September 2007 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee

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September 2007 Desert Report, CNCC Desert Committee Powered By Docstoc
					 September 2007 News of the desert from Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee

                                                               B Y 
 W A
 D A 
 R A S C H K O W

                                                      A PERSONAL ACCOUNT

  Protection of Historic & Cultural Resources
“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United              and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the
 States of America in Congress assembled, That any person who shall                  American people” and that “…preservation of this irreplaceable
 appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin          heritage is in the public interest.”
                                                                                        Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (as
 or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or
                                                                                     amended) requires that Federal agencies take into account the
 controlled by the Government of the United States, without the per-
                                                                                     effect of undertakings or authorized actions on “any district, site,
 mission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having                 building, structure, or object that is included in or eligible for
 jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall,          inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places*.” This sec-
 upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dol-               tion, supported by the words of President Nixon in Executive
 lars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall           Order (EO) 11593, essentially gave birth to the federal cultural
 suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.”                 resources preservation program as we know it today and created
 [Quoted from the Antiquities Act of 1906]                                           job opportunities for archaeologists within the federal govern-
                                                                                     ment. Section 106 can be thought of as the “watchdog” part of

               he Antiquities Act, the first law designed to protect                 my job – assessing and managing the effects of federal undertak-
               archaeological sites on public (federal) lands and                                                                  continued on page 18
               establish penalties for damage to archaeological
               sites, was signed by President Roosevelt in June,
 1906. It also authorized the President to protect landmarks,
 structures, and objects of historic or scientific interest by desig-
 nating them as National Monuments. Section 3 of the Act pro-
 vided a means for the federal government to issue permits and
 encourage scientific study of archaeological sites.
     Passage of the Antiquities Act took 25 years of concerted
 effort from a variety of individuals and organizations. Spurred by
 concern for loss of cultural resources to development and urban
 renewal programs, these basic protections were refined and
 expanded by a series of Laws and Executive Orders (EO) includ-
 ing the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA).
 Before the NHPA was in effect, during my youth in Montana, I
 saw wonderful historic buildings removed in the name of ‘renew-
 al’. On family trips I saw ghost towns and buffalo jumps – many
 of which were eventually also damaged or destroyed.
     Congress declared in the National Historic Preservation Act                    Jack Miller Cabin, built around 1930 in the Santa Rosa
 (NHPA) that “the historical and cultural foundations of the                        Mountain, listed today on the National Register of Historic
 Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life                  Places

                                                            FROM THE EDITOR

                                                      Desert History
                his issue of the Desert Report focuses on the
                h i s t o ry and pre h i s t o ry of Californ i a ’s deserts.   SEPTEMBER 2007 IN THIS ISSUE
                While previous articles have often highlighted
                controversial issues, the topic here carries a clear            Protection of Historic & Cultural Resources.............................................. 1
consensus: artifacts and history in the desert are valuable and deserve         From The Editor: Desert History ................................................................ 2
protection. As this is true, then two questions come to mind: (1)               Historical Resources in the California Desert .......................................... 3
Why is it so difficult to get information about the location of                 China Lake NAWS Good Steward Of Material Culture .............................. 4
archeological sites, and (2) why should we, the public, care about              Three Desert Museums ............................................................................ 6
these sites that we seldom, if ever, visit?                                     Desert Societies, Then And Now .............................................................. 8
   As a result of unfortunate past experiences with pot hunters
                                                                                Current Issues ..........................................................................................11
and vandalism it has become the policy of the agencies which
                                                                                Grazing: The Essential Range Management Tool ......................................12
administer public lands that the locations of petroglyphs and
                                                                                Tejon Ranch: A New State Or Federal Park? ............................................14
archeological sites should not be provided to the public unless
this information has already been published in a reasonably                     Deterring ORV Use & Lessening its Impacts ............................................16
accessible form. The preservation of these resources takes prece-               Mesquite: The Desert’s Tree Of Life ..........................................................19
dence over public access. The State of California keeps a register              Outings ......................................................................................................20
of archeological and historic resources that is consulted whenev-
er a proposed project has potential for damaging these sites. It is
significant that this register is only available to persons holding             LOOK IT UP
at least a master’s degree in archeology. Furthermore, these                    In addition to providing background articles on desert landscapes and
records can not be accessed through the Freedom of Information                  issues, in the column titled “Current Issues” the Desert Report also
Act, even though this act provides for the release of public                    attempts to report on new developments. While the printed copies of the
records of many other kinds. While this lack of public informa-                 Desert Report appear quarterly, the “News Updates” column which appears
tion is sometimes a disappointment, it is also true that many sites             on-line is revised as issues emerge. It is hoped that this on-line column will
are well known or are listed on the internet. Many of these are                 become a desert bulletin-board to consult for information about recent
provided with extensive interpretive information. There are also                court and land agency decisions, public hearings, and for short news items
desert museums which present information on desert history and                  that are important but not widely reported. Because there can be a large
prehistory for all of us to appreciate.                                         number of these items, this on-line column will begin with a listing of the
   The second and more significant question is, “Why should we                  topics that follow. The on-line Desert Report can be found at:
care for and about these artifacts and sites if we rarely see them?”  
Of course professional archeologists value the materials and wish                   It is, of course, not possible to include all the relevant topics in either the
to preserve them for study, but most of us who are curious are not              “Current Issues” section of the printed Desert Report or in the on-line
professional archeologists. The answer I personally give to the                 “News Updates.” For information on other subjects, the column headed
question is this: “These records from our past provide a perspective            “COORDINATORS” on the final printed page has been revised. Issues
upon our own civilization and culture that we badly need.”                      and persons knowledgeable on particular issues are listed there with
   The peoples which are described in the article by Jay von                    contact information. This listing will be kept current with the intention that
Werlhof existed for thousands of years and they were eminently                  it should also be a resource for persons interested in conservation issues
self-sustainable. This is a claim that we, today, can not yet make.             in the desert.
The mining artifacts that are described in the article by Martha
Dickes are a testimony to astonishing efforts and hardships that
few people today would consider undertaking. The rock art                       DESERT COMMITTEE MEETINGS
which Russ Kaldenberg describes on the China Lake Naval                         The site for the November meeting will be in Anza-Borrego Desert State
Weapons Station was made over a span of at least 10,000 years                   Park, and the February meeting will be held jointly with the CNRCC
under extreme desert conditions. When we look at these records                  Wilderness Committee in Shoshone, CA. We especially encourage local
from our past it can only be a humbling experience.                             citizens in the area to attend, as many of the items on the agenda include
   Enjoy this collection of articles and as you read them                       local issues. Contact Tom Budlong at (310-476-1731), tombudlong@
consider their lessons.                                               , to be put on the invitation list.

                      {   2}                                 DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007

                                            A WILDERNESS PERSPECTIVE

         Historical Resources in
          the California Desert

                he California desert was prospected heavily from         ers, early gasoline-powered engines, cabins, tramways, adits, and
                the 1850’s onwards. Ores were highgraded by              other relicts and artifacts.
                hardrock miners, and boomtowns flourished in the             The California Desert Protection Act (CDPA) of 1994 estab-
                most remote and inaccessible places imaginable.          lishing wilderness in the Inyo Mountains recognized the value of
When the ores gave out, the places were abandoned and all but            these extraordinary historical resources. In Section 2(c),
forgotten. Today many of these places reside within federally-           Congress declared that these lands were to be included in the
designated wilderness. There the ruins and artifacts from more           National Wilderness Preservation System as wilderness, but also
than 100 years ago survive out of reach of the casual visitor and        to “protect and preserve historical and cultural values of the
largely intact. This poses a challenge for wilderness management.        California desert associated with ancient Indian cultures, patterns
How best to preserve the past while allowing for recreational            of western exploration and settlement, and sites exemplifying the
use? In Ridgecrest, the BLM has been struggling with this ques-          mining, ranching, and railroading history of the Old West.”
tion in several wildernesses for many years now, but in no area so       Administering agencies were to “provide opportunities for com-
keenly as in the Inyo Mountains Wilderness.                              patible outdoor public recreation, protect and interpret ecologi-
    The Inyo Mountains Wilderness is managed by two agencies             cal and geological features, and historic, paleontological, and
and within the BLM by two field offices. The Bishop Field Office         archeological sites, maintain wilderness resource values, and pro-
manages the west side of the crest; the Ridgecrest Field Office          mote public understanding and appreciation of the California
the east side of the crest. Inyo National Forest manages upper           desert.” (Section 2(d) of the CDPA).
elevations at the north end of the wilderness area. Silver was dis-          The wilderness staff in Ridgecrest has been mapping, photo-
covered at Cerro Gordo in the Inyo Mountains in 1865. The dis-           graphing, and monitoring trails, sites, and artifacts associated
covery of gold soon followed, most notably in Keynot Canyon.             with the Beveridge Mining District for over 15 years. In that time
The Beveridge Mining District that eventually formed in 1877 is                                                         continued on page 10
managed by the Ridgecrest Resource Area. It
encompasses 40 mines east of the crest, more
than half-a-dozen millsites, and a ghost town,
all located along eastside streams in precipi-
tous terrain. The district runs roughly from
Craig Canyon (north of Cerro Gordo) north-
ward to “Cougar” Canyon where it lapses
into Inyo National Forest.
    At its height, the District supported 60-
odd souls, a post office, a store, and even a
polling place. More than 40 miles of loosely-
connected trails cross virtually every historic
mining site in the district. These are 19th
century trails built by miners and mule pack-
ers to resupply mines in the Inyo Mountains
and to carry ore from mine to millsite and out
to markets in the Owens Valley. Abandoned
by miners in the 1930’s, the trails lay largely
forgotten until they were rediscovered and
popularized by backpackers in the late 1980’s.
Today they access a virtual outdoor museum
of 19th and early 20th century mining histo-
ry, complete with arrastras, stamp mills, boil-      Cabin Foundation – Inyo Mountains Wilderness

                                                     DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                               {   3}

