Friday, March 19, 2010

Pronghorns to Replace Wild Horses

Pronghorns, the second-fastest land animal in the world, could be re-introduced in the East Mojave

The Press-Enterprise

The antelope-like pronghorns that once thrived in the California desert could make a comeback.

Federal and state officials are working on a plan to reintroduce the animals -- second only to Cheetahs for speed -- to a remote plateau in the East Mojave, near the California-Nevada border south of Interstate 15.

Pronghorns, once plentiful, were hunted out of the region and haven't been seen there in nearly 100 years.

California Wilderness Coalition

The area of the Castle Mountains Mine, a former goldmine that is being restored to a more natural state, may be sold to the U.S. government and included in the Mojave National Preserve. The plan includes returning pronghorns -- a fast-moving hoofed mammal -- to the area.

The reintroduction could get a boost if Sen. Dianne Feinstein's desert protection bill pending before Congress is adopted.

The legislation, among many provisions, would add the Castle Mountains and surrounding area -- nearly 30,000 acres that includes the former pronghorn range -- to the Mojave National Preserve. The land is overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The proposal has drawn opposition from an Escondido-based energy company that hopes to invest $1.2 billion in a wind farm that would generate electricity for as many as 300,000 homes, a company official said. If the area becomes part of the preserve, energy development would not be allowed.

The National Park Service, which manages the 16-year-old preserve, is working with state Department of Fish and Game officials on contingency plans to re-introduce pronghorn to the grassy plateau, known as the Lanfair Valley.

Placing the area under park service jurisdiction would give the agency a chance to restore a missing species to the landscape, said Dennis Schramm, preserve superintendent.

"We identified this opportunity about 15 years ago," he said.

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