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El Paisano Summer 2009 #205

El Paisano Summer 2009 #205

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The Newsletter o the Desert Protective CouncilSummer 2009 Number 205
P.O. Box 3635, San Diego, CA 92163-1635 (619) 342-5524 www.dpcinc.org www.desertblog.net
A ew changes at El Paisano
by Chris Clarke
T
his issue o 
El Paisano
brings with it a ew changes in Desert Protective Council’svenerable newsletter.Most notably,
El Paisano’s
ormer editorLawrence Hogue has moved on to othertasks, though not rom his ardent andeloquent deense o the desert. He’s alsohanded over the reins o the DPC’s weblog,DesertBlog, which he has cultivated sinceMarch 2008. In his work as Communica-tions Consultant at DPC Larry set higheditorial and literary standards, and leavesan intimidating metaphorical pair o des-ert hiking boots to ll. DPC is sorry to seeLarry go, and we look orward to bumpinginto him out in the ocotillos.Incidentally, i you haven’t yet got-ten yoursel a copy o Larry’s masterul2000 book
 All the Wild and Lonely Places: Journeys In A Desert Landscape,
there’s notime like the present to do so. Larry’s is akeen and insightul look at the San Diegobackcountry, its denizens human andotherwise, and a compelling meditation onthe nature o wilderness besides. It’s still inprint, thankully, and well worth the read.Taking Larry’s place at the helm o 
El Paisano
, DesertBlog, and sundry otherDPC communications channels is yourstruly. I come to DPC ater twenty yearso environmental journalism workingor groups such as San Francisco’s EarthIsland Institute. My weblog at aultline.orghas won praise or its success in bringingdesert conservation issues to new audi-ences, though o course there’s plenty stilllet undone in that regard. A long-timeMojave Desert rat, I’m currently nishingup the research or a orthcoming book onJoshua trees.I urge Desert Protective Council mem-bers and other
El Paisano
readers to con-sider contributing writing, photographsor other appropriate content. I’m alwaysinterested in hearing about what’s goingon in your corner o the desert. I there’ssomething you’d like to have mentionedin
El Paisano
, or i you have comments onanything in the newsletter, please eel reeto give me a call at (213) 254-5382.With the change in sta come a ewdesign modications, which we hope willmake
El Paisano
even more o a pleasureto read. The re-engineering o 
El Paisano’s
masthead is the most prominent suchchange. Our new header image was do-nated to DPC by noted wildlie artist CarlBuell, whose work has been seen in venuesas diverse as the peer-reviewed scientic journal
 Nature
and the walls o park visi-tor centers theroughout the US. You cansee more o Carl’s work on his website atolduvaigeorge.com.
ConservationCorner
By Terry Weiner
A
s the summer o 2009 bakes oursouthwest deserts, I give thanks orthe temporary respite granted the plants,animals and soils o our arid lands romthe punishing tires, air pollution, dustand noise o o-road vehicle (ORV)activity. Away rom the desert’s military bases, quiet dominates and creatures rest.Although, use by ORV enthusiasts report-edly decreased in 2008/2009 in a numbero desert areas, the impact o their activity has not decreased. This year in Caliornia— especially in San Bernardino and Kerncounties — illegal ORV riding on privateroads, harassment, and retaliatory threatsto residents who complain to local sherisand other ocials have increased.I am heartsick at the requent reportslanding in my email inbox rom desert andbackcountry residents, land managers, andother conservation organizations describ-ing the siege o ORV abuse o privatelands, in rural communities rom the des-ert to the mountain orests all across thecountry. As a member o the Sierra ClubNational Recreation Issues Committee, Ihear details o ORV abuse rom the Ever-glades to the orests o Washington State.A ew examples:On June 24, 2009, Stanislaus NationalForest Service researchers conducting ave-year ecological study arrived at a high-elevation mountain meadow in time to seea pickup truck being loaded with motor-cycles and beating a hasty retreat. Enteringthe meadow on oot, the researchers oundthe meadow badly scarred, with deep
continued on page 2
Inside this issue
Imperial County News 3Interior Fast-tracks Solar 4Desert News 5Member Notes 6Soda Mountains 6Annual Membership Meeting 7
 