                                          ONE MILLION ACRE MUSEUM

                   China Lake NAWS Good Steward
                         Of Material Culture
                hina Lake Naval Air                                                       Petroglyphs, Sugarloaf Obsidian in North
                Weapons Station (NAWS)                                                    Range
                outside    of    Ridgecrest,                                                  The North Range has seen more study
                California, encompasses the                                                than the South Range. There are two rea-
Mojave Desert in its South Range and the                                                   sons for this. One is that the North Range
southernmost portion of the Great Basin in                                                 boasts tens of thousands of petroglyphs that
its North Range. At 1.1 million acres,                                                     have been noted since the 1920s and studied
China Lake is not only the largest Navy                                                    for the past eight decades. New petroglyphs
land range in the United States, but it is also                                            are found continually as China Lake staff
rich with cultural resources that span more                                                work with researchers and contract environ-
than 10,000 years. Over a thirty-year                                                      mental specialists to continue to document
period, approximately 12 percent of its two                                                this rich heritage.
ranges have been systematically invento-                                                      Also, the well-known Sugarloaf Obsidian
ried, documenting over 12,000 sites, averaging an archaeological      quarry is located in this range. The obsidian traveled via exten-
site every ten acres. The Department of Defense serves as an out-     sive trade networks across most of the Great Basin, into the San
standing steward, preserving and protecting cultural resources        Joaquin Valley, out to the Channel Islands, and down to Baja
while taking care of NAWS basic mission of technology develop-        California. Sugarloaf Mountain is a massive and important
ment and protecting the nation.                                       resource where native peoples called parts of NAWS home until
    Several playas dominate the landscape. These include Lake         1943. Today, though agreements with tribes and traditional fam-
China, the drainage of Lake Searles, Airport Lake, Superior           ilies, the descendants return regularly to use Coso Hot Springs
Valley Lake, and many ephemeral lakes. These lakes are what           for religious purposes, harvest obsidian to teach stone tool man-
famed archaeologist Dr. Emma Lou Davis called “paleogrocery
stores.” Their shorelines contained marshes, which attracted ani-
mals, which attracted people. The remains of 10,000-year-old
artifacts and fossils of animals as varied as elephants, bison,
g round sloth, camels, deer, and antelope can be found.
Paleontologists from the San Bernardino County Museum have
recently conducted a study identifying important locales plus
identifying places where gastropods are abundant (indicating
fresh water springs). Recent radio carbon dates on shellfish seem
to average 11,000 years before the present. This is well within the
time span for the peopling of the Americas.
    Names of springs include Lead Pipe Spring, Shady Myrick
Springs, Lead Springs, Pothunter Springs, Hidden Springs,
Layton Spring, Seep Springs, Bandit Springs, Stone Corral
Springs, PK (or Pilot Springs). All of these springs are associated
with the rich mining history of the desert. Springs were also
magnets for prehistoric settlement, where archaeological sites
can be found. Many of the sites are in very good shape, as if pre-
historic peoples or 19th century miners had recently left.
                                                                      Top: Petroglyph at Birchram Spring, North Range; Above:
                                                                      Epsom Salt Monorail Braces near Wingate Pass, South Range

                   {   4}                            DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
ufacturing, pick pine nuts, and provide the Navy with informa-        supported research.
tion that assists in managing the resources so that they persist          China Lake supplements its single archaeologist with a group
into the future.                                                      by the name of the Friends of China Lake Archaeology, which
                                                                      was formed in 2004 to assist in inventorying the base, managing
Pictographs, geoglyphs, and the Old West                              the Archaeological Laboratory and Curation Facility, and in doc-
    While petroglyphs are the most common form of rock art on         umenting the rock art. This Friends group was integral in bring-
the North Range, the South Range contains beautiful pic-              ing the Secre t a ry of Defense’s National Cultural Resourc e
tographs (painted art) and dozens of geoglyphs (rock alignments)      Management Award to China Lake last year. China Lake proud-
that are regularly noted.                                             ly flies the Green Environmental Steward Flag associated with
    The South Range is dominated by creosote bushes with scat-        that award. China Lake also received Governor
tered Joshua Tree forests and willows and desert olive at springs.    Schwarzenegger’s Historic Preservation Award for developing
While water is scarce in the Mojave Desert, springs readily flow      the Curation Facility from the Old Ice House.
throughout the mountainous terrain on the South Range provid-             Management through focused stewardship involves everyone
ing a rich habitat for Bighorn sheep. Names of the mountain           in the chain from the Commanding Officer to the beginning
ranges connote the Old West—Eagle Crags, Robbers Mountain,            employee. “The China Lake way” involves offering ownership to
Pilot Knob, Brown Mountain, Wingate Pass, Layton Pass,                all those who work or visit the Station. It is felt that through this
Panamint Valley, the Slate Range, and Randsburg Wash—to               a p p roach China Lake can pre s e rve the archaeological and
name a few.                                                           historical heritage of this part of California for future
    One of the oldest mining communities in southern California       generations of Americans.
can be found on the range. This is Coso Village, founded some-
time before 1860. Many of its rubble buildings stand to tell of       Russell Kaldenberg is currently Base Archaeologist for the China Lake
that era. It is here that the infamous bandido, Tiburcio Vasquez,     Naval Air Weapons Station. Previously he was California State
sought shelter after robbing the stage at Freeman Junction. It was    Archaeologist with the Bureau of Land Management.
at Crystal Springs, five miles from Coso
Village, that one of the last incursions of the
Owens Valley “Indian War” was fought, and it
was at Coso Village that during the 1930s the
people sought to mine tailings piles to make a
living during the Great Depression.
    The iconic Twenty Mule Team route from
Harmony Borax traverses Death Valley and
then trends towards the Mojave through
Wingate Pass, Wingate Wash, through Pilot
Knob Valley and stops at the 1884-1888
Twenty Mule Team service stations at Lone
Willow Springs and Granite Wells. The rubble
buildings that remain stand as a tribute to our
pioneer heritage and to the sound management
of the Navy.
    Other than the freight wagon roads, the
best known historic site on the South Range is
the Epsom Salt Monorail which began in the
Quail Mountains near Death Valley and ended
its run at Magnesia siding near the present day
community of Westend, near Trona.

Researchers work closely with NAWS staff
   Researchers work closely with staff in the
Environmental Planning and Management
Division to conduct special studies on the cul-
tural resources of the Station. Currently five
Master’s Thesis level projects are being con-
ducted. Famed western American archaeologi-
cal researchers such as Drs. David Whitley,
William Hildebrandt, Alan Gold, Robert Yohe,
Suzanne Hendricksen, Mark Basgall, William
Clewlow, Mark Allen, Brian Byrd, and Jerry
Schaefer and, others such as Sandy Rogers,
Allika Ruby, Lynn Johnson, Amy Gilreath and
Richard Steward, vie to understand the
unknown past of the area through focused and        North and South Ranges of the China Lake Navel Weapons Center

                                                     DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                             {   5}

                                             JOURNEYS INTO THE PAST

          Three Desert Museums

               he Owens Valley of Eastern California today and            There is a general store with its wares on display; there is an
               the experiences of those who lived there before us      early doctor’s office and an early dental office; there is a recon-
               can hardly be in greater contrast. We arrive in air     struction of an early pharmacy. The printing office of the Inyo
               conditioned cars in the summer, head toward             Register displays not only the history of the newspaper but also
groomed ski slopes in the winter, visit gift shops in the daytime,     that of the Chalfant family as they reported the events of their
and watch the movie channel in the evenings. It is easy to forget      time. On the other side of the lawn are a wagon barn, a black-
that this was not always so. This was a land of pioneer farmers,       smith shop, a tractor garage, and a complete school house. The
miners, herders, Native Americans, and even earlier desert peo-        train depot stands at the center of the yard, and the tracks lead
ples whose only records were the images they pecked onto scat-         south past old railroad cars, rusting farm equipment, and a water
tered rock faces.                                                      tank with a pull-down spout that serviced the old steam engines.
   Today much of this history can only be found in books.              For immigrants who stood here and looked south through the
Homes and mines collapse; the daily materials of Native                heat and dust, this must have seemed the end of the world.
Americans were largely perishable; and rock art sites are usually         It is the pioneer farm house, however, that may be most strik-
well off from our accustomed travels. It is fortunate that this his-   ing of all. Ceilings are high; doorways are framed in dark wood;
tory and its lessons have been preserved in a number of desert         and the wallpaper has a simple flower design. A cast iron bathtub
museums. Three of these museums are described here. This               stands on lion’s feet. Of course it was filled by heating water on
choice is arbitrary although it is also representative. They take us   the wood stove. The pictures in a book case - and also on the
on a journey through time and show us what we might never be           walls - are perhaps the most impressive. The wedding picture of
able to find on our own.                                               the couple who lived there is formal: the groom has a dark suit,
                                                                       a white shirt, and a stiff collar; the bride wears buttoned boots, a
Laws Railroad Museum                                                   white dress with a high collar, a simple hat, and she is holding
   Pioneer life of the Owens Valley between 1880 and 1930 is           white gloves. There are pictures of the children who have been
chronicled in a remarkable way at the town of Laws. Six miles          scrubbed to within an inch of their lives and are wearing their
north of Bishop, California, this was once a stop on the Carson        Sunday best. We are reminded that it was the women of the time
and Colorado narrow gauge railroad. Today it is a museum with          who may have had the most difficult lives of all.
about fifteen small buildings scattered on an eleven acre site.           The museum is listed on the National Register of Historic

Narrow Gauge Tracks - Looking South from Laws, CA

                   {   6}                             DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
Places. It is funded in part by Inyo County, and in part through
donations to the Bishop Museum and Historical Society. It is
s t a ffed largely by volunteers. The museum website is at:

