Defending the Desert

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Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit working to conserve the deserts of Nevada and California and to educate the public about the diversity of life, culture, and history of the ecosystems and wild lands of the desert.

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Marines Order Coyote Kill along with Tortoise Translocation -- This is Unacceptable

coyote

March 22, 2017 - Red Alert: Call the 29 Palms Marine Corps base Public Affairs office at (760) 830-5310 and tell them not to start killing coyotes!

The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center is hosting a coyote hunt in an attempt to "save" desert tortoises, possibly as a mitigation for the 1,500 tortoises they are about to move (translocate) off of 49,000 acres of Mojave Desert habitat for large military vehicle maneuvers. This is definitely not a "conservation action" as described below. It is impossible to remove coyotes. Past attempts to kill coyotes to save tortoises have not worked. If the Marines want to help 1,500 desert tortoises, the best action is to avoid expanding the base and leave the tortoises alone in their natural habitat.

This is a major admonition that desert tortoise translocations results in unacceptably high mortality, as tortoises are removed from their home ranges and released in areas strange to them where they do not have a memory of their favored burrows and other shelters. Translocated tortoises often travel long distances in an attempt to return to their familiar home ranges, and during these wanderings they become very susceptible to natural predations by native species such as coyotes and ravens.

This is not the fault of the coyotes, but the fault of modern pressures to develop the desert and expand destructive management practices such as military maneuvers into the homes of tortoises and coyotes. The so-called mitigation of killing coyotes is a false action that will not help recover the tortoise, and will only disrupt desert ecosystems more. Coyotes are a native, natural species that belong to the Mojave Desert. Tanks, Humvees, bombing, live-fire exercises, and military maneuvers do not belong to the desert. The military has enough land to carry out tests and training, they do not need to keep expanding.

An unacceptably high tortoise mortality resulted from the Ft. Irwin Army base expansion where nearly 50% of desert tortoises suffered mortality after being removed. Coyotes were blamed for predating many tortoises, and claims were made that a drought was increasing coyote predation on tortoises. But the evidence we have seen is that translocation itself is the cause of mortality, not any unusually high number of coyotes, or drought conditions, or subsidized predators. The simple cause is the current politically-agreed upon need to take more desert tortoise habitat for destructive development and military usage. In other words, the continued expansion of the Military-Industrial Complex. This coyote hunt shows that the military believes a similar high tortoise mortality is expected, without extreme measures to "protect" translocated tortoises who are placed far from their safe home ranges.

The Coyote hunt should be halted, and if tortoises are to be translocated, other, better mitigation measures should be taken in order to safeguard translocated tortoises, such as more artificial burrows constructed and tortoises watched over and monitored with GPS tags to track their movement at a much higher intensity then simply dumping them into new territory and expecting them to fend for themselves. We cannot rely on translocation to save tortoises, it is a failed mitigation measure. But blaming coyotes is not the answer.


Call the 29 Palms Marine Corps base Public Affairs office at (760) 830-5310 and tell them not to start killing coyotes!


The information we obtained from the Marine Base reads:


"Folks,
MCAGCC [Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center] will host a coyote hunt ca. 0600-2200h each Saturday and Sunday 25 & 26 March 2017 in the Sand Hill, West, Gypsum Ridge, East, Cleghorn Lake RTA.
A sixth RTA (Acorn or Prospect) may be included. There will be two hunters per RTA on each day, with their focus probably dawn and dusk (e.g., two hunters in Sand Hill on Saturday, and two hunters in Sand Hill on Sunday). See program notice below.


"The hunters must have a current CA Hunting license (which requires Hunter Safety Training) and obey all normal rules (e.g., speed limits, no off-MSR vehicle traffic in Restricted Areas) for use of the RTA. The CLEOs will operate the program, hunters will be equipped with range radios to communicate with BEARMAT.


"CALL FOR CONSERVATION ACTION PARTICIPATION In support of the Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs (NREA) Division's coyote depredation program, volunteers are invited to participate in a coyote depredation hunt. To be considered, please send your name via an email to russell.elswick@usmc.mil NLT Friday, March 17, 2017 with your full name, contact phone number and email address. After a lottery draw, a limited number of volunteers will be notified and invited by NREA to participate in the event. To participate, volunteers must be available for an in-brief at 1830 on 24 Mar, possess a current California hunting license, and have a 4x4 transport to get them out to the Range Training Areas where the hunt will occur. The hunt will go on 25 and 26 Mar, and each volunteer will be assigned a day and hunting area. The purpose of the depredation program is to reduce the numbers of coyotes that are unnaturally inflated in the local area due to human subsidies. Elevated coyote numbers prove a safety risk to residents, and are a significant factor in the mortality of the desert tortoise."

Basin & Range Watch Gets Out to Visit Congressional Offices, Attend Conferences, and Educate Kids

March 13, 2017 - Thanks to your generous donations we have been busy getting out and about in our continuing conservation activities. On February 24 and 25, 2017, we attended the Desert Tortoise Council annual Symposium in Las Vegas NV where we also had an informational table about our nonprofit. The latest science about desert tortoises was presented and we will report on this later.

