Thursday, November 27, 2014

Hemmed In

The BLM is once again stirring up a storm. This time it is a bit more muted, while working to fly under the radar with their paper work but nonetheless, dramatic in its long term effects on Clark County.

Living in rural northeast Clark County, public lands are a part of all our lives. All of our communities are surrounded by these lands. Some of us own property that bound public managed land. Some of our livelihoods depend on access to our public lands and all of us depend on utilities to deliver electrical and water services that cross these lands and most of us recreate in one form or another on this government managed land. With so much dependency on these lands it would be assumed that both parties would be thoroughly involved in designing a management plan. However as precedent has proven, this is never the case.

The BLM has released their latest management proposals for the Southern Nevada region. These proposals include changing the status for over 250,000 acres of land.  For residents of the Virgin and Moapa Valleys the impact hits close to home. The Mormon Mesa between the two valleys is greatly impacted, Gold Butte stands to take even further alterations as well as almost every other hill, valley, wash and mesa stands to get some designation or label of one kind or another.

The BLM has asked for the public to comment on their proposal and has given but a short window to do so. The closing date for comments is January 7, 2015. They are not asking for our feelings or how it will impact our lives but critical analysis down to the page and section that we think is faulty or where they have made flawed analysis. The irony of it all is that the document is heavy on fluff and light on substance and actual data to sink your teeth into. They don’t even have decent maps by which the public can scrutinize what is happening in their back yard. 

With the timeline given to review the documents the BLM is in essence saying “trust us”. However this is a hard pill to swallow since all the agency has done since 1976 FLPMA is erode the relationship they once had will the people.

If the BLM doesn't even have the courage and decency to come out to the rural communities that they are hemming in with their latest proposal, then I think there should be and extension of time at least until they can come out and give detailed presentations on their plans with decent maps, the science behind their rationale and how this will directly impact the rural citizens of Clark County and all those who frequent the back country. They have said this proposal has taken them almost six years to produce, well I think at least a year to review the said documents accompanied by presentations to the communities and widely available maps with clear information should be the least they can do.

The BLM’s latest proposal to so narrowly manage our public lands clearly, reveals that this agency is disoriented and adrift, readily succumbing to the political breeze spilling over the Potomac.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Out and About Sensing - Citizen Science Part II

Since I wrote my last post about my Arduino projects I have learned a lot. I released my first project into the wild the night of the huge rain storm we had in September when north east Clark County experienced some intense flooding. On that weather station, which the boys and I call DRASTIC, I was logging humidity, temperature, light, time and soil moisture.  I was able to make readings for a while and capture some interesting data, however I found out the hard way that my system was not water tight. After about 21 hours of capturing data I shorted out one of the circuits and stopped capturing data.

This is the graph of our sensors the night of the big rain storm. You can see my system biffed it in the morning but we still managed to capture some interesting data.

This was the afternoon after the big flood and there was still a lot of water draining off Mormon Mesa. 

We also found this guy while we were out checking our Arduino system on Mormon Mesa. 

Since that time I have been building and testing more sensors to capture even more data with the Arduino system. One of the sensors that I have built and tested over the last month is a soil temperature monitor that captures data at 3, 6 and 12 inches below the soil.

the boys and I out checking on the system

Another one of the areas I have been experimenting with is utilizing solar panels and rechargeable batteries to power the Arduino system.  I can successfully run the Arduino system of my solar panels and record the data but during the low light and the night I am out of order. Since the nighttime is a time of activity in the desert and the low light conditions like a storm is when I really would like to be capturing data this is less than ideal. Because of this I have tried to wire up rechargeable AA batteries within the electrical system to store the needed energy. So far I have been able to extend the operating life of the Arduino system into the night for a while but I have not yet been able to make it through the night. This setup is still vulnerable through an extended weather even with heavy cloud cover for multiple days so there is still testing and experiments left to go. One of the requirements for my system is that it remains as small, light and cheap as possible. I know through larger batteries I could extend the life but once this system is built it will be deployed out in the hills so I want it to remain small.

Another of the huge breakthroughs that I have been able to make is to run my Arduino system off of AA batteries for an extended period of time. Out of the box the Arduino system will only run for approximately 6 hours off of 4 AA batteries. However through a series of articles on the web and countless hours of testing I was able to tweak the code to shut down the Arduino between readings and wake up on a timer interrupt.  This will be huge. I hope to take this enhancement and tie it together with what I have learned from the solar recharging experiments and tie it together so I can run my device, I hope, indefinitely.

With all that I have learned and built over the last two months I hope to get my Arduino based weather\environmental monitor back out into the wild and start building a repository of data for North Eastern Clark County that I can then use for future experiments and analysis.
This is the barometric pressure as registered through our Arduino in mid November. This is one of the sensor we are incorporating into our system 

One of the first projects I hope to do is start collecting data within some of the areas that have experienced wild fires within the Gold Butte region and start assembling the pieces for a larger scale analysis. I will continue to post updates on our projects.

the kids and I out checking on another iteration of our Arduino based weather station

Public Lands Day 2014 - Logandale Trails - Success

Public Lands Day 2014 at Logandale Trails was a success. We had great support from different groups like Vegas Valley 4-wheelers and Dunes and Trails as well as Scout Troops, local citizens, Moapa Valley Rotary Club and others. We had a good flow of people throughout the morning and early afternoon as people were able to come out and support the event. There was a lot of cumulative service hours given and a beautiful day to be out and about enjoying our public lands.

We started at 8:00 AM at the Logandale Trails, Trail-head with doughnuts and juice and a quick introduction and safety overview by Partners-In-Conservation. Then each group went out and performed different service projects. Many contributed to trash clean up around the trail-head and along the main trails within the Logandale Trails system.

After the main cleanup there was a lunch provided by Moapa Valley Rotary Club and a raffle.

Partners-In-Conservation appreciates the involvement and service by all those who were able to attend.

This event was originally planned for September but the rain and flooding that took place on that weekend forced required the event to be rescheduled. 

Thanks to Elise of Partners-In-Conservation for her hard work.