Tracking land policy in the Golden State.
The Hidden Desert
The California desert doesn't give up its secrets readily. To get to know the place, you've got to spend time here: watching, waiting, learning. It's hard to do that from behind the safety glass of a vehicle speeding along the Interstate. But if you leave your car, tighten your shoelaces, walk until you find an interesting spot, and sit there for a while, you just might start to see something good. Natural history writer Chris Clarke has been doing just that for more than two decades, and in The Hidden Desert he shares some of what he's found.
If Bill Nye Was a Very Old Tree, What Kind of Very Old Tree Would He Be?

If Bill Nye Was a Very Old Tree, What Kind of Very Old Tree Would He Be?

The Hidden Desert: When Bill Nye appeared on Bill Maher's show this month he ventured into my usual turf: the deserts of California. That's cool, but he made an error in basic fact that I can't help but pick at.
Putting Descartes Before the Coarse: How Industry Blinds Us To Beauty

Putting Descartes Before the Coarse: How Industry Blinds Us To Beauty

The Hidden Desert: Who could think there was beauty in taking a living stretch of wild earth and subjugating it? Twenty-first century American aesthetes, that's who.
Reality and Solitude: Getting Immersed in the Winter Desert

Reality and Solitude: Getting Immersed in the Winter Desert

The Hidden Desert: The dirt road ended five miles off the pavement, in a valley ringed by crumbling granite peaks. I got out and stepped into the biting wind. I took only a short walk, really, in the scheme of things. Four miles out and back. But it changed me: a gift befitting the season.
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What I'm Thankful For, 1,000 Times Over

What I'm Thankful For, 1,000 Times Over

The Hidden Desert: This is the 1,000th piece I've written for KCET, and so it seems like a good opportunity for reflection on those things in my life, and my work, for which I am grateful. And given the nice round number and the week in which it falls, I hope you won't mind a bit of sharing of the things I'm grateful for.
Horrible Toy Commercial Accidentally Says Something Important About Nature

Horrible Toy Commercial Accidentally Says Something Important About Nature

The Hidden Desert: Why has this ad gotten to us? Its creators have hit us in a sore spot. We've got a problem with how we view "nature," and it's actually got very little to do with kids.
Are There 2 Species of Joshua Trees?

Are There 2 Species of Joshua Trees?

The Hidden Desert: Living in isolation from their cousins, the eastern and western groups of Joshua trees have evolved different growth habits that result in a different appearance. But just how different are they?
Walking Among 2,000-Year-Old Plants in the Mojave

Walking Among 2,000-Year-Old Plants in the Mojave

The Hidden Desert: They're as common as liveoaks on the California coast. And most people seeing them don't realize that even the smaller clumps can be mind-bendingly ancient.
Why Joshua Trees Look The Way They Do

Why Joshua Trees Look The Way They Do

The Hidden Desert: There are a few reasons Joshua trees look different from other trees. One of the most important ones: they're built to different blueprints.
4 New and Legless Lizard Species Discovered in California

4 New and Legless Lizard Species Discovered in California

The Hidden Desert: Four new California lizard species have been described in a new scientific paper published last week, and a couple of them were hiding in plain sight.
The Pinacate Beetle is Not Afraid of You

The Pinacate Beetle is Not Afraid of You

The Hidden Desert: I saw it crossing the trail ahead: a low black dot with an air of confidence. It made no attempt to hurry for cover as I approached. It was the placid self-assuredness of an animal that knew it could make life miserable for anything that bothered it.
This Month, Desert Monsters Emerge From Their Subterranean Lairs

This Month, Desert Monsters Emerge From Their Subterranean Lairs

The Hidden Desert: "Mother of God, what for the sake of all that's holy is that?"
Is That a Cactus? A Guide to Identifying Cacti and Their Look-Alikes

Is That a Cactus? A Guide to Identifying Cacti and Their Look-Alikes

The Hidden Desert: You take a step backward and feel a sharp pain in your calf. You turn: a plant with swollen stems and sharp spines has invaded your personal space, puncturing your skin. You suppress a curse, opting for something milder. "Stupid cactus!" But is it a cactus?
What Good Are Joshua Trees?

What Good Are Joshua Trees?

