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MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE CONSERVANCY NEWSLETTER

Fall 2012 Our Mission is preserve, protect, and promote the unique natural beauty, ecological integrity, and rich cultural history of Mojave National Preserve, and to build a community dedicated to the enduring stewardship of the Preserve.

Special Events and Activities Highlights


Checkout this newsletter for details

See NPS ranger programs and activities starting on page 4.

The President's Corner


by David Lamfrom The board of the MNPC thanks you for your continued support and membership. In our third year as an organization we remain a small, board-driven conservancy committed to heightening awareness of the incomparable Mojave National Preserve, and connecting people to this place to build their capacity to enjoy and protect it. Despite the immensity of Mojave National Preserve, being the third largest unit of the National Park Service in the lower 48 states, its remote location has made it relatively obscure in relation to other iconic western national parks. This is both a blessing and a curse. An intrepid explorer can enjoy this majestic landscape in solitude. That person is afforded the privilege of experiencing natural soundscape, uninterrupted viewscape, and pristine night sky. They may encounter a bobcat, kit fox, sight a golden eagle, or perhaps experience the vibrancy of a valley carpeted with wildflowers. This is undoubtedly still a place with room to roam. But these values present here, lost in so many places, require our care and protection. We need to connect new generations with the Preserve, we need to communicate and share these values with others, and we have to express our support publicly to ensure that this National Park unit is properly funded and cared for. This is what the Conservancy does, and what your membership and support does. We hold bi-annual celebrations of the Preserves night skies, we engage members and volunteers to perform restoration, and we fund youth to have their first experiences in National Parks. We continue to build our board, and welcome Las Vegas journalist and outdoor enthusiast Ben Spillman to our ranks. His writing will no doubt be much better than mine, and he brings great skills, tools, talents, and enthusiasm to our board. I am excited to announce that we are working to restore access to the Mitchell Caverns in the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. This nationally important cave and surrounding desert mountain habitat is a state park property within the preserves boundaries that has been closed down due to budget and maintenance issues. Famous for its cave tours, Mitchell Caverns provided many students their first experience in the Mojave desert. The property contains a remarkable high-elevation desert garden habitat, rich with wildlife and diverse cacti species. It was also a popular sight for hiking, camping, and stargazing. The Conservancy has initiated conversations with the National Park Service and the California State Parks to determine what actions can be taken to restore access to this important resource. Stay tuned for updates on this important issue. We cant accomplish important gains for the Mojave National Preserve without your support. We encourage you to consider the Conservancy in your end of the year giving to allow us to escalate our actions to protect this special place. Importantly, we encourage you to join us on a hike this Spring, on a restoration project, or at one of our incredible night sky events. We are on facebook, or visit our website to learn more. www.mojavepreserve.org

2 boundaries from willing sellers by way of donation, purchase or exchange. Over the years several different partner organizations have purchased private land and donated it to the National Park Service. Since 2006, the Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) has been the principal organization leading this important effort. The land acquisition process includes environmental site surveys to assess any structures or dumps. An archaeologist identifies materials of historical significance and communicates the results. A land restoration expert identifies hazardous waste, often found at abandoned mine sites, and makes arrangements for its removal. Other materials are generally considered solid waste and can be cleaned up. In more recent acquisitions, the Mojave Desert Land Trust cleans up sites with large amounts of solid waste before donating them. However, there currently is a backlog of older parcels that require a cleanup. Cleanups involve gathering a group of people to pick up household items and debris and placing them in a rented dumpster on the site. Materials frequently include can dumps, trailers, sheds, animal pens, wire fences, clothing and general trash. Tires, paint cans, 55-gallon drums, batteries, and other items that are not accepted at solid waste disposal sites must be separated out. This process is labor intensive, and preserve staff cannot do it without help. Over the past several years, Mojave National Preserve Conservancy members have been assisting with these cleanups. They have taken down many miles of fence and cleaned up several dump sites including the one described in this newsletter. Volunteers camp for free at Mojave, and we often share a potluck meal after the event. Its a great way to get to know preserve staff and volunteers and to learn more about the landscape and its history.

