My Public Lands

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    Happy birthday, Owyhee Wild and Scenic River, aka “Oregon’s Grand Canyon!”

    Originally named for a trio of Hawaiian trappers exploring the area (“Owyhee” is an older spelling of “Hawaii”), the river was designated “Wild and Scenic” this week back in ‘84. The Owyhee flows through a remote, arid and almost unpopulated area. Much of the river cuts through majestic canyons home to mountain lion, bobcat, mule deer, bighorn sheep and a variety of raptors.

    Plan a visit: on.doi.gov/X48Jw5

    Check Out What Happened Last Week at the BLM: October 13-17, 2014

    News and Events

    Last week, the Federal land management agencies that make up the National Wilderness Preservation System signed an agreement that will guide interagency collaboration and vision to ensure the continued preservation of nearly 110 million acres of the most primitive of public lands. The 2020 Vision: Interagency stewardship priorities for America’s National Wilderness Preservation System will guide the BLM, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service. The document outlines interagency work and partnerships with non-government organizations for the management of wilderness. Read the press release.

    On Oct. 14, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell joined BLM Deputy Director Steve Ellis, U.S. Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch, local stakeholders and ranchers to see first-hand efforts to conserve the sagebrush habitat that supports wildlife, outdoor recreation and other economic activity throughout the West. Jewell, Ellis and Crapo toured the Browns Bench/China Mountain region of southern Idaho and some areas that were devastated by the 2007 Murphy Complex Fire. Burning more than 600,000 acres, much of it important habitat for the greater sage-grouse and other sagebrush-dependent species, the fire was the largest rangeland fire since 1910. Federal, state and local partners are working to restore the area by reseeding sagebrush, combatting cheatgrass and other invasive species, and altering fire regimes and creating fire breaks to limit the damage from future fires. Read the press release.

    Social Media Highlights

    On Sept. 3, 1964 President Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act, making the United States the first country in the world to define and designate wilderness areas through law. Last week, wilderness partners, stewards, educators, students and researchers gathered in New Mexico for the National Wilderness Conference. The conference capped a month-long observance of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.  Check out posts on My Public Lands Tumblr and photos on My Public Lands Instagram  and Twitter with hashtag #Wilderness50.

    On Oct. 15, the BLM and partners celebrated National Fossil Day at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.  The group welcomed “Junior Paleontologists” to a day of hands-on scientific activities.  Check out posts on My Public Lands Tumblr and photos on Twitter with hashtag #NationalFossilDay.

    Internal News Features

    In recognition of National Fossil Day on Oct. 15, a part of Earth Sciences Week, the BLM’s internal blog featured a story by BLM Paleo Intern Hannah Cowan about a dinosaur excavation. Read the story, republished externally on the My Public Lands Tumblr.

    Follow www.blm.gov/socialmedia

    We are kicking off the work week with the Trona Pinnacles, one of the most unique landscapes in the California Desert.

    The area consists of more than 500 tufa (calcium carbonate) pinnacles rising from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. These tufa spires, some as high as 140 feet, were formed underwater 10,000 to 100,000 years ago when Searles Lake formed a link in an interconnected chain of Pleistocene lakes stretching from Mono Lake to Death Valley.

    When visiting this area you will understand why more than 30 movies and commercials are filmed here every year. Ideally suited for science fiction backdrops Star Trek V, Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes and Battlestar Galactica were all shot here.

    Visit the BLM Ridgecrest Field Office to #DiscoverTheDesert yourself.

    Photos by Bob Wick, BLM

    On this day in 2006, Congress passed the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act which designated 42,585 acres of the King Range National Conservation Area as wilderness.

    The 60,000-acre King Range NCA encompasses 35 miles of remote coastline known as California’s Lost Coast. The mountains are a mix of Douglas-fir forest, chaparral, and grassland, providing habitat for blacktailed deer, elk, black bear and nearly 300 species of native and migratory birds.

    CLICK HERE to learn more.

