activities on Tejon Ranch also expose condors to asignificant risk of lead poisoning, since TRC allows lead ammuni-tion to be used for hunting of deer, pigs, and other species foragedby condors. Lead poisoning from ammunition left behind incarcasses is one of the greatest threats to re i n t roduced condors.TRC could provide meaningful support to condor re c o v e ry by Top and Above: California Condor { 4} DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006
  5. 5. TEJON RANCH: TAKE ACTION! BY
 DAVID
 C LENDENEN Stop Development Of Tejon Mountain VillageT he Tejon Mountain Village development is pro p o s e d Editor’s Note: Hungry Valley State OHV Recreation Area is looking for the western side of Tejon Ranch near Lebec. The askance at the projects as a competitor for water, and anticipating demands development would convert 28,500 acres of oak stud- by future homeowners on Tejon Ranch lands to stop riders in the SVRA ded mesas and canyons on the west side of Tejon because of dust, noise and traffic ge n e rated by users.Ranch, wildlands essential to the survival and re c o v e ry of thee n d a n g e red California condor, into a sprawling upscale re s o rt. The David Clendenen, a Wildlife Biologist who wo rked on the Condor Project,Tejon Ranch Company wants to build 3,450 residential units, 750 is currently Manager of the Wind Wolves Pre s e rvehotel units, 4 golf courses and 160,000 square feet of commerc i a lspace around Castac Lake, an area of the ranch important for the TAKE ACTION NOWcondor. This development project would seriously threaten the re c o v e ry The Kern County Planning Department will analyze the potentialof southern Californ i a ’s reintroduced condor population. The pub- environmental impacts of this project in an upcominglic has made a tremendous eff o rt to recover the condor and has Environmental Impact Report. Please write, call, or e-mail theinvested over $40 million in the condor re i n t roduction pro g r a m . Planning Department and voice your opposition to the proposedThe Mountain Village development would affect much of the des- Tejon Mountain Village development.ignated Critical Habitat for condors on Tejon Ranch. The TejonRanch Company has proposed setting aside a “condor pre s e rve” on Ted James, AICP, Directorthe project site, which biologists consider of questionable value to Kern County Planning Departmentcondors given the level of development and human disturbance, 2700 “M” Street, Suite 100and in no way adequate mitigation for the development of essen- Bakersfield, CA 93301-2323tial condor habitat. (See accompanying art i c l e ) E-mail: planning@co.kern.ca.us Phone: (661) 862-8600 Fax: (661) 862-8601 The Tejon Mountain Village development is one of several pro-posed for the 270,000 acre Tejon Ranch, a hotspot for biological Points to raise in your comments:diversity and a haven for rare and endemic species, ancient oak 1) Much of the project area has been designated Critical Habitatt rees, condors, rare native plant communities, intact watersheds for the endangered California condor and the project area is aand streams, and wildflower fields. Although no compre h e n s i v e vital wildlife corridor for other species as well.land use plan has ever been pre p a red, Tejon Ranch recently 2) Approval of the Tejon Mountain Village development wouldp roposed the 11,600 acre Centennial Development. At 23,000 seriously threaten the recovery of southern California’shomes it would be the largest single development ever considere d reintroduced condor population.in California, and sit not far from the 1,100 acre Tejon Industrial 3) The area around Castac Lake is not an appropriate site for aComplex East. The ranch is surrounded by protected public and sprawl development project such as the proposed Tejonprivate land and is a vital wildlife corridor connecting the southern Mountain Village development. Sensitive areas such as BearS i e rr Nevada to the Transverse Ranges of the coastal mountains. a Trap Canyon should be avoided. 4) Development along the ridgelines is inappropriate because of Tejon Ranch, including much of the project area, has been the visual impact to the scenic beauty of the area, as seendesignated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as from the San Joaquin Valley and Interstate 5, and its impactCritical Habitat for the condor (habitat essential for the survival on foraging California condors. .and re c o v e ryof the species). The USFWS’s Condor Recovery Plan 5) Kern County should not approve the project — the projectidentified protecting key roosting and feeding areas on Tejon area should instead be preserved as open space and wildlifeRanch as one of the most important recovery actions for the habitat.species. The ranch contains important condor flight pathways and 6) The Planning Department must consider the cumulativethe only significant feeding habitat close to the Sespe-Piru condor impacts of other proposed developments at Tejon ranch,nesting area. The project area is important habitat for the Tejon including the Centennial Development and Tejon Industrialdeer herd, a forage source for the wild condor population. Complex East, in the EIR for the Tejon Mountain Village development. DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006 { 5}
  6. 6. PHILIP
 M.