Photo by Michael Gordon

Cleaning up the East Mojave


by Annie Kearns and Linda Slater The Homestead Act provided opportunities for many citizens to become landowners in the East Mojave during the early to mid 1900s. Above-average precipitation rates in some years provided enough moisture for successful crops for the homesteaders, but farming in the desert environment was generally difficult. Nearly all the homesteaders eventually gave up their efforts, but not before about 120,000 acres in what is now Mojave National Preserve was converted to private property. In addition, about 1000 acres with mineral deposits transitioned to private ownership as mining claims were patented; the railroad was granted another 80,000 acres of checkerboard properties. Once proved up according to the provisions of the Homestead Act, the parcels became private and were later handed down within families, divided, or sold. Some landowners who moved away continued to visit their land for hunting and relaxation, but most did not, and impacts to the land eventually faded away. Although the remains of historic structures and settlements can be seen scattered throughout the preserve, especially in Lanfair Valley, most of these private parcels are pristine in appearance, with occasional historic relics to discover. Not all private parcels had such light use, however. Abandoned trailer-homes from the 1950s through the 1980s are a common sight in Lanfair Valley. Because the isolation of the area made it difficult to for residents to dispose of refuse, trash piles and pits grew alongside them. When the 1994 California Desert Protection Act was passed creating Mojave National Preserve, Congress authorized the acquisition of private lands within the

Photo by Michael Gordon

3 clean up and restore to its natural condition a parcel of property in the Lanfair Valley, donated land now legally part of the Mojave National Preserve. Thirteen volunteers and staff filled two dumpsters and a truck with wood, glass, and miscellaneous debris from the site. The NPS trailer at the end of day hauled away, as well, a load of metal and old tires for recycling. The land now features old-growth Joshua Trees, a variety of other desert plants, and a panoramic view to the west.
Photo by Sid Silliman

................................................................................. Restoration In The New York Mountains


by Sid Silliman The Dorr site an acquired property in the New York Mountains of the Mojave National Preserve was restored to an open meadow surrounded by pinion and juniper-dotted hillsides on October 13th by an enthusiastic group of eighteen individuals from the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy, Desert Survivors, local communities, and the National Park Service. All debris that had marred the site was collected and transported out of Upper Pinto Canyon. Wood from the fallen, non-historic building on the property was sorted and saved to repair or reconstruct historic buildings elsewhere in the Preserve. Members pulled and bagged Russian Thistle from an area along Cedar Canyon Road after the cleanup in a continuation of Park Service efforts to remove this invasive species from the Preserve. Why would anyone spend a day in hard labor cleaning up acquired property in the Mojave National Preserve? The motivations of participants for joining service projects vary, yet there are several reasons for participation. First, the service projects are good work the volunteers and the Park Service invariably restore a portion of the Preserve to a more natural state, and the effect is immediately apparent. Second, by the end of the day, a community emerges from the common effort toward preservation, the cooperation among different organizations, and the good cheer of all. Third, the Mojave Preserve is, simply stated, a lovely place to spend the day. In this instance, the objective of restoring the Dorr property was accomplished in short order under blue skies in one of the beautiful places in the park.

The enthusiasm of MNPC volunteers (Lloyd Gunn, Le Hayes, David Lamfrom, Joe Orawczyk, Maryann Orawszyk, Charlie Shrimplin, and Sid Silliman) was matched by the energy of NPS staff and volunteers (Tim Duncan, Mike Hall, Chris Mills, Bob Mills, Dave Nichols, and Greg Thorton). Congratulations to all for a good days work.

Photo by David Lamfrom

Zebra-tailed lizard

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ALERTS: Information You Should Know About The Missing Public At Mitchell Caverns
by Sid Silliman Where in Southern California can you explore some stunning scenery, be assured that it wont rain, and know that the temperature for your hike will always be a comfortable 65 degrees? This was John McKinneys trail trivia question in the Los Angeles Times on December 12, 1987. The answer, then, was the trail though Mitchell Caverns, part of Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. Today, unfortunately, the public cannot explore this subterranean trail as the Caverns and Providence Mountains SRA have been closed since

LanFair Valley Property Cleanup


by Sid Silliman The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy and the National Park Service joined hands in March 2012 to

4 early 2011. Today, this is the only unit of the California state park system to remain closed after the cuts of 2012 in the California state budget. What the public is missing with the closure of this popular desert attraction is not trivial. The Mitchell Caverns are the only limestone caves in the deserts of Southern California, and cave tours permitted the public to view and wonder over spectacular and intricate formations. With the visitor center of Providence Mountains SRA shuttered, travelers to the surrounding Mojave National Preserve have lost an opportunity to learn of the Chemehuevi people who have lived in the area for hundreds of years and to know the entrepreneurs Jack Mitchell and his wife Ida Belle Wyatt. Without access to the caverns, young adults -possibly future scientists -- are denied the chance to be intrigued by cave species like ringtails, Townsend bigeared bats, and Neptus beetles. Even the self-guiding nature trail outside the Caverns, named after Riverside naturalist Mary Beale, cannot be explored. John McKinney raised his trivia question in 1987 to stir interest in Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve. Today, the public is missing from the Caverns and from the larger Providence Mountains State Recreation Area but not because of a lack of interest. If the infrastructure is restored and the park is reopened, the public will come.

