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MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE CONSERVANCY NEWSLETTER

Spring 2013 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.

The President's Corner


by David Lamfrom Early spring has sprung in the Mojave National Preserve. This time of year cold nights and mornings give way to stunning days in the 70s. Warm sun contrasts with cool winds just as wispy clouds contrast with deep blue skies. For many, the re-emergence of wildlife and the awakening of wildflowers make this the choice season in the Mojave. Even against that backdrop, this year is one that we will not soon forget because of the outstanding Joshua Tree bloom. Many are calling it the best they have ever seen. When I look across the Cima Dome, with all the Joshua Trees blooming at once, I imagine the desert on fire. Excellent Joshua Tree blooms can be found along Cima, Cedar Canyon, Morning Star Mine, Kelso-Cima, and Nipton Roads. Keep an eye out for the Mojave Yucca as well, which is starting to come into bloom as well. We look forward to seeing you in the Preserve! Unlike the tortoise and the round-tailed ground squirrel, The Conservancy has not taken the winter season off. We have successfully completed restoration events, have more planned, have organized our next Star Party (May 11th), and have continued to make progress on our campaign to re-open Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. There is an article in this newsletter highlighting recent gains made on that campaign. We are also keeping a close eye on several renewable energy projects on the Preserves border, including the Soda Mountain Solar project proposed less than a halfmile from the Northwest boundary. We thank you for your membership and support! Please join us at one of our restoration events this Spring, at our Star Party this May, or perhaps simply find the time to enjoy this spectacular Joshua Tree bloom. Details on these events can be found at our websitewww.mojavepreserve.org or on our facebook page. www.mojavepreserve.org

Special Events and Activities Highlights


Checkout this newsletter for details

Spring Star Party May 11th Kelso Depot Photography Exhibit on Mitchell Caverns (April 20- July 21)
Photo by David Lamfrom

What Might Cause a Spectacular Joshua Tree bloom like this year?
by Jim Cornett Relatively speaking, this is becoming a better bloom year for Joshua trees than most of us would have thought. We are having yet another comparatively dry winter, as we did last year. By all rights the bloom should range from nonexistent to poor. Last year was a disaster. So why should this year be any better? I have been monitoring Joshua tree blooms on ten study sites since 1988. I have not tabulated the data yet, but here are some of my informal observations. Some of the best years I have seen for Joshua tree blooms have been in years of average or above average late fall and early winter precipitation. Viewed from a different perspective, if the ephemeral wildflowers are blooming expect there to be at least a decent Joshua tree bloom as well. That being said, I have seen excellent Joshua tree blooms in years of below average winter precipitation. Such a bloom may reflect one or more heavy precipitation events the previous summer. Tabulating my data and comparing it with available summer precipitation data likely will shed light on this possibility. (A confounding issue is that local information on precipitation data is usually lacking for my study sites.) Another additional possibility is that dying or severely stressed Joshua trees (because of drought) may bloom with greater intensity. Most of us have seen plants, such as creosote bushes, bloom profusely when damaged by off-road-vehicles. Stressed Joshua trees may be utilizing their remaining resources to bloom one final time, in a sense doing everything they can to pass on their genetic legacy in their seeds. If this speculation has some accuracy then we might expect the mortality rate among Joshua trees (or perhaps selected branches) to be higher among those trees that bloom in drought years. Again, I have data on this but have not yet evaluated it. One thing is certain--there is not a one to one correlation between fall and winter rainfall and the intensity of the Joshua tree bloom. And that is what makes science and the natural world so fascinating. Things are never what they seem to be or should be. *Many thanks to Jim Cornett for providing this interesting information. Jim is an expert on the Joshua Tree and has studied them for decades.

Dump Site Cleanup In The Mojave National Preserve


by Sid Silliman One of the destructive dimensions of the human relationship with the Mojave desert is that people sometimes treat this unique ecosystem as a dumping ground, throwing cans and other litter from car windows into the passing desert and illegally disposing of everything from car tires to bed mattresses on public lands. The practice, sadly, even occurs within the desert units of the national park system. To address a part of this problem in the Mojave National Preserve, the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy and the National Park Service coordinated a cleanup of an open dump site in the Preserve southeast of Baker, California. Twelve volunteers, five park employees, and four young adults from local communities devoted the better part of February 15 to restoring this illegal dump to its natural condition as desert. The enthusiastic gang of twenty-