Eastern California Museum
    Independence California was once the home of Mary Austin,
who wrote colorful stories of the eastern deserts and the people
who lived and wandered there at the beginning of the 20th cen-
tury. Independence was then, and still is, the Inyo County seat. At
the center of the Owens Valley, it is fittingly where the Eastern
California Museum also chronicles the history of the valley.
    This is principally an indoor museum with a special appeal for
students of history. Perhaps most intriguing are the many panels
displaying written and photographic records from the past.
There are pictures from nearly all the early towns of the valley:
store fronts, streets, saloons, animals, and even the local baseball    Carson and Colorado Depot in Laws, CA
team in uniform. Voting records, correspondence, and mining
claims are on display. The photographs of people are most               protected within the boundaries of the China Lake Naval
impressive, and these constitute a record of prominent citizens         Weapons Center. The Maturango Museum is outstanding in
and families up and down the entire eastern Sierra front.               making these materials available to the public.
    The artifacts include smaller items of mining equipment, min-           The museum bookstore has an extensive inventory dealing
eral displays, guns, and household items of all sorts. The World        with rock art in Eastern California and with the history of the
War II relocation center at Manzanar is featured in one exhibit.        nearby Coso Mountains. There are photographic books display-
Native American culture is another prominent theme. There is a          ing the petroglyph panels; there are popular interpretations of
large collection of arrow points and an extensive display of bas-       the rock art; and there are technical studies of these sites. Many
ketry that was done at the beginning of the 20th century. Photos        of these printed materials are available only through the muse-
of the native villages, shelters, and elders are in contrast to those   um. Another notable feature of the Maturango Museum is its
of white settlers of the same time.                                     program of lectures and tours. There is a regular evening series
    The Eastern California Museum is fully funded by Inyo               of presentations available free to the public, and there are field
County and has a professional staff to care for displays and to         excursions to sites in the nearby Owens Valley.
keep the historical records that belong to the museum but are not           The most notable of all the museum offerings must surely be
p resented to the general public. The museum website is:                the opportunity to visit Little Petroglyph Canyon in the nearby                                   China Lake Naval Weapons Center. This canyon is the most
                                                                        extraordinary of its kind in California, if not in the entire United
                                                                        States. It is dry, without shade, and nearly as austere as it is pos-
                                                                        sible to imagine. Still, the petroglyph panels speak of thousands
                                                                        of years of life that not only survived but which produced an
                                                                        astonishing artistic record. Because entrance to the Naval Base is
                                                                        strictly controlled, these petroglyphs have been preserved in
                                                                        extraordinary condition. It is possible for interested groups to
                                                                        make arrangements directly with the Navy to tour the site, but it
                                                                        may be worth the price of the tour to let the museum handle the
                                                                        arrangements and paperwork that the Navy requires. It is easily
                                                                        worth a long drive to Ridgecrest for this opportunity alone.
                                                                            Unlike the two museums described earlier, this one depends
                                                                        entirely upon donations to its museum foundation. It is relative-
                                                                        ly small, and its physical collection is limited. Further informa-
                                                                        tion is available by phone (760-375-6900) or at the museum web-
An Invitation to Desert Archeology
                                                                        Preserving the Past
                                                                           It is easy to forget that people have not always lived as we do
Maturango Museum                                                        today. It is perhaps in the desert where the extremes of climate
   The very earliest history of Eastern California is accessible        are particularly harsh that these differences are most striking.
only through the physical artifacts that have been left behind:         While the actual artifacts from earlier times may no longer be
occupation sites of Native Americans and the rock art images            accessible, the history is preserved through these museums. To
found on canyon walls and boulders in the desert. Some of these         see how peoples before us lived in these places is humbling. This
images date back at least 10,000 years, and other images may            history has lessons for our present culture.
have been created within historical times. Most of these sites are
not advertised to the public. The most impressive of these are          Craig Deutsche is Publisher and Managing Editor of Desert Report.

                                                       DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                             {   7}
 A Y 
 V O N 
 W E R L H O F

                                                   IMPERIAL COUNTY

                            Desert Societies,
                            Then And Now

           mperial County, California’s 58th, is now 100 years old.     tribes, but spiritual forces guided them in these.
           It is amazing to recall its successive stages as our pio-        A major environmental element was added to the lure of
           neers took us from a windswept desert to a year-round        Imperial County when 2000 years ago the Colorado River had an
           diversified agriculture. Shelters grew from shanty-          unusual flood that swarmed through the New and Alamo Rivers
towns to booming cities; our children’s schools grew from sheds         until Lake Cahuilla filled to a depth of 285 feet in the west coun-
to colleges and universities. We became linked to all parts of the      ty. El Centro would have been submerged under 25 feet of water.
nation by air and road. Our residents have come from many               The Colorado River people would trek the fifty miles across
states and many countries. It is expected the population of             desert and sand dunes to work the east bank of Lake Cahuilla.
Imperial County will rise from 160,000 today to 350,000 by mid-         Fishing, gathering, hunting, and shell collecting were all eco-
century (Imperial Valley Press, 11 July). No other county can           nomic values, as well as probably planting activities. On the west
match such a successful history.                                        bank the Cahuilla peoples additionally built stone-lined fish
   But what of the people who were here before us? It is                traps, as did the Kamia, a branch of Kumeyaay from the
breathtaking to realize that part of what is now Imperial County        West Mountains.
had been utilized or settled for at least 2000 years. There is              All of the societies made contact with one another, learned of
evidence that some areas of this county had been settled even           each others’ skills and crafts, and traded with surplus goods.
3,500 years ago.                                                        They also shared stories and songs, and all agreed on the being
   It is clear, however, that by 2000 years ago four prehistoric        and presence and powers of spiritual values. These people of the
societies were active in Imperial County throughout the year -          desert were - and still are - a prayerful people. Prayers were the
summers and all. Tribes of Yuman speaking natives settled along         keys to their adaptation to changing times and stressful circum-
the west bank of the Colorado River, the southwest shore of Lake        stances. Their ways were expressed - and still are - in stories
Cahuilla, and the West Mountains. The Shoshone who migrated             enabling them to adjust to the most difficult places and times.
out of southern Nevada settled along the northwest shore of             From these they found spiritual comfort in their conditions
Lake Cahuilla. Though intertribal fighting became serious at            rather than seeking ways to change. This is the most significant
times, all tribes traveled throughout the
area and traded with one another. The
most significant result was the spread of
horticulture from Mexico throughout
areas along the waters of the Colorado
River banks, the New Alamo Rivers, Lake
Cahuilla, and the small lakes of Mesquite
and Blue.
   The intertribal connections were cul-
turally important, and frequently resulted
in inter-tribal marriages, as with Preston
Jefferson Arrow-weed whose father was
Quechan, of Colorado River, and whose
mother was Kumeyaay, of the West
Mountains. (Preston wrote for the Desert
Report, Mar. 15, 2007.) Fishing, gathering,
horticulture, hunting, and trading were the        Map used by permission of the Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association,
economic basis for the Imperial County             from “The Forgotten Artist,” by Manfred Knaak.

                   {   8}                           DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
key to their 2000 years of adaptation, contrasting to the 100 years
of remarkable changes in the historic period.
    So here were two major human societies in the same desert,
the pioneers and the natives, but how seemingly different and his-
torically apart they are. Our prehistoric forebears adapted to the
historic forces that engulfed them by utilizing the same lessons by
which they conducted their lives for 2000 years. Adaptation has
been their successful tactic to life and to this world. They see this
trait as the spiritual side of the world and life, told in stories and
songs. Their every act in the desert was spiritually supported, and
the archaeological sites found in the desert, whether a fish trap,
prayer circle, arrowhead, or potsherd, are all of the same intent
and spiritual purpose. The spirits that supported them are still
there and should be respected. To destroy or collect these arti-
facts is affecting the spiritual purpose with which, and for which,
these were made. These spiritual treasures should be protected by
our society, for to collect or destroy is to violate the sacred, as well
as to leave a hole in the desert and the native’s past.

Jay von Werlhof is the dean of California desert archeology. He has
written many academic papers and has mentored many students. He was
the driving force in creating the Imperial Valley College Desert
Museum, expected to open within the next six months. A recent
festschrift honoring him has been published by the Maturango Museum
in Ridgecrest, CA.
                                                                           Above: Fish Trap near Old Lake Cahuilla
                                                                           Below: Sleeping Circles near Old Lake Cahuilla

                                                          DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                        {   9}
Historical Resources in the California Desert
                                                                       compatible with the European alpine hut experience.
                                                                           The intact standing cabins in the Inyo Mountains Wilderness
                                                                       are part of a much larger cultural landscape. The BLM is seeking
                                                                       assistance (funding) to complete a professional evaluation of all
                                                                       historic resources in the area. As an example of an intact, essen-
                                                                       tially unaltered 19th century mining district in its entirety, the
                                                                       Beveridge Mining District is unparalled. Also unparalled are the
                                                                       recreational opportunities afforded by the 40-mile long stretch of
                                                                       trail linking historic sites in the area. An archeological inventory
                                                                       and evaluation would help us develop an adequate wilderness
                                                                       recreation-cultural resources management plan. A plan would
                                                                       help address the following:
                                                                           1. How can we best protect and preserve this unique cultural
                                                                       landscape with more publicity and growing recreational use?
                                                                           2. What structures and trail segments should we stabilize and
                                                                       maintain and to what standard?
                                                                           3. How do we mitigate adverse recreational impacts such as
                                                                       the use of cabins, ruins, and millsites as campsites, and the dam-
                                                                       age to sites and loss of artifacts due to vandalism and theft? Do
Small Forge Used for Blacksmithing –
                                                                       we develop some rules? What type of information should we be
Inyo Mountains Wilderness
                                                                       providing to the public?
                                                                           4. What kind of recreational experience should we be promot-
continued from page 3                                                  ing? Where do the Inyos fall on the recreational opportunity
we have noted some losses, mostly due to natural attrition, but        spectrum from primitive, self-exploration to permitted and guid-
increasingly due to theft and vandalism. In 2005, we brought a         ed use?
BLM archeologist with us on a six-day backpack to inventory                5. What recreational uses should be accommodated? What
three intact standing structures, one of which we hope to stabi-       should not? What uses are most compatible with cultural
lize next Spring. In 2006, we returned with the archeologist to tie    re s o u rce protection and the protection of other sensitive
down the structure we plan to stabilize for the winter. On that        resources in the area?
trip, we found one of the collapsed structures at the ghost town
had been resurrected with modern screws and plywood by a well-         Martha Dickes is the Wilderness Resources Specialist in the Ridgecrest
intentioned but sadly uninformed person(s). We disassembled as         Field Office. She has hiked and backpacked in the Inyo Mountains for
much as we could.                                                      many years and has personally visited and catalogued most of the sites
    Over the course of the next few years, BLM plans on having         and resources mentioned in this article. She is now confronting the ques-
archaeologists evaluate 15-plus known standing structures (ten         tion of how these resources can best be managed and protected.
inside wilderness) within the Ridgecrest Field Office Area. (BLM
will not be evaluating structures associated with current mining       The Sierra Club Desert Committee supports the BLM in
claims.) This is part of a new program we are implementing with        addressing these issues. If you would like to suggest some answers
respect to what used to be called “adopt-a-cabin.” We are transi-      to these questions, or if you have further ideas about such historic
tioning all structures found within the resource area to a Historic    preservation, please contact Martha Dickes at: Martha_Dickes
Site Stewardship Program under the direction of cultural     
resource staff. The immediate goal is to run each standing struc-
ture through a series of filters, to determine ownership, structur-
al integrity, historical significance if any, and wilderness compat-
ibility. Structures may then be removed or maintained to the
appropriate standard with a management plan in place.
    The 1964 Wilderness Act prohibits permanent structures or
installations in wilderness (Section 4(c)). There will be no new
construction or reconstruction of any collapsed structures or
archeological ruins inside any wilderness area. Standing struc-
tures determined to be historically significant by a qualified
archeologist, however, may be stabilized if stabilization conforms
to the Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979,
the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966, and the
Wilderness Act and Section 2(c) of the CDPA. In this case, the
emphasis will be strictly on historic preservation, not on estab-
                                                                       Milling Site – Inyo Mountains Wilderness
lishing developed recreation sites. American wilderness is not

