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Conservation groups sue to protect migratory birds

Monday, May 28th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Led by the National Audubon Society, a coalition of conservation organizations is suing the US Department of the Interior over the new, and significantly weaker, interpretation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The lawsuit, filed on May 24, 2018, challenges a new Department of the Interior memorandum that removes protections related to “incidental take” of migratory birds.

Mono Lake hosts tens of thousands of Wilson’s and Red-necked Phalaropes each summer, as an important stop on the Pacific flyway. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Under the new interpretation, the only actions that can be regulated using the MBTA are intentional ones—such as hunting. Actions that cause unintentional yet predictable bird deaths no longer fall within the parameters of the MBTA. This latter category encompasses a broad swath of industrial threats, such as oil spills and collisions with power lines, and while they are not designed to kill birds, they are known to lead to significant migratory bird deaths nonetheless.

Mono Lake is an important piece of the migratory flyway (more…)

Book reading & signing for “Naming Mt. Thoreau” on September 30, 2018

Sunday, May 27th, 2018 by Arya, Communications Director
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In celebration of their new book, Naming Mt. Thoreau, editor Laurie Glover, and contributors including Gary Snyder, Tom Killion, Kim Stanley Robinson, and more will be doing a reading and book signing this fall in Lee Vining.

Naming Mt. Thoreau is a beautiful and thoughtfully-crafted collection of essays, poems, and reflections. In the fall of 2014 this notable group of friends gathered to summit USGS Sierra Nevada peak 12,691 with the idea of renaming it “Mt. Thoreau” in honor of naturalist, philosopher, transcendentalist, and author Henry David Thoreau. Actually going through the process to formally name a peak is a daunting task, and this group felt that the act of getting together with a common purpose, climbing the peak, and then writing about it was a better—and more apt—path to the same goal. (more…)

“No Word for Wilderness” book signing event Saturday evening

Friday, May 25th, 2018 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager
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Join us Saturday, May 26, for a book signing and discussion with award-winning author Roger Thompson. Roger will be presenting his newest book No Word for Wilderness: Italy’s Grizzlies and the Race to Save the Rarest Bears on Earth.

This engaging examination of the threats facing the wild bears of Italy presents themes that are relevant to the protection of all endangered species and focuses on the ever-changing dynamics between humans and other species. Stop in at the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore from 3:00–5:00pm on Saturday, May 26 to enjoy light refreshments, meet Roger, learn about his work, and pick up a copy of this brand-new book. We hope to see you there!

Tioga Pass will open Monday, May 21 at 9:00am

Friday, May 18th, 2018 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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News from Yosemite National Park: Tioga Pass (Highway 120) will open all the way through the park on Monday, May 21 at 9:00am.

Tioga Pass will open Monday, May 21, 2018 at 9:00am for the season. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

It’s official! Tioga Pass will open Monday, May 21, 2018 at 9:00am.

Additional information about the road opening:

  • Tioga Road is a seasonal road through Yosemite National Park, typically open from late spring to early fall. All motorists should drive with caution and be aware of possible hazards in the roadway, including rocks, debris, and water. Tioga Road may be impacted by incoming storm activity, including snow and icy driving conditions, over the next week. Tioga Road may temporarily close due to weather and unsafe driving conditions at any time.
  • To check current road conditions for Tioga Pass call (209) 372-0200 (press 1, then 1). 
  • There will be limited services available along Tioga Road.
  • All campgrounds along Tioga Road remain closed.
  • There is no anticipated opening date for the Tuolumne Meadows store and the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. The Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center will open on Monday, and will also serve as a temporary visitor center. There is no gasoline available along Tioga Road.
  • The closest gas station to the west is located at Crane Flat.

If you plan to travel over Tioga Pass, we highly recommend calling the road conditions line (209) 372-0200 (press 1, then 1) before you leave. Other helpful links:

2018 Andrea Lawrence Award presented to Phil Pister

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager
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Community members, friends, and family of Andrea Mead Lawrence gathered at Mammoth Mountain’s Parallax Restaurant last Friday to present longtime golden trout and desert fish conservationist Phil Pister with the Andrea Lawrence Award.

