Whole Life Magazine

April / May 2017

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Page 29 of 43

D rive just a couple of hours southeast from L.A., and you're enveloped in a pristine, stark landscape with Zen-like beauty — the high desert of the Morongo Basin and the surrounding foothills. e wildlands here encompass a million- plus-acre patchwork of public, nonpro t, and private lands. Stacks of monzogranite formed 100 million years ago rise above otherworldly, bristly Joshua trees and incongruous palm oases. It's possible to see a coyote, a roadrunner, and a desert tortoise all within the same week. Casual hikers who venture o -trail some- times get and stay lost for days. Trek through the cascade of ecosystems that rise from the desert- oor rocks of Indian Cove Campground to the stream hab- itat of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve and the pinyon pine- and juniper-dotted foothills of Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, and it's easy to assume the desert is doing just ne, thank you. But it's not. From the spread of invasive species to gra ti, dumping, and human overuse, the desert needs more than voices. It needs hands. Here is your guide to giving back to L.A.'s increasingly popular high desert as you allow what the poet Wendell Berry called "the peace of wild things" to ow into your soul in this treasure of the American Southwest. Conservation volunteer options for visitors Here are three sterling options for sweat equity in the high des- ert and its adjoining foothills. ere are other worthy nonpro ts and community groups in the Joshua Tree area, but these organi- zations are leaders in desert conservation and have sta focused on volunteers. Wildlands Conservancy e Wildlands Conservancy is a nonpro t dedicated to the dual mission of preserving wildlands and connecting children to na- ture. e conservancy oversees the largest nonpro t nature pre- serve system in California. rough strategic purchases and gi s of over 600,000 acres of land to federal agencies, the conservancy spearheaded the creation of the Mojave Trails and Sand to Snow national monuments. ese continuous lands form wildlife cor- ridors that help vulnerable species survive by protecting their seasonal ranges. e conservancy has a strong volunteer program and lists options and contacts on its website, www.wildlandsconservancy.org (go to "donate," then "volunteer"). Visitors to the Morongo Basin might want to visit one of the three preserves within easy driving distance: Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, Mission Creek Preserve, and Back the to Land: By Katie Sandberg Giving Photo: George Ollen 30 wholelifetimes.com

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