                    {   10 }                          DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
Renewable Energy in the Desert                                                   the current critical habitat designation. It further restricts the areas that
   Both the President’s National Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the state         would be enforced for conservation of the plant which is found
of California’s commitment to expanding renewable energy technolo-               nowhere in the United States except on a portion of the Algodones
gy and development have resulted in a dramatic increase in interest              Dunes. On August 23, 2007, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be host-
and filing of right-of-way applications for development of solar energy          ing a public meeting at their Carlsbad Office, 6010 Hidden Valley Road,
projects on public lands in the California desert. Currently at least 30         Carlsbad, California, 92011 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8
preliminary applications have been filed with the BLM California Desert          p.m. They will accept written comments from all interested parties
District (CDD) for development on more than 350,000 acres of public              until September 25, 2007. More information is available at:
land. These are at best “expressions of interest” and when complete     and www.biologicaldiversity
applications are filed, if ever, they will be subject to the requirements        .org/swcbd/SPECIES/peirsons/index.html.
of the National Environmental Protection Act which requires, among
other items, opportunities for public comment. Additionally, numerous
applications have been filed for the development of wind and geother-            Major Ruling Issued Against
mal energy. Energy development involves many complex issues and                  “Sunrise Powerlink” Project
deserves the attention of an informed public.                                       In a stunning setback to San Diego Gas and Electric, the California
   The link below has good references on these projects. Of particular           Public Utilities Commission has delayed a decision on the Sunrise
interest is the link to the Communication Plan for Outreach. This                Powerlink through at least the summer of 2008. Commissioner Dian
describes the position of the CDD concerning these applications.                 Grueneich admonished SDG&E for the delay. According to a ruling                  issued Tuesday, July 24, SDG&E only recently revealed several key
                                                                                 pieces of new information about the Powerlink including:
                                                                                 (1) SDG&E’s desire to expand the project in the future (most likely to
Surprise Canyon RS 2477 Suit                                                     the Greater Los Angeles region),
Dismissed                                                                        (2) The need for a major new substation to interconnect the Sunrise
   Last year an off-road group sued under RS-2477 for access to                  Powerlink with wind power, and
Surprise Canyon in the Panamint Mountains. RS 2477 is the ancient                (3) SDG&E’s new position that renewable facilities will not be devel-
statute that motor enthusiasts claim gives rights to drive all old roads.        oped in the Imperial Valley without the Powerlink. (The company
In July, 2007, Judge Lawrence J O’Neill, a US District Court judge,              previously claimed that renewables would be developed with or
 dismissed the suit. The off-road group does not own the road, and only          without the Sunrise Powerlink.)
owners can sue, he stated.
   Surprise Canyon flows at substantial volume for several miles in the
canyon, fed by two springs above the falls. It’s an extreme rarity. In           More Military Training in the
places the canyon is so narrow that vehicles had to drive in the stream.         California Desert?
In other places vehicle ruts captured the stream creating unnatural                 A company called Wind Zero has purchased 1,000 acres in the east-
conditions. Since a flood which occurred in 1984, and now without                ern part of the town of Ocotillo in western Imperial County where it
traffic, riparian growth has rebounded, and wildlife is flourishing.             hopes to establish a “training facility” for government (military) per-
Bighorn sheep have become a common sight. It’s expected the                      sonnel, law enforcement, and civilians. This is an area rich in Native
off-road group will appeal, or try a different tactic. The effect of this rul-   American cultural heritage. Imperial County is an EPA non-attainment
ing on the Inyo County RS2477 suit to open roads in Death Valley                 air basin where the air quality at times is of the poorest in California.
National Park is unknown.                                                        This facility would also impact the Ocotillo designated EPA sole source
                                                                                 aquifer. Wind Zero has not yet filed any paperwork with Imperial
                                                                                 County. The community is keeping close track of this project, which is
Critical Habitat for Pierson’s                                                   very similar in its components to the Blackwater military/mercenary
Milk-vetch in the Algodones                                                      training camp proposed on 800 acres in the rural town of Portrero in
Dunes                                                                            Eastern San Diego County. The company’s web site is: www.wind-
   On July 27, 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a new    To view a video of the June community meeting, go to:
critical habitat proposal for the federally and state-protected Peirson’s Look for the link “videos”, click on that,
milk-vetch, as mandated by federal court. The new proposal identifies            and in the list of recent videos you will find the one for the Ocotillo Wind
16,108 acres of land in the Algodones Dunes as habitat necessary for             Zero meeting.
the survival and recovery of the rare plant, a 25-percent reduction from                                                                 continued on page 13

                                                              DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                                    {   11 }

       The Essential Range Management Tool

          t’s a crisp February morning. My open shutters show-         Act which regulates grazing on federal lands. Following the act’s
          case the expansive Steptoe Valley below, one of the          passage and the resultant reduction of grazing levels, there was a
          many closed basins across east central Nevada which          general improvement in range conditions. One of the results of
          host various living symbols of our rural custom and cul-     managing grazing was the creation of numerous “exclosures”,
ture. On the distant East Bench the high-voltage transmission          small areas fenced to exclude livestock, which were constructed
lines reflect the early-morning sun, silently providing power for      by the federal government to monitor grazing and to determine
everything electric and electronic, including my word processor        the general overall effect of grazing upon the resources. The
as well as the one used by its owner somewhere down the line to        information provided by these exclosures may not have yielded
protest construction of transmission towers.                           the expected results but the information provided is nevertheless
   And near the transmission line I see a large white band migrat-     quite useful. Across Nevada, exclosure studies have shown that
ing slowly northward toward the tank on the East Bench - a flock       absence of grazing does not automatically lead to an increased
of range sheep taking their time going to water. Their owner and       diversity of vegetation and healthier plants. Our rangeland grass-
his peers across the West help maintain rangeland health while         es and forbs evolved in the presence of grazing animals and reg-
providing food and fiber for all citizens, no matter their political   ular disturbance by fire, drought, insects, etc. Fresh new growth
views or environmental persuasion - hell, even vegetarians at          is important to plant health. No plant is static. It must be able to
times wear wool.                                                       grow if it is to be healthy. Outside the exclosures native rangeland
   I heard my neighbor whistling before daylight as he left for        is more productive, more diverse, more conducive to wildlife and
work at the local copper mine - he seems content that our nation’s                                                     continued on page 22
industrial needs have once again prioritized and secured his
employment. He and his colleagues across our land, by providing
domestic minerals and metals which benefit all segments of our
society, help limit our nation’s reliance on foreign minerals. Their
efforts provide materials to build everything we use, including
that same anonymous down-the-line computer, which, ironically,
expends much of its useful life protesting the opening of mines
   I know little about electricity or mining, but I empathize with
those industries simply because I’ve experienced the frustrations
resulting from similarly-misguided or incomplete data regarding
the grazing industry. Therefore, I am pleased to briefly address
the benefits of federal-land grazing, the business that supported
my livelihood, in concert with its industrial neighbors, for more
than 40 years.
   In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s much of the land in the
West, including Nevada became overstocked with sheep, cattle
and horses, and the range suffered extensive damage. Most of the
native bunchgrasses were lost and replaced by perennial shrubs
and non-native grasses, species which are not as palatable to live-    Sheep in Garden Valley, NV
stock. This abuse ultimately led to passage of the Taylor Grazing

                   {   12 }                           DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
continued from page 11
                                                                           Public Invited to Review BLM’s
Grazing Rules on Hold                                                      OHV Grant Applications
   In July, 2006 the BLM issued revised grazing rules, claiming they          The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is inviting public comments
would “contribute to protecting the health of the rangelands” and          on its draft grant applications being proposed to the California
make administration more efficient. Western Watersheds Project chal-       Department of Parks and Recreation, Off-Highway Motor Vehicle
lenged the revisions, arguing that they were largely fashioned by graz-    Recreation Division (OHMVR). The draft BLM applications encompass
ing interests and ignored much of BLM’s own science on the subject.        approximately 90 projects, ranging from facility developments
In unambiguous terms Judge Lynn Winmill of the Idaho District Court        to restoration work proposed throughout BLM’s 16 field offices in
agreed that the regulations were initiated by grazers, not the BLM,        the state.
stated the new regulations loosened grazing restrictions without              The grant applications may be viewed at:
showing improvement, and that they limited public input and compro-        /ca/st/en/prog/recreation/ohv/grants/2008.html. All public comments
mised the BLM’s ability to properly manage grazing. Judge Winmill          received prior to close-of-business on September 7 will be forwarded
also concluded that the BLM did not properly consult with the Fish &       to OHMVR Division as part of the grant packages. Comments
Wildlife Service, violated NEPA and FLPMA, and that a review team had      written after this date should go directly to the Off-Highway Motor
modified the original science-based analysis with unexplained omis-        Vehicle Commission with copies to the BLM.
sions and revisions.                                                          Further information on the grant process is available on the OHMVR
   Judge Winmill put the revised regulations on hold until the BLM         website: id=1164
obeys the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental               For further details on BLM’s grant applications, contact BLM OHV
Policy Act. The decision is available at http://www.westernwater-          coordinator Jim Keeler at (916) 978-4654 or email, james_keel- Click Read the Decision.   

