Conservation and Management

The east Mojave Desert contains some of the more intact and pristine natural areas in California. Maintaining the quality of this land is fundamental for research and teaching, and thus is a high priority goal of the Center. The Center has been actively involved in habitat conservation, restoration and management within its own 9,000 acres, striving to protect and restore where possible the exceptional natural ecological processes available for research and teaching. In addition, the Center has been a leading collaborator within a regional network of government, academic, tribal, and private land managers in the east Mojave Desert on a number of coordinated land management programs.

Stewardship of Center Lands

The 9,000-acre Center contains pristine lands that are quite remote and have likely not been directly impacted anthropogenically. The Center also manages lands and resources (e.g., archaeological sites), that have been variously altered historically by grazing, mining, homesteading developments, military training, and by the present day Center activities and facilities. And like the entire Mojave Desert, introduced species such as burros, chukar partridge, and numerous non-native plants have variously impacted most if not all of the Center lands to some degree.

The Center Staff along with affiliated scientists are engaged in numerous applied research projects to protect existing natural ecosystem processes, restore historically degraded habitats, and study long-term change/recovery of impacted sites. Some of these studies include but are not limited to:

  • long-term photo monitoring of recovering areas such as historic roads, corals and homestead sites
  • restoration and enhancement of sites where grazing has been removed
  • monitoring of archaeological sites for impacts and vandalism
  • research on the impacts of non-native annual plants
  • program to remove invasive tamarisk from canyon watersheds
  • coordination with the National Park Service to remove feral burros
  • reclamation of soils damaged by historic hazardous materials spills (e.g. diesel fuel)
  • revegetation of closed roads, flood-control berms, and other disturbed areas

Maintaining the quality of Center lands and research plots also requires practical means and administrative strategies to protect them. Center lands are zoned to accommodate both research and teaching uses. The Norris Camp and Teaching Area, which includes approximately 1000 acres on the northeast corner of the Center, is zoned to allow for light impacts by students from visiting classes. Granite Cove (approx. 1000 acres) is zoned for facilities development and more impacting research. The remaining 7000 acres of the Center is in very pristine condition and is maintained to support research that requires optimal natural conditions.

Even light trampling by feral animals or human foot traffic may have a significant and deleterious effect on fragile desert soil crusts. Thus, in order to protect research and natural habitat conditions, the majority of the Center’s lands are surrounded by barbed wire fence to deter burros, feral livestock, and public trespass. The Center also implements strict policies for managing its resources. These include, for example, plans for managing facilities and grounds development, water use and water quality, fire, sensitive species populations and cultural sites, and non-native species and disease vectors.

Regional Management Issues

Providing expertise and leadership, the Center has been a strong advocate and participant in numerous ecosystem management programs in the Mojave Desert. A partial list of collaborating government agencies, institutions and private groups includes:

  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
  • National Park Service (NPS)
  • Desert Managers Group (DMG)
  • Department of Defense (DOD)
  • U.S. Geological Survey – Biological Resource Division (USGS-BRD)
  • U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
  • Native American Land Conservancy (NALC)
  • Desert Research Institute (DRI)
  • San Bernardino County Museum
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
  • Wildlands Conservancy
  • California Dept. of Fish & Game (CDFG)
  • CalTrans
  • Los Angeles Natural History Museum
  • Southern California Edison
  • Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)
  • Southern Nevada Water Authority
  • Redlands Institute

There are many land management issues (too numerous list all of them here) that require input and active participation from the scientific community. Often communication between agency managers and scientists is lacking. To partially bridge this gap, the Center has organized or hosted numerous symposiums and workshops aimed at fostering more interaction among groups.

The following is a partial list of the problems or issues that the Center is involved with and seeks additional help:

Invasive/Exotic species control including:

  • Feral burro impacts and removal program
  • Impacts of chukar partridge, cowbird, and ravens
  • Tamarisk impacts and control
  • Non-native annual plants impacts
  • Invasive insects (e.g., non-native bees)

Habitat Impacts/Restoration & Enhancement including:

  • vertical mulching/road closures
  • impacts of large mammal and small game water guzzlers
  • revegetation
  • ORVs/recreation impacts
  • mine reclamation
  • Livestock grazing/trampling
  • Wilderness Management
  • Fire management
  • Erosion/soil crusts
  • Species conservation (e.g., desert tortoise, bighorn sheep, rare plants)
  • Large-scale development proposals (Primm Airport, etc…)
  • Noise/Light pollution monitoring, overflight issues
  • Altered hydrology (e.g., groundwater pumping)
  • Soil nitrogen deposition
  • Predator control programs
  • Disease (bird flu, West Nile, Hantavirus, etc…)
  • Long-term or large-scale impacts (e.g., global warming)
In general, research is lacking for all these issues and agencies are often left with making decisions without a foundation of research to base these decisions upon. We encourage those in the academic community to consider applied studies to address these issues, or communicate the findings of basic research to agency managers. Often the results of basic research become important to solving some of the management problems facing the agencies.