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Seminar spotlight: Fire Ecology of the Eastern Sierra

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017 by Michael, Mono Lake Intern
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Fire has been shaping Eastern Sierra landscapes for centuries. Human interactions with fire in the Western United States have greatly influenced wildfire type, severity, and its effect on forest ecosystems, creating management challenges across the region. If you are interested in learning more about wildfire and its role in shaping forest ecosystems, you’re in luck! There are still spots available in Malcolm North’s Fire Ecology of the Eastern Sierra field seminar, coming up September 9–10.

Smoke was visible at South Tufa in August 2016 as the Clark Fire burned south of the Mono Basin. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Fire Ecology of the Eastern Sierra • September 9–10 • $155 per person/$140 for members • sign up here • view full itinerary here (more…)

Mono Lake Committee goes net-zero with solar

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In 2010 the Mono Lake Committee started the process of converting to solar power with nine solar panels installed on the roof of the “ice house” office building, and then added an additional 33 panels to the roof of the bookstore building in 2012. We also took a number of conservation measures, such as switching to LED bulbs in the bookstore, and have been monitoring our usage carefully. By 2016 we had completed our big conservation steps and reduced our annual grid power demand by over 80%.

Despite these reductions, we had a goal to generate all the power needed for the bookstore and offices right here on the property. In late June 2017, Sierra Solar installed 16 more panels, and now that the grid-intertie has been completed, we are expecting to achieve net zero power demand on the grid on an annual basis!

Four panels fit on the canopy over the main bookstore doors, generating power and providing visitors with a visual example of our commitment to sustainable energy. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Most of the Committee’s solar panels are largely invisible to members and visitors since they’re atop the bookstore and ice house office roofs. We asked Jim at Sierra Solar to check (more…)

Scaling back the fence thanks to a rising Mono Lake

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 by Jenny, Birding Intern
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I recently had the opportunity to go out to the landbridge to help with maintenance of the gull fence. I woke up at 5:00am in order to get out there in time, and by 6:30am we were ready to head out, chest waders and all.

The north shore of the landbridge is a surreal, other-worldly landscape. Photo by Jennifer Rieke.

This was my first time to the north shore of Mono Lake and it was quite a contrast to the scenic southern shore I am used to. With Black Point behind us, we trudged over salt flats towards Negit Island. Passing skeletons of last year’s giant blazing stars and coyote scat, we approached the electric fence when suddenly I heard it—the clamor of the gull colony! I put my binoculars up to see the islets overflowing with California Gulls. This was a place I had only imagined in my mind, and now it was coming to life. (more…)

Tioga Pass “lower gate” will open on Monday, June 19 at 2:00pm

Saturday, June 17th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Caltrans will open the “lower gate” on Highway 120 west, Tioga Pass, on Monday, June 19 at 2:00pm.

This gate will be opened on Monday, June 19, 2017 at 2:00pm. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The lower gate is located 3.5 miles west of Highway 395, and when it is open visitors and locals can access the high country near the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park. The park gate will remain closed; access to Tuolumne Meadows and beyond is still not possible by car.

The area of Tioga Pass around the park gate is still mostly snow-covered, lakes are covered in old unstable ice, and creeks and rivers are running very fast and cold, so be prepared for those conditions if you plan to recreate there once the lower gate is open.

Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore summer hours

Sunday, June 11th, 2017 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager
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Starting Thursday, June 15 the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore will be open from 8:00am–9:00pm daily.

Starting Thursday, June 15 the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore will be open 8:00am–9:00pm daily. Photo by Lily Pastel.

Stop by to get information about what to do in the area, find out where to stay or camp, learn about Mono Lake’s fascinating history, or pick up a field guide, novel, or souvenir. Watch the 30-minute Mono Lake Story film, peruse our gallery of artwork by Eastern Sierra printmaker Katherine Case, and enjoy the view of Mono Lake from the front patio.

We look forward to welcoming you to Mono Lake and Lee Vining!