Geoff McQuilkin and Quentin Lawrence with Phil Pister, recipient of the 2018 Andrea Lawrence Award. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

Phil spent his career with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (at the time called Fish & Game) protecting the biodiversity of fish populations in the Eastern Sierra and beyond. Phil is perhaps best known for saving the Owens pupfish from near extinction by scooping the last-surviving, inch-long fish from their shrinking pond and carrying them to safety in two buckets. On this topic, in the magazine Natural History, Phil wrote, “I literally held within my hands the existence of an entire vertebrate species. If I had tripped over a piece of barbed wire or stepped into a rodent burrow, the Owens pupfish would now be extinct! But good fortune smiled upon us, and the recovery continues today.”

While saving a species from extinction is worthy of an award in and of itself, Phil has (more…)

Additional Mono Basin campgrounds open for the season

Saturday, April 28th, 2018 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Several Mono Basin campgrounds have opened this weekend for fishing season opener. Most campgrounds along the June Lake Loop are now open, in addition to a few campgrounds in Lee Vining and Lundy canyons.

Lundy Canyon campground is now open for the season. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

(more…)

Sign up for a Mono Lake canoe tour today

Friday, April 27th, 2018 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Celebrate the Mono Lake Committee’s fortieth anniversary this summer by taking a guided canoe tour!

Experience Mono Lake in a new way by joining a guided canoe tour this summer. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

Canoeing on Mono Lake is an unforgettable experience. See the lake in a completely new way as you float over bubbling springs forming new tufa towers, examine some of the trillions of tiny brine shrimp that inhabit the lake, and experience the peace and tranquility of this wild place. Prepare to take in breathtaking views of the Mono Basin and the dramatic Sierra Nevada crest, which rises 6,000 feet above the lake. (more…)

Adopt-A-Highway cleanup for Earth Day

Monday, April 23rd, 2018 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist
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This past Saturday, to celebrate Earth Day, Mono Lake Committee staff Andrew, Robbie, and myself, plus board member Sherryl Taylor picked up litter along our adopted one-mile stretch of Highway 395, just south of Lee Vining. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the opportunity to spend time in the warm spring sun.

Sherryl, Gabby, and Robbie tackle the west side of our adopted stretch of Highway 395. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

After two hours we had collected five bags of trash and two of recyclables, and the highway was looking much better. Thank you to Sherryl and all of the volunteers who continue to make this project possible. If you are interested in helping out at our next Adopt-A-Highway cleanup, please call Jessica at (760) 647-6595.

Robbie carries a bag of litter collected from the highway. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

2018 lake level forecast: Will Mono Lake rise or drop this year?

Friday, April 20th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In April, once a new runoff year (April 1 to March 31) has begun, the Mono Lake Committee forecasts what Mono Lake’s level is likely to do over the next year. And the answer? According to our forecast, Mono Lake is likely to drop a little less than a foot.

This graph shows the range of possible Mono Lake elevations for the time period of April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019. The “highest likely” and “lowest likely” projections are produced by Committee modeling using historical wet and dry hydrology sequences that can reasonably be expected given current conditions. Mono Lake Committee graph (click to enlarge).

To forecast Mono Lake’s level for a whole runoff year, we read the lake level gauge on April 1 to get the starting point, and then factor the runoff forecast into the equation to predict what Mono Lake might do going forward. When we read the lake level gauge on April 1 together with staff from the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power the lake was 6381.9 feet above sea level. As of April 16 the runoff forecast is 85% of average. Using those two data points, plus historical wet and dry hydrology sequences that can be reasonably expected given current conditions, our modeling indicates that the most probable lake level for March 31, 2019 is 6381.1 feet above sea level.

Returning a rescued Eared Grebe to Mono Lake

Thursday, April 19th, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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On Monday, in the midst of a fiercely cold and windy snow storm, a traveling couple found an Eared Grebe in a snowbank on the side of Highway 395 near Deadman Summit. These compassionate souls scooped the small bird up into a towel and emptied their lunch out of their cooler and placed the bird inside. They drove on and brought the little guy into the Mono Lake Committee Information Center & Bookstore to ask for our advice.

This male Eared Grebe in breeding plumage had flown into a snowbank, but was uninjured. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Luckily, this is not our first rodeo. We know that Eared Grebes often try to land on wet asphalt because it reflects light and resembles a body of water. Perhaps it was too windy for this poor flyer to stay in the sky on his way north to his breeding grounds. (more…)

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