 KL ASK Y PATH OF DESTRUCTION Desert Citizens Fight Back Against Illegal ORV AbuseT here is a perfume in the air. As evening arrives, the In the Morongo Basin, residents across cultural, economic nectarines of the dune primrose open to the soft and political backgrounds have been organizing to stop ORV breeze. The sunset reaches across the sky — quiet, abuse on both public and private lands. Community ORV Watch approaching darkness, big sky, dark mountains, (COW) began to meet with public officials to assert our demandsradiant light — everyday gifts. for protection and enforcement. We found that many of the offi- I hear the whine of engines in the wash and I run toward the cers were misinformed or ignorant of the law and sympathetic tonoise. By the time I confront two All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), the riders. Other law enforcement personnel are just asthey have already torn up miles of habitat for resident desert tor- frustrated with the lawlessness and conflict that comes withtoises, kit foxes, coyotes, sidewinders, jack rabbits, smoke trees, illegal ORV abuse, but lack sufficient authority and equipment tomesquite and wildflowers. I stand in front of their growling successfully pursue and prosecute offenders.machines and inform them that they are trespassing and tearing COW is working with a larger group of desert defenders. Theup the land. Their immediate response is a familiar refrain, “This Alliance for Responsible Recreation (ARR) is a growing list ofis a free country and I will ride anywhere I want.” I try to stay homeowners, business people, civic organizations and environ-calm as I explain that they are destroying land that our commu- mental activists representing ten groups throughout thenity holds in common. They swear at me and ride off. Their scars California desert working to protect our lands from illegal andare still in evidence. irresponsible ORV recreation. We are currently developing an Communities throughout the country are finding themselves outreach brochure with a diverse group of stakeholders within the path of destruction as sales of off-road vehicles are sky- ORV user groups and businesses, and law enforcement agenciesrocketing, and aggressive ad campaigns target the youth with themessage of an unbridled license to invade the natural landscape.Wilderness areas, areas with sensitive, threatened and endan-gered species, invaluable cultural resources, national parks andlands we hold in trust for future generations are threatened by aninvasion of illegal Off road vehicles (ORVs). Enforcement of thelaw on public lands by the Bureau of Land Management isdifficult at best and attitudes within the agency are too oftensympathetic to off-roaders. The Sheriff’s Departments are over-burdened and they lack the funds and equipment to adequatelyrespond to a problem they find to be overwhelming. The lack of law enforcement is not lost on the kind of riderswho ignore the law and the businesses who take advantage of thelack of public information about where riders can and cannotrecreate. Local communities are starting to organize to protect publicand private lands and are forming coalitions with other groups tobecome an effective force in defense of the land. Broad coalitionsthat include environmental groups, local residents, rider’s groupsand vendors are working together to obtain ORV law enforce-ment grants and are teaming up to educate the public aboutresponsible recreation. ORV’s { 6} DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006
  7. 7. Tejon Permitincluding the Sheriff’s Department, Bureau of Land continued from page 4Management, the National Park Service, California Highway requiring TRC to submit annual re p o rts only goes into effect oncePatrol and local officials. The community has been the glue (as the HCP and ITP are in place, and Tejon re s e rved the right towell as the prod) to keep the coalition working together toward a resume the litigation if FWS does not give them “satisfactory ”common goal of respect for private property and public lands. HCP and ITP) The Alliance is protesting the BLM’s flawed Western Mojave TRC is attempting to use mostly unbuildable land of question-(WEMO) plan that opens up large portions of the desert to off- able value to condors(actually, the important traditional roost sitesroad destruction and denies the desert tortoise and other on Winter’s Ridge are included in those lands, the real problem isthreatened and endangered species the protection the plan was that critical foraging habitat is included in development lands) forintended to provide. Bad science combined with political conservation credit in the HCP. Proposed developments andinfluence has produced a document that invites ORV trespass on operations which would be covered under the HCP couldprivate property, cultural resources and protected wilderness. seriously threaten the re c o v e ry of southern Californ i a ’s reintro- Widespread ignorance about the damaging effects of ORVs duced condor population. In addition to destroying or adverselyand the rules of engagement results in havoc. The public is not modifying Critical Habitat for the condor, the developments couldsufficiently informed of riding restrictions or the lay of the land expose condors to significant human activity, noise, and pollutants.when they rent or purchase the vehicles, or enter desert commu- TRC has opposed important condor re c o v e ry eff o rts and plans tonities looking for places to recreate. Violators are difficult to develop areas that are essential foraging and roosting habitat foridentify without license plates and are hard to capture without condors. The USFWS should not grant a permit to harm or killthe proper equipment, staff power or inter-agency coordination. condors to a company with such a poor track re c o rd . We have recommended that law enforcement and localgovernments erect large format signage along major routes stat- David Clendenen, a Wildlife Biologist who worked on the Condoring the law and warning of the consequences. COW is erecting Project, is currently Manager of the Wind Wolves Preserve.our own big signs on major highways in the desert region. Thesigns state the law and provides telephone numbers for local law TAKE ACTION NOWenforcement. Contact us if you would like such a sign in yourcommunity. Informational kiosks with locator maps and signs at The USFWS is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement forthe boundaries of wilderness, cultural and other protected and the Tejon Ranch Habitat Conservation Plan and Incidental Takesensitive areas are needed to protect these invaluable resources. Permit. Please write or e-mail the USFWS and voice your opposi- We appeal to responsible riders to make a special effort toeducate and monitor the activities of those who ignore the law. tion to issuance of any take permit to harm or kill endangeredWe are working with public officials on a strong county condors, especially for the Tejon Ranch Company.ordinance that increases penalties, requires riders to have writtenpermission on their person when on private land, and creates a Rick Farrisprocess by which besieged residents can bring their case before a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servicejudge for relief. We are also supporting local law enforcement in Ventura Fish and Wildlife Officetheir efforts to obtain state OHV Commission enforcement 2493 Portola Road, Suite Bgrants for more officers and field equipment. Large stagings ofORVs on public and private lands must require special permits, Ventura, CA 93003environmental impact analysis and liability insurance. E-mail: fw1condorHCP@r1.fws.gov Working with the youth to provide alternatives to destructive Tel: (805) 644-1766forms of recreation is essential. We need to offer activities thatencourage young people to find the amazing miracles and the Points to raise in your comments:physical challenges in the natural landscape. We can teach about 1) The California condor is an extremely imperiled species. Thethe living soil, the desert’s fascinating secrets and wild intrigues, USFWS should not issue any take permits for condors.the story of the land and its Native peoples — and how nature 2) Much of Tejon Ranch has been designated as Critical Habitatcan be enduring yet so fragile. Community ORV Watch has resources for organizing against for the condor, areas essential for the recovery of the species.ORV abuse. Go to our web site www.orvwatch.com for meeting The HCP should not allow any development or degradation ofannouncements, analysis and information, relevant documents, this habitat.political updates, news, report forms and links. 