LADWP’s Green Path North                                                   Revisions to the South Coast
Threatens California Desert                                                Resource Management Plan
   The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power’s proposed Green               The Palm Springs-South Coast Field office of the Bureau of Land
Path North is yet another plan to put a new energy corridor through the    Management (BLM) is preparing a revision to its 1994 Resource
California desert. This plan proposes a path of high-transmission          Management Plan (RMP) for the South Coast Planning Area. This area
power lines stretching from the Coachella Valley to Hesperia that          includes 300,000 acres in parts of five counties: Los Angeles,
would slice through mostly undeveloped desert land, including the Big      Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Orange. Increasing urban-
Morongo Canyon Preserve ACEC and the Pipes Canyon Preserve.                ization along with changes in a number of other factors will be reflect-
   The LADWP’s selling point for the project, that it would transmit       ed in the revised plan and the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
renewable geothermal power, ignores the many less environmentally          which will accompany it.
destructive ways for Los Angeles to green-up its energy supply, includ-       The planning process will begin with a “scoping” period in which
ing locally-generated solar energy and use of the latest technology to     members of the public are invited to indicate the issues and concerns
transmit high-voltage energy along existing energy corridors. The fact     which they wish to have addressed in the plan. Public scoping meet-
that the LADWP sought out an indirect transmission line path that goes     ings will be held in San Diego County, Riverside County, and Los
85 miles out of its way to zigzag across primarily public land (leasable   Angeles County in order to ensure local community participation and
at $14.60 per linear mile) makes this project far from green.              input. All public meetings will be announced through the local news
   Other than the application LADWP filed with the BLM, public infor-      media, newsletters, and the BLM Web site ( at
mation on Green Path North is close to nonexistent. Local communities      least 15 days prior to the event. Written comments will be accepted
have come together to form the California Desert Coalition specifically    within 30 calendar days of the last scheduled public scoping meeting.
to oppose Green Path North, and further information can be obtained        Further information will be posted on the Palm Springs-South Coast
from the CDC at                            Field website ( springs.1.html) or
                                                                           may be obtained from Greg Hill at (760-251-4840), or by e-mail to

                                                          DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                               {   13 }
                                          B Y 
 I L E E N E 
 A N D E R S O N 
 A N D 
 A D A M 
 K E A T


     More Unaffordable
   Housing… Or A New State
      Or Federal Park?

                 t the crossroads of California where valleys,
                 mountains, and deserts meet, lies Tejon Ranch:
                 270,750 acres of private land, the largest con-                       Why is Tejon Ranch so special?
                 tiguous parcel left in California. Tejon straddles
the Tehachapi Range of the southern Sierra Mountains from the
                                                                               It is the only place where four “eco-regions”
San Joaquin Valley floor to the desert slopes of the Antelope                   – the San Joaquin Valley, Mojave Desert,
Valley. Today, when driving “the Grapevine” section of Interstate
5, people enjoy views of oak dappled grasslands and chaparral                  Sierra Nevada and South Coast – converge.
along the western edge of Tejon. In spring, the slopes explode in              It is also home to over 80 imperiled species.
stunning wildflower shows.
   Currently home to the California condor, Tejon Ranch is at a
crossroads in time. Within the next few years, decisions will be
made that will irrevocably alter the fate of Tejon Ranch and the               towering valley oaks to their diminutive scrub oak cousins, Tejon
quintessential California natural landscape that we know today.                contains the richest number of oak species in the state.
                                                                                   The land now called T ejon Ranch harbors a rich cultural lega-
Why is Tejon Ranch so special?                                                 cy for numerous Native American tribes. Sacred sites and historic
   Scientists consider Tejon Ranch to be a “biological diversity               villages are located throughout the property and are essential for
hotspot” because of its highly unique concentration of a large                 maintaining and revitalizing tribal cultures. Historic ranchos and
number of plants and animals. It is the only place where four                  other ranching artifacts from the Californio period also remain
“eco-regions” – the San Joaquin Valley, Mojave Desert, Sierra                  on the ranch. Tejon is truly a living history of California’s rich
Nevada, and South Coast – converge. Home to over 80 imper-                     and extraordinary past.
iled species, including the San Joaquin Kit Fox, California                        Two of the largest earthquake faults in California meet on
Spotted Owl, the Tehachapi Slender Salamander, and many other                  Tejon Ranch: the San Andreas Fault (the mother of all fault lines
plants and animals that live no where else on Earth, it also pro-              in California) and the Garlock Fault, which forms the Tehachapi
vides crucial biological connections between adjacent protected                Mountains. These large, active, and wide destructive fault zones
natural lands, linking the Sierras to the southern coast ranges and            are foolish places on which to build new cities.
the desert to the coast and San Joaquin Valley.
   Incomparable native grasslands on the east side of Tejon rep-               What is planned for Tejon Ranch?
resent a plant community that has been virtually eliminated                        The Tejon Ranch Company, a publicly-traded company heav-
throughout most of California and the West, supporting the                     ily invested in by Wall Street, has proposed a series of sprawling
pronghorn antelope, the namesake of the eastern valley. From                   urban developments that could destroy Tejon’s natural and cul-

                   {   14 }                            DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
tural heritage, jeopardize the recovery of the California condor,        Tehachapi Mountains, the poppy-covered desert slopes of
seriously congest southern California’s freeways and highways,           Antelope Valley, and glimpse the vast wingspan of prehistoric
and increase air pollution in two of the nation’s worst air quality      Condor!...all just 60 miles north of Los Angeles at Tejon-
basins. The Company is piecemealing these developments, which            Tehachapi Park!
are remote from any municipal infrastructure, to benefit their
distant corporate stockholders. In doing so, they are violating          Ileene Anderson is a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity
one of the prime considerations of environmental review: cumu-           and coordinator of the Center’s efforts to achieve the Tejon-Tehachapi
lative impact.                                                           Park vision. Adam Keats is director of the Center for Biological
    The proposed luxury “Tejon Mountain Village” in Kern                 Diversity’s Urban Wildlands Program.
County, sprawling over 37,000 acres and building golf courses,
second and third vacation homes, and commercial space, would
carve the heart out of Tejon. It would badly compromise prime              FOR MORE INFORMATION
Condor habitat – habitat upon which the survival of the species
in the wild might depend. This exclusive development would
                                                                           To learn more about Tejon Natural Park, please visit
irrevocably change the quality and quantity of wildlands in this
crucial area of the Tehachapi Mountains, turning it into a play-
ground for the wealthy homeowners.
    The enormous 23,000-house “Centennial” project in Los
Angeles County is the largest housing development
ever proposed in California’s history and is located on
lands that currently support many more pronghorn
than people. This new city would require long
commutes to jobs in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, or
Palmdale/Lancaster, adding to traffic congestion,
worsening air quality, and increasing green house gas
emissions since there are no public transit systems to
serve the area..
    The partially constructed “Tejon Industrial
Complex” along Interstate 5 in Kern County is a mega-
box industrial complex, slated for a major expansion on
prime agricultural land. This “inland port” would
increase diesel truck traffic in the already seriously pol-
luted southern San Joaquin Valley and add to truck
traffic congestion on Interstate 5.
    The burdens to local public services from these proj-
ects are daunting. Ultimately, county taxpayers will pay
for new basic infrastructure including fire protection
and emergency medical services in these remote areas
of the counties.

… So what’s the solution?
    Significant conservation investments have already
been made to secure the biological connectivity around
the southern San Joaquin Valley. Using the national
forests and monuments as building blocks, both private
and public monies have been used to secure adjacent
areas as natural open space. One big gap remains –
Tejon Ranch. Because of its unique natural, cultural,
and historic resources, the Center for Biological
Diversity and Sierra Club, in coordination with other
conservation organizations, are aiming to convince
state and federal officials that Tejon should be the gov-
ernment’s highest priority for wildland protection – a
lasting legacy for our future generations. Based on eval-
uations by eminent conservation biologists, this group
is asking state and federal officials to secure and pre-
serve at least 245,000 acres of Tejon as a new state or
national park… forever.
    When this goal is reached, everyone will be able to
explore and enjoy the oak dappled foothills of the
southern Sierra Nevada, the fir-topped peaks of the          Proposed Vision for Tejon-Tehachapi Park

                                                      DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                                 {   15 }
 S H R YO CK , 
 L AU R A 
 A . 
 M E E K , 
 AN D 
 T H O MA S 
 H . 
 M E E K

                              RESTORATION, BARRICADES, AND SIGNAGE

 Deterring ORV Use & Lessening its Impacts
               he California Desert Protection Act of 1994 desig-               Impacts of ORV use on desert animals
               nated a number of new Wilderness Areas in                           Still, the greatest impacts of ORV use may be the effects it has
               Southern California because, as the act states, the              had upon desert animals, including federally threatened species.
               wilderness values of the lands were becoming                     Lizard population densities tend to show marked declines in
increasingly threatened by “incompatible use and development.”                  areas with heavy ORV use, probably as a result of a combination
Anthropogenic threats to Wilderness Areas nationwide are cer-                   of factors, including the loss of plant cover, reduction of inverte-
tainly numerous and hard to ignore, including atmospheric pol-                  brate food sources, and trampling deaths. A study of flat-tailed
lutants, invasive species introduction, livestock grazing, and fire             horn lizard populations at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicle
suppression. For the deserts of Southern California, however,                   Recreation Area indicated that the lizards, which favor sandy
one of the most direct and persistent human threats to                          areas, may have shifted or dispersed to less-suitable habitats as a
Wilderness Areas is recreational ORV (off-road vehicle) use,                    result of heavy ORV use.
often in inappropriate or illegal settings. Indeed, the number of                  Desert bighorn sheep populations have also been shown to
illegal ORV incursions into wilderness is certainly in the thou-                avoid areas with heavy vehicular use. A study in Canyonlands
sands – too many for land management agencies to control – and                  National Park indicated that the sheep tend to avoid road corri-
is probably increasing.                                                         dors, resulting in 15 percent less use of potential suitable habitat.
                                                                                Additionally, ORV use has caused a substantial loss of habitat and
Impacts of ORV use on soil and vegetation                                       reduction in habitat quality for the desert tortoise. High-density
   The impacts of ORV use upon desert ecosystems are well doc-                  tortoise populations formerly occupied many heavily used ORV
umented by scientists. When ORV tires come into contact with                    areas, and continued use of these areas prevents the tortoises
desert soil, they destroy surface stabilizers and reduce both soil              from reestablishing themselves.2
porosity and water infiltration capacity. As a result, desert soils
become far more susceptible to wind and water erosion.                          Controlling ORV use
Moreover, compacted soil can greatly inhibit the root growth of                    But how can illegal ORV use be controlled? Given that law
desert plants. In areas where ORV use is heavy, vegetation gen-                 enforcement rangers simply cannot be everywhere at once, there
erally becomes significantly denuded. These effects can occur                   are only three realistic on-the-ground options: wilderness /
after only a few vehicle passes and cause noticeable damage due                 closed route signs, barricades, and restoration.
to the fragility of desert soils and the slow recovery time of the                 For the past seven years, crews of Student Conservation
desert ecosystem.1                                                              Association (SCA) interns have been working in partnership with
                                                                                the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to restore illegal ORV

