It’s 10am and the sun already feels strong. Seventh and eighth graders pile out of vans and start applying sunscreen. They’ve driven 150 miles from Grauer School near San Diego to become citizen scientists for the day. “I see you’re all wearing the right shoes,” observes Adam Henne, outreach and volunteer coordinator at Mojave Desert Land Trust. In a safety briefing he warns the group about the cholla cactus and reminds everyone to hydrate. “One more thing you’ll need to watch out for: snakes. A good rule is never to put your hands or feet where you can’t see them.”
Our desert lands are facing a new threat. The Bureau of Land Management wants to review a plan that governs the entire California desert. It is asking for public comments and is holding a series of public meetings on a proposal that could change how desert lands are used. The public has until March 22 to submit comments to the BLM. That’s where you come in. In this article, we provide several resources to help you submit your comments or find a public meeting near you, and we provide some talking points that you can use.
A rare sighting of a unique creature… Desert tortoises are extremely elusive, spending upwards of 95% of their time underground. To say they are camera-shy is an understatement. Desert tortoises are also what we call “ecosystem engineers”. Their burrows are used by other species for shelter. They eat plants and spread seeds around. They hold an integral place in the dynamic desert landscape. Although this remarkable creature has been around since the time of the dinosaur, they are now endangered.
We associate fire with destruction. But some plants, known as “fire followers”, grow abundantly in places where there’s been a blaze. Apricot mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) is one such plant. Our nursery and seed bank has been experimenting with different ways of helping this popular garden plant to germinate. They recently did five scientific experiments with apricot mallow seeds.
Robbie Bond came running across our lobby earlier this year, excited to describe his first ever night camping in the high desert. His stopover in the Mojave Trails was part of an amazing tour he was doing with his Dad to promote the 27 national monuments threatened with federal cutbacks. Like a lot of kids his age, Robbie had never visited the desert before. Never woken up to a sunrise over the Cadiz dunes. He left determined to share that experience with others.
The tricolored blackbird population has steeply declined in recent decades. Stinging nettles grown by the Mojave Desert Land Trust could help turn that around. One of the goals of our nursery is to restore habitats throughout the region by growing native plants. In the summer of 2017, the Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) was contracted to grow plants for a restoration project at Pleitito Creek in Wind Wolves Preserve. That’s right — a riparian habitat, not our usual desert fare!
What a thrilling 24 hours! We are pleased to announce that our Juniper Canyon Give BIG 2017 fundraising day on November 28th was an enormous success. Together we raised a total of $29,355 — nearly three times the amount we were hoping for! Our supporters earned MDLT a place in the top ten of all 102 participating Give BIG organizations in San Bernardino County for funds raised as well as number of donors. Not only is ours the biggest county in the US, but its residents also clearly care about enhancing their public land.
The desert is never saved, it’s always being saved.” A conservation phrase I have come to live by. Ten years ago, a group of local desert citizens committed itself to protecting the landscape in which they lived from enormous environmental challenges. They recognized the vast, nuanced, and ecological importance of the desert. The Mojave Desert Land Trust was born in the desert by those who understand it best. The Board of Directors is a group that has included, and continues to include, these founding visionaries, dedicated local residents and people from outside this area who care deeply about the protection of this place.
Danielle Segura is working on a huge collage using her artist background. She is heading to the ‘studio’ everyday, putting together pieces of the Mojave Desert and preserving wildlife corridors. Open lands is her mission and that of her team at the Mojave Desert Land Trust. It’s a unique land trust that conserves public lands, has a varied outreach program, as well as a conservation seed bank and native plant restoration nursery. In this episode, Danielle talks about her first desert experience with her father and how any small role we can play to speak up for the things we care about can make a difference.
A public review period is underway for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on future land use in the new Countywide Plan. This is a chance for everyone to comment on and present environmental information that you believe should be considered in the EIR. Land needs to be preserved parcel-by-parcel and anyone with a passion for our wildlife linkages, open space and national monuments can show up and let county officials know conservation is a priority.