    Photos by Bob Wick, Wilderness Specialist for the BLM’s National Conservation Lands

    Pocatello Fall by Heather Worley South Fork of the Snake River by Bob Wick Northern Idaho by Suzanne Endsley Eastern Idaho by Scott Hoefer

    In recognition of Earth Science Week, we bring you beautiful fall photos from around BLM Idaho with an explanation by Anne Halford, BLM Idaho Botanist, about why the leaves change color

    Every autumn, cottonwood, quaking aspen and willow are transformed into colorful hues of gold, orange and russet. Before long, their leaves will fall and again become part of another cycle that feeds the soil. What causes this yearly cycle, and what determines which color the leaves turn? 

    During spring and summer, leaves actively produce foods necessary for plant growth. This food-making process takes place in the many cells within the leaf. Within these cells are chloroplasts, which contain the chlorophyll pigments that are responsible for the green color of plants. The leaves also contain lesser amounts of other pigments, primarily xanthophylls (yellows) and carotenoids (yellows, oranges, and reds). 

    Most of the year, these other pigments are masked by the greater amounts of chlorophyll in the leaves. But in fall, when changes in temperature and the period of daylight occur, the leaves stop their food-producing activity. Soon the chlorophyll begins to break down, the green color disappears, and the yellows, oranges and reds slowly begin to emerge, giving the leaves their fall splendor. 

    The intensity of color is determined by the plant’s response to complex gradients of temperature and moisture. Fall weather conditions favoring formation of brilliant autumn color are warm, sunny days followed by cool nights with temperatures below 45F (7C). Sugar production increases during the daytime, but cool nights prevent movement of sugar from the leaves. 

    From the sugars trapped in leaves, the pigment called anthocyanin is formed. When fall weather is consistently cloudy or rainy, and the nights warm, the leaves usually have less intense coloration. The smaller amount of sugar made during periods of less sunlight moves out of the leaves during the warm nights, reducing the conversion of excess sugars into pigments. 

    Before the leaves can gracefully spin from their leafstalks, a special layer of cells develops and gradually severs the tissues that support the leaf. A small leaf scar is the only evidence that leaves once adorned these deciduous plants.

    Ojito Wilderness Ojito Wilderness Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Sabinoso Wilderness Cebolla Wilderness  West Malpais Wilderness Cebolla Wilderness

    New Mexico provides a stunning backdrop from the National Wilderness Conference this week!  The BLM manages five Wilderness areas in New Mexico: Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness, Cebolla Wilderness, Ojito Wilderness, Sabinoso Wilderness, and West Malpais Wilderness. 

    The 41,170-acre Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness is a remote desolate area of steeply eroded badlands which offers some of the most unusual scenery found in the Four Corners region. 

    BLM’s Cebolla Wilderness, located within the El Malpais National Conservation Area, includes 61,600 acres of sandstone mesas, canyons and grassy valleys characterize the area.

    An hour northwest of Albuquerque is the Ojito Wilderness, a high desert landscape of wide open spaces and exceptional beauty. This area of steep-sided mesas, remote box canyons, meandering arroyos, and austere badlands offers solitude, tranquility, and escape from the congestion of the city.

    The 16,030-acre Sabinoso Wilderness is a remote area in the northeastern portion of New Mexico. The Wilderness includes a series of high, narrow mesas surrounded by cliff-lined canyons.

    BLM’s West Malpais Wilderness, located within the El Malpais National Conservation Area, includes 39,540 acres. It encompasses grassland, pinon-juniper woodland, ponderosa pine parkland, and basalt lava fields. 

    Learn more about BLM New Mexico wilderness. And then check out the 57 Wilderness Study Areas managed by BLM New Mexico.

    Managing a National Wildlife Refuge: City Girl Always Yearned For the Country Life

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    Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: Stephen A. Wolfe/Flickr

    By Dianna M. Ellis

    Growing up as a “latch-key” kid in Buffalo, New York, I always knew that I wanted to work with animals. I can still remember when I was five years old, accompanying my mother to a Neisner’s department store and b-lining it straight to the pet section. Once there, I would carefully inspect the parakeet cages to see that they were clean, that fresh food and water was readily available, and that the birds were healthy. Then I would move on to the aquariums looking for “floaters.”  If the pet section didn’t meet with MY approval, my mother would accompany me to the Customer Service Desk. Once there, I, a very shy little kid, would look up at the “big adults” & nervously point out how the birds and fish were not being properly cared for.  Little did I know then that someday, I would be an advocate for wildlife as a Refuge Manager of a National Wildlife Refuge.

