March 2, 2014
Spring is returning to the Pacific Northwest - California Quail are out and about.

Spring is returning to the Pacific Northwest - California Quail are out and about.

February 19, 2014
Ryan Campground at Joshua Tree National Park at 11 pm. Great place for photographers to send a few days and nights in.

Ryan Campground at Joshua Tree National Park at 11 pm. Great place for photographers to send a few days and nights in.

November 18, 2013
South Warner Rehab

Juniper reduction project moves to seeding

Story and Photos by Kevin Abel

The South Warner project in Lake County, Oregon has seen the removal of post-settlement western juniper, less than 130 years old, in an effort to maintain shrubs and understory grasses and increase wildlife habitat.

“We recognize that juniper, as a native plant, has its place on the landscape.  We seek to balance the scale and bring juniper back into the range that it occupied prior to European settlement,” said Todd Forbes, assistant field manager and project lead.

Prior to European settlement, juniper was restricted to rocky outcrops and areas where fire couldn’t burn.  However juniper has expanded its range by over 1000% since European settlement of the United States, primarily due to control of wildfires and excessive grazing in the 1800’s.  Settlers reduced the spread of wildfires indirectly by heavy livestock grazing in the late 1800’s and directly by putting fires out.

Juniper that is more than 130 years old or pre-settlement is known as Old Growth Juniper. “We appreciate ‘Old-Growth’ juniper very much for the habitat that it provides to a variety of wildlife species and to other native plants,” said Forbes.  “We don’t want to disrupt that, we only seek to reduce juniper where it has expanded into sagebrush habitat and areas where it would not occur under natural ecological processes. “

The project will remove post-settlement juniper using a variety of different prescriptions.

Areas with very light, small juniper are cut and left, while areas with larger trees, but still relatively few trees are cut and single trees burned.

Where there are areas with dense juniper, it’s cut and hand piled, allowing it to be burned when there is snow or wet conditions, but allowing most of the shrubs and grasses in the area to remain intact by keeping the fire contained to the piles.

When hand piles are burned, it creates a lot of heat under the pile, which typically will kill most of the plants and seeds that exist under the pile.  With the last years prescribed burns of the slash still evident, Bureau of Land Management seasonal summer staff took on the task to re-seed areas around where the slash piles were burned with native seed.image

With the intent of the project to have native plants growing in these sites rather than undesirable non-native or other invasive species or noxious weeds, the Bureau of Land Management Staff will continue to monitor treatment areas for noxious weeds and the establishment of native seeds.image

Volunteer interns with the Chicago Botanical Gardens have been collecting local native seeds for several years locally under BLM’s Native Seed propagation program. This means that once the seed is collected, it is sent to a grower who grows and harvests the propagated seed for the BLM.

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If these seeds don’t get established, or other invasive species are detected, the staff will act accordingly to make these treatments effective and increase quality habitats for sage-grouse, mule deer and other species.

South Warner Mountains have seen juniper density steadily increasing. When juniper cover reaches about 10% sage-grouse will no longer use these areas.  This is why the rehabilitation project is so important.

As juniper density continues to increase, it begins to compete for resources, mostly water, with native species that include sagebrush and grasses.  If left unchecked, juniper will eventually reduce native habitat to the point where it is no longer part of the ecological system in some stands.

The project seeks to improve habitats for sage-grouse, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep.

November 17, 2013
AIR CRASH MUSEUM

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Story and photos by Kevin Abel

The ghosts of two airplanes crashes 30 years apart haunt the same desolate stretch of southern Oregon’s desert.

But from tragedy comes responsibility to honor the memory of the pilots who made their final descent.

Burma Rim in southern Oregon is a veritable air crash museum.

Spanning nearly 30 years, this site has witnessed two major military airplane accidents. The first, a World War II airplane, dropped out of the sky to rapidly descend two miles before hitting the ground. And then in 1973, a Vietnam-era aircraft augured in, leaving a debris field spread over three-quarters of a mile in its wake.

PUSHING THE ENVELOPE

As visitors approach these two crash sites, distorted metal debris strewn in all directions announce the catastrophic events. Eerily, the two are located within one mile of each other in an Oregon desert location managed by the BLM’s Lakeview District.

The first debris field contains the remnants of Lieutenant Clark’s Lockheed P-38 Lightning that went down during a gunnery training flight. His witness, First Lieutenant Schelter, stated in the official report that he had told Clark to bail out and saw the plane’s canopy eject but did not see the pilot escape. Second Lieutenant Max J. Clark, age 25, 432nd U.S. Anny Air Force, was killed upon impact.

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The second downed plane is a Navy Grumman A-6 Intruder Bomber from the Naval Air Station at Whidbey Island, Washington. This aircraft hurtled to the ground in 1973 during a low-level night training mission. The only known observer to this crash was the pilot of a U.S. Air Force B-52 who reported seeing a flash of light and a fireball followed by an explosion.

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The Lake County Sheriff reached the Bomber’s wreckage at about the same time as a search-and-rescue helicopter from the Naval Air Station. But both crew members, pilot Lieutenant Alan Koehler, age 27, and navigator Lieutenant Commander Philip Duhamel, age 33, had perished.

THE RIGHT STUFF

To honor these veterans, the BLM officially declared the two aircraft crash scenes historic Federal sites at a Flag Day ceremony on June 14, 2007.

At the official ceremony, representatives unveiled interpretive plaques which pay tribute to the military and provide context for the historic significance of each location. The signs also help tell the story behind each accident while respectfully promoting preservation of the downed remains.

