September 29, 2007

Mojave National Preserve community meeting

29 September 2007. Saturday. Our correspondent attended the Mojave National Preserve community meeting at the Hole-in-the-Wall Fire Station.

There was somewhere between 40 and 50 people in attendance, but the small meeting room was so crowded it was difficult to get an accurate count.

Dennis Schramm, superintendent of the Mojave National Preserve, was there in charge. Quite a number of other NPS people.

The atmosphere of the meeting was very civil - friendly almost. There were a couple of statements by participants giving compliments to MNP NPS for their recernt response to emergencies.

First Emergency at Gold Valley Ranch: Bob Pelligrino and friend went out hiking. Gone from 8;00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Had plenty of water. Drank it. Didn't have anything to eat. Bob suffered major heat stroke after he got home. Doubled over, vomiting from both ends, &c. Ambulance from Needles and trip and overnight at Needles hospital. IV rehydrated him.

Second Emergency at Gold Valley Ranch (just this last Tuesday): Bob Pelligrino was doing something with propane ... I believe hooking it to a heater. There was a fire. He got the fire put out. Second degree burns on hands and arms and one ankle. Trip to ER hospital in Needles. Treated and released.

MNP NPS played a role in these emergencies for which the victims were grateful.

1. Superintendent Dennis Schramm has been in Washington, D.C. for two months. NPS is developing ambitious plans for celebration of their 100th anniversary in 2016. Anticipating billions of dollars for new construction and heavy maintenance. Bills in congress now. Looking forward to the prospect of having a Democrat back in the White House.

2. Larry Whalon is now deputy superintendent of Mojave National Preserve.

3. They have lost their chief ranger, Denny Ziemann, recruiting for another one. Interviewing for that position now.

4. They have some plus-up in their budget. They anticipate raising the number of law enforcement rangers to ten.

5. Only one major construction project in 2008 budget and that is to install solar at Zzyzx. That will eliminate the last diesel operation in the preserve.

6. Much talk about roads and reference to the county's law suit which they see as being disruptive and disfunctional. Can't do anything major on roads until this is settled.

Comments of Linda Slater, who is now in charge of interpretation.

7. There'll be new interpretive panels in the preserve ... like at Piute Springs, Zzyzx, and Kelso Depot and others.

Comments of Steve Carlson, who is in charge of maintenance.

8. They have reroofed seven buildings at Zzyzx and done concrete repairs.

9. They'll be putting more gravel on Wildhorse Canyon Road and on the last one-half mile of the road out to the Kelso Dunes.

10. They are planning to hard surface the road from I-15 off-ramp down to Zzyzx with asphalt grindings.

11. Much talk about fence replacement to replace fences burned during the fire to contain 7IL cattle.

12. Some talk about doing repair work on some road over toward Piute.

13. "We don't do road improvement or maintenance - we do some road repair."

14. In talking about repairing roads they said the public could help with repairs like around washouts as long as they use only hand tools.

15. A number of the attendees complained about the County.

16. The law suit of the County vs. MNP NPS is in the "discovery" phase. Of course we knew that. "This has to be resolved before we can spend federal funds on the roads."

17. There is talk about developing "site plans" on how to manage Kessler and OX Ranch HQ sites. There'll be a chance for public input.

19. Much talk about how to get services in an emergency. Dial 911 first and then the dispatch center. Some rangers have EMT training. One is a "first responder." Dispatch office 909-383-5651. You must call both 911 and the dispatch office.

20. It is suggested we get to know our rangers. They do not have rangers on duty 24 hours, but they always have rangers "on call."

21. It was emphasized MNP NPS has no jurisdiction on private land.

22. It can be useful for someone call in in an emergency to have GPS coordinates. Rangers can handle GPS. The ambulances that come up from Needles cannot.

23. There was recently a fireworks issue. People setting off fireworks in the preserve. Locals called for help. Rangers responded and caught the people and ticketed them. They paid the ticket. Turns out all the offenders were off-duty sheriff deputies from LA county!

Comments of Bob Bryson.

24. He's been in charge of the fence replacement issue. They've replaced 9-1/2 miles at a cost of $100K. Also paid one contractor $18K for 400 feet.

15. Lots of talk about volunteer groups. Apparently they have lots of volunteers.

25. Dave Nichols, who used to be a "seasonal," is now the preserve archeologist. He has bought Adrienne Knute's place in Round Valley and is living there.

26. They have a new wildlife biologist named Neil Darvey. I think I got that right?

27. Concerns about water distribution. They are going to reestablish one water source and do studies.

28. They are concerned about the Mohave chub that lives at Zzyzx. Looking for other spots to start populations. Like upper narrows on Mojave River near Victorville or in the pool at the bottom of the pit at Morning Star Mine.

29. Much talk about the desert tortoise. MNP NPS critical about the whole program. Spent more than $100,000,000 on desert tortoise recovery and it hasn't helped. GAO discovered that a couple of years ago.

20. Preserve is being pressured to put up tortoise fencing. They don't want to do it.

21. Irony aired about the fact that the office of the Desert Tortoise Recovery program is in Reno where there ain't any tortoises.

22. As to the desert tortoise "We've had a million starts and a million stops with no results."

23. The preserve has a chief scientist - Debra Hewson. She wasn't at the meeting. Praise for their scientist.

24. There was a reference to the new Ivanpah airport to be constructed between Primm and Jean as thought it is a done deal.

25. Talk about working with people interested in guzzlers.

26. Bighorn sheep herd on Old Dad Mountain doing well. Population flights estimate 300 animals.

27. They are going to install high tech GPS collars on mule deer so they can tell where they go.

28. They have 20-some cameras out at water holes so they can tell who is coming in for a drink.

In general it was a peaceful meeting. Someone who has been at all the recent good neighbor meetings said this one was more relaxed and peaceful.

It had been advertised that obtaining food serve at the Kelso Depot would be discussed. It wasn't. Nobody asked about it.