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Students face their fears at the Outdoor Education Center

October 21st, 2014 by Melissa, Outdoor Education Intern

From a very young age most of us are afraid of the dark. As we get older we usually don’t find the dark to be as scary as when we were little, but most of us would probably admit that it’s a fear that doesn’t completely go away. As a human, being afraid of the dark is totally understandable because we can’t see as well in the dark as we do when there’s is light. Plus, it’s a fear that’s constantly instilled in us through horror movies, scary stories, and Halloween. At the Mono Lake Committee Outdoor Education Center (OEC) we try to get students to face their fears, including fear of the dark.

Many students come to the OEC from large urban areas, such as Los Angeles, and most of them have never been in a wilderness setting. When they first get here they are a bit nervous and quiet, so, to get them out of their shells and comfortable with us and the surroundings, we take them on a “night walk.”

For the night walk we take the students to the beautiful Jeffrey pine forest near Mono Mills and walk with them along an old volcanic ash road in the early evening after the sun has set. We all walk silently along the road for about ¼ of a mile and then stop to do a few activities, such as howling at the moon like coyotes and learning about rhodopsin. After this each of the students does a solo walk.

What happens during the solo walk is that one of the instructors walks back along the same path the group came and sits and waits at the start of the walk for the students as each of them walks back, by themselves, to the waiting instructor. Some of the students, like many of us, are afraid of the dark, so before we begin the night walk we ask the students to talk about what they are concerned about pertaining to the walk. We call this the “circle of fears” and it allows the OEC instructors to make the students feel comfortable and safe during their solo walk.

After the students express their fears we explain why they don’t need to be concerned. For example, students often say they are afraid of tripping, so we explain to them that we will be walking on an old road that doesn’t have obstacles, such as tree roots, that they could potentially trip on. Common concerns that people express are getting lost, being attacked by wild animals, and their mind playing tricks on them. However, there are times when people express fears that are out of the ordinary and sometimes I’m really taken by surprise. This brings me to my story of an amazing group called Homeboy Industries that visited the OEC in late August.

Homeboy Industries is an independent nonprofit in Los Angeles that serves formerly gang-involved men and women with a number of free services and programs and provides them with employment. This August, nine Homeboy members and one leader came to the OEC to learn about the Mono Basin and experience life outside of LA. On their second evening at the OEC we took them on the night walk, and before the walk we went through the “circle of fears” like normal.

The 2014 Homeboy crew at the Mono Basin Outdoor Education Center. Photo by Melissa Boyd.

I was expecting them to say things like being afraid of tripping and getting lost, but most of them had responses that were very unexpected. … more »

Book review: Relicts of a Beautiful Sea lends new understanding of the desert around us

October 21st, 2014 by Barbara, Information Center & Bookstore Manager

The Inyo Mountain slender salamander is found in just five locations (all in the Inyo Mountains) and has been classified as endangered since 1996. The Devil’s Hole pupfish only lives in Devil’s Hole in the Armagosa Valley—a body of water smaller than your bedroom and with water averaging 93 degrees Fahrenheit. These species have adapted and descended from ancestors living in the Great Basin when it was an enormous sea.

Relicts of a Beautiful Sea book cover.

Conservation biologist Christopher Norment’s talk and book signing at the Mono Lake Committee on October 15th brought wonder, understanding, and a new appreciation for life in its many forms. Norment’s book, Relicts of a Beautiful Sea: Survival, Extinction and Conservation in a Desert World, looks at the Great Basin and the sea it once was.  A review by T. DeLene Beeland, author of The Secret World of Red Wolves, states, “This is a unique natural history story, authored by a working scientist who handily imparts facts and details while infusing the pages with a personal and emotional quality rarely seen in popular writings by scientists. Its playful contrast of hard realities, artistic impressions, and personal feelings sets it well apart from other books in the field.”

Looking at the Inyo Mountain slender salamander, the black toad, and other creatures who have adapted and survived, Norment makes a plea for the conservation of all species, not just those who benefit humans through providing food, performing a task like water purification, or having medical value. Norment compares the perilous lives of these species with the plight of each of us as we face challenges, isolation, and uncertainty in our own lives.

Are you looking to deepen your understanding of and connection with the desert west? Does someone in your life relish developing new understanding of this rare and beautiful land? Relicts of a Beautiful Sea can be purchased in the Mono Lake Committee bookstore in Lee Vining or online.

May we cherish all species.

Harrison “Hap” Dunning honored with 2014 Defender of the Trust Award

October 15th, 2014 by Arya, Communications Director

The Mono Lake Committee has a celebrated tradition of honoring individuals who champion Mono Lake and advocate for the public trust with the Defender of the Trust Award. The California Supreme Court’s definition of the public trust doctrine in its landmark 1983 Mono Lake decision goes: “The public trust is an affirmation of the duty of the state to protect the people’s common heritage of streams, lakes, marshlands and tidelands….”

2014 Defender of the Trust awardee Hap Dunning, right, with Mono Lake Committee Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin. Photo by Elin Ljung.