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    The little girl from Buffalo, fishing on the break wall on Lake Erie.  Don’t you just love those white socks? Photo courtesy of Dianna Ellis.

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    Great story about a career in wildlife and habitat management. Happy National Refuge Week, FWS!

    This week, wilderness partners, stewards, educators, students and researchers gather in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the National Wilderness Conference. Several attendees began their celebration of public lands and the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act with a night under the stars and fresh morning view, along the Rio Grande. True inspiration! 

    Photos by Bob Wick, Wilderness Specialist for BLM’s National Conservation Lands

    Gearing up to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act at the National Wilderness Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico! Today I had the unique opportunity to join a diverse group of wilderness advocates, stewards, educators, students and researchers on a hike into Ojito Wilderness north of town. 

    Sponsored by the Great Old Broads for Wilderness and led by the BLM, our group hiked through a high desert landscape filled with incredible geological resources and features toward a hoodoo and low elevation ponderosa pine area. Filled with steep-sided mesas, remote box canyons, meandering arroyos, and austere badlands, the Ojito Wilderness offers solitude, tranquility, and escape from the congestion of the city.

    Arriving at our destination, we all shared insights into our roles in managing and caring for wilderness and the importance of future collaboration and stewardship of such treasured landscapes.

    The National Wilderness Conference kicks off today and is the first gathering of its kind in 25 years! I feel incredibly fortunate to be attending such an important gathering. Follow my experience on Twitter @BLMUtah or by using the #Wilderness50 hashtag.

    -Chad Douglas, BLM Utah

    In recognition of National Fossil Day today, a part of Earth Sciences Week, we feature a story by BLM Paleo Intern Hannah Cowan about a dinosaur excavation. 

    "In early September, I had the opportunity to join BLM Paleontologist Alan Titus on a dinosaur excavation in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or GSENM. After a brief tour of the BLM’s impressive paleo lab and a beautiful two hour drive through the Staircase, I finally arrived at my first paleo excavation site. Named Unicorns and Rainbows for the majestic and unimaginable discovery at this location, the fossil locality certainly lived up to its name. With the exception of the Cleveland Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry (which mysteriously contains a ratio of predator: prey which exceeds normal standards), predators are rarely discovered in the paleo world. 

    Ever since the Lythronax argestes press release last November and National Geographic article featuring excavations within the GSENM this spring, the Monument is on the nation’s radar as a paleo “hot-spot.” And, this tyrannosaur discovery is no less exciting. 

    When I think of a tyrannosaur, I am reminded of Jurassic Park—the scene in which the tyrannosaur chases down a jeep, or when it surprised a flock of Gallimimus. How about the infamous Spinosaurus vs. tyrannosaur fight! 

    At the Unicorns and Rainbows locality, I was greeted by three Denver Museum of Nature and Science volunteers who were working under the direction of GSENM Paleo Technician Scott Richardson to clear out space surrounding one large plaster-jacket. Despite the searing heat from the desert sun, there was a buzz of energy as the group worked to excavate the dinosaur. 

    Hours were spent bent over one small location — chiseling down around the plaster jacket to allow for its removal. Dust blew up my nose and into my eyes as splinter after splinter of rock chipped away beneath my chisel. As I worked, I kept a diligent eye for fossilized fish scales, small bones and larger tyrannosaur parts. My job was to find these fossils before they were lost amongst the settling dust and rock debris. 

    Although my time on the excavation was short, I began to understand the vast amount of time necessary to safely remove and transport fossilized material. I was thankful for the close partnerships formed with the Natural History Museum of Utah and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, providing Alan and staff the much needed support to excavate the tyrannosaur. 

    My time on the excavation ended with the discovery of multiple small fossils, belonging either to a small reptile, a small dinosaur, or as I hope, to a baby dinosaur! The opportunity to work on the tyrannosaur excavation was eye opening. It was not only a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but also an opportunity for greater insight into field crew operations and the BLM’s goals for the GSENM paleontology program. The tyrannosaur discovery will hopefully solve questions regarding predator life history, evolution and the ecosystem’s fauna. 

    I’d like to wish Alan and the crew luck with the remaining excavation, and express my appreciation for the supporting universities and museums who work in concert with the BLM to further paleontological research and discovery on public lands in Utah.” 

    - Hannah Cowan

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