June 21, 2005

Leaving the preserve

Longtime superintendent accepts new job

Desert Dispatch (Barstow, CA)

BARSTOW -- After a decade of overseeing a vast desert landscape, Mary Martin is heading north.

Martin, who has been the Mojave National Preserve's superintendent since it was brand-new in 1995, has accepted a job as the superintendent at Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California.

"I have mixed feelings as anyone would," Martin, who lives in Barstow, said. "I have a lot of friends here, and I love the desert. But Lassen's great ... In the Park Service, everyone has a wish list, and Lassen's long been on mine."

The Mojave National Preserve, with a staff of about 65, encompasses about 1.6 million acres east of Barstow, sandwiched between Interstate 40 and Interstate 15. The preserve's office is in Barstow.

At the helm of the preserve, Martin has worked on the restoration of the historic Kelso Depot and the construction of the National Park Service's new building in Barstow.

"I think the restoration and soon-to-be reopening of the Kelso Depot is a big achievement," Howard Gross, California desert program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, said. "It's going to be such an asset for the preserve, and such a gift to the region, to have that heritage preserved for future generations to enjoy."

James Woolsey, the Mojave National Preserve's chief of interpretation, credited Martin for helping get the federal funding for the restoration by working well with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

He also said she's done a good job of helping coordinate the various projects that are part of the renovation.

Martin has also been involved with some of the controversial Park Service issues, like the retirement of ranchers' grazing allotments, the conflict over the Mojave Cross and disputes over guzzlers -- watering holes for wildlife -- in the preserve.

Some of the challenges of her job came with the territory because of the preserve being new, Gross said. He said he thinks she's had one of the toughest assignments in the Park Service.

"Typically, there are a lot of challenges when a new unit of the National Park Service is created," he said. "Lands that are transferred to the Park Service have been used for other purposes, and the Park Service's mission is one of greater conservation, and that presents challenges."

Martin, a 36-year veteran of the Park Service, said she'll still be in Barstow for another few months and will probably start her new job in early October. She said she plans to visit the preserve regularly even after she moves away.