Here’s why you should become a volunteer ranger

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The Mojave Desert Land Trust manages 7,000 acres of pristine desert in the Morongo Basin. Community Lands Rangers are integral to helping protect those lands.

Photo: Emmalyn Snead/MDLT

By Peter Satin, Director of Land Management

Those of us that have the good fortune to call the Morongo Basin home know what a special place it is.

Cruising along the backroads off State Highway 62 reveals small neighborhoods interspersed with Joshua tree woodlands and quaint houses tucked into the foothills of the Little San Bernardino Mountains. If you glance out your window at dawn or dusk, you may just catch a glimpse of coyotes slinking through the underbrush, a desert tortoise chowing down on some native wildflowers, or, if you are very lucky, a mountain lion hunting for its dinner among the rocks.

The same qualities that make the Morongo Basin such an appealing place for humans to live — the wide open vistas, starry nights, and scenic landscape — make it an ideal habitat for all sorts of wildlife. In fact, the entire region is crisscrossed by wildlife linkages — natural highways that animals like bobcats, mule deer, and tortoises use to move across the land.

Recognizing the importance of protecting and expanding these linkages, MDLT purchased its first community property in 2012, and has continued to acquire conservation land in the Morongo Basin ever since. Today, we manage over 7,000 acres of multiple use land in the area, balancing recreation opportunities with wildlife and habitat conservation.

Land Stewardship Coordinator Emmalyn Snead at MDLT’s Long Canyon Peak property. Photo: Jessica Dacey/MDLT

A key component of this land management is stewardship, ensuring that our land remains clear of solid waste and other disturbances that may impact wildlife, while also maintaining trails and other infrastructure for human use.

Being a good land steward is having an intimate knowledge of the land you are caring for, and MDLT knows that many of our supporters are out hiking, biking, birding, or otherwise enjoying these community lands on a daily basis. You may even know some areas of our land better than we do! Because of this intimacy, we would like to enlist your help in our Community Lands Ranger Program, assisting us in identifying portions of our properties that may need some attention, or areas that have noteworthy species that we need to protect.

As a Ranger, you will take ownership of the monitoring responsibilities of one of MDLT’s community lands for an entire year, formally inspecting your chosen property at least four times within that period and keeping us up to date on any changes.

Over the course of three initial Ranger trainings, we will provide you with all the background information and technical skills you need to be an effective land steward, including the history of conservation in the California Desert, how to navigate using a GPS and collect data in the field, and what kinds of changes to the landscape you need to keep an eye out for. As your tenure as a Ranger progresses, we will also train you on how to interact with people disrespecting the land, how to identify invasive plants, and basic restoration techniques.

Volunteers install vertical mulch to disguise and restore an old vehicle trail Photo: Cindy Holland/MDLT

Our Community Lands Rangers are an integral part of the Land Management team. Without your dedication, many of our lands are at risk of habitat degradation, potential dumping, and other incursions.

Please join our next Community Lands Ranger training on September 18, 19 and 21. To sign up or find out more, please email MDLT’s Volunteer Coordinator Cindy Holland at cindy@mdlt.org

We look forward to seeing you in September!

What’s a Community Land Ranger?