Photo by Michael Gordon

National Park Service Programs and Activities Kelso Depot Art Exhibits
On exhibit at the Desert Light Gallery, Kelso Depot Visitor Center People of the Mojave The Photography of Ken Schoening October 6 - January 6

Photo by Sid Silliman

Closed entrance to Mitchell Caverns

Next exhibit: Many Names Have Never Been Spoken Here The Photography of Gabriel Thorburn and the poetry of Russell Thorburn January 12 - April 6, 2013

NPS Ranger Programs at the Preserve


Saturdays Kelso Dunes Walk 11:00 a.m. Meet at the Kelso Dunes Trailhead Hike to the base of one of the largest and most extensive sand dune fields in the United States. Learn about the geologic forces that created Kelso Dunes and the mysterious booming sounds they make. Explore the unique adaptations of the plants and animals that call the dunes home. This easy 1/2 mile hike (one-way) will take 30-45 minutes. Please bring water and dress for the weather. Petroglyphs: Rocks that Talk 3:00 p.m.

behind the name and what carved the dramatic slot canyon that lies within it. This easy walk takes about an hour.

Photo by Le Hayes

Meet at Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center For thousands of years the Mojave Desert has been home to diverse cultures. The artifacts they left behind are both beautiful and mysterious. Discover how previous cultures survived in this harsh desert climate and the meanings of the rock art they left behind. This easy 1/4-mile walk (one-way) will take about one hour. Evening Program - Various topics 7:00 p.m. Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center Gather behind the visitor center at the amphitheater and munch on some popcorn (provided) while a ranger talks of special places in this lovely, lonely desert. Meet inside if the weather is poor. Sundays Coffee with a Ranger 8:30 a.m. Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center Do you have specific questions or would you just like to chat with a ranger? Bring your own mug and share conversation and coffee with Ranger Greg. Geology of the Mojave 9:00 a.m. Hole-in-the-Wall Information Center Hole-in-the-Wall's seemingly tranquil landscape has not always been this way. Great geologic forces have altered this area both subtly and abruptly. Discover the meaning

Photo by Dennis Schramm

Castle Peaks Hike - Spring 2012

Photo by Dennis Schramm

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Volunteer in the Mojave National Preserve


Volunteering is fun. It's healthy. It makes a difference. And it's easy to get started. We have a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for both individuals and groups, including many that do not require training or a lengthy time commitment. When you volunteer, youre making a vital contribution to the health of our local Park, our open space, and our community. Join us for a fun and rewarding experience. Contact us directly for more information at 760-219-4916 and tell us you are calling about the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy. Or you may find additional information at: www.nps.gov/moja/supportyourpark/volunteer.htm

Donate / Join Now


The Mojave Preserve depends on support from folks like you. We invite you to join our mission in safeguarding the scenic beauty, wildlife, and historic and cultural treasures of our diverse park. Committed donors help us to preserve our parks heritage for generations to come. You can help assure the future of our special park by making a tax-deductible gift today to provide a future for our park and those who enjoy it. For a $25 annual membership, you can: Support much-needed youth education programs in the Preserve, Sponsor important National Park Service research projects in the Preserve, and Ensure a sustainable future for the Mojave National Preserve. Receive invitations to star parties in the Preserve, hosted by astronomers from Pasadena Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers

We are a registered 501c3 non-profit organization; ALL donations are tax-deductible.

Photo by Dennis Schramm

Photo by Dennis Schramm

MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE CONSERVANCY 400 S. 2nd Avenue #213 Barstow, CA 92311 WWW.PRESERVETHEMOJAVE.ORG 760-957-7887

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Membership Level Annual Membership $25.00 ALL Donations accepted, and are tax-deductible

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Lifetime Membership receives a membership card and featured art print from Desert Light Gallery!

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