Unauthorized Vehicle Trail before Restoration                                Identical Trail after Restoration

                   {   16 }                              DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
routes in the Wilderness and Limited-Use Areas of Southern             met, there is always the potential for vandalism.
California, developing restoration techniques that both camou-            In contrast, restoration seeks to camouflage incursions so that
flage incursions and encourage re-growth. Now the results are          users will never suspect that a route has been closed. Barricades
starting to be quantified.                                             cannot accomplish this, nor do they encourage plant regrowth.
   From September, 2006 to May, 2007, the SCA’s Wilderness             However, in certain environments where restoration cannot be
Restoration Corps VII monitored 190 restored and 555 non-              used easily – sandy washes, in particular – barricades may still be
restored incursions into 37 different Wilderness Areas. Using          the most effective means of controlling ORV use.
this data, they assessed the effectiveness of three strategies –
restoration, hard barriers, and signs – at preventing illegal          Signage
ORV use.                                                                  Of the 745 incursions monitored, approximately 327 were
                                                                       clearly marked with carsonite wilderness signs (not including
Restoration by camouflage                                              those with barricades or wood posts). Nearly half of these incur-
    So how does one go about restoring the desert? Seven years         sions had at least a few sets of vehicle tracks when monitored,
ago, the SCA attempted to answer this question, and the solution       while another 20% had at least one set of tracks. This means that
arrived at by teams of interns was based on a very simple              only a third of the signed incursions had not been driven on. If
strategy: camouflage.                                                  we exclude incursions where restoration is present, the number
    Today, the techniques in use by SCA crews are geared towards       drops to about a quarter.
blending illegal routes in with the surrounding landscape, while,         Obviously, the wilderness signs alone are not preventing ille-
at the same time, encouraging regrowth. The most common of             gal ORV use. This does not mean that signs are not important,
these techniques is called vertical mulch, whereby dead shrubs or      though. In fact, a statistical analysis of the non-restored incur-
creosote branches are gathered and replanted on illegal routes to      sions indicates that signs do help reduce the frequency of ORV
look like real, dead bushes. Typically, seed pits are then placed at   use to some extent. There also would be no way to indicate the
the base of the mulch, providing a convenient microclimate for         location of wilderness boundaries without them.
new plants to grow.                                                       The signs are simply not doing a good enough job. There are
    Some other commonly used restoration techniques include            too many people driving past them. Alternative strategies, par-
horizontal mulch (laying dead plant matter, such as Joshua tree        ticularly restoration, must be used in conjunction with wilderness
logs, across incursions), raking and sweeping to remove any visi-      signs if ORV use is to be controlled.
ble vehicle tracks, adding rocks from the surrounding landscape,
and decompacting soil. When done well, these techniques can            ORV use must be restricted to legal routes
trick even a discerning eye into believing that the incursion they          For several decades, ORV use in Southern California has been
are hiding was never there at all.                                     a serious threat to desert ecosystems. With the designation of 69
    Of the 190 restored incursions, 72.1 percent had not been          new Wilderness Areas in 1994, this threat has become far too
driven on again. In comparison, only 28.3 percent of the 555           serious to ignore. These areas are the home to several federally
non-restored incursions (including those with wilderness signs or      t h reatened species. If Wi l d e rness Areas are to serve their
barricades) were not being used.                                       scientific and re c reational function as pristine ecosystems
    Not surprisingly, restored incursions were significantly less      unimpaired for future generations, then ORV use must be
likely to be used than others. But this is not all. Restoration also   restricted to legal routes.
seemed to encourage regrowth. Indeed, one of the most com-                  Seven years of restoration efforts by the SCA and the BLM
monly noted locations for regrowth was at the base of vertical         have helped, but there is still much work to be done. In an age
mulch, where seed pits are typically placed. Thus, restoration is      when so many impacts are seemingly beyond our control – pol-
effective both at preventing ORV use on incursions and encour-         lution, global warming, invasive species – can we really afford to
aging regrowth.                                                        leave this one unchecked?
    The one caveat to these restoration strategies is that restora-
tion may not be as effective on the largest of incursions – those      Laura Meek and Daniel Shryock were interns with the Student
that can be seen for long distances – such as hill climbs. In          Conservation Association during the 2006-2007 academic year while
general, restoration is probably most effective on incursions that     they assessed the effectiveness of various techniques in protecting wilder-
can only be seen for distances of up to about 100 meters.              ness for the Bureau of Land Management. Thomas Meek is a graduate
                                                                       student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal
Barricades                                                             Biology, University of California, Riverside, California.
   Like restoration, barricades can be a relatively effective means
of preventing vehicle use on incursions. Of the 124 barricaded         1 For more information on how ORVs affect desert soils and vegetation, see: R. H.
                                                                       Webb and H. G. Wilshire, editors. 1983. Environmental Effects of Off-road Vehicles:
incursions monitored, 60 percent (72) were effective at                Impacts and Management in Arid Regions. Springer-Verlag, New York.
preventing all vehicle use. Still, this means that in 40 percent of
cases the barricades did not stop ORV users from driving on            2 For more information on how ORVs affect desert animals, see: Beauchamp, et. al.
incursions. That’s a high number, considering the cost and effort      1998. Habitat Use of the Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma mcallii) in a
                                                                       Disturbed Environment. Journal of Herpetology. Vol. 32: 210-216; Papouchis, et. al.
involved in construction.                                              2001. Responses of Desert Bighorn Sheep to Increased Human Recreation. The Journal
   What’s more, barricades can only be used in desert environ-         of Wildlife Management. Vol. 65: 573-582; Boarman, W.I. and K. Beaman, editors.
ments when there are natural features on both sides to prevent         2002. The sensitive plant and animal species of the Western Mojave Desert. U. S.
                                                                       Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Sacramento, CA.
users from simply going around. There are no trees in the desert
to provide convenient obstacles. And even when this condition is

                                                      DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                                      {   17 }
Protection Of Historic And Cultural Resources: A Personal Account
continued from page 1
ings on significant and irreplaceable cultural resources.                 actions are simple paperwork exercises and do not have the
   Section 110 (NHPA) answers the concerns for preservation,              potential to affect cultural resources. For those that might have
rounds out the responsibilities of federal agencies that require the      an effect, the next step is to identify historic or prehistoric
development of preservation programs, and includes proactive              resources within the reach, or Area of Potential Effect, of the
identification and protection of historic properties. Section 110         project. Cultural resources that are identified during this step are
and BLM’s preservation program are the ‘fun’ part of a federal            analyzed and evaluated. The BLM will try to adjust the project
archaeologist’s job. This is where public education, volunteer            to avoid those cultural resources found to meet the criteria for
programs, and archaeology for the sake of archaeology come                listing in the National Register. If the historic property can’t be
into play.                                                                avoided, we look for ways to lessen the impact to the resource or
                                                                          to preserve the information contained within it. These steps are
                                                                          carried out in consultation with the State Historic Preservation
                                                                          Officer and Native Americans.
     Archaeological resources are protected                                   Compliance is always a balancing act. The BLM has a multi-
                                                                          ple use mandate: to manage public lands in a manner that
       under a variety of federal laws and                                protects archaeological and natural resources while being
                                                                          responsive to the country’s needs for recreation, minerals, and
  regulations. The Archaeological Resources                               energy development (among other things). Project proponents
                                                                          wonder why it takes so much time to provide a cultural “clear-
   Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) provides                                 ance”. The answer is that cultural resources are part of our “irre-
                                                                          placeable heritage”. These cultural resources are fragile and
      both civil and criminal penalties for                               finite; once they are gone we have lost that part of our past for-
                                                                          ever. The time we take to identify significant resources and pro-
the excavation, removal, damage, alteration,                              vide for their protection is time well spent in the public interest.
                                                                              In turn preservationists often express frustration that we are
  or defacement of archaeological resources.                              unable to ‘save’ every cultural resource. Although all cultural
                                                                          resources are left undisturbed whenever possible, the federal
                                                                          government focuses primarily on protection and preservation of
                                                                          significant resources- those listed or eligible for listing on the
   What is the role of a federal agency archeologist? Federal             NRHP.
agencies, as EO 11593 states, are expected to “administer the cul-            My job, the job of federal agency archaeologists, is to repre-
tural properties under their control in a spirit of stewardship and       sent the interests of our shared National heritage and to involve
trusteeship for future generations and initiate measures necessary        the public, other agencies, and Native Americans in the federal
to direct their policies, plans and programs in such a way that fed-      land management process.
erally owned sites, structures, and objects of historical, architec-          Your job is to respect and protect these fragile and irreplace-
tural, or archaeological significance are preserved, restored, and        able traces of our past.
maintained for the inspiration and benefit of the people.” The
federal archeologist, or cultural resources specialist, provides          * The National Register is the official list of cultural resources
expert advice to agency decision-makers and provides leadership           deemed worthy of preservation , and we refer to listed resources
for agency preservation and protection efforts. The cultural              as ‘historic properties’ – whether they are historic in age or are
resources specialist also provides an access point for public and         older, prehistoric resources.
Native American participation in decisions that may affect signif-
icant, and spiritual, properties.                                         Wanda Raschkow is the Cultural Resources Specialist/Archaeologist for
   As a federal archaeologist, much of my time is engaged in              the Bureau of Land Management in the Palm Springs-South Coast
what we refer to as “compliance” or NHPA Section 106 review.              Field Office. The Field Office manages approximately two million acres
This involves incorporating the procedures and processes of the           of land – a sizeable storehouse of cultural and spiritual resources, the
NHPA into the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) environ-                  majority of which have not yet been identified.
mental analysis process. The cultural resources process runs par-
allel and is similar in purpose to natural resources protection
efforts. Where agency biologists and natural resources staff
concern themselves with the protection of critical habitat and              FOR MORE INFORMATION
endangered species, cultural specialists protect historic and
prehistoric properties.
   The process essentially follows this path: a federal archaeolo-           Visit BLM’s cultural heritage programs:
gist/cultural specialist is first called upon to determine if the proj-
ect has the potential to affect cultural resources. Some federal

                    {   18 }                            DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
                                                             B Y 
 J O H N 
 H I A T

