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Only slight improvement in Mono Basin snowpack in February

March 3rd, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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A late-February weather system kicks up dust devils over Mono Lake. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

A late-February weather system kicks up dust devils over Mono Lake. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

The March 1st snow surveys in the Mono Basin were completed on February 25th, and measured 33% of average snow water content. Even though the snowpack doubled in February, this is only a slight improvement over the February 1st surveys, which found only 23% of average snow water content at the five snow courses where snow is measured. The February 1st surveys, completed at the end of January, found the second-lowest snowpack on record in most places and a record low snowpack at Gem Lake. As of March 1st, the Gem Lake snowpack now ranks the seventh-lowest ever measured (out of 55 years). … more »

Winter & Spring 2015 Mono Lake Newsletter now available online

March 1st, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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Newsletter-2015-Winter-&-SpringWe were talking about the dropping level of Mono Lake. Geoff was at his desk, Lisa was perched in her regular spot on the blue steps, Bartshe was leaning on the door jamb, Jess and Elin were on folding chairs, and Greg and I were on the speaker phone delicately balanced on a small stool—all within the space of about ten square feet.

During the discussion I was struck by the fact that when we talk about the lake level we almost always use “we” instead of “it.” “If the lake drops one foot we’ll be at….” “If we get the wettest March on record, where would that put us on April 1?” The whole staff does it. Mono Lake Committee founder David Gaines famously wrote, “We are Mono Lake.” And I don’t want to be overly groovy about it, but here we are many years and many lake levels later saying the same thing without even realizing we’re doing it. But it’s so true—when the lake rises we are proud. When the lake drops we take it hard.

So … we are at 6379′. If we are still below 6380′ on April 1 water exports from the Mono Basin will be reduced from 16,000 to 4,500 acre-feet. That’s a lot of water, and the fact that this reduction in water supply to Los Angeles is happening after three consecutive years of drought is anything but a lucky coincidence. Many people over many years have worked tirelessly, and with enough foresight to plan ahead for this lake level. And many people have conserved water with hopes of avoiding the lake getting this low again. This keeps us going, and inspires us no matter what lake level we’re at.

Mono Lake brine shrimp, then and now

February 25th, 2015 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Artemia monica is the unique species of brine shrimp found only in Mono Lake. During the summer months, trillions of shrimp inhabit Mono Lake’s waters—enough to be a critical food source for millions of birds. Once winter begins to set in the shrimp die off, and the birds migrate on. A new generation of shrimp hatches in the spring, food for next year’s birds in the following summer. This process has repeated itself enough times and with enough consistency that all our favorite Mono Lake birds have figured it out and rely on the food supply.

Figure 14 (below) of the annual Mono Lake Limnology Monitoring Report shows the lake’s average abundance of adult Artemia per square meter water column for each month starting in 1982 and ending in 2013. You can see that Mono Lake’s adult brine shrimp are most abundant in summer, and if you’ve visited Mono Lake during the summer, you probably know some of the bird species that show up for the feast.

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Figure 14: The average abundance of brine shrimp (per square meter of the water column) every month from 1982-2013. Note that adult brine shrimp are most abundant in summer. Click on the image to enlarge.

… more »

Mono Basin February 2015 snowpack

February 24th, 2015 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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The Mono Basin monthly snowpack surveys are underway for 2015, with February’s data in and March data being collected now. As many people might expect it’s not looking great, but not all hope is lost.

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Mono Basin snowpack measurements over the last six years.

The Mono Basin snowpack is measured at five sites (Gem Pass, Gem Lake, Tioga Pass, Saddlebag Lake, and Ellery Lake), which are usually sampled in February, March, and April. The February 1st snow surveys found that the snowpack measured at those five locations amounted to 23% of average February snowpack … more »

And the Wild & Scenic Los Angeles film lineup is….

February 23rd, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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The Oscars are behind us, which means that it’s time to slip on your comfy jeans and beloved fleece for the Mono Lake Committee’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival in El Segundo on March 5th.

And the official film lineup for the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Los Angeles is….

  • The Ridge — Ride to the top of Inaccessible Pinnacle in the Isle of Skye with street cyclist Danny MacAskill. The feat itself is breathtaking, the scenery, spectacular, the cycling, stunning. (8 minutes)
  • Yosemite Nature Notes: Birdsongs — “It would be a pretty boring Yosemite without birdsong” ruminates ornithologist and ranger Sarah Stock. Take a quick trip to Mono Lake’s backyard with Yosemite National Park rangers—see the species as the rangers identify them by their songs. It’s amazing! (6 minutes)
  • American Lawn — This film is unique in how it looks at the relationships Americans have with their lawns. There isn’t an ounce of didactic in the film, making it a refreshingly thought-provoking experience. (11 minutes)
  • Delta Dawn — Did you know that on March 23, 2014 hydrologists released a gigantic pulse of water from the last dam on the Colorado River, and for a short period of time, the Colorado reached the sea? The film is a joyous celebration, and adventure, and a reminder that we can work to undo the mistakes of the past. (16 minutes)
  • The Longest Straw (teaser) — This spring, a crew of young filmmakers will be backpacking all 338 miles of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, meeting with community members along the way. You’ll recognize the Mono Lake Committee’s Outdoor Education Program leader Santiago Escruceria in this teaser for the feature-length film. Their passion is contagious, and their dedication is inspiring, and you’ll get to meet them in person at the festival. (5 minutes)
  • Project Wild Thing — “This film will change your life” writes The Guardian. A marketing professional takes on the challenge of marketing the outdoors in an effort to get kids (and all of us, really) outside. It’ll get under your skin the way dirt should get under your fingernails. (58 minutes)