Grant Lake Reservoir is spilling: What it means for Rush Creek

Friday, June 9th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Grant Lake Reservoir has been spilling since last Wednesday, May 31, for the first time since 2011. Wish you could see it for yourself? You can! Here’s a time lapse of the spill in action:

After five years of drought it has been a joy to see Grant re-filling this spring, culminating with the spillway’s torrent of water cascading down the concrete ramp to join Rush Creek.

Water reaches Rush Creek from Grant in two ways. (more…)

2017 Mono Lake Committee Scholarship recipients

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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Each year, students applying for the Mono Lake Committee Scholarship are asked to visit Mono Lake and answer the question “Why are places like Mono Lake important?” We are pleased to announce that Reina Childs of Coleville High School and Charles DeBaillets of Lee Vining High School wrote thoughtful essays that earned them $1,000 each towards their education expenses.

Project Specialist Gabrielle and scholarship recipient Reina at the Coleville High School graduation.

Reina wrote in her essay, “Places like Mono Lake allow people to open up their senses that are so often closed in life, and to finally let go of the weight they bear, if only for a moment.” Reina plans to attend Marymount Manhattan University this fall and hopes to one day be an international nurse. (more…)

Summer 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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The benchmarks in this issue of the Mono Lake Newsletter show the smallest change in lake level that I think we’ve ever published (see page 13).

Out on the landbridge where we installed the temporary fence to keep the nesting gulls safe, wildlife cameras capture the lake’s rise on some of the very flattest exposed lakebed, so even small changes in lake level are clearly visible. The 2.3-inch-rise shown in the photos is only the beginning this year.

After five years of streams slowing to a trickle and Mono Lake dropping, this is a year of renewal and revival for the Mono Basin’s resilient natural systems. Streams are overflowing their banks, meadows are flooded, and thirsty cottonwoods are plunging their roots into the saturated soil. Mono Lake is rising fast—water is lapping higher on the tufa towers and salt-tolerant plants along the shore now have wet feet.

It’s a year of benchmarks for human-engineered systems too. Grant Lake Reservoir will flow over the spillway, too full to contain the immense volumes of snowmelt from the upper Rush Creek watershed. Mono Lake will sequentially flood the posts of the temporary fence, shortening the length needed to protect the gulls. Salty lake water will change the paths at South Tufa, forcing visitors to walk higher above the new shore.

This is a year not to be missed. It has already joined the ranks of other big years: 1969, 1983, 1995 … 2017.

So come to Mono Lake, find a spot on the shore, and take note. The water’s edge wasn’t there yesterday, and it won’t be there tomorrow—Mono Lake is refilling before our eyes. At the end of your stay in the Mono Basin, return to your benchmark spot and see how the shoreline has changed. You’ll be able to say that you were here during the amazing summer of 2017 and saw it happening.

Do you do Trail Chic?

Wednesday, May 31st, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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Trail Chic is a fashion show fundraiser for the Mono Lake Committee’s Outdoor Education Center Access Fund. Our friends from Barefoot Wine & Bubbly will be pouring wine and bubbly (for a donation), there will be a silent auction with an affordable selection of wines and outdoor gear, and entrance to the event is free.

When: Saturday, August 26, 2017 at 7:30pm
Where: Lee Vining Community Center

And then there are the fashions … in years past we’ve seen (more…)

Tioga Pass: Memorial Day weekend update

Thursday, May 25th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Tioga Pass will not be open for this holiday weekend, and there is still no estimated opening date. But plowing crews have rounded the corner near Ellery Lake, making good progress toward the Yosemite National Park entrance gate.

A photo from Sunday, May 21, 2017 taken at Ellery Lake looking back east at Ellery Bowl with bikers for scale. Photo courtesy of Nathan Taylor.

Warm weather is aiding the crews as they work, but avalanches remain a hazard. As work progresses, pedestrians, bicyclists, skiers, etc. are advised to stay out of these areas (the photos in this post were taken on a Sunday, when crews do not work). (more…)

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