Over the years, many visitors have honored the crash sites with flags and mementos as part of their trip to witness the large portions of aircraft that remain very much intact. However, some have scavenged parts and pieces while others have scratched their names and dates into the faded paint of the fallen cyclopean colonnades.

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 ”BLM public lands are special places. In this case, the BLM observes a high level of responsibility to care for the historic memory of our military veterans and safeguard the crash site on behalf of the families and future generations,” said E. Lynn Burkett, the BLM’s Lakeview District Manager.

WINGS OF GOLD

The BLM asks that the public help preserve this history and honor these veterans who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation and their families.

 If you visit this site, the BLM recommends using a four-wheel-drive vehicle because the route to the crash sites includes unpaved roads and rough terrain. And while visitors may observe all-terrain vehicle tracks in and around the memorial sites, no vehicle traffic is allowed. A three-quarter mile walk over uneven rock is necessary to reach the memorials.

Once reaching the site to honor our fallen heroes, photographs and video are very much allowed and encouraged. But all visitors are asked to not alter or remove any of the wreckage as this is a protected memorial site on public lands for all to visit.

To plan a trip to this site, please email or call the BLM’s Lakeview District. Contact info at http://ondoi.gov/ZnGtll

“I just completed my first pass at the target when I saw Lieutenant Clark start his pass; he started with a vertical bank at approximately 10,000 feet. The airplane rolled over to the right and went down…”

J.R. Schelter
1st Lt., Army Air Corps
February 9, 1945
War Department Report of Major Accident

November 17, 2013

Derrick Cave

A geologic wonder and cold war relic

Story and Photos by Kevin S. Abel

Get off the beaten path and explore Devils Garden and Derrick Cave which was formed when hot lava flowed through the area approximately 13,000 years ago leaving the landscape dotted with splatter cones, odd looking buttes, calderas, and caves.

Designated as a Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in the 1980’s, the Devils Garden basalt flow is a collection of thin, primarily pahoehoe lava flows that originated from two different vent areas.

The main vent for the Devils Garden Basalt Flows formed to the south and became Derrick Cave, named after H.E. Derrick, a pioneer rancher from the Devils Garden area.  Recreation and ranching is the main use of land in the area but the site had another use; in the 1960s it was a nuclear fallout shelter.

During the Cuban missile crisis, a new threat burdened the minds of Lake County, Oregon residents. Where would they take shelter if the cold war turned hot? Lake County Search and Rescue helped answer that question and chose Derrick Cave as a fallout shelter. The North portion of Derrick Cave was used by installing a metal door frame and door, in which was secured military C-Rations and water to supply 1,000 people who could seek shelter there.

Derrick Cave is 30 feet high, 50 feet wide and 1/4 mile long. The ceiling has collapsed in places; one providing foot access into the cave and the others forming “skylights” for the cave. While exploring the cave you will notice the further in you go the cooler it gets. The temperature can very 20 to 30 degrees cooler than the outside surface. It’s essential to carry either flashlights or headlamps into the cave unless you plan on going only as far as the sand-floored main entrance area.

Derrick Cave is sixty miles south-east from Bend, as the crow flies, but there are no facilities at this site and the road is rough and should be taken with caution. For information about routes and a map of the area, please visit http://on.doi.gov/VBj9ae.

September 29, 2013
American Bison near Yellowstone

August 29, 2013
Its been one of those weeks for me! This is a pair of Royal Turn near Fort De Soto I took while kayaking in the Bay. Thinking its should be called “PLEASE you don’t impress me!”.

Its been one of those weeks for me! This is a pair of Royal Turn near Fort De Soto I took while kayaking in the Bay. Thinking its should be called “PLEASE you don’t impress me!”.

July 12, 2013
Peyto Lake is a glacier-fed lake located in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The lake itself is easily accessed from the Icefields Parkway. It was named for Bill Peyto, an early trail guide and trapper in the Banff area.

Peyto Lake is a glacier-fed lake located in Banff National Park in the Canadian Rockies. The lake itself is easily accessed from the Icefields Parkway. It was named for Bill Peyto, an early trail guide and trapper in the Banff area.

April 15, 2013
This image was taken above Valley Falls, Oregon from a U.S. Forest Service hang glider launch site. Abert rim is on the right side.
Abert Rim in Lake County, Oregon is one of the highest fault scarps in the United States. It rises 2500 ft above the valley floor, finishing with an 800 ft sheer-sided basalt cap. It was formed during the Miocene epoch.

This image was taken above Valley Falls, Oregon from a U.S. Forest Service hang glider launch site. Abert rim is on the right side.

Abert Rim in Lake County, Oregon is one of the highest fault scarps in the United States. It rises 2500 ft above the valley floor, finishing with an 800 ft sheer-sided basalt cap. It was formed during the Miocene epoch.

April 15, 2013
Great day at the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes managed by the Lakeview District BLM office. This image is made up of 8 images across that were stitched using Photoshop CS6 and 5 images deep for the HDR edited with Photomatix Pro.  I also used Google NIK Color Efex 4 to get a more pop in the color.

Great day at the Christmas Valley Sand Dunes managed by the Lakeview District BLM office. This image is made up of 8 images across that were stitched using Photoshop CS6 and 5 images deep for the HDR edited with Photomatix Pro.  I also used Google NIK Color Efex 4 to get a more pop in the color.

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