                              The Desert’s Tree Of Life
                       hen most Americans                                                           food source for a portion of the year. Many
                       think about mesquite                                                         of these tribes were semi-nomadic and
                       trees they only think                                                        migrated between the lowlands in the cool
                       about the tree as a                                                          months and the higher elevations in the
source of charcoal for barbeques. More                                                              hot months.
knowledgeable individuals also know that                                                               Although we are moving away from the
mesquite wood is very hard, stable during                                                           regional cuisines of our predecessors, it is
times of changing humidity, and useful for                                                          important to recognize that Native
making furniture and other small items. To                                                          Americans had strong regional traditions for
the Native Americans of the Southwest,                                                              how they utilized the same food resources.
however, the mesquite tree was the most                                                             For example, the Cahuilla people of the
important tree in their lives. An all purpose                                                       Coachella Valley used storage granaries made
t ree, it was a source of food, fuel, shelter,                                                      of sticks, elevated above the ground surf a c e
fiber, dyes, and wood for tools and weapons.                                                        and covered with thatch, to provide pro t e c-
    Prior to European settlement in the Southwest, extensive                  tion from the elements and rodents while the Timbisha of Death
mesquite occurred in many of the lower elevation valleys of                   Valley stored their mesquite pods in lined underg round pits.
Southern California, Southern Nevada, Arizona, and Northern                       Unlike most edible plants of the pea family, the seeds of the
Mexico where groundwater lay close to the surface. The most                   honey mesquite are not the primary edible portion of the plant.
widespread species of mesquite is the honey mesquite (Prosopis                The flesh of the seed pod consists of a sweet tasting carbohydrate
glandulosa), found in washes and low places, and screwbean                    material which makes up most of the mass of the pod. The seeds
mesquite (Prosopis pubescens), found only in and near riparian                are small and only a minor part of the pod by weight. Some trees
areas. Due to firewood cutting, groundwater pumping, cattle                   bear much sweeter pods than others so that trees with the sweet-
grazing. and development many mesquite forests are just small                 est pods were preferred. The dried pods were prepared for eat-
remnants of what they once were. Most of us today think of                    ing by pounding and grinding the pods, using a mortar and pes-
mesquite as a shrub or small tree, but in earlier times, before dis-          tle. The resulting material was sifted through a porous basket to
turbance and where groundwater was plentiful, trees thirty feet               separate the seeds from the pod flour. The seeds were set aside
tall with trunks one to two feet in diameter were not uncommon.               and saved. Th e Timbisha used wooden mortars made fro m
Prior to agricultural development there were extensive mesquite               mesquite stumps and stone pestles while people like the Seri of
forests with many large trees in the lower Coachella Valley. In the           Northwest Mexico used stone bedrock mortars and wooden pestles.
late 1960’s and early 70’s when I first noticed mesquite there were               The Timbisha took the pod flour, moistened it with a small
still some large trees although they were no longer healthy due               amount of water, gently kneaded it to evenly distribute the mois-
to a falling water table.                                                     ture and made a patty over a form like an upturned basket. They
    Mesquite, a member of the pea family (Fabacae), produces a                then covered the surface with the seeds saved from the grinding
bean like pod which encapsulates the plant’s seeds. The pods of               process and set it aside to dry in a place protected from the sun.
honey mesquite, edible during all stages of development, are use-             The covering of seeds and protection from sunlight kept the
ful as soon as they are big enough to grab. The immature green                material from turning dark and being less desirable. Once the
pods were picked by Native Americans, roasted and eaten like                  patty was dry the layer of seeds was scraped off and discarded.
green beans. They could also be crushed and eaten raw. The fully              The dried cake was then ready to eat or could be stored for later
developed but not dried pods were crushed, cooked and eaten.                  use. The seeds themselves were not normally eaten because of
The dried pods were either picked off the trees or gathered after             the difficulty in separating the edible portion from the hard,
falling to the ground. The dried pods could either be processed               inedible portion of the seed. The Timbisha would remain on the
immediately or stored for later use. The fact that the dry pods                                                               continued on page 21
could be stored for extended periods of time was of great impor-
tance to the desert tribes who were dependent upon this staple                Above: Honey Mesquite: Leaves, Flowers, Pods

                                                      DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                                    {   19 }
California/Nevada Regional Conservation Committee
Desert Committee


Following is a listing of Desert Committee Outings. There are car               Leaders wanted! Would you like to lead trips for the Desert Committee?
camps, tours, day hikes, backpacks, service trips, and others that              We are looking for certified Sierra Club leaders to conduct service trips
combine two or more or those activities. Outings are not rated; dis-            with the BLM, the National Park Service, and other organizations. There
tance and elevation gain can give you an indication of the                      are more opportunities for service trips than there are leaders available.
suitability of a trip; but the condition of the trail, or lack of a trail can   Service trips can be one day, a weekend or several days. Much of the
change the degree of difficulty. An eight mile, 900’ elevation gain             planning will be done by the entity for which the work is being done.
hike on a good trail would be easy to moderate, the same hike cross-
country could be strenuous. It is recommended that participants call            Trips wanted! To all Sierra Club Leaders: do you have a trip planned that
the leader and ask about the suitability of the outing given your               you might like to see in the Desert Report? Desert Committee outings are
conditioning, particularly if it is your first time on that type of trip.       sent to every chapter newsletter in California and Nevada. Listing with the
    If you have not participated in a service trip, give it some thought.       Committee can increase participation - and gives you chance to meet
They certainly involve work, but they are also a lot of fun. You have           people from outside your local group. Please contact Kate Allen at
an opportunity not only to help the environment, but also to meet      or 661-944-4056 for further information.
new people and to work with staff knowledgeable about the area.
Trips frequently include a hike the next day that may explore a little          Other sources of desert trips Other organizations sponsor desert trips.
known or seldom visited area, or even perhaps one that is generally             Among these are the Desert Survivors, Friends of the Nevada Wilderness,
off limits to the public.                                                       and Utah Backcountry Volunteers. These are not Sierra Club organizations,
    For questions about a particular outing or to sign up, please               nor are their trips endorsed by the Sierra Club; the information is
contact the leader listed in the write-up. For questions about Desert           provided because it may be of interest to readers. It is up to individuals to
Committee Outings in general, or to receive the outings list by                 determine the suitability of trips offered by other organizations.
e-mail, please contact Kate Allen at or                            Desert Survivors: Must be a member
661-944-4056.                                                                   to participate. Name implies rugged, strenuous trips, and some of them
    Like nearly all organizations that sponsor outdoor travel, the              are, but there are also some more moderate trips. Check ‘em out.
Sierra Club is now obliged to require participants to sign a standard               Friends of the Nevada Wilderness:
liability waiver at the beginning of each trip. If you would like to            Friends of Nevada Wilderness organizes volunteer restoration trips to help
read the Liability Waiver before you choose to participate on an out-           wild landscapes recover from noxious weeds, illegal vehicle use, and other
ing, please go to:,             impacts. You can explore scenic Nevada and help keep it wild at the same
or contact the Outings Department at (415) 977-5528 for a                       time! These trips are free, and the beautiful wild areas you get to enjoy are
printed version.                                                                priceless! Please check the Friends website or their blogspot at
                                                                       for a list of upcoming trips.
                                                                                    Utah Backcountry Volunteers: This group
                                                                                partners with agencies such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land
                                                                                Management, and Park Service to identify on-the-ground projects
El Paso Wilderness Area Service Trip
                                                                                and then conduct service trips that restore, repair and maintain our
(South of Ridgecrest, CA)                                                       public lands.
October 6-7, Saturday-Sunday
Help install tortoise ramps in two guzzlers in this wilderness area
south of Ridgecrest, CA. Desert tortoise can become trapped in                  rather attempt to crawl under. Our service on Saturday will mod-
these watering spots, ramps will enable them to drink and to get                ify several sections of fence to facilitate this mobility. Sunday will
out safely. BLM will supply ramps and tools. Two-mile hike on                   be, at the choice of the group, either a hike in the Caliente Range
Saturday to work site, carrying tools. Visit to interesting arche-              or else a tour of popular viewing areas in the plains. Those who
ological site along the way. Sunday, shorter hike, with a visit to              can stay on Monday will continue assisting in fence modification.
an historic site. BLM Wilderness Coordinator Marty Dickes will                  This is an opportunity to combine carcamping, day hiking,
direct the installation efforts. Car camp Friday and Saturday                   exploring, and service in a relatively unknown wilderness.
nights. Happy hour and potluck dinner Saturday night. Ldr:                      Contact Ldr: Craig Deutsche, (310-477-6670), deutsche@earth-
Kate Allen 661-944-4056, CNRCC Desert                 CNRCC Desert Committee
                                                                                Tamarisk Removal in the Santa Rosa Wilderness
Carrizo Plains Service Trip                                                     October 20, Saturday
October 13-15, Saturday-Monday                                                  Work with the BLM to help clear Devil’s Canyon of this invasive
Explore and Serve in the Carrizo Plains National Monument:                      plant. Meet 8 AM in Indio, at the Mobil Station at the corner of
Pronghorn antelope will not jump fences to escape predators but                 Highway 111 and Jefferson St. Caravan to Boo Hoff trailhead