The Hidden Desert: We live in an age when the very existence of a tree, or a tortoise, or a mere untrammeled piece of space is often seen as an affront to progress or economic growth. To hold that a piece of land is better filled with Joshua trees than with pavement is to take a stand against a way of life that many people hold dear.
Sometimes You Take Sides in Nature Whether It's a Good Idea or Not

Sometimes You Take Sides in Nature Whether It's a Good Idea or Not

The Hidden Desert: Observers of nature are supposed to be dispassionate, to try to refrain from getting attached to individual animals. We all eat, and die, and are eaten in turn, and that's how life is supposed to work. No sense taking sides. That's not what happened this morning.
An Ancient Partnership Put in Danger

An Ancient Partnership Put in Danger

The Hidden Desert: Giant Sequoias and coast redwoods are among the many trees put on a group's endangered list, but the story of whitebark pine should not be overlooked.
Help On The Way For Big-Eared Bats

Help On The Way For Big-Eared Bats

The Hidden Desert: Things have been getting worse for the Townsend's big-eared bat in recent decades, but now the state of California may finally be about to give the species a little extra protection.
Drones for Good: Researcher to Study Foxes From the Air

Drones for Good: Researcher to Study Foxes From the Air

The Hidden Desert: A wildlife biologist grad student at Duke University wants to remedy our lack of knowledge about desert kit foxes, and she's using some remarkably new technology to do so -- both in the field and on the Internet.
Summer Evenings In the Desert

Summer Evenings In the Desert

The Hidden Desert: When the sun shines in my eyes, sunset's an hour off, and it's time to walk out into the desert.
How Did the Joshua Tree Get its Name?

How Did the Joshua Tree Get its Name?

The Hidden Desert: The common story of how the Joshua tree got its name is pretty, and very widespread. But is it true?
One of the Oddest Flowers: Desert Trumpet

One of the Oddest Flowers: Desert Trumpet

The Hidden Desert: From the Joshua trees and saguaros to the raggedy chollas, there are a lot of odd-looking plants in the desert. You'll have to get out of your car and look around to really get to know one of the oddest.
Our Lord's Candle, Spanish Bayonet, or... What Should We Call This Plant?

Our Lord's Candle, Spanish Bayonet, or... What Should We Call This Plant?

The Hidden Desert: It's one of my favorite plants in Southern California, but I'm never sure what to call it in polite company.
When Baby Animals Go Missing

When Baby Animals Go Missing

The Hidden Desert: Chris Clarke on neighborhood wildlife in Joshua Tree and scientists' attachment to the animals they study.
Sky Burial: Feeding the Condor

Sky Burial: Feeding the Condor

The Hidden Desert: Though condors are threatened by many factors, the greatest long-term threat would seem to be a lack of large dead mammals for the scavenging birds to eat safely. I have a way we might fix that.
Globemallow Binding the Desert's Wounds

Globemallow Binding the Desert's Wounds

The Hidden Desert: The khaki West Mojave bore a color I hadn't seen there before: a bright sparse orange scattered across the desert, almost as if someone had planted a few hundred thousand California poppies out among the paper bag bush and creosote.
Joshua Tree Bloom Due To Climate Change? Not So Fast

Joshua Tree Bloom Due To Climate Change? Not So Fast

The Hidden Desert: I've warned of the danger of human-created climate change since the early 1970s, so you might expect me to be completely on board with this analysis. I'm not.
The Grand Defiance of Agave Blooms

The Grand Defiance of Agave Blooms

The Hidden Desert: Heading downhill yesterday toward "downtown" Joshua Tree I saw it. It was the developing stalk of a flower, growing out of one of my neighbors' Agaves.
Butterflies in the Desert

Butterflies in the Desert

The Hidden Desert: A memoir from September 2007 of butterflies, and night skies, and coming to terms with loss in the Mojave desert.
Why Isn't the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Protecting Eagles?

Why Isn't the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Protecting Eagles?

The Hidden Desert: If FWS really wanted to get "aggressive" in enforcing the provisions of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act that protect eagles, it would send a message not by way of a press release, but by way of the local U.S. Attorney.
Joshua Trees and Family Trees, A Remembrance

Joshua Trees and Family Trees, A Remembrance

The Hidden Desert: I left New York at 22 and hitchhiked west. I awoke one morning in northern Nevada. The emptiness of the desert landscape completely unnerved me. The landscape seemed unadorned and ugly, and yet I could not tear my eyes off the far hills.
Group Petitions to List Desert Kit Fox as Threatened

Group Petitions to List Desert Kit Fox as Threatened

The Hidden Desert: Desert kit foxes are in trouble, facing threats from industrial development of their habitat to a deadly outbreak of distemper that's killing untold numbers of foxes.
Bill Would Ban Bobcat Trapping in California

Bill Would Ban Bobcat Trapping in California

The Hidden Desert: After controversy was sparked in Joshua Tree, a bill has been introduced into the state legislature that would end the California's nearly unregulated bobcat trapping season.
What The Heck is a Milk-Vetch?

What The Heck is a Milk-Vetch?

