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MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE CONSERVANCY NEWSLETTER

Spring 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. board training, and redoubling our efforts to fundraise and to build our membership. The board thanks you for your continued support of the Conservancy! With your help we will continue to protect, enhance, and build support for this enduringly beautiful desertscape. Please visit our website regularly for updates on events, to donate, and to join our community!

The President's Corner


by David Lamfrom As Mojave winter transitions into spring we enjoy cool, sunny days and clear, cold nights. This is a spectacular time of year to visit the Preserve! The low angle of the winter sun produces beautiful light and the cool temperatures permit exploration. You should expect golden hued sunrises viewed from Joshua Tree Woodlands and crimson and purple sunsets casting long shadows on the Kelso Dunes. Occasionally, powerful winter storms blow off the Pacific, crossing the high ranges to the west, bringing the Preserve needed moisture. These storms can leave Joshua Trees and Yucca covered in snow! In years with sufficient moisture that is well-timed, complemented with favorable temperatures, the desert erupts with spring wildflowers. Yearly abundance and distribution vary, but no two years are the same and experiencing the color carpeting the desert in a banner year changes perceptions about the Mojave. Those spring flowers feed migrating orioles and tanagers as well as residents like the desert tortoise who depend on this bounty to make it through leaner times. The Conservancy is working to connect old friends and new faces to the Preserve. We are building on what we have been doing right. We hold star parties in Mojave National Preserve to showcase the pristine night sky, recruit members, partners, and new friends to restore Preserve wildlife habitat, and we proudly fund student groups to experience the Preserve to ensure that California desert students understand their role as stewards. The Conservancy board is also taking note of places where we can improve by more effectively communicating with our members, participating in

Special Events and Activities Highlights


Checkout this newsletter for details

March 3rd - Castle Peaks hike March 10th - Help cleanup recently donated land May 19th - Star party at Hole-in-the-Wall

MNPC Welcomes the new Preserve Superintendent


On June 2, 2011, Stephanie R. Dubois became Mojave National Preserves fourth superintendent. Her most recent posting was as Deputy Superintendent of Glacier National Park in Montana, but Stephanie is a veteran desert hand. She worked as a ranger at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and also served as Superintendent of Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

Superintendent Stephanie Dubois. Photo by NPS.

2 The new superintendent has made good use of her time devoted to orientation by riding along with rangers and other staff as they work in different areas of this 1.6 million-acre preserve. In this way, she is learning firsthand about the challenges facing each employee in accomplishing their job, and also about their personal connections to different features of the park. A recent trip with Ranger Tim Duncan highlighted concerns over roadside car camping. They discussed strategies for dealing with issues such as sanitation and unwanted expansion of campsites without compromising the backcountry camping experience that so many enjoy. Stephanie observes that Mojave NP, being 17 years old, is truly like a teenager, still developing its own identity within the National Park System. In contrasting her experience at Glacier to the job at Mojave, Stephanie is enjoying the challenge of working in a park that is not completely developed. She pointed out that the work at Glacier principally involves operating the park each day. Mojave is still developing its programs, practices and infrastructure, and decisions made now will have far-reaching consequences, she says. Stephanie met with the MNPC board in October of 2011 for a day-long retreat to talk about shared goals and projects. Mojave was born in an era of partnerships, she said. We need to be sensitive to how different kinds of people relate to and appreciate this special place. Working with the Conservancy and other groups helps us to achieve our mission as part of the National Park System of connecting people to parks while preserving park resources for future generations. Stephanie and the board identified many areas for cooperation. Lands inherited from the Bureau of Land Management as well as some other newly acquired lands have left us with a legacy of impacts. Dump sites are unsightly and frequently include hazardous materials. Old barbed-wire fencing impedes wildlife movement and sometimes entraps deer and other animals. Cleaning up these areas is labor-intensive, and is a highly suitable activity for volunteer groups (historically significant fencing is being retained). The group noted that maintaining the ecological integrity of Mojave NP is crucial, given its central location in the California desert. With changing conditions, desert plants and animals need room to migrate north and south. Mojave National Preserve is key to maintaining migration corridors. Stephanie also thanked the board for providing funds to transport children to the park for field trips. While we have plenty of students and teachers that want to learn about the park and rangers that want to show them, finding funds to get the kids out there is our greatest challenge. The Superintendent is focused on helping Mojave navigate those challenging teenage years. Over the next decade, she anticipates that Mojave will solidify its identity as the crucial link in the chain of California Desert protected areas.