El Paisano, the newsletter o the Desert Protective Council2
wheel ruts rom spins and zigzags across it.Protective encing had been cut.In May 2009, roughly 500 o-roadersrallied in Utah’s Grand Staircase-EscalanteNational Monument to protest the 2000BLM closure o the Paria River to motor-ized vehicles. Hundreds deliberately drovetheir machines up the muddy river in massviolation o Federal Law.In the Caliornia Department o Parksand Recreation-managed Desert CahuillaPrehistoric Area in Imperial County, ridersin jeeps and on dirt bikes blaze new trailsup ragile, colorul sandstone hills, damage10,000-year-old desert pavement, crushpetried wood, and jeopardize ancient Na-tive American sacred sites.During the 2008-9 o-roading seasonat the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Rec-reation Area in San Diego and ImperialCounties, dozens o injured children andadults were airlited to distant hospitals.On holiday weekends, the entire desert ba-sin around this 80,000-acre Ocotillo Wells“Open Area” is lled with a purple haze o air pollution which, when winds blow east,aects air quality in the adjacent Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the town o Borrego Springs.In Kern County, a ranch owner whohas tried to work with the county to cratan ORV ordinance, suers at all hoursrom noise, umes and dust rom o-roaders tearing up the road she pays tomaintain. Kern County Community ORVWatch (COW), a citizen/property ownerorganization, recently learned rom theD.A.’s oce that they would not under any circumstances prosecute misdemeanorsby, or issue citations to, illegal o-roaders.The Kern County sheri has reused toenorce the laws on private-public accessdirt roads, and will not respond to trespassi one is calling on behal o a neighbor,despite the act that the local olks sup-ported the sheri’s 08/09 Caliornia StateOHV grant application or law enorce-ment unding.In Imperial County, a group o part-time, o-roading residents o the WaltersCamp community on the banks o theColorado River are blackmailing SenatorFeinstein to remove thousands o acresrom wilderness consideration so that
they may continue using their illegal ORVroutes on public land. This small group o 50 homeowners in this tiny community has fatly stated that they will not supportany new wilderness i they do not get theirway. The county’s Board o Supervisorsand Senator Feinstein will not approve any wilderness additions in that area withoutthe support o the Walters Camp residents.Residents who support wilderness areoutnumbered, and are thus excluded romthe negotiations. Some areas that will belet out o wilderness protection due tothe demands o the o-roaders includeQuechan sacred cultural sites, includingportions o the ancient ootpath — theQuechan Trail o Dreams, which starts atPilot Knob and goes to Spirit Mountain inNevada. Also excluded will be ragile deserthills, ancient microphyll woodlands anddesert washes honeycombed with deserttortoise burrows.Meanwhile, the CA OHV Division o State Parks has released or public com-ment their “OHV Strategic Plan” to guidethe uture o OHV recreation in Caliornia.The plan seems to have been crated in avacuum. The main goal o the plan is toprotect and promote “sustainable” (appar-ently meaning, in this case, “sustained”)OHV “opportunity,” including the ex-pansion o the extremely controversial“state-wide motorized trail.” Protection o Caliornia’s natural resources and consid-eration o other types o recreation aretreated as obstacles to be overcome in theOHV Division’s mission o sustaining aland base or this high-impact recreation.Caliornia’s climate change plan and airquality management are given short shrit.One o the plan’s answers to air quality issues is merely to point out that a newgeneration o electric dirt bikes is enteringthe market.You can check out this drat strategicplan by downloading the PDF le athttp://tinyurl.com/CAORVplan.Our growing rustration and anger isdirected not only toward abusive driverso o-road vehicles but also toward theleaders o ORV organizations who will notspeak out against this abusive behavior,and who indeed viliy or ban memberso their organizations who speak out onbehal o environmental responsibility, orwho show any signs o sympathy towardconservationists.A recent example o this is seen in thereaction o the leaders o the District 36American Motorcycle Association (AMA)who were contacted by one o theirlong-time members and asked or helpin pursuing the motorized culprits whovandalized the Sierra Mountain meadowmentioned earlier. The member posted thearticle about the meadow destruction onthe local AMA orum with a call to action,citing this as an opportunity or the groupto build some trust and credibility withland managers and the conservation com-munity. Shortly thereater the moderatorso the AMA orum and the district leader-ship deleted his post and banned him romthe orums. He received neither ormalexplanation nor response rom the District36 President. Our riend also contactedthe Blue Ribbon Coalition, o which he is
This ORV damage to the Desert Cahuilla Prehistoric Area may take centuries to heal, i itever does. Satellite image courtesy Google Earth
Conservation Corner…
rom page 1continued on page 3
 