On September 27, 2014 the Committee honored Harrison “Hap” Dunning with the 2014 Defender of the Trust Award here in the Mono Basin. Hap accepted the award during a dinner in his honor. IStorm Over Mono, author John Hart wrote, “The notion that [the public trust doctrine] might be applied to curtail water rights was truly novel. There appears to have been just one other person in California in the mid-1970s who was aware of this possibility: Harrison C. Dunning, a law professor at the University of California at Davis….”

Since the 1970s, Hap has been a leading voice for California water law reform. … more »

Fall color update: Mill Creek webcam shows peak color

October 12th, 2014 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist

As the sun dips lower in the sky and we enter mid-October, the aspen, cottonwood, and willow trees of the Mono Basin, as well as other deciduous trees and plants, become more colorful at low elevations. You can track these changes from anywhere on our three webcams.

Mill Creek on 10/9/14 from the Mill Creek Webcam.

Mill Creek on October 9, 2014 from the Mill Creek Webcam.

The Mono Lake Webcam shows that Lee Vining Creek is very colorful near Mono Lake. The Lee Vining Webcam shows a lot of color in town. And the Mill Creek Webcam, looking down Mill Creek toward Mono Lake, has the best … more »

Author reading at the Mono Lake Committee: Relicts of Beautiful Sea with Christopher Norment

October 11th, 2014 by Barbara, Information Center & Bookstore Manager

Along a tiny spring in a narrow canyon near Death Valley, seemingly against all odds, an Inyo Mountain slender salamander makes its home. “The desert,” writes author Christopher Norment, “is defined by the absence of water, and yet in the desert there is water enough, if you live properly.” Relicts of a Beautiful Sea explores the existence of rare, unexpected, and sublime desert creatures such as the black toad and four pupfishes unique to the desert West.

Join us here at the Mono Lake Committee this coming Wednesday, October 15 at 1:00pm for a chance to meet Norment and hear him read excerpts from his book. Here at the edge of the desert West, it should be a fun afternoon with great conversation! … more »

Call for photo submissions: 2016 Mono Lake Calendar

October 10th, 2014 by Arya, Communications Director

Since 1986, the magnificent geological and ecological wonders of Mono Lake have been celebrated in the Mono Lake Calendar, published by the Mono Lake Committee. Sales of the calendar help to fund the efforts of our non-profit organization to protect and restore Mono Lake and its tributary streams.

The call for submissions for the 2016 Mono Lake Calendar is open until Friday, November 21, 2014.

We’ve simplified and streamlined the submission requirementscheck them out and send us your photos today!

… more »

Your Amazon purchases can help support the Mono Lake Committee

October 7th, 2014 by Barbara, Information Center & Bookstore Manager

“The holidays are coming!”

“Okay, yes, they’re coming eventually, but give it a break, okay? Christmas is still over two months away, so let’s not get too excited about it yet.”

“Yes, but if I start ordering stuff now, I get it out of the way and avoid the crowds. Especially if I order online.”

“Well, umm, yeah….”

If you’re like me, when you make your holiday or other purchases, your first priorities are supporting local businesses and also causes you believe in (like the Mono Lake Committee!). And if you’re like me, you probably … more »

Fall colors are beautiful and brilliant in the Mono Basin

October 3rd, 2014 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

Despite a windstorm last week that stripped some aspen leaves from the trees in the Mono Basin, the color just keeps getting better and better. Groves in the Mono Basin still have lots of green leaves mixed in with yellow and a bit of orange, so there’s plenty of fall color yet to come in the next few weeks.

Looking west across Parker Lake, September 24, 2014. Photo courtesy of Mary Ljung.

Today along the June Lake Loop, brilliant yellow trees really stood out against the mostly green … more »

Two Mono Lake anniversaries today, 20 and 30 years ago

September 28th, 2014 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

September 28 is a day that figures large in the Mono Lake story. On this day in 1994 the California State Water Resources Control Board issued Decision 1631, often known as the decision to save Mono Lake. And on this day in 1984 the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area was created, at the time the only designation of its kind in the country.

The California State Water Resources Control Board on September 28, 1994, the day the Board voted unanimously to protect Mono Lake through Decision 1631. Mono Lake Committee archive photo.

In 1994, after 43 days of testimony about Mono Lake, the five-member State Water Board unanimously adopted Decision 1631, which set permanent streamflows for Mono Basin streams and a lake level of 6,392 feet to protect Mono Lake’s public trust values … more »

A reading and book signing with Gary Snyder, Tom Killion, Kim Stanley Robinson, & Laurie Glover

September 24th, 2014 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

"Evolution Valley from McClures Meadow," by Tom Killion.

Four greats of California and Western word and art will be here in Lee Vining this weekend—join us for a reading and book signing with Gary Snyder, Tom Killion, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Laurie Glover!

"Mt. Whitney from Little Claire Lake," by Tom Killion.

Sunday, September 28
Lee Vining Community Center

Gary Snyder is perhaps best known as a poet, but he is also an essayist, lecturer, environmental activist, and winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the American Book Award.

Tom Killion‘s Japanese-style wood block and lino-cut prints depict the rugged Sierra Nevada and California coastal landscape.

Kim Stanley Robinson is a literary science fiction writer, best known for his Mars trilogy, who writes about themes of ecological sustainability, economic and social justice, and … more »

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