NPS Photo

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Dead and Desolate, or Highly Diverse Ecosystem?


by Dennis Schramm How do your friends and relatives refer to the desert? Wasteland? Uninteresting? Or highly scenic with vast vistas, many diverse landscapes, and beautiful plants and animals? As a lover of the desert you might not be surprised by the diversity of landscapes, plant life and wildlife. However, some of our politicians and

Photo by Dennis Schramm

neighbors are not necessarily so aware of all that the desert has to offer. So how about helping us spread the word that the desert is an amazing place of superlative

3 scenic vistas, landscapes like vast sand dunes, lava flows and cinder cones, colorful mountains and thousands of species of plants, animals and insects. The Mojave National Preserve is one of the largest areas of protected Mojave Desert ecosystem at 1.6 million acres. Did you know it contains the world's largest Joshua tree forest? The Preserve is also home to the largest populations of desert bighorn sheep in the Mojave, with over 600 animals. Did you know that there are also mule deer, mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, coyotes, golden eagles and over 40 species of snakes and lizards.

Photo by Le Hayes Photo by Dennis Schramm

Over 50 square miles of them! There are even relict white fir populations left over from the last ice age, hanging on to microclimate areas on Clark Mountain and the New York Mountains. *Photo not of white fir

I'm sure you know about the desert tortoise, but did you know we have one fish species, the endangered Mojave tui chub? And what about plants? Most people driving Interstate 15 think of the desert as having one plant - the creosote bush. They might also know about the Joshua trees, a few cacti and spring wildflowers. I'll bet that most would never guess that there are over 900 plant species in the Preserve! The entire Mojave Desert ecosystem is home to over two thousand species of plants.

Photo by David Lamfrom

Photo by Dennis Schramm

You have probably encountered the Gambel's quail or chukar on some of your hikes in the desert, but have you seen the black cardinal-like bird with red eyes? The phainopepla feasts on mistletoe berries when they are available - up to 1,100 per day. You can find over two hundred species of birds in the Preserve. And of

4 course, the most abundant life forms of the desert are sometimes the least liked and appreciated. But without the thousands of species of insects, spiders, scorpions and other creepy crawlies, life would not be possible.

Photo by Dennis Schramm

Photo by Le Hayes

So the next time you hear someone call the desert a wasteland, hit them with a few facts. Now more than ever the desert is under siege by developers, so stand up and help ensure that future generations can enjoy the desert we have come to love. .......................................................................................

ALERTS: Information You Should Know About State to close Mitchell Caverns Indefinitely!
Visitors to Mojaves Hole-in-the-Wall Campground often include a tour of Mitchell Caverns as part of their activities. but no more. State budget problems have forced the shutdown of this beloved desert attraction. Providence Mountains State Recreation Area, home to Mitchell Caverns, is a California State Park located within the boundaries of Mojave National Preserve. State park officials shut down operations in January 2011. Employee retirements coincided with the development of serious problems with the water system, and state officials decided to temporarily close the park until the system could be repaired. Meanwhile, shortfalls in the California state budget caused lawmakers in Sacramento to ask that state agencies identify possible budget cuts. In May 2011, California State Parks released its closure list, and Providence Mountains was among the 70 parks included. Although closures for most parks on the list wont go into effect until July 2012, California State Parks officials decided not to invest in repairs to the parks infrastructure during a time of shrinking budgets, so Providence Mountains State Recreation Area remains closed.