www.dpcinc.org | www.desertblog.net3
Imperial CountyNews
by Terry Weiner
Hope or The New River
The New River fows north rom Mexicointo Calexico, draining eventually into theSalton Sea. Until recently, the New Riverheld the dubious distinction o being themost polluted river in the US. Documen-taries have been made on the horrors o this sad river, into which raw sewage andchemical wastes have poured or years. Theriver reputedly has a nauseating stench.Clots o green roth clutter the riversurace rom time to time, and people whohave the misortune to all into the riveroten sicken, and sometimes die. One o the solutions to assist the cleanup o theNew River has been the creation o severalwetlands along the length o the river inImperial County. The wetlands lter theriver, removing some o the contaminants.On July 15 the Calexico City Council laidthe contractual groundwork or launchingthe “New River Improvement Project.” Theunding o the New River ImprovementProject is contingent upon the passage o State Assembly Member Manuel Perez’sbill, AB 1079, which would create the NewRiver Improvement Project Account, al-lowing unds to be allocated to clean up theriver. The bill has solid support in ImperialCounty. We’ll keep you posted on its prog-ress in Caliornia’s legislature.
Salton Basin Field Trips
We had a successul rst season o theImperial County Salton Basin Living Labo-ratory Field Trip Program.Over the past 15 months, naturalist/educator/writer Pat Flanagan, in consul-tation with San Diego Natural History Museum educator, Judy Ramirez and artistCallie Mack, composed and illustrated atwo-book eld trip curriculum ocusedentirely on the geologic, human, andnatural history o the Salton Basin, extend-ing rom the Coachella Valley to the gul o Caliornia. In January, they conductedan all-day workshop and eld trip or theeight ourth through sixth grade “charter”teachers. These outstanding teachers thenintegrated their newly acquired curricu-lum materials with their existing sciencecurriculum, and conducted student eldtrips. The teachers’ reports and theirstudent refections portray their deep plea-sure in discovering new tools with whichto appreciate their desert homes.
Desert Cahuilla Update
In 2007, the Anza-Borrego Foundationand Institute (ABFI) and the DPC hireda geological consultant to conduct aerialphotography o the 15,000-acre DesertCahuilla Prehistoric Area, adjacent toAnza-Borrego Desert State Park. Weobtained these high-resolution photos asbaseline documentation o the eects o 30 years o unauthorized ORV use o the area,4,000 acres o which had been purchasedby the Caliornia Department o Parks andRecreation (DPR) in December 2006.In March 2009 our consultant shot asecond round o aerial photographs, thistime o only the northern section o thisvast area. The rest was so heavily damagedby ORV travel by 2007 that it would beimpossible to be able to discern new dam-age. Our contractor is comparing the twosets o photographs to gauge any increasein damage since 2007.DPC and ABFI conducted monitoringeld trips to the Desert Cahuilla area thisspring, documenting the creation o newORV tracks and trails up sot pastel clis.We photographed plants and petriedwood crushed by tires. The Desert Cahuillaarea is habitat or the peninsular bighornsheep, harbors Native cultural sites such asoot trails and ancient sh traps, and hostsseveral rare plant species. There are largemesas covered with 10,000-year-old desertpavement.Our goal is to gather enough evidenceo ongoing ORV damage to persuade theDPR that an interim closure, or restric-tion o ORVs to washes only, is needed toprotect these precious natural and culturalresources during the public managementplanning process. The DPC and the Centeror Biological Diversity signed a stipulatedsettlement agreement with the DPR in2007 that stated DPR would take specicmeasures to protect the Desert CahuillaArea prior to the EIR process. The DPRhas ailed to abide by the terms o thesettlement, though it still has time to act toprevent urther ORV damage.
Air Quality
Imperial County has some o the highestrates o childhood asthma in Caliornia,with nearly a third o county school chil-dren suering rom the disease. Imperial
continued on page 4
a member in good standing, with a similarrequest or them to post the article aboutthe meadow damage. To date he has heardnothing rom the leaders o that group aswell. He still believes that this kind o reac-tion does not represent the broad OHVcommunity and that there are many whohold the environment dear. We will believethat when the representatives o the o-roaders begin to speak out against ruthlessirresponsible behavior on o-road ve-hicles. A ew years back I attended a orummoderated by the leaders o several OHVorganizations. The topic o the orum was“improving the image o our sport.” Themost eective way or them to improvetheir image is to improve their behavior! Itis clear that large numbers o riders havenot yet made this leap.Although many o-roaders
do
respectthe law, enough o them do not to causetragic amounts o damage to our naturalresources, public lands, and to the qual-ity o lie in rural communities. People inthe o-road community and their leadersmust speak out against abusive behavior,and sanction members who behave crimi-nally. Until the major ORV groups actively assist us in promoting protective measures,and help bring rogue riders to justice, theirimage will continue to deteriorate.Please work with us to move the publicand our legislators to support strongernational ORV legislation: legislation withteeth, which will include meaningulnes, drivers licenses or o-road vehicledrivers, tracking o violations with pointsagainst drivers street legal vehicle licensesand conscation o o-road vehicles ormultiple oenses.
Conservation Corner…
rom page 2

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