                      {   20 }                               DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
and hike 2 miles to the work site. We will cut down the tamarisk
with loppers and hand saws, then herbicide will be applied to
prevent resprouting. Chance to see Native American rock art
                                                                     Mesquite: The Desert’s Tree Of Life
and native fan palms along the moderate hiking trail. Ldr: Ralph
Salisbury, (preferred) or 951-686-
4141. Day of outing use 951-522-2993. San Gorgonio                    continued from page 19
Chapter/CNRCC Desert Committee                                        floor of Death Valley until the crop of mesquite pods was fully
                                                                      ripe in late May or June, then gather and store part of the crop
Equestrian Trail Hike - Joshua Tree National Park                     while processing the rest into cakes which they would carry with
October 20, Saturday                                                  them as they moved to higher elevations for the summer.
People say the best way to keep a secret is to publish it. Here           Anyone who has tried to walk through a mesquite grove
goes: this is a breezy five or six- mile hike on a seldom-used        knows that the twigs and smaller branches are covered with
horse trail in a very scenic area of the park. Bring a couple of      t h o rns. To improve access and help avoid the thorns the
quarts of water and a lunch, wear comfortable boots and maybe         Timbisha would use sticks to prop up the lower branches so that
a camera. Being as I’m writing this in July I have no idea of what    they could walk underneath them to pick the pods or gather
the weather will be in late October. We’ll discuss clothing when      them from the ground. They would break off the dead limbs for
you call. Moderate to difficult. See you there! Al and Ann Murdy      firewood and to improve access. The trees provided shade dur-
(760)366-2932       or San              Gorgonio      ing the warmer months when leafed out and shelter from the
Chapter/CNRCC Desert Committee                                        wind at all times. The trunks and larger limbs provided ready-
                                                                      made supports for shelters. Shelters consisted of a wooden
Ghost Town Extravaganza                                               framework covered with a layer of thatch. A common thatch
October 20-21, Saturday-Sunday                                        material used in Death Valley was arrow-weed. The cut stems
Come with us to this spectacular desert landscape near Death          were tied into bundles using strips of mesquite bark peeled from
Valley to explore the ruins of California’s colorful past. Camp at    young limbs and then the bundles were tied onto the wooden
the historic ghost town of Ballarat (flush toilets & hot showers).    framework.
On Sat, do a challenging hike to ghost town Lookout City with             The heartwood of honey mesquite is hard, dark brown, and
expert Hal Fowler who will regale us with tales of this wild west     very stable, neither expanding nor contracting very much with
town. Later we’ll return to camp for Happy Hour, a potluck feast      changes in humidity. It was used by Native Americans for a vari-
and campfire. On Sun, a quick visit to the infamous Riley town        ety of tools and weapons in addition to the structural compo-
site before heading home. Group size strictly limited. Send $8        nents of shelters and furniture.
per person (Sierra Club), 2 sase, H&W phones, email, rideshare            Americans of European descent are just beginning to appreci-
info to Ldr: Lygeia Gerard, P.O. Box 294726, Phelan, CA 92329;        ate mesquite trees as one of the iconic plants of the lowlands of
(760) 868-0979. CNRCC Desert Committee                                the Southwest deserts. As we are forced by a growing population
                                                                      and shrinking water supply to adapt to a lifestyle in which water
Wild and Scenic Amargosa                                              is more and more precious, mesquite trees are becoming a very
October 20-21, Saturday-Sunday                                        noticeable part of the urban landscape. In some of the older res-
We will travel by car and foot to visit a number of sites in the      idential neighborhoods of Las Vegas native mesquite trees were
Tecopa/Shoshone area immediately south of Death Valley: fossil        saved at the time of development and are still a prominent land-
sites, rock alignments, mining relics, pioneer graves, and the        scape feature. Hopefully, we will again appreciate mesquite trees
outstanding riparian area along the Amargosa River. We meet in        for all the things they can provide.
Baker and will conclude in Shoshone. Saturday evening will be a
car camp with a potluck dinner and campfire. One of the local
                                                                         I deeply appreciate the help of Pauline Esteves of the
residents will talk with us about the past and future of this
                                                                      Timbisha Shoshone in Death Valley for sharing her knowledge
historic area. High clearance 2WD sufficient. Group limit, 12
                                                                      of the historic role of the honey mesquite tree in the lives of her
persons, Contact leader Craig Deutsche (310-477-6670),
                                                                      people. Additional information was taken from “People of the CNRCC Desert Committee
                                                                      Desert and Sea” by R.S. Felger and M.B. Moser.
Holiday Service in Carrizo Plain National Monument
                                                                      John Hiatt, a desert activist living in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a board
December 29, 2007 - January 3, 2008, Saturday-Thursday
                                                                      member of Friends of Nevada Wilderness.
Celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next in
one of our new national monuments. The Carrizo Plain, west of
Bakersfield, is vast grassland, home to pronghorn antelope, tule
elk, kit fox, and a wide variety of birds. A welcome hike on Dec.
29, three and a half days of service modifying barbed wire
fencing, and a full day for hiking and exploring are planned. Use
of accommodations at Goodwin Ranch included. Limited to 12
participants, $25 covers five dinners. For more information,
contact leader: Craig Deutsche,, (310-
477-6670), or co-leader leader Melinda Goodwater,, (408-774-1257). CNRCC Desert
                                                                      Honey Mesquite: Food, Shelter, Fuel, Fiber, Dyes, and Wood

                                                     DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                             {   21 }
Grazing: The Essential Range Management Tool
continued from page 12
livestock use, and much more pleasing to the eye. Old vegetation          versus federal land grazing. Private lands are generally relatively
tends to be much less palatable to all grazing animals because            small fenced pastures requiring little lessee travel expense for
it is lower in nutrients and higher in toxins than fresh young            livestock management, with the private landowner often provid-
growth.                                                                   ing property maintenance, irrigation, stockwater, and some live-
    Do we ponder the fact that wildlife and waterfowl almost              stock management and care. Federal lands are dry, wide open
always move to the grazed or mowed areas on private lands fol-            expanses requiring extensive management travel over roads not
lowing harvest of the crop? Do we attempt to correlate that               maintained, resulting in accelerated wear and tear on expensive
observance with similar choices made by wildlife occurring on             vehicles. Truck, fuel, tire, wage, and maintenance costs, when
federal lands? In this sheepherder’s opinion, non-grazing by live-        added to the federal grazing fee, result in overall federal-range
                                                                          grazing costs to the lessee equal to or greater than private-land-
                                                                          grazing rates. Though the government employs a large work-
                                                                          force to monitor, police, and help design and install projects on
     Across Nevada, exclosure studies have                                our federal ranges, it provides no livestock management or care.
                                                                          Yet, the American public derives significant benefits from appro-
    shown that absence of grazing does not                                priately managed grazing on the public lands. Properly grazed
                                                                          lands support greater numbers and variety of wildlife than com-
 automatically lead to an increased diversity                             parable ungrazed lands, and the rancher picks up the tab.
                                                                              It is well established that overgrazing destroys rangeland
       of vegetation and healthier plants.                                diversity and production. Conversely, resultant affects of non-
                                                                          grazing, as shown by the results from numerous exclosures across
                                                                          Nevada, suggest that lack of grazing leads to plant decadence,
                                                                          loss of diversity, and diminishing benefit for wildlife. There
stock can be as damaging to diversity and production of range-            exists no good substitute for properly-managed grazing in stim-
land as is overgrazing. By my observation, wildlife often choose          ulating and maintaining plant health and vigor for the good of all
to forage or browse in areas earlier-grazed by livestock, over            users be they human, animal or insect.
those not grazed, because the mature plants grazed by livestock
often regenerate succulent fresh growth for those that follow.         Brent Eldridge comes from a multi-generational ranching family in
    Over the four decades I depended on rangeland ranching, our        Spring Valley, NV, and currently serves as chairman of the White Pine
ranch hosted large flocks of Canada geese and numerous pro n g-        County Commission. He lives in Ely, Nevada.
h o rn antelope moving onto our private land fol-
lowing harvest. We watched pro n g h o rn ante-
lope move quickly into rangeland pastures fro m
which we had recently removed cattle, and we
o b s e rved mule deer abandon their traditional
winter range in North Spring Valley (NV) in
favor of moving to a large burn five miles distant
only two years after it burned. Bambi and his
friends show us what they like; it’s our duty as
students of the range to observe, accommodate,
and monitor for the good of all users.
    Many if not most sources of water for live-
stock and wildlife on Nevada’s federal lands
were developed by the grazing industry.
Without those strategically-located improve-
ments, the waterless range would be beyond
reach for all browsing and grazing species -
private grazing interests have for more than a
century helped distribute wildlife and livestock
on federal lands through expenditure of private
funds to capture rainfall or bring water to the
surface for the benefit of all.
    Public lands ranchers pay a formula-based
fee for grazing on federal land - the fee is far
less than advertised private-land-lease rates, so
let’s compare briefly the overall costs of private Cattle Drive Ruby Lakes Valley, northeast NV

                   {   22 }                          DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007
                                                                        Editorial Staff              Coordinators
                                                                        PUBLISHER AND                CALIFORNIA WILDERNESS
                                                                        MANAGING EDITOR              DESIGNATION AND
                                                                        Craig Deutsche               PROTECTION
                                                                     Vicky Hoover
Published by the Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee
                                                                        EXECUTIVE EDITOR             (415-928-1038)
All policy, editing, reporting, design and layout is the work of        Judy Anderson                NEVADA WILDERNESS
volunteers. To receive Desert Report mail the coupon on the      DESIGNATION AND
back cover. Articles, photos, letters and original art are welcome.     (818-248-0402)               PROTECTION
                                                                                                     Marge Sill
Please contact Craig Deutsche (, 310-477-         CO-EDITORS
6670) about contributions well in advance of deadline dates:            Andrea Leigh
                                                                 ORV ISSUES
Feb 1, May 1, Aug 1, Nov 1.                                             (818-988-2433)               George Barnes (public lands)
                                                                        Ann Ronald         
Our Mission                                                                                          (650-494-8895)
The Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee works for            (775-827-2353)               Phil Klasky (private lands)
the protection and conservation of the California/Nevada                Liz Crumley
deserts; supports the same objectives in all desert areas of the
                                                                        (510-845-2963)               NEVADA MINING ISSUES
Southwest, monitors and works with governments and agencies                                          Dan Randolph
                                                                        OUTINGS EDITOR
to promote preservation of our arid lands, sponsors education                              
                                                                        Kate Allen
and work trips, encourages and supports others to work for the             (775-348-1986)
same objectives, and maintains, shares and publishes information        (661-944-4056)               CALIFORNIA MINING ISSUES
about the desert.                                                       GRAPHIC DESIGN               Stan Haye
                                                                        Jason Hashmi                 (760-385-8973)
                                                                       TEJON RANCH
                                                                        (310-989-5038)               DEVELOPMENT
                                                                                                     Joe Fontaine

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                                                                                                     IMPERIAL COUNTY ISSUES
                                                                                                     Terry Weiner
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   Here you’ll find open discussions of items interesting to
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   desert lovers. Many articles in this issue of DR were devel-         Stan Haye                    SUNRISE POWERLINK
   oped through Forum discussions. Electronic subscribers will     Micha Mitrosky
   continue to receive current news on these issues—plus the
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   opportunity to join in the discussions and contribute their ow n     Kate Allen                   RED ROCK STATE PARK (CA)
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    To sign up, just send this e-mail:                                                               ANZA-BORREGO STATE PARK
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                                                                                                     NEVADA WATER ISSUES
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                                                                                                     Jeff Morgan

                                                        DESERT REPORT SEPTEMBER 2007                      {   23 }
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                  published by
                  California/Nevada Desert Committee                                                                    Los Angeles, CA
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                  3435 Wilshire Boulevard #320                                                                          36438
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