Mitchell Caverns was initially developed as a privately operated tourist attraction by Jack and Ida Mitchell in the early 1930s. Jack Mitchell died in 1954, and his family turned the property over to the state. Providence Mountains State Recreation Area was added to the California State Park system in 1956. Over the years, California State Parks has made many improvements to the caverns, including the development of a safe pathway through the caverns, a tunnel connecting the two principal caves, and installation of a lighting system. However, the caverns remote location and lack of connection to the electrical grid have contributed to the difficulties in its operation and maintenance. With continuing weakness in the economy and ongoing fiscal issues for California State Parks, the future of Mitchell Caverns remains uncertain.

Solar and Wind Energy Projects


The desert is smack in the middle of the bulls eye when it comes to the national focus on green energy development. While the goal of green energy is good, the reality on the ground in the desert is frightening in scale. Hundreds of thousands of acres of the desert are being developed now, or are under application. Two huge projects are already underway near Mojave National Preserve. The Brightsource project is evident on the west side of I-15 just south of Primm. It will eventually convert about 5 square miles of native desert to mirrors. Across the highway thousands of photovoltaic panels are being installed around the small gas fired electric power plant that sits behind Primm. Wind turbines are proposed for Mountain Pass, and for the pass between Nipton and Searchlight. Please make your voice heard on these projects. The Bureau of Land Management California Desert District Office in California, and the Las Vegas District Office are the lead agencies on most of these projects. You can visit their websites at:

5 http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/cdd.html http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/lvfo.html toward the community that is essential to an enduring stewardship of this national treasure. And we have fun! Please watch the Conservancys web site for notice of the next work party. The more volunteers the better. .......................................................................................

DesertXPress High Speed Train


Did you know that a high speed train to Las Vegas is on the verge of beginning construction? The DesertXPress train is to be built mostly in the median of Interstate 15, starting in Victorville. That means the train will parallel the Preserve for about 60 miles from Zzyzx Road to Nipton Road. You can follow the progress and participate in the public process by going to the following websites: http://www.desertxpress.com/ http://www.fra.dot.gov/rpd/freight/1703.shtml

MNPC supports field trips to Mojave National Preserve


by Linda Slater, NPS Interpreter When Mojave rangers visit classrooms in Barstow and other desert towns, they are often reminded that few area students have ever been to a national parknot even those in their own backyard, like Mojave National Preserve. Mojave rangers want to change that, by hosting local students on field trips. Dormitory facilities at Soda Springs Desert Studies Center (Zzyzx) make overnight trips possible. For the past three years, rangers partnered with educators from Barstow in hosting overnight field trips to Mojave. Planning and leading these trips requires a lot of logistical support. Staff and volunteers from National Parks Conservation Association, Barstow College, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Desert Discovery Center have attended, along with Mojave rangers, providing instructors, aides, and assistance with food preparation.

................................................................................. MNPC Supports Projects That Benefit the Preserve


by Sid Silliman The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy, Desert Survivors, and Mojave National Preserve staff and volunteers joined National Park Service Coordinator Chris Mills on a beautiful desert day in October 2011 to remove another section of the abandoned barbed-wire fence east of the Kelso-Cima Road. The hardy group included Michael Gordon, Richard Haney, Le Hayes, Joe Orawczyk, Eugene DeMine, Stacy Goss, Sally Greensill, Bob Lyon, Denis Kearney, Bob Mills, Dick Pfeifer, Linda Slater, Greg Thorton, Chris, and me. Removing the fence is a step toward ensuring an authentic experience for visitors and opening a scenic view of the rugged Providence Mountains. Taking the fence out clears yet another area of the preserve for unobstructed exploration. The land to the east of the fence line supports a rich variety of desert plants, including beavertail cactus with stunning magenta colored flowers. The washes running down the bajada are good places to look for tracks, other evidence of desert dwellers and, maybe, a lizard or two. Removing abandoned fences enhances habitat for wildlife. Most notably, fence removal eliminates the risk that deer, birds, and other wildlife might become impaled on the barbed wire and die a painful death in the struggle to free themselves. The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy will coordinate with the National Park Service to schedule one or more work parties each year. The efforts of volunteers and NPS staff in these endeavors will help protect the beauty of the Mojave National Preserve. The shared experience of work in the open desert builds