3) The USFWS should not issue a take permit to the Tejon Ranch Company which has consistently opposed condorPhilip M. Klasky is a teacher, writer, and cultural geographer who reintroduction and recovery efforts.divides his time between San Francisco and Wonder Valley. 4) Support the continuing condor reintroduction program through current mechanisms. Do not rely on the HCP for future funding. DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006 { 7}
  8. 8. BY
 M ARK
 SALVO Petition to List Greater Sage-GrouseS i e rra Club, other conserva- c o n s e rv ation actions for sensitive species. tionists, the federal govern- More effective conservation is needed. ment, and resource users are Their genetic distinctiveness, combined presently engaged in a pitched with declining population trends and lack ofbattle over the future of greater sage-grouse regulatory protection, qualify Mono Basinand sagebrush habitats in the West. In 2003, sage grouse for listing under thetwenty-one conservation, animal welfare Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a “distinctand sporting organizations, including the population segment.” In October 2005, theSierra Club, submitted a petition to the Stanford Law School Environmental LawU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list Clinic submitted a petition to FWS onall populations of greater sage-grouse as behalf of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign,“threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act Christians Caring for Creation, Center for Biological Diversity(see www.sagebrushsea.org/sp_greater_grouse.htm). Under pres- and Western Watersheds Project to list Mono Basin sage grousesure from industry and the Bush Administration, FWS rejected as threatened or endangered under the ESA. FWS has 90 days tothe petition last January. Undeterred, conservationists are respond to the petition.continuing the fight and continue to look toward other avenues Mono Basin sage grouse re p resent the southwestern most pop-to protect the sage-grouse. ulation of greater sage-grouse in the western United States. In the rugged Mono Basin region on the California/Nevada Scientists extol the importance of such peripheral and geneticallyborder, recent scientific evidence has demonstrated that Mono distinct subpopulations to the survival of a species as a whole. ItBasin sage grouse are genetically distinct from other greater is in peripheral and genetically unique populations that thesage-grouse. Geneticists have discovered that Mono Basin sage evolutionary potential of a species is greatest. Peripheralgrouse have “a unique history of isolation distinct from all other populations, such as the Mono Basin area sage grouse, arepopulations” and that they are “at least as divergent from other usually located at the ecological limits of a species range, thuspopulations of the greater sage-grouse as Gunnison sage-grouse are exposing the species to unique environmental circumstances thatfrom the greater sage-grouse.” (The Gunnison sage-grouse was des- may later become prevalent in central populations, such as theignated as a separate species in 2000). The scientists concluded effects of global warming. Such testing of the peripheralthat the Mono Basin area population does “certainly qualify as a populations can act to stabilize the entire species in the face ofdistinct population segment from a genetic standpoint and may environmental change.even warrant consideration as a new subspecies.” The remaining small, isolated populations of Mono Basin Despite their distinct genetic traits, Mono Basin sage grouse sage grouse are susceptible to extinction. As poor land manage-appear and behave as other greater sage-grouse, and have the ment continues to fragment an already tattered landscape time issame habitat requirements as other sage grouse. Unfortunately, running out for the Mono Basin sage grouse. Especially given itslike other sage grouse populations, Mono Basin sage grouse have importance to the larger sage grouse population, immediatedeclined precipitously since the early 1900s. A species that was action is needed to ensure that this genetically unique populationonce described as abundant now only exists in small, isolated of sage grouse is preserved.populations in the region. Sage grouse habitat in the Mono Basin area has been frag- Mark Salvo (mark@sagebrushsea.org) is director of the Sagebrush Seamented, degraded and eliminated by livestock grazing; off-road Campaign (www.sagebrushsea.org), a project of Forest Guardiansvehicle use; residential development; juniper encro a c h m e n t ; (www.fguardians.org).invasive species; wildfire; mining; the Mammoth Lakes airportexpansion; and the placement and construction of roads, fences FOR MORE INFORMATIONand transmission lines. U n f o rt u n a t e l y, existing management planswill fail to prevent further declines in Mono Basin sage grousepopulations. According to FWS, only one of thirty existing More information about the Mono Basin sage grouse is available atc o n s e rv ation measures meets the agency’s criteria for effective www.sagebrushsea.org/sp_mono_grouse.htm. { 8} DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006
  9. 9. In the Moccasins of the Artistcontinued from page 3everywhere and of all sizes. The atlatls that appear on the wall succeed if there is to be food in the following weeks. In the fallwere pecked more than 1500 years ago, as these sticks used in these people will go to higher elevations harvesting pine nuts,throwing spears were replaced by the bow and arrow at that time. and later the elders will return here seeking visions. You willMore recent figures show humans hunting sheep with bow and return instead to the city and later look at your photos. But thearrows. Perhaps as impressive as any are the figures apparently pictures are not the story. These canyons are not walls to lookrepresenting humans. Some are solid figures, some have head- at. They are places that you experience, that make you ask thedresses of various sorts, some carry weapons, some show obvious larger questions, reminding you that the earlier people weregenitals, and many have elaborate patterned designs on their not so far removed in place, time, and spirit after all.bodies. The day was warm, and walking in the sandy bottom of Twice before in my life I have had feelings similar to thosethe canyon was not easy. Still the figures continued on down the that I had in Little Petroglyph Canyon. Once in the Arcticdeepening canyon. National Wildlife Refuge I found myself surrounded by the Studies indicate that the figures were made under various great Porcupine caribou herd. From horizon to horizon theseclimactic conditions beginning nearly 15,000 years ago and animals walked past, traveling eastward toward Canada.continuing nearly to the historic present. Currently favored Bucks, does, and calves all went on, feeding, crossing streams,interpretations suggest that these were all made intentionally and stopping, watching, utterly unconcerned about the few humans that stood among them. On another occasion I was returning to the California coast from islands in the