Photo by Letty French

one collected aluminum cans, tin cans, plastic bottles, glass bottles, carpet, shoes (lots of shoes), window screens, a hide-a-bed frame, bed springs, a car seat, cardboard boxes, scrapes of wood, sheet metal and dry wall, plastic and metal pipe, wire, and parts of batteries. Several gleaners of gleaming glass filled bags with shards as well as small pieces plastic and metal. All who have seen the distracting shine from broken glass strewn on the desert floor understand how this debris defaces the terrain and diminishes the publics experience with arid habitats. The work party collected and removed over fifty (50) car and truck tires from the site. Wow! With permission from the community of Baker, collected materials were transported to its Solid Waste Transfer Station for disposal. The dumping

3 ground now looks like desert. The longer-term impact of the work is that the restoration reduces the likelihood that people will use the site as a public dump in the future. The event marked the beginning of a new tradition, to provide a service opportunity prior to the annual California/Nevada Desert Committee meeting in Shoshone, California. The tradition will continue next year on February 14, the Friday before the Desert Committee meeting. Plan on making the Mojave National Preserve your Valentine in 2014. See you then.

Photo by Letty French

...................................................................................... Finding Wildflowers


by Linda Slater Hot, dry, remote...for some, the prospect of visiting a place called Mojave conjures up an image of a survival exercise in sand and rocks amid unrelenting desolation. But a trip to Mojave National Preserve can be downright civilized, while still offering plenty of possibilities for exploration. As with many adventures, timing is everything, and desert aficionados know that April can be the sweetest month. The days are longer, temperatures are mild and if winter rains have fallen, wildflowers paint a rainbow of colors. The interplay of rainfall timing and quantity creates a unique bloom event each spring.
Photo by Letty French

The volunteers in the work party included Kate Allen, Bob Ellis, Letty French, Cal French, Terry Frewin, Gerry Goss, Stacy Goss, Lloyd Gunn, Vicky Hoover, David Lamfrom, Sid Silliman, and Carol Wiley. The National Park Service was represented by Bob Bryson, Ned Geigle, Chris Mills, Linda Slater, and Greg Thorton. It was a job well done! Thank you one and all.

Photo by Dennis Schramm

Beavertail Cactus

4 If you are coming for the wildflowers, some pre-visit research will contribute to a more satisfying visit. Mojaves website offers week-by-week updates on wildflower viewing. DesertUSA.com is a tremendous resource, as it compiles information on desert blooms from across the southwest. When conditions are right, the sandy foothills near Kelso Dunes will be produce carpets of desert sand verbena and dunes evening primrose. Explore the washes for flowers, then scramble to the top of the dunes for a spectacular view. As you descend, listen for the famous booming sound that moving sands here produce when weather conditions are right. If rain has fallen on the cinder cones and lava beds hundreds of tiny Bigelow monkey flowers lend a purple cast to the dark volcanic soil. Locals call these belly flowers, as they are best photographed lying down! With a high clearance vehicle, you can also visit a lava tube cavebring a flashlight for this activity. If you are looking for flowers in late April and May, try visiting Hole-in-the-Wall. A profusion of desert globe mallow and verbena now often covers an area that burned in a massive wildfire in 2005. This is the best area for hikers, with trails leading past petroglyphs, through cactus and yucca gardens and into Banshee Canyon, where youll discover the holes of Hole-in-the Wall.

Photo by Dennis Schramm

Mojave Yucca Flowers

Report what you see to rangers at Kelso Depot Visitor Center and Hole-in-the-Wall information center so they can share your information with others.

Photo by Dennis Schramm

To see the snowball-like blooms of the Joshua tree, try hiking Teutonia Peak Trail where this signature plant of the Mojave grows in profusion. The climb to the peak lifts you off the desert floor and affords a view of Joshua trees stretching as far as the eye can see.

Photo by Dennis Schramm

Desert Gold Poppy

5 ....................................................................................... The application of sequestration to the Mojave Preserve, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and other parks is difficult to comprehend given that the concept of a national park is probably Americas best idea (Ken Burns). Hence there is no doubt that all of us who care about the Mojave National Preserve in particular and about national parks in general should share our concerns with members of Congress. Given its relatively low cost and high recognition in the mind of the public, there is a better way to balance the budget than across-the-board cuts in spending for the national park system.

