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Environmental Organizations Say Gray Wolf is No Longer Endangered

Earlier this month, ten environmental organizations signed a letter asking a judge to remove populations of the gray wolf in Idaho and Montana from the endangered species list, but allowing the Wyoming, Washington and Oregon populations to remain on the list.  The settlement letter was signed by some notable groups, to include the Sierra Club, Natural Resource Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife.

Decisions on whether or not to remove a species from the endangered list is usually based on a scientific evaluation of that species' recovery, not political decisions and boundaries.  In fact, a judge said so last year in a decision that supported the environmental groups' efforts at the time to maintain the wolf's endangered species protections in Idaho and Montana.  Now the environmental groups are asking that same judge to reverse his decision and de-list the gray wolf based on political boundaries.


The blogger Chris Clarke summ…

Desert Wildflowers Begin to Bloom

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It's that time of year.  After heavy rains in late December, and some smaller showers in February, the desert wildflowers have begun to bloom.   I find the best source for updates on the status of the bloom is the Desert USA website, which posts photos and information submitted by readers who are fanning out across the Mojave and Sonoran deserts.  The updates are organized by region and park, although some areas are not updated as frequently as others.

You can also visit the Anza Borrego blog for updates on widlflower blooms in the vicinity of Anza Borrego State Park.  Apparently there are some great blooms in the Sonoran Desert, and the blog has some amazing photos to back it up. 

Throughout the California deserts, the lower elevation areas are probably the best bet for a fuller bloom right now.  High elevation deserts might need some more time to catch up.   Stay tuned...





Mark Your Calendars...

A few opportunities coming up to enjoy the splendors of the outdoors or speak up for wise desert land use:

Mojave Desert Land Trust service events:
Either one of these events would be a great excuse to get out to the desert, see some spring wildflower blooms, camp, and volunteer! The Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) asks that you pre-register by sending an email to Mizuki Seita at mizseita@gmail.com.  You can find more details at the MDLT website.

On 26 March, Saturday, you can volunteer to restore desert habitat in Lanfair, in the Mojave National Preserve.

On 23 April, Saturday, you can help with cleanup and restoration work at the Trust's recently acquired Quail Mountain property just next to Joshua Tree National Park.

Sierra Club Cactus Count: The Desert Protective Council wants to remind you that there are in fact Saguaro cactus in California.  Many folks are used to seeing the various cholla cactus and barrel cactus in California's deserts, but few realize that the Saguaro …

Victorville Chases Fool's Gold

The City of Victorville, one of the largest population centers in the western Mojave Desert, is nearing insolvency under nearly $500 million of debt, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Victorville has mishandled millions of dollars of bonds accounts and shifted funds without city council authorization.   The city has already slashed many of its employees from the payroll, and many citizens complain of deteriorating infrastructure and crime.  Nevertheless, Victorville is still investing in ambitious and unnecessary plans, such as a 32 square mile expansion and the High Desert Corridor (E-220), a new highway connecting Lancaster and Victorville.   Most residents probably would prefer the City reinvest in existing infrastructure and open up a new east-west route within the city (the Nisqualli overpass) to alleviate burdensome traffic before expanding the city limits and building an unwanted highway.

Victorville officials ran up some of the 500 million in debt when consultants promise…

Distributed Generation Can Save the Desert

According to an interview of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) president Michael Peevey by mydesert.com, the State of California supports distributed solar generation (such as rooftop solar) and is in favor of policy changes that makes it easier for taxpayers and businesses to benefit from distributed generation.  The State's support for distributed generation is critical to the preservation of desert wildlands, since solar installations in our cities and on our rooftops are far more efficient and economical than massive facilities in the middle of the desert.

Clearing the Way for Distributed Generation
According to CPUC president Peevey, he is staunchly in favor of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), which allows a homeowner to finance a rooftop solar installation over time through their property tax.   Rooftop solar generally increases property values, and cuts down electricity costs over time.   Peevey criticized the Federal Housing Finance Administration…

Update on Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard

The US Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) decision not to list the flat-tailed horned lizard as an endangered species has been posted online, and a PDF copy is available below via scribd.  The lizard inhabits sandy hardpan or gravel flats in the Coachella Valley and Sonoran Desert, which lies south of the Mojave Desert ecosystem.

The assessment confirms that the Coachella Valley population of the flat-tailed horned lizard will likely see significant threats within the foreseeable future, and admits that the Coachella Valley Habitat Conservation Plan has not yet preserved the lizard's last remaining habitat in the area.   Nonetheless, because of conservation and land management efforts throughout the rest of its range, the USFWS believes the species remains viable and does not warrant endangered status.

FTHL ruling FWS-R8-ES-2010-0008-0042

US Rules Not to Protect Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard

According to the Los Angeles Times, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) decided not to list the Flat-Tailed Horned Lizard on the Endangered Species list after reviewing the proposal since last year.  The lizard has been relegated to a fraction of its former range--which used to span the Sonoran Desert--but the USFWS assessed that inter-agency and local conservation efforts have set aside sufficient land to keep the species viable.

Despite the ruling, the lizard still faces a slew of threats from illegal off-highway vehicle use, solar energy facilities, new transmission lines, and urban growth, which continue to constrain its remaining habitat.  One massive solar facility--the Imperial Valley Solar power project--would deprive the flat-tailed horned lizard of nearly 9.6 square miles of habitat.  USFWS acknowledges that some threats from energy development persists, but judges that the energy applications do not threaten the designated management areas.

Regarding urban encroachment…