January 30, 2006

Mojave Preserve -- better than ever

After last year's fire, flooding
park is making dramatic comeback

By TRACIE TROHA, Staff Writer
Victorville Daily Press

MOJAVE PRESERVE — After a long recovery from a fire that damaged 71,000 acres, the Mojave National Preserve has come back as strong as ever.

With assistance from federal funds totaling $1,084,000, the preserve has repaired damaged roads, reopened the campground and taken measures to prevent erosion.

Park Ranger Linda Slater said preparations are also underway for the grand opening ceremony of the Kelso Depot information center in March.

Slater said the fire that burned through the preserve last June was sparked by lighting from a storm.
"No rain accompanied the storm and the fire really took off," she said.

Slater said the campground suffered the most damage from the fire, with two-thirds of the area destroyed. It took months for crews to remove the dead trees and debris and replace the picnic tables. The campground opened to the public again last month.

Following the fire, the preserve experienced a rainy season that caused flooding and washed out several roads.

"The roads have been re-graded so visitors can travel through the park," Slater said.

Slater said bundles of hay bales also had to be placed around archeological sites to prevent damage from rain water.

"Mines that were over 100 years old were burned in the fire," Slater said. "They had to be reevaluated and those that were considered unstable had to be protected so people wouldn't go into them."

Slater said the federal funds are also being used to help restore lost vegetation on a rancher's property.

"We are fencing off a section of his lot to protect the fragile first-year growth," she said.

The preserve's general plan indicates natural areas damaged by fires, earthquakes or flooding would be left undisturbed unless there is a threat to public safety or endangered species. Non-native plants and animals that could take over these areas, however, may be managed or eradicated if deemed necessary.

Since the fire and the rehabilitation projects, Slater said the preserve has enjoyed a resurgence of visitors.

The preserve has been welcoming up to 300 visitors on Sundays and between 100 to 200 visitors on weekdays.

"People are really enjoying it," she said.