ALERTS: Information You Should Know About ................................................................................ Sequestration Impacts On The Mojave National Preserve
by Sid Silliman The annual cost of maintaining the national park system and providing services for the estimated 287 million visitors to national parks each year is a minuscule portion of the national budget. Yet the automatic cuts to federal spending that began March 1 under the budget sequestration of 2013 are bluntly affecting our national parks. Already facing a chronic funding shortage and a $12 billion backlog in park maintenance, the across-theboard cuts automatically imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the failure of Congress to design a reasonable method to adjust spending are forcing the National Park Service to make difficult choices. Roads in snow-bound parks will open later than usual, visitor centers will be closed, and fewer seasonal workers will be hired this year In the Mojave National Preserve, all seasonal positions are being eliminated in order to meet the mandated 5 percent reduction in spending. The historic Kelso Depot Visitor Center, which requires five to eight seasonal employees each year for staffing and cleaning, will be closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The information routinely provided at the Center, the illustrative displays, and the gallery in the basement simply will not be available to visitors on those days. Although volunteers may keep the facility open on weekends, the Hole-In-The-Wall Visitor Center will be closed during the week. Evening campground programs and weekend hikes will be eliminated; there is just not enough money in the Park Service budget after sequestration to support these traditional park experiences. In addition, local communities and businesses that rely on recreation to support their livelihoods may face a loss of income from reduced visitation. Some 600,000 people visit the Mojave National Preserve park each year and their spending supports 142 jobs and a $12.89 million in economic activity. Despite these negative impacts, the Mojave National Preserve will not be less safe as the Park Service is planning to minimize impacts to human health and safety. A seasonal employee will probably be hired this summer to assist with anticipated road maintenance.

Update on the Campaign to Reopen Providence Mountains SRA (Mitchell Caverns)


by David Lamfrom The 16 mile drive from Interstate 40 to Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, located within the Mojave National Preserve, is a desert classic. As you leave the highway you pass through excellent tortoise habitat and have a great chance of spotting one of these ancient reptiles by day, or perhaps a kit fox or badger by night. The road climbs past giant Mojave Yuccas, into a desert garden that is the envy of aspiring botanists and photographers alike. On that road I would see children measuring their height against tall barrel cacti, or see excited kids in school buses wending their way up the mountain road to visit the caverns. That is, the only cave system in Southern California, and a popular spot for science student to learn about geology and limnology. Nearly two years after Providence Mountains SRA, home to the popular Mitchell Caverns, was shuttered, the gate preventing access to the site is still locked. But there is hope that the gate will be opened again as soon as this fall due to the work of your Conservancy and its hardworking partners on the Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns! We have recently learned that our calls for action have not gone unheard. Currently, reopening the Caverns is the California Department of Parks and Recreations top priority. We have also learned that the department is applying for $415k from AB1478 funds for deferred maintenance. The State Parks Director General Anthony Jackson will be visiting the site on May 10th or 11th and the Conservancy will be in attendance to support both the reopening of the caverns and the state lands that include hiking trails, cactus gardens, and excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing and enjoying solitude. We continue to work on this campaign, and your letters, emails, and phone calls to General Jackson and the State Parks will keep this high on their priority list.

Newest Art Exhibit at Kelso Depot


Mojave National Preserve presents photography by Guss Louis Vopalensky Mitchell Caverns: Hidden Treasure Desert Light Gallery, Kelso Depot Visitor Center April 20 - July 21 2013

Spring Star Gazing Party


by Jane Houston Jones May skies over the Mojave! We'll have gorgeous views of Jupiter and Venus at sunset, and Saturn a few hours later. Mix in some shooting stars left over from Halley's Comet, spring galaxies galore, Milky Way rising near midnight and maybe even a comet or two. The Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks on May 6 when 55 per meteors per hour mark the maximum peak. We'll still a good number of them after midnight on the 11th, so bring your camp chairs. We'll hopefully have telescopic views of Comet PanSTARRS near the celestial north pole between Ursa Minor and Cepheus, mag. 7.5. and we'll try for Comet Lemmon low in Pisces, mag. 7.9. When at the telescopes, try to leave your flashlights at your car or tent. You'll find your eyes adapt wonderfully to the dark skies and we will all see more through the telescopes. To find out What's Up all year long, check out Jane's Astro-blog for month-by-month observing tips and her NASA podcast, What's Up in the night sky: http://jane.whiteoaks.com/2013/01/07/whats-up-in-2013at-a-glance/

Guss Louis Vopalensky is a commerical photographer living in Victorville, California. He has spent over 20 years photographing the California Desert. In the 1990and again in 2009, Vopalensky spent several days photographing Mitchell Caverns. Although Mitchell Caverns is currently closed, Vopalensky's photography provides us a glimpse into the cavern's hidden treasures.

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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

Hiking the Rings Trail

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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