Santa Barbara channel when porpoises appeared everywhere around the boat. They came from all directions, swam beside us, These canyons are not walls to look at. played in the bow wake of the boat, departed, and were replaced by other groups that came across the surface one They are places that you experience, after another to play beside us also. Those of us on the boat had become a part of their world, interesting to them but of no great importance. And so among the rock figures we also that make you ask the larger questions, were a part of the ancient world that existed thousands of years ago. Perhaps that world and ours are really not so different, reminding you that the earlier but the mirror is imperfect and we only understand in part. people were not so far removed in place, An Enlightened Stewardship The figures are absolutely untouched, and surely the stew- ardship of the Navy must be credited for this. While I have time, and spirit after all. mixed feelings about many things done by the military, I can only be grateful for the wisdom that has been shown in preserving this record. Following this visit I spent part of an afternoon talking with the director of the environmental pro-that the various styles appeared simultaneously and did not evolve gram at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Carolynone from another. These canyons were places where people lived Sheppard spoke at length about the on-going program toand hunted for parts of the year, but these canyons were also document the archeological sites on these lands, about thesacred places where shamans went in order to enter the spirit environmental assessment that must be completed before anyworld in search of visions. When the shamans returned from their part of the base is used for weapons testing, about concernstrance, it is thought that they recorded their experience on the over ground water contamination, and about programs torocks. Bighorn sheep were believed to be spirit helpers for eradicate invasive plants. It was a matter of pride that on this,shamans who sought to increase rain, and the drought that spread the second largest military reservation in the United States,through western North America around 1200 A.D. must have only five percent of the land area has been disturbed to date.surely inspired many of the petroglyphs. There are lines of In the last several years the China Lake facility has receivedevidence supporting these interpretations, but most academics awards and commendations for their environmental accom-will readily admit that a great deal is still speculative or unknown. plishments from a variety of groups including the Society for As you physically walk among these figures, the interpreta- California Archeology as well as the Department of Defense.tions lose importance. The day is hot and dry, shrubs are some When the sheer beauty of the playas, hills, mesas, and moun-green and some brown, a raven or vulture will circle overhead, tains are seen, this praise takes on even greater significance.and soon you realize how glad you are to have brought a waterbottle along. Lizards appear, there are occasional thistles growing Craig Deutsche is the Outings Coordinator and Desert Reportamong the rocks, and it is silent, silent. You think about the air Outings Editor for the Desert Committee.conditioned car that you left, and you imagine the earlier familiessitting in this same wash, grinding seeds, knapping arrow points,watching children, and perhaps planning a rabbit drive that must DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006 { 9}
  10. 10. Eagle Mountain Garbage Dump Suffers Major Defeatcontinued from page 1Environmental Justice, and the Desert Protective Council-as well advocates have taken the opportunity provided by the judge’sas park advocates nationwide celebrate this decision in the long- decision to try to inspire the Sanitation Districts of Los Angelesrunning struggle to prevent the dump as a major victory for County (SDLAC) to pursue other options.Joshua Tree National Park. SDLAC can more than meet its growing trash-management Reaching this important milepost provides a good opport u n i t y needs for decades to come with other landfills and throughto review some aspects of this issue, especially since the judge’s increased recycling and diversion rates according to the Nationaldeliberations lasted over 2 years and many new faces have arrived Parks Conservation Association’s (NPCA’s) recently releasedin the desert during that time. This ill-conceived project is position paper-”Don’t Trash Joshua Tree National Park”- whichunnecessary and would be devastating to Joshua Tree National shows that the landfills can adequately meet the county’s pro-Park; what is in Judge Timlin’s decision, and what lies ahead in jected demand through 2018 at a minimum. In addition, if coun-the effort to protect the Eagle Mountains and Chuckwalla Valley, tywide diversion rates are increased beyond 50 percent-alreadyas well as communities along the truck and rail corridors? achieved elsewhere in California and across the nation-SDLAC can expect a surplus of waste disposal capacity for decades.Fighting for a Crown Jewel of the Desert (NPCA’s position paper can be viewed at and downloaded from The proposed Eagle Mountain garbage dump would be the www.npca.org/report/EagleMountainDump.pdf)world’s largest, accepting up to 20,000 tons of trash per day for NPCA presented its research to SDLAC’s staff and board of117 years. Trash would be delivered by up to seven mile-long directors in October, along with a petition from over 14,400trains and 200 trucks daily, most of it coming from Los Angeles NPCA members from all 50 states asking that SDLAC treatCounty, resulting in a mountain of trash 700 to 2,200 feet above America’s national parks with respect by abandoning its interestcurrent ground surfaces. The dump and its ancillary facilities- in the Eagle Mountain Landfill. SDLAC responded in the mediaincluding landfill gas flaring equipment, rock crushing and by saying that it may not be possible to increase its recycling ratescreening equipment, separate rail and truck yards and fueling much more. This defies the reality of what other cities andareas, storage sites for hazardous waste, and settling basins-would counties are achieving and aspiring to. San Francisco County, forcomprise a major industrial development just one and a half miles example, is currently diverting 67% of its waste from landfillsfrom Joshua Tree National Park’s wilderness. and plans to reach 75% by 2010. In Santa Barbara County, the Having the world’s largest garbage dump as its neighbor, the rate is 59% and counties in NJ have been exceeding 60% forNational Park Service would be severely limited in its ability to years, as has the city of Los Angeles. Both Seattle and Torontoprotect the wonders the Joshua Tree was established to preserve, are working to achieve a 60% diversion rate by the end of thelike dark night skies, clean air, solitude, scenic desert vistas, decade. Clearly, SDLAC and Los Angeles County can do betterunique wildlife, and sensitive habitats. In addition, the dump than the 50% minimum required by state law.would severely disrupt the surrounding desert ecosystem bysubsidizing and inflating the population of predators, such asravens and coyotes, which in turn would reduce numbers ofdesert tortoise, reptiles, songbirds, and myriad other wildlife.Judge Chastises BLMJudge Timlin found that the land exchange approved by theBureau of Land Management (BLM)-required for KaiserVentures and Mine Reclamation Corporation’s project to moveforward-failed to properly consider the public land’s potentialvalue and was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion.” TheBLM valued the 3,942-acres of public land being traded at $77-$104 per acre. Kaiser, in turn, secured an agreement to sell thedumpsite to the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County for$41 million. In addition, the court ruled in conservationists’ favor byfinding that the BLM had not fully considered whether the landexchange was in the public interest, as required by law, and failedto adequately analyze the purpose and need for the project or areasonable range of alternatives. The ruling also found the BLMinadequately addressed the impact the dump would have onbighorn sheep and the desert ecosystem.Dump Unnecessary; Other Trash Solutions Exist Since Kaiser’s sale of the proposed dump site is contingentupon their defeat of legal challenges against the project, park Eagle Mountain { 10 } DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006