On March 2 and 3, 2017, we attended the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon in Eugene, where we were on two panels. One was about large-scale solar in the desert and better alternatives such as rooftop solar. We showed students and public participants the impacts that have accumulated over the years from utlity-scale solar projects, and how policy obstacles--not technology--has held back Distributed Generation. Attorney Dave Becker of Portland OR was on our panel, as well as Lisa Belenky of Center for Biological Diversity. The second panel was about pinyon-juniper woodland impacts and removal, Lithium mining, and military base expansions in the Great Basin. More on these panels soon.

Executive Director Laura Cunningham was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Pacific Climate Conference in Pacific Grove last week, where the latest science is discussed concerning reconstructing past climates from proxy data such as pollen analysis of lake cores and ocean sediments, tracking El Nino-Southern Oscillation cycles, drought and the Atmospheric River, and other topics. Work is moving forward on reconstruction of past climate and vegetation from lakes and meadows in the Great Basin. This has implications for understanding future climate.

We also gave a field class to students at the Vernal Pool Preserve by the University of California at Merced, in the San Joaquin Valley CA. It was great to work with young people about natural history and writing. Some of the students are developing an app that will be a digital field guide to the species on the preserve, that students can use to learn about the tremendous biodiversity there. During the morning we saw a burrowing owl fly out of a ground squirrel burrow, two bald eagles, numerous geese and sandpipers, flocks of horned larks, a coyote, and wildflowers beginning to bloom after a very rainy winter.

And importantly, Basin & Range Watch during the last month has visited the offices of Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Representative Ruben Kihuen (D-NV 4th District) in Las Vegas NV, to discuss issues of concern to us in the desert: public lands, energy development, Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository, and military base expansions, as well as our proposal for a wind energy-free zone in Piute Valley in southern Nevada. We plan to visit more offices of our elected officials in Nevada and California in the coming weeks and months.

^Students at UC Merced in the San Joaquin Valley learn about grassland species, examining the sign of burrowing owls at a California ground squirrel burrow.

^Poster at the Pacific Climate Conference on geophysical characters of a lake sediment core in the Utah Great Basin.

^Slide showing genetic connectivity models across the Southwest Deserts for the Desert tortoise, shown at the Desert Tortoise Council Symposium.

^Last but not least, we had good discussions with staff of our elected officials in Congress. Here is the plaza near the Court building in Las Vegas NV, where Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has her local office.

The Sierra Club Desert Report Tells Our Story

March 12, 2017 - Read the Desert Report, news of the desert from Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee expertly edited by Craig Deutsche. Our Executive Director Laura Cunningham writes aboput how Basin and Range Watch got started defending the desert, and what our plans are for continuing. Our good friend Terry Weiner, of the Desert Protective Council, writes a parallel article about how this venerable organization has perservered through the decades also defending the desert, and is unfortunately dissolving this month. Basin and Range Watch is taking over the organizations duties and continuing its mission. Stay tuned.

See the Desert Report at: http://www.desertreport.org

Please consider a donation to help publish this valuable journal that covers California and Nevada desert issues. We have been cooperating with Desert Committee friends and colleagues for many years and value their work in desert conservation.

 

What's in Store for the Desert with a Trump Administration?

November 15, 2016 - According to Roll Call, Republican House committee chairman Kevin McCarthy sent a letter yesterday to all government agencies requesting that no new regulations move forward in the remaining months of the Obama administration.

November 10, 2016 - Now that we have a new President, Basin & Range Watch will be strategizing for how our public lands, desert ecosystems, local communities, and environmental laws may be impacted. The largescale renewable energy push into desert wildlands may slow, but we will continue to push for better Distributed Energy Resource policies, such as rooftop solar, to bring CO2 emissions down. We will also be vigilant about preserving our public lands from privitization or land transfers. Government accountability and transparency will remain a focus for us, as it has in the past. Preserving our new national monuments will also be someting we will strive for.

We are well-positioned in this new era since we have worked hard to build a coalition of people from all political views who want to keep our desert free from industrialization, fragmentation, and closed access.

Stay tuned for our renewed push to protect our desert wildlands and wildlife. We are gradually redesigning our website to follow the latest trends in resource management, conservation issues, and threats. New look, new trends.

^Desert near the town of Ocotillo CA, west side of the Imperial Valley.

Basin and Range Watch is honored to be able to continue the mission and many of the projects of the Desert Protective Council, as it dissolves in 2017. We are saddened to see this great desert group, founded in 1954, leave the scene. DPC members voted to formally dissolve the organization into Basin and Range Watch, and we will work hard to continue the excellent educational programs and tradition of desert conservation of the Desert Protective Council. We will of course continue publication of El Paisano, the magazine of news and education in the desert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calendar of Comment Deadlines:

Stay tuned for how to comment to your Congress people on how to stop military expansions in Nevada, as well as save our public lands and environmental laws.

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"In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe."

--Edward Abbey, 1967, Desert Solitaire

 

"Polite conversationalists leave no mark, save the scar upon the earth that could have been prevented had they stood their ground."

--David Brower

 

 

 

 

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Text and photographs Copyright 2016 Basin and Range Watch unless otherwise stated. Basin and Range Watch is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.