NPS Photo

Each year, field trips focus on a different theme. Over the years, students have learned about and practiced Chemehuevi crafts such as rope making, seed roasting, and weaving blankets from rabbit skin. Students have conducted surveys for desert tortoise and visited geological land forms and features like the sand dunes, cinder cones, and lava beds. Desert Studies Center manager Rob Fulton pulls out microscopes, and students examine butterflies, stink bugs and other

6 insects up-close. Field trips include visits to Kelso Depot Visitor Center and a hike through the Joshua trees on Teutonia Peak Trail. The highlight of each field trip is the nighttime scorpion hunt. Armed with black lights, students walk through the sandy areas west of Zzyzx. Scorpion shells have a phosphorescence that causes them to glow like jewels under a black light, so they are easy and fun to find. Field trips cost money for food, busses, and overnight accommodations, and the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy, along with other non-profits, has provided funding for some of these trips. Thank you for your support! ........................................................................................ Hole-In-The-Wall and Mid-Hills campgrounds (with water and vault toilets) are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Sturdy tents with strong stakes are advisable in case of high winds. The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy is pleased to partner with the Park Service on this project. Contact Sid Silliman for details and to RSVP (gssilliman@csupomona.edu).

Starry Skies over Mojave


If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare. Ralph Waldo Emerson Astonishing in their darkness, Mojave National Preserves night skies are remarkable for the ability to see thousands of stars, rare and worth protecting. More than two-thirds of Americans cannot see the Milky Way from their own backyards as light pollution increases. By some calculations, using the current rate of light pollution, 99 percent of the country may be deprived of stargazing by the year 2025.

Field Trips and Special Events


Join former superintendent, Dennis Schramm, on a hike to the Castle Peaks, in the northeast corner of the Preserve, on Saturday, March 3rd. Group size is limited so please RSVP to reserve a spot. Call 760-219-4616. The hike is about 5-6 miles round trip. It involves hiking on an old dirt road about 2 miles, then cross country to the amazing spires that are visible for dozens of miles. Bring a lunch and water, and dress in layers.

Satellite Image by NASA

Photo by Dennis Schramm

Spend Saturday, March 10th in the Mojave National Preserve with a group of volunteers cleaning up private land recently donated to the National Park Service and now legally part of the Preserve. Starting at 9:00am and working through the afternoon, we will collect and remove junk, garbage, and other solid waste from a site in the Lanfair Valley on the eastern side of the park. Bring water, sun screen, a hat, and lunch. Layers of clothing are best as temperatures can be unpredictable. Gloves, garbage bags, and tools will be provided. The

Twelve years ago, the National Park Service recognized the importance of protecting night skies and natural darkness by setting up a Night Sky Team. Mojave and three other California national parks were the first parks surveyed and informally named dark sky parks. Since then, Mojave has worked closely with the Night Sky Team in monitoring light pollution, defining visitor enjoyment, suppressing impacts on wildlife, and in encouraging night sky interpretative programs. Mojave National Preserve Conservancy organizes two special stargazing experiences each year. Free and appropriate for all ages, Mojaves next stargazing event will be May 19th. Professional astronomers bring their amazing telescopes for us to view the night sky in amazing darkness. The event will be held at the Black Mountain group campsite, which is at Hole-in-the-Wall.

7 Most participants arrive by mid-afternoon, bring potluck dinner items and spend the night. Camping is free. For more information, please call: 760-219-4616

Photo by Dennis Schramm

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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

Photo Courtesy of Beverly Houwing

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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 has 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 760-219-4616 and tell us you are calling about the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy.

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

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

Do your part to Preserve the Mojave!

Mojave National Preserve Conservancy Membership Form


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

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