  11. 11. All American Canal continued from page 1Next Steps to Protect the Eagle Mountains: The response of the United States, which asked the court on September 19 to dismiss“Give It Back!” most of the case, is that the court lacks jurisdiction to resolve the water rights issues raised While Judge Timlin clearly handed a in the lawsuit. The US argues that treaties provide non-judicial diplomatic remedies forvictory to Eagle Mountain dump oppo- resolving disputes. They re f e rred to the 1944 US-Mexican Water Treaty which established anents, the BLM and Kaiser had 60 days diplomatic process, through the International Boundary and Water Commission, to resolvefollowing the decision–until November any disputes between the two countries regarding allocation of Colorado River water.19, 2005–to appeal. By late October, The United States also argues that some of the environmental claims are barred by theKaiser publicly promised to appeal, but 6-year statute of limitations that started when the projects’s Record of Decision wasthe BLM had not announced their inten- issued in 1994. As of December 1, no hearing date has been set for this litigation. Twotion at the time this article was written in District Court judges in Las Vegas have recused themselves from the case, and as a resultearly November. Either way, all plaintiffs it now is in the hands of Presiding Judge Phillip Pro. The States of Arizona, Nevada,remain committed to fighting this California and the Imperial Irrigation District, Metropolitan Water District and Sanproject. Its likelihood of coming to Diego Water Authority have intervened claiming that the case could unravel thefruition has been dramatically reduced Quantification Settlement Agreement.and will hopefully soon be permanently Contracts for the $200 million canal lining project have not yet been signed, nor hasdefeated, which should allow a visionary work begun. Plaintiffs indicate they are prepared to seek a court injunction to preventidea already growing roots to blossom. these actions from occurring. The “Give It Back!” campaign was Meanwhile inconclusive discussions between the U.S. and Mexico to address impactslaunched by the Citizens for the of the canal project have been underway for some time under the auspices of theChuckwalla Valley in 2003. The goals of International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) in accord with the 1944 Waterthis campaign are to return 29,775 acres Treaty. Reportedly all the US is prepared to offer at the moment is the potential of finan-of land in the Eagle Mountains to Joshua cial assistance to help improve the existing water distribution system, thereby reducingTree National Park and see that the old water loss, on the Mexican side of the border.Kaiser mine and town site be designated Editor’s note: Although the political will to accommodate Mexican concerns about loss ofa National Historic Landmark because seepage water is largely lacking among US Federal and state water agencies, it should also be borneof their unique role in developing the in mind that the professional staff of the IBWC has recently been decimated by a political appointeesteel industry on the West Coast. This of the Bush Administration, namely the US Commissioner, now since forced out of office.land was originally included in Joshua Plaintiffs contend these mitigation measures are meaningless since water conservationTree National Monument when it was will worsen the recharge loss to the aquifer and impacts to the wetlands. The Mexicandesignated in 1936, but was amongst government also is not likely to settle during a presidential election year or risk beingareas deleted from the monument in viewed as undermining powerful political interests in Mexicali.1950 during the Korean War in order tod e t e rmine their potential for mineral David Czamanske is the Chair of Sierra Club California’s Water Committeedevelopment. Today, no mining is occurring in theEagle Mountains and the “Give It Back!” The All-American Canallands possess significant natural andcultural resources worthy of inclusion inJoshua Tree National Park. The defeatof the Eagle Mountain dump provides aunique opportunity for the “Give ItBack!” campaign to move forward. Formore information about “Give It Back!”call the Citizens for the ChuckwallaValley (see below) or visit www.ccaej.org/projects/desert_protection/action_alerts2.html, where you can also become anendorser of the campaign.Howard Gross, National Parks ConservationAssociation, can be reached at 760-366-3035 or hgross@npca.org. Donna Charpied,Citizens for Chuck walla Valley, can bere a ched at 760-574-1887 or laronna@earthlink.net. The All American Canal: Proposed concrete area is shown in orange DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006 { 11 }
  12. 12. BY 
 STAN
 WEIDERT Planning Initiated For Northern California & Nevada DesertsT hree Bureau of Land Management (BLM) The Smoke Creek desert is surrounded by low mountains Resource Areas (RA) in Northeast California and with much biological diversity. From these mountains flow two Northwest Nevada will be releasing draft Resource good sized year-round streams, Smoke Creek and Buffalo Creek. Management Plans (RMP) along with draft Both creeks have their own native fish populations and flow outEnvironmental Impact statements (EIS) in January. The three to the edge of the desert. The low mountains have significantresource areas producing these RMPs are from the Susanville roadless areas including six Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs). FiveDistrict of BLM. They are the Eagle Lake Resource Area of these WSAs, Buffalo Hills, Twin Peaks, Five Springs, Drycentered in Susanville, the Surprise RA centered in Cedarville Valley Rim Eagle Head), and Skeedaddle are in the Eagle Lakeand the Alturas RA. Each RA is producing its own RMP with all RA. There is another WSA, Willow Creek, just north ofthree being released together as a three document package. The Susanville with an all year creek that flows into Honey Lake, alsoSurprise and Eagle Lake RAs cover public lands on both sides of in the RA.the California and Nevada state line, most of which is desert. These same low mountains have numerous permanent springs Because these regions are sparsely populated, desert activists that create green areas and some short flowing streams. Most offrom other areas need to be active in commenting on these the landscape is covered in sagebrush steppe with some westernRMPs. For those familiar with the area, or wishing to visit or juniper woodland and a few small aspen groves.comment on them, here are thumbnail profiles of the three areas. To the north, the Surprise RA also has several perennialSee box at right if you want to order a copy of the documents. creeks. One of these, Wall Canyon Creek, is within the Wall The Surprise RA covers the lands from the Wa rn e r Canyon WSA. This creek and several smaller ones contain nativeMountains east to High Rock Canyon, North to Oregon and the fish populations. Two other WSAs are in the Surprise RA: SouthSheldon Antelope Refuge and south to about 25 miles south of Warner Contiguous, adjacent to the existing South Warnerthe Warner Mountains. The Eagle Lake RA is triangular in shape Wilderness, and Massacer Rim adjacent to Sheldon Antelopeand covers public lands from Eagle lake east to north of the Refuge.Smoke Creek Desert then south to about Haleluia Junction on The Surprise RA also has several low ranges with moreHWY 395, where the southern tip of the triangle sits. juniper than further south. Most of these areas remain roadless Both RAs have lands of significant concern to protecting the and are little visited. During previous planning processes BLMhigh desert ecosystem found here. Most of the Smoke Creek did not review the full road system or recreational use of theseDesert is located in the Eagle Lake RA. This desert is really lands because there was very little ground activity. In thisa continuation of the larger Black Rock Desert, which lies to planning round, more analysis of the recreation is needed, alongthe northeast. with a process for designating where different types of recreation continued on page 18 Stone Circle in Smoke Creek Desert { 12 } DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006
