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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Fossils reveal horse evolution and extinction in American West

Cowboy Rounding up Wild HorsesHorses are American icons, running free over the open deserts and plains of the west. Now the very ground beneath their hooves is yielding clues about their deep ancestry. New fossils from the upper Las Vegas Wash outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, are forcing scientists to reconsider horse evolution and extinction in the American west. These fossils are the focus of a presentation by Eric Scott, Curator of Paleontology at the San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands, on Sunday, December 15 at 2:00 p.m. The illustrated lecture, “Through the Desert on a Horse with No Name,” is free with paid museum admission.

Tule Springs and the upper Las Vegas Wash have been known to contain fossils from the Pleistocene Epoch – the “Ice Ages” – for over a century, but the full paleontological richness of the area was not recognized until intensive studies by the County Museum were initiated over a decade ago. These ongoing investigations, funded through a research grant from the Las Vegas field office of the Bureau Land Management, have documented hundreds of localities and thousands of fossils of long-extinct mammoths, camels, bison, and horses, among other mammals. But many of these fossils, including those of horses, are often fragmentary, making it difficult to determine exactly how many species lived here during the Ice Ages.

In late 2012, County Museum scientists excavating an Ice Age mammoth skeleton from Tule Springs uncovered a skull and lower jaw of an extinct species of horse. The new finds preserved anatomical features never before seen in any horses from Tule Springs, making firm identifications possible for the first time. The fossils belong to the extinct species Equus scotti, a large horse common in much of western North America during the Pleistocene Epoch. This species has never before been reported from Tule Springs or Nevada. The site yielding the remains has been dated to over 13,000 years in age, making the fossils among the youngest records of Equus scotti anywhere in North America.

Equus scotti was a highly successful species throughout much of western North America for most of the Ice Ages. The new discovery shows that these horses survived in southern Nevada right up until the end of the Pleistocene – a fact never before known. But in southern California, the species was replaced in the later Ice Ages by an anatomically distinct form.

“That’s likely either a pulse of evolution – a speciation event – or else the immigration of a different species northwards into California from Mexico,” said Scott. “Either way, we can now clarify the timing and geographic extent of this episode, and the relationships of these two species, in a very exciting way. And it means we had as many as four horse species living in the American southwest at the end of the Ice Ages. Compared to horses today, that’s quite a lot of species!”

Museum hosting holiday craft social

This holiday season fill your home and your gift list with creative, hand-made seasonal crafts. Join the San Bernardino County Museum’s Education Division on Saturday, December 14 for a Holiday Craft Social from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and participate in a range of projects, with something for every member of the family. The activities are suitable for ages 3 and up. The cost is $5 per person in addition to museum general admission.

Christmas Wreath on Red Door

“Take time from your busy holiday preparations to relax, create and make memories together. One price gets you everything,” said Jolene Redvale, the museum’s curator of education. “Move from room to room at the museum to make a variety of crafts including ornaments, gift tags, wreaths, table decorations, and more.”

Crafts range from simple to complex, individual creations to group projects, with holiday and seasonal themes. Every participant can select among 8 to 10 holiday crafts—or can do them all. Families can make matching sets of ornaments and a welcome wreath for the home. Create a trio of ornaments for your tree or a friend’s tree, or maybe grandma’s tree! There is no limit to the fun and creativity you can have.

“Bring some friends and spend the afternoon creating holiday decorations and gifts,” said Redvale. “Our range of projects will challenge and inspire. We’ll have plenty of materials to help you to match your own décor or to bring in some new colors and styles to brighten things up.”


Citizens praise Supervisors and County Land Use staff for work on solar energy ordinance

Solar PanelsCitizens thanked the Board of Supervisors and the Land Use Services Department today for working with the community on developing a solar energy ordinance which balances the preservation of the environment and desert landscape with the demands of a burgeoning new energy industry.

During today’s Board meeting, the Supervisors voted to approve the new ordinance, effectively lifting a temporary moratorium imposed in June.

Land Use Services held community meetings to address concerns about new solar energy projects, mostly from citizens throughout the High Desert. After hearing those concerns, new guidelines that will protect natural resources and maintain compatibility with current neighborhood and future development needs were written into the ordinance.

For instance, developers of solar projects will be required to obtain a special use permit which allows for Code Enforcement to monitor the sites to make sure projects are in compliance. The projects must be compatible with current and future land use and have minimal impact on the environment, ecosystem and scenic views.

The Board is expected to adopt the ordinance on December 17 and it would go into effect 30 days later.

Planning Director Terri Rahhal told the Board the department is still working on creating a renewable energy plan that will establish new guidelines into the County’s development code by 2015. The solar energy ordinance is expected to incorporate those changes as the development code for renewable energy projects is updated.

“It is a first step,” Rahhal said of the ordinance. “It doesn’t answer every question or concern out there.”

Proposed County solar ordinance wins praise

From the San Bernardino Sun:

SAN BERNARDINO – A proposed county ordinance that would set development guidelines and establish land use fees for solar energy generation facilities goes before the Board of Supervisors today for consideration.

If approved, the ordinance would end a 1-year moratorium on new solar energy development in the county and would ultimately be incorporated into an amended general plan that will include a policy document on renewable energy and conservation. The updated general plan is expected to be in final draft form in early 2015.

Giant_photovoltaic_arrayDavid Lamfrom, California Desert senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, is one of many environmentalists fighting to ensure that the demand for renewable energy projects in the Mojave Desert doesn’t adversely affect its flora and fauna and ruin the quality of life of its residents.

He said he’s happy with the approach the county has taken.

“I think in the past year the Board of Supervisors has taken an unprecedented interest in the issue of renewable energy, and I’m actually proud of the Board of Supervsiors,” Lamfrom said Monday. “I think they’ve taken seriously an issue that could have fundamentally, if not handled properly, drastically altered the quality of life for people living in rural areas of the county.”

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