Bighorn Whisperer

People familiar with the desert know that a hike out there is great for the peace and solitude, and hundreds of subtle signs of life -- tracks in the sand, animal burrows, and many plants and wildflowers that offer a quiet companionship.  Maybe a black-tailed jackrabbit or western whiptail lizard will dart out in front of you, but the bigger fauna are more elusive.  The desert tortoise spends most of its life underground in burrows.  Kit foxes and bobcats are usually most active at night.  Bighorn sheep usually stay up in the rugged mountains.  Fellow desert blogger Morongo Bill recently had the lucky experience to come across a herd of bighorn sheep (I assume Ovis canadensis nelsoni) in the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, and posted some amazing photos over at Morongobill's Backporch blog! Call him the Bighorn Whisperer! Great photo by Bill of a desert bighorn sheep in the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, California

Name a Price

How can you give this up to industry and profit? What is this moment's price tag? Nature and solitude. The call of the coyote as the sun makes its final mark on the land for the day. The cool kiss of the night luring critters from their burrows to begin their foraging, and revealing a blanket of stars. I hope future generations can enjoy this.

Industrialization of Western Mojave Desert Continues

Terra-Gen Power has continued its expansive destruction of the western Mojave Desert as it adds nearly 205 wind turbines -- each over 400 feet tall -- replacing and industrializing a Joshua Tree woodland and creosote bush habitat on over 15 square miles.  The expansion adds to Alta Wind Energy Center , which is one of the largest of a slew of wind projects approved or under construction in the area.   Kern County approved the project despite concerns raised by residents and conservationists, adding to over 100 square miles of approved wind projects in the area. The massive wind projects pose a threat to California Condors and Golden Eagles, and require miles of wide access roads carved into the desert, fragmenting and destroying habitat. The photo below taken by a resident of Mojave, California, shows a Joshua Tree tossed aside by construction activities as new access roads and turbine pads are bulldozed to make way for heavy equipment. But the impact goes beyond the ecolog

Children's Book Takes on Death Valley

A new children's book by artist and author Janet Morgan -- " Welcome to Death Valley! " -- takes young readers on a colorful journey through Death Valley National Park, exploring its dunes, rocky mountains, critters and wildflowers.  The desert can be a wondrous place, and Janet Morgan's book helps inspire that wonder by taking on what many perceive as a wasteland and revealing its fascinating life story.  Using ravens as guides, the author takes a trip around the desert park, explaining geological formations, the tell tale clues of critter tracks in the sand, the colorful rocks of Desolation Canyon and Artists Palette, and the oasis of Darwin Falls. I grew up in the desert, and spent my summer breaks and weekends roaming the western Mojave Desert around Victorville looking for lizards (catch and release, of course) and interesting rocks.  I may be biased, but I think the desert is a great place to inspire a kid's respect for nature, to encourage them to app

Sentries in the Mojave

Mojave yuccas stand sentry just south of Searchlight, Nevada, with Spirit Mountain in the distance.  Photograph taken at sunset in April 2012.  This desert would be industrialized for 87 wind turbines over 400 feet tall, and miles of wide access roads carved into the landscape if the Searchlight wind energy project is built.

Our Future Should Respect Our Past

" Hearsay ." Storytelling.  That is how somebody described Native American history in an attempt to urge approval for a massive solar project in the desert. The individual was urging the California Energy Commission to overlook the presence of sacred sites on the same land where BrightSource Energy plans to build an industrial solar facility near Blythe, California.  But our history is not "hearsay." We are talking about centuries of cultural heritage and tradition.  If you discard that, you have an empty future ahead of you. A series of articles in the Los Angeles Times has shed light on this tension by covering the mishaps at the construction site of NextEra's Genesis Solar power project in California.  At first, the solar project garnered attention when the eviction of kit foxes from their dens on the site likely led to an outbreak of deadly canine distemper that has now spread well beyond the construction site, which could affect the kit fox populatio

Creosote at Sunset

The fading light of the setting sun behind a creosote bush, just south of Searchlight, Nevada. This desert would be industrialized with dozens of wind turbines over 400 feet high for Duke Energy's Searchlight Wind Energy Project.