  13. 13. Surprise Resource Areawould be allowed. The one part of the Surprise RA that has been used for recre-ation is the High Rock Canyon Area. This region is now a partof the Black Rock Desert, High Rock Canyon, Historic PioneerTrails National Conservation Area. It is not part of the RMP Itsseparate planning document was recently completed.Commenting on the RMP To maximize effectiveness, comments for the scoping phaseof planning should focus on ecosystem considerations, includingecological areas which cross agency boundaries. BLM should beworking with other agencies and governing bodies. Monitoringand adaptive management should be important components ofthe plans. The BLM should review off road vehicle (ORV) use,including where it may be appropriate and where it should berestricted. As a part of that, the plan must include an inventoryof existing roads and routes, and an assessment of potentialerosion problems from vehicles. As in all deserts, water sources are critical to all species sur- Alturus Resource Areavival, and deserve special consideration. The permanent streamsshould be considered for Wild and Scenic River designation.Protecting riparian areas is critical. A variety of techniques arepossible, and should be on a site specific basis. All of the non-WSA roadless areas have some potential forprimitive recreation. They should be evaluated to determine theextent of that potential. Rare and endangered species, includingplants and proposed methods for their protection and habitatimprovement, and including review of grazing impacts on vege-tation, riparian zones and wildlife are also important. Utilitycorridors and other activities which could fragment habitatshould be limited to existing routes, roads and areas. The planshould consider ways to purchase critical inholdings of privateproperty. Other issues include management of several seasonal smalllakes in two of the RAs, fire management reflective of a goalto return to the natural pattern of fires, and protection ofcultural and historical resources. including native sites and twohistorical trails. Eagle Lake Resource Area Local activists will be taking the lead in following the plans;to assist or provide information, contact Stan Weidert at (530)474-3180.Stan Weidert lives in Shingletown, California. He is a cofounder of theDesert Committee’s Old Bottle Award.FOR MORE INFORMATION To be included in the official agency list of concerned citizens please contact: BLM Us Dept. Of Interior Bureau Of Land Management Eagle Lake Field Office 29520 Riverside Drive Susanville Ca 96130 The plans coordinator is Susan Noggle at 530 252-5345. DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006 { 13 }
  14. 14. B Y 
 D A N I E L 
 P A T
 T
 E
 R
 S
 O
 N The Center for Biological Diversity moves to advance protection of 17 Algodones Dunes endemic species to counter BLM’s plan to open 86% to off-roading, putting unique Colorado Desert wildlife at risk of extinction. Listing Sought for Algodones Dunes SpeciesI n a follow-up move to protect the dunes.” A pending Bush administration unique desert wildlife threatened decision would roll-back environmental by off-road vehicles (ORVs) in the p rotections on nearly 50,000 dunes acre s , Algodones Dunes, the Center for opening 86% of the habitat to ORV damage.Biological Diversity (Center) has asked a The FWS first proposed protectionFederal court to order the Bush administra- of the Andrew’s dune scarab beetle in 1978.tion to act on its petitions to list rare sand At that time, FWS noted “this action isdunes species in southern California. Back being taken because of their decreasedin December of 2002 the Center filed a population levels and anticipated adversepetition with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife modification of their habitat.” FWS statedService (FWS) to list the Andrew’s dunes in the proposed rules that “the continuedscarab beetle as a threatened or endangered species under the disruption of dune troughs by off-road vehicles prevents theEndangered Species Act (ESA). accumulation of dead organic matter upon which the immature In July 2004 the Center, Public Employees for Environmental stages of this beetle feed.” In October 1980, FWS issued a notice toResponsibility, and the Sierra Club filed a second petition with withdraw the proposal because final rulemaking had not beenFWS to list 16 more Algodones Dunes endemic species: two sand completed within the old required 2-year deadline. ESA protectionwasps, two bees, one vespid, two velvet ants, three jewel beetles, for the beetle was denied due to internal failure of FWS to meettwo scarab beetles, and four subspecies of Roth’s dune weevil. All deadlines and not due to new scientific data indicating a listing17 of these unique desert animals are found only at the was not warranted.Algodones Dunes on public lands managed by the Bureau of Continuing FWS failure to provide legal protection for theLand Management (BLM). beetle has now resulted in over two decades of dunes mis- FWS is required by law to respond within 90 days, but still has management by BLM. The agency skates around taking intonot ruled on the information presented in the petitions. The account the impacts of increasing ORV use on the beetle and theCenter recently asked the court to order a “90 day finding.” In other rare and endangered fauna of the dunes. The dunes arecommenting on the action, Daniel R. Patterson, Desert currently managed under an agreement negotiated in 2000Ecologist at the Center, said, “Our petitions present good among BLM, off-roaders, and conservationists. The agreementscientific evidence to support listing, and we have to move for keeps over 106 sq. miles open to ORVs, while the other half ofprotection of these 17 endemic species now because the BLM’s the dunes are protected for wildlife, and scenic non-motorizedplan to sacrifice the Algodones Dunes to the off-road industry recreation. But now BLM is pushing a plan that not only fails tocould wipe them out. The administration hasn’t even considered p rotect the 17 endemic animals, but also eliminates ORVthese unique and interesting desert animals, which clearly need closures designed to protect a threatened plant found only at theEndangered Species Act protection.” dunes, the Peirson’s milkvetch. The most harmful impact on the Algodones Dunes is intensive The preferred alternative in BLM’s Environmental Impacto ff - ro driving - the dunes are ripped by 240,000+ off - roaders on ad Statement (EIS) for the proposed Recreation Area Managementa single busy weekend. During Thanksgiving 2005, Patterson Plan for the Algodones Dunes (BLM RAMP 2002) would permitnoted that use was particularly out of control and destructive. ORVs in an astounding 198,220 acres and provide habitat“ORVs at the Algodones Dunes use special tires that cut deeply protection only on the 25,800 acres of the Algodones Dunesinto the sand, directly killing animals and wrecking habitat. M a n y Wilderness created in 1994. The EIS listed only five insectof these 17 species are most active Febru a ry – April, a biologicallycritical time that coincides with the season of heavy ORV use on Endemic Beetle { 14 } DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006