The Hidden Desert: If it seems to you you've heard the word "milk-vetch" come up in one desert environmental issue after another, you're remembering right.
Why California Should Ban Bobcat Trapping

Why California Should Ban Bobcat Trapping

The Hidden Desert: The last time you took a long road trip, did you assume you had enough gas because you checked the gas gauge a couple days ago? That's how California manages its bobcat population: letting the "supply" go uncounted for more than three decades as we burn through a thousand or more each year.
Cactus Spines Can Affect You Deeply

Cactus Spines Can Affect You Deeply

The Hidden Desert: A painful step on a cactus leads writer Chris Clarke down the path of explaining the fearsome plant family's range of weapons.
They Kept Ward Valley Nuclear-Free (Part 2)

They Kept Ward Valley Nuclear-Free (Part 2)

The Hidden Desert: An unprecedented coalition of Native people and other environmental activists fought the State of California to a standstill 15 years ago on a proposal to dump low-level nuclear waste in Ward Valley.
They Kept Ward Valley Nuclear-Free (Part 1)

They Kept Ward Valley Nuclear-Free (Part 1)

The Hidden Desert: It's one of those places in the California desert where you can find yourself 20 miles off the pavement without much problem. It's also where California almost put its final dump for low-level nuclear waste.
New Spider Species Remind Us Just How Much We Don't Know About the Desert

New Spider Species Remind Us Just How Much We Don't Know About the Desert

The Hidden Desert: The discovery of 13 new desert spider species reminds us that our deserts are largely unexplored by biologists, and that we may be losing species before we know they're there.
Rains May Unlock An Enduring Mojave Mystery

Rains May Unlock An Enduring Mojave Mystery

The Hidden Desert: If the Mojave Desert gets some rain in the next six weeks, then we might just see one of the desert's least-understood phenomena take place, as Joshua trees work to create a new generation of themselves.
The Tree of Knowledge

The Tree of Knowledge

The Hidden Desert: I don't know what kind of oak it is, and I don't realize as I take a dead leaf for later identification that I'm about to connect one of humankind's oldest technologies with one of our newest.
What the Eagle Video Hoax Says About Our Place in Nature

What the Eagle Video Hoax Says About Our Place in Nature

The Hidden Desert: Even exposed as a hoax, the "eagle captures child" video's immediate extreme popularity reminds us of something very real indeed about our place in the natural world.
Joshua Trees, Taxonomy, and Divorce

Joshua Trees, Taxonomy, and Divorce

The Hidden Desert: All life on earth, every thing that lives and has ever lived, every bird and beetle and box elder tree shares a common ancestor. We are each and every one of us related, each and every one of us the front of an impossibly ancient flood of genes rising from a single spring.
Owens Valley Water Wars Heat Up Again

Owens Valley Water Wars Heat Up Again

The Hidden Desert: In November, the California Air Resources Board ruled that according to data from lakebed monitors, the DWP was solely responsible for the horrendous air quality caused by dust blowing off Owens Lake. DWP's response? Get rid of the monitors.
Antelope Squirrels Get Ready For Winter

Antelope Squirrels Get Ready For Winter

The Hidden Desert: Here's a Mojave Desert living pro-tip: don't leave your jackalope on the porch in November. If you do, the antelope squirrels will strip off its fur to line their nests.
What Climate Change Will Mean for the California Desert

What Climate Change Will Mean for the California Desert

The Hidden Desert: Hotter temperatures, the extinction of Joshua trees, more dust storms, and more could become the new normal.
The Mojave Cross Returns

The Mojave Cross Returns

The Hidden Desert: The controversial Mojave Cross returns to Cima Dome in -- but not in -- the Mojave National Preserve.
The Dog In The Road

The Dog In The Road

The Hidden Desert: I could only stand there, on the white line in the middle of the two-lane desert road, and hope the oncoming cars saw me in my dark clothing in time to slow and swerve around us.
Autumn Comes To The Desert

Autumn Comes To The Desert

The Hidden Desert: The shifting seasons bring changes to the Mojave Desert
Cactus Removal to Begin in Joshua Tree National Park

Cactus Removal to Begin in Joshua Tree National Park

The Hidden Desert: Joshua Tree National Park plans to make it easier for people to leave their cars and see cholla cacti by removing cholla to make more room for cars.
House Cats: Why I Don't Let Mine Outside

House Cats: Why I Don't Let Mine Outside

The Hidden Desert: Keeping your cat inside really is better for everyone concerned: you, your cat, and the wildlife struggling to live outdoors.
Winter in Joshua Tree Country

Winter in Joshua Tree Country

The Hidden Desert: Joshua trees may denote hot deserts in many minds, but the place they live in gets pretty cold as well.