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In just two weeks learned of the passing of two friends.

Don Connolly  On August 8th we lost the unique wit and charm of Don Connolly, the beloved "Mayor of Panamint Valley."

Countless Death Valley tourists remember Don Connolly as the "informative" caretaker of the Ballerat ghost town and proprietor of the general store there.  His friends and regular visitors would keep company with him at the Ballerat store underneath the only decent shade for miles around.  For years he enjoyed the self-bestowed, yet widely honored title of Mayor of Panamint Valley, and he openly enjoyed and shared in all of the privileges thereof.

Don also workied at Panamint Springs with then owner Jerry Graham, and later made Ridgecrest his home.  Click here to read the thoughts of some of Don's friends on our Death Valley Talk forum.   Don was 67.

Robert FunkhouserOn August 10th we lost another friend, Robert Funkhouser, the co-founder of the Western Slope No Fee Coalition.

Robert dedicated the last years of his life to the goal of keeping public lands free and open to all.  He worked toward the goal of rolling back, first the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program (Fee Demo), and later the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, which replaced Fee Demo and made access fees for Forest Service and BLM lands permanent.

At the time of his death, he was extremely optimistic about legislation being drafted by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) that promises to roll back the worst fee abuses by the public lands agencies. 

Our first Guest Opinion article here at was that by Robert.  Click here to read his May 19, 2007 submission .  To learn more about Robert and his work, visit the Western Slope No-Fee Coalition web site . Robert was 50.

On May 15th the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) put in place their Stage I restrictions regarding the use of campfires and barbecues in the California Desert District.  This is an annual occurrence in preparation for the hot and dry summer fire season.  Normally, no permit is needed for campfires on the BLM's desert lands, but the State I restrictions now require everyone who wishes a campfire or barbecue to obtain an ordinary campfire permit from any BLM or Forest Service field office, fire or ranger station.  The State I general area of influence includes BLM lands north and east of the Angeles, San Bernardino and Cleveland National Forests.

Remember that within Death Valley National Park, campfires are allowed only in provided fire pits within developed campsites.  Backcountry campfires are not allowed at any time of the year, with or without a campfire permit.  Any person convicted of knowingly or willfully violating a fire prevention order can be fined up to $1,000, receive up to 12 months in jail, or both.  That person also is liable for the cost of damages and suppression of the wildfire.

For more information or to obtain a permit contact the BLM’s California Desert District Office at (951) 697-5200 or local field offices in Barstow (760) 252-6000 or Ridgecrest (760) 384-5400.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released on May 10, 2007, a proposed plan amendment to the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) plan to re-open a 3.75 mile segment of the Furnace Creek Road in the White Mountains, just north of Death Valley National Park.

Furnace Creek Road has been closed to motorized vehicles under an interim order for more than four years, and it remains closed pending the outcome of the current plan amendment process.  The proposal affects only the lower 3.75 segment of the road that is located on BLM managed lands, whereas the remaining 7.5 miles of the 100+ year old road remain closed by order of the Inyo National Forest.

Read more: BLM Proposes to Re-open Portion of Furnace Creek Road

This week marked the return of Death Valley as having the nation's hottest temperatures. Although Death Valley regularly enjoys this distinction for weeks, if not months, at a time during the summer, in the winter the temperatures are not only mild, but quite pleasant.  With yesterday's temperature reaching 103 F degrees, it looks like summer has made its way to Death Valley.

Visitors should consult the Morning Report prior to visiting Death Valley so they are aware of the temperatures, and to dress and pack accordingly.  Remember to drink plenty of water during your visit!

Death Valley Area News
The latest news from inside Death Valley National Park