  15. 15. species as “known to occur or having the potential to occur” a t NEWS UPDATESthe Algodones Dunes, ignoring the nearly two-dozen otherendemic insects at the Algodones Dunes documented in scientificliterature. Biologists at the Center were able to find them readily The Flat Tailedin published journals, reports to the agency, and via personalcommunication with entomologists familiar with the area. Horned Lizard The Federal Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has seemingly used everyInsects in the Dunes excuse to avoid listing as endangered the Flat Tailed Horned Lizard Dunes are hotspots of biological diversity in desert regions, (FTHL). The most recent turn down was in 2003.likely because they are more mesic (wet) than other desert The FTHL’s habitat once extended from the Coachella Valley throughhabitats due to their ability to store water. The Algodones Dunes the Imperial Valley past Yuma and the Mexican border. Now it exists inare no exception, harboring dozens of rare endemic insects and plants only isolated pockets. A federal judge has just ordered the FWS to con-within its habitat island. Insect species endemic to the Algodones sider this shrinking habitat when making a decision. The 2003 decisionDunes are adapted to the hot, arid environment and often show must now be reconsidered and reported to the court by April 30, 2006.habitat specialization, such as dependence upon a particular hostplant. Such endemic species and habitat specialists are considered Water — White Pine County,more prone to extinction than widespread habitat generalists. Nevada R o b e rt Stebbins, noted desert expert, estimated that duringdaylight and early evening, perhaps 80% of desert fauna are buried Las Vegas is reaching out to all of rural Nevada for water. The ruralunderground, leaving them vulnerable to being crushed and counties are fighting back.maimed by ORV tires. Scientific surveys comparing areas used by White Pine County is considering filing for Chapter 9 Bankruptcy.ORVs with unused areas at the Algodones Dunes indicate that “We’re not trying to hurt our creditors or anyone who does businessORVs cause drastic reductions in the abundance of several beetle with the county. It’s an effort to protect our waters,” said the Countyspecies. The ORVs also result in reduced plant cover, furt h e r Commission Chairman.threatening the survival of species that depend on these plants forfood and breeding sites. The dunes studies indicated that even Carrizo Plainmoderate ORV use results in significant reductions of plant cover. National Monument BLM has continued to push its management plan despite The BLM has announced plans to develop a Resource Managementdemonstrated adverse impacts of ORVs on the species that Plan (RMP) for the Carrizo Plain National Monument without preparinginhabit the Algodones Dunes. Vulnerability from anthropogenic an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by law. Federal(historic, ongoing, and imminent human-caused habitat destruc- regulations and policies consider the development of the Resourcetion) and environmental (restricted range, habitat specialist) Management Plan (RMP) for a National Monument a major federalpressures, as well as a complete failure of land management plans action, which requires the preparation of an EIS. Instead BLM intendsto protect this fragile dune habitat and the species it supports to do an Environmental Assessment (EA), a lesser level of reviewfrom excessive ORV use, puts the rare endemic wildlife of the normally reserved for small non-controversial projects. Furthermore,Algodones Dunes at risk of extinction. The possibility of pesti- an EA does not guarantee the same level of environmental review andcide drift from nearby agricultural spraying in the Imperial Valley analysis, or public participation as an EIS. The public and theto the west may also be harming these 17 unique dune species is Monuments resources could suffer as a result.an example of other threats that need to be evaluated by FWS. For readers interested in researching the insects in the dunes,the list of 16 proposed in 2004 are: two sand wasps Quechan Tribe and(Microbembex elegans Griswold and Stictiella villegasi Bohart); Glamis Goldtwo bees (Perdita algodones Timberlake and P. glamis The California area north of the Quechan Tribe’s 45,000 acre reserva-Timberlake); one vespid (Euparagia n. sp.); two velvet ants tion near Yuma, Arizona contains many of the tribes sacred sites:(Dasymutilla nocturna Mickel and Dasymutilla imperialis); three prayer circles, burial shrines, ancient petroglyphs and the 130 milesjewel beetles (Algodones sand jewel beetle, Lepismadora long “Trail of Dreams” that connects Spirit Mountain in Nevada withalgodones Velten, Algodones white wax jewel beetle, Prasinalia Pilot Knob near the Mexican border.imperialis (Barr), and Algodones Croton jewel beetle, Agrilus The Glamis Gold mining company from Canada has sought to mineharenus Nelson); two scarab beetles (Hard y ’s dune beetle, the sacred area. California’s mining regulations stopped them. UsingAnomala hardyorum Potts and Cyclocephala wandae); and four the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Glamis has sued thesubspecies of Roth’s dune weevil (Trigonoscuta rothi rothi, T. r. United States for $50 million for not being able to develop the mine.algodones, T. r. imperialis, and T. r. punctata). In an absolutely astounding development, the NAFTA arbiters have The Bush administration’s plan to remove the protected areas granted the Quechan Nation the right to file what is essentially anwould be devastating to already listed imperiled species - includ- amicus curiae brief siding with the United States State Department.ing the Peirson’s milkvetch, desert tortoise, and flat-tailed horned This represents the first time a Native American tribe has been allowedl i z a rd, and worsen air pollution, especially dust which is to file a brief before NAFTA or the World Trade Organization.ubiquitous from agricultural activities. Driving off hikers, bird- The case is still under arbitration. The next issue of Desert Reportwatchers, photographers, and Native Americans and opening will carry an article by Courtney Coyle, the Quechan tribes’s attorney. continued on page 18 DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006 { 15 }
  16. 16. California/Nevada Conservation CommitteeDesert CommitteeOutingsThe CNCC Desert Committees purpose is to work for the protection, preservation, and conservation of the California/Nevada desert; support the sameobjectives in all desert areas of the Southwest; monitor and work with governments and agencies to promote preservation of our arid lands;sponsor educational and work trips; encourage and support others to work for the same objectives; maintain, share and publish information aboutthe desert. All Desert Committee activities, unless stated otherwise, are suitable for anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Special physical conditioning is notnecessary. The average car or high clearance vehicle will be adequate for most trips; however, many of the roads used are dirt and, as with all deserttravel, you should come prepared. For a good guide to desert travel we recommend the Sierra Club book Adventuring in the California Desert by Lynn Foster. We want you to enjoy our study trips and work parties. They are designed to help you see the desert in a way you have not seen it before. Weusually have a campfire in the evenings with lots of food (potluck) and camaraderie. For a complete listing of CNCC Desert Committee trips, send a large SASE with 60 cents postage to: Craig Deutsche, 2231 Kelton Ave, Los Angeles,CA 90064. Trips may also be received via e-mail from deutsche@earthlink.net. Like nearly all organizations that sponsor outdoor travel, the Sierra Club is obliged to require participants to sign a standard liability waiver atthe beginning of each trip. If you would like to read the Liability Waiver before you choose to participate on an outing, please go to:www.sierraclub.org/outings/chapter/forms, or contact the Outings Department at (415) 977-5528 for a printed version.Mecca Hills Backpack Hexahedron Mine, JTNPFebruary 4-5, February 25,Saturday-Sunday SaturdayThis is an easy overnight backpack into the narrow, steep-walled There is an old road to this mine but experiments with a gps havecanyons of a geologically significant wilderness area. led us to another route from Stirrup Tank that is moreImmediately east of Indio, CA, a large housing development has interesting and presents a wider variety of possibilities for sidebeen proposed along the northern boundary of this wilderness. adventures. I think this is about six miles. Bring your sturdyWe will explore and monitor water resources to complete a BLM boots, layered clothing, a couple liters of water and lunch. Callinventory and to prepare comments upon the water require- Ann and Al Murdy, aemurdy@eee.org, (760-366-2932). Sanments for the proposed development. Leader: Craig Deutsche, Gorgonio Chap/CNRCC Desert Comdeutsche@earthlink.net, (310-477-6670). CNRCC Desert Com Rodman/Newbury Mountains CarcampSouthern Nevada Service & Exploratory February 25-26,February 17-20, Saturday-SundayFriday-Monday A lava plateau, wide canyons between the high points, petro-Join Vicky Hoover on a service trip and exploration in one of glyphs, and bighorn sheep are among the attractions of these twosouthern Nevada’s new wilderness areas, or possibly a potential wilderness area. We will travel by car, explore with daypacks onwilderness. Exact destination still a mystery but count on scenic foot, and climb Newbury peak. A wind energy facility is beingsurroundings and a good time. Central commissary with Vicky proposed immediately to the south of the Rodman WA. We shallHoover, vicky.hoover@sierraclub.org, (415-977-5527). SF Bay/ evaluate this possibility and also monitor the perimeter of theseCNRCC Desert Com areas for ORV impacts. Leader: Craig Deutsche, deutsche@ earthlink.net, (310-477-6670). CNRCC Desert Com { 16 } DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006
  17. 17. Native Peoples of California Desert and Desert Wilderness Service with Needles BLMMayan Highlands Car Camp, March 31 - April 2,March 4-5, Friday - SundaySaturday-Sunday Join S.F. Bay Chapter and Mojave Group, San Gorgonio ChapterJoin us for a unique occasion in which two indigenous peoples, on our annual work trip with the BLM to one of our favoritethe Quechan of the California desert & Mayans from the desert Wi l d e rnesses: the Old Woman, Tu rtle, or WhippleGuatemalan highlands, have invited Sierra Club members to Mountains, or possibly a new mystery location. Enjoy desert inparticipate in a weekend gathering, hosted by Quechan elder spring while helping wilderness! And meet new Needles wilder-Preston Arrow-weed at his ranch on the Quechan reservation ness staff Dan Abbe. Central commissary with Vicky Hoover,across the Colorado River from Yuma. Activities will include vicky.hoover@sierraclub.org, (415-977-5527). SF Bay/CNRCCMayan and Quechan ceremonies, a wildflower hike, discussion of Desert Comthe effects of flawed trade agreements on the lives of indigenouspeoples and on our environment, and an opportunity to attend anannual pow-wow/exhibition at the Quechan high school. A $85 Antelope Protection Carcamp (Nature Study/Work Party)donation covers fees & food, with proceeds serving as a April 1-2,contribution for Guatemalan victims of Hurricane Stan. Bring Saturday-Sundaytent/sleeping bag. Space is limited: reserve by February 9! Co- With little rainfall and few water sources, the species that lives p o n s o red with San Diego Chapter & Responsible Trade here are both hardy and endangered. Particularly beautiful areCommittee. Contact Ldrs: Joan & Don Holtz, jholzhln@ the pronghorn antelope which evolved in these wild, open spaces.aol.com, (626-443-0706); Ellen Shively, ellenshively@ Then cattle ranching left a legacy of endless fences - which aresbcglobal.net, (619-479-3412). Verdugo Hills Group/SD Chap/ deadly to the pronghorn. Join us for a weekend in this remoteCNRCC Desert Com a rea removing fencing for their benefit. Camp at KCL campground, bring food, water, heavy leather work gloves, and camping gear for the weekend. Potluck Sat night. Rain cancels.Backpack and Tamarisk Bash in Argus Range Resource specialist: Alice Koch. For more information, contactMarch 24-26, Leaders: Cal and Letty French, 14140 Chimney Rock Road,Friday-Sunday Paso Robles, CA 93446, (805-239-7338). Prefer e-mailJoin Marty Dickes, BLM Ranger, and other desert lovers for ccfrench@tcsn.net. Santa Lucia Chap/CNRCC Desert Comeradication of tamarisk. Short hike into work site on Friday in abeautiful spring area. Saturday will be hiking and exploring theregion’s archeological and natural history. Sunday will finish up Surprise Cyn Tamarisk Removal Service Trip,on the work project and hike out. Drive to Trona on Thursday to Carcamp & Hike, Panamint Mtnsmeet early Friday morning. For information and reservations April 14-16,contact Leader: Pat Klaasen, pklaasen@juno.com, (619-582- Friday-Monday7407). Asst: Larry Klaasen. SD Chap/CNRCC Desert Com Improve the environment and learn the Surprise Canyon story. This trip will be a second effort to remove tamarisk, scourge of desert water sources. Join BLM staff eradication efforts and TomDarwin Plateau Carcamp Budlong, Surprise Canyon wilderness steward. Bad attitudeMarch 24-26, t o w a rd tamarisk required. Tasks for all abilities. FamiliesFriday-Sunday welcome. Possible Spring wildflower display and Easter eggConglomerate Mesa is an unprotected area lying between the hunt. Talk of 1870’s Panamint City, ‘49ers trek across theInyo and the Malpais Mesa Wilderness Areas. Previous mining Panamints, Briggs gold mine. Sunday hike. Primitive campingefforts have ceased, road access is very limited, and views are under the stars with potlucks, campfire & camaraderie. 2WDsuperb. On successive days we will dayhike in San Lucas Cyn, vehicles OK. Send large SASE, rideshare info, vehicle type,e x p l o re Conglomerate Mesa, and visit the Blackrock Well H&W phones, E-mail to Reserv.Co-ldr: Sue Palmer, 32373p e t roglyph site. Ultimately we will document the area for Saddle Mtn Drive, Westlake Village, CA 91361, 818-879-0960,possible designation as wilderness. Leader: Craig Deutsche, pdsoussan@aol.com. Ldr: Jim Kilberg, (310-215-0092). Angelesdeutsche@earthlink.net, (310-477-6670). CNRCC Desert Com Chap/CNRCC Desert ComWonderland Loop, JTNP Anza Borrego Natural History Easter CarcampMarch 25, April 15-16,Saturday Saturday-SundayThe area known as Wonderland of Rocks is one of the most Naturalist led moderate dayhikes to special secret places ininteresting places for visitors. It is also quite tricky. We will enter California’s largest state park. Learn about wildflowers, birds,the Wonderland near Barker Dam and use a series of washes and animals, rocks and fossils, and maybe spot the Easter Jackalope!passes to wander around. Along the way we will stop at historic Pot luck Saturday night. For more information contact leader:and prehistoric sites. Expect off trail boulder scrambling for 5-6 Suzanne Swedo, wild@inetworld.net, (818-781-4421). Angeleshours. Bring your sturdy boots, layered clothing, a couple liters Chap/CNRCC Desert Comof water and lunch. Call Ann and Al Murdy, aemurdy@eee.org,(760-366-2932). San Gorgonio Chap/CNRCC Desert Com DESERT REPORT WINTER 2006 { 17 }

×