Will you join us? We hope so. There will also be a special live Mighty Wurlitzer performance; the signature attraction of the Old Town Music Hall. All we can say is that you don’t want to miss it!

Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Los Angeles
Thursday, March 5th at 7:00pm
Old Town Music Hall, El Segundo
Free and easy parking next door; great restaurants nearby.

Tickets are on sale here: $12 in advance, $15 at the door, $10 for students.
The festival is a benefit for Mono Lake and the Los Angeles watershed.

The Mighty Wurlitzer inside of the Old Town Music Hall.

The Mighty Wurlitzer inside of the Old Town Music Hall. Photo courtesy of the Old Town Music Hall.

Special thanks to event sponsors: Chevron, Environment Now, Old Town Music Hall, Klean Kanteen, Clif Bar, Patagonia, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Barefoot Wine & Bubbly, Earthjustice, and Orion Magazine.

Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner: April 24

February 22nd, 2015 by Lily, Information Center & Bookstore Manager
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Join the Mono Lake Committee in commemorating Andrea Lawrence and her continuing legacy with the presentation of the Andrea Lawrence Award celebrating passionate engagement in community and the land.

The Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner
5:30pm Friday, April 24th, 2015
Parallax Restaurant
McCoy Station, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

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Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner attendees take the gondola to Parallax at McCoy Station on Mammoth Mountain for the evening. Photo by Santiago M. Escruceria.

Take a beautiful gondola ride up to McCoy Station for an evening of delicious food, inspiring company, and exceptional views as well as a celebration of the Andrea Lawrence Award recipient and a special keynote speaker, both to be announced soon. Reserve your tickets with a $65 donation by calling Project Specialist Lily Pastel at (760) 647-6595 by Wednesday, April 1st. We hope to see you there!

2014 Mono Lake California Gull report available

February 15th, 2015 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Point Blue Conservation Science has completed its report on the 2014 California Gull nesting season at Mono Lake, which is available on the Mono Basin Clearinghouse.

California Gulls take flight near Negit Island. Photo by Sandra Noll.

California Gulls take flight near Negit Island. Photo by Sandra Noll.

The gull population in 2014 was low. This was to be expected, since 2010 was the year with the lowest reproductive success ever recorded, and the 2010 cohort returns as adults four years later. Due to the decline in lake level, Old Marina Islet became a peninsula, which represents … more »

Lee Vining community member Don Banta has passed

February 10th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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This morning we received the sad news that Don Banta has passed away. Because he knew so many people we felt compelled to post this short note and to offer our condolences to the three generations of the Banta family in our community. Don Banta was a beloved fixture in Lee Vining—a dedicated family and community member, avid birder and photographer, wild storyteller, the unofficial Mayor, town historian, and a friend to anyone who knew him for more than 10 seconds.

There is so much to say and know about Don and his life here at Mono Lake that we will be compiling a more complete tribute to him in the near future. In the meantime, we wanted to leave you with this transcript of an oral history interview with Don, and this fun little video too.

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Don Banta seen here leading a field trip at the 2007 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Unprecedented February wildfires ravage Eastern Sierra communities

February 9th, 2015 by Jessica, Office Director
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Several communities in the Eastern Sierra have been suddenly and tragically affected by wind-driven wildfires that started last Friday, February 6.

A view of the Round Fire moving up the Wheeler Ridge on Friday night, driven by unusually strong winds. Photo courtesy of Jerry Dodrill.

A view of the Round Fire moving up the Wheeler Ridge on Friday night, driven by unusually strong winds. Photo courtesy of Jerry Dodrill.

South of Lee Vining, the Round Fire destroyed 40 residences and damaged five more in the Paradise and Swall Meadows area near Highway 395 north of Bishop. Fire crews and other rescue personnel rushed to evacuate residents and contain the fire, but because of high winds and the extremely dry, unprecedented February conditions, containment of the fire was … more »

Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Los Angeles tickets on sale!

February 5th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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The Mono Lake Committee is once again bringing the Wild & Scenic Film Festival to Los Angeles in March and tickets are on sale now.

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This year’s festival will feature engaging environmental and adventure films with a focus on water issues. Seating is limited, so be sure to buy your tickets soon.

Be sure to check out our event website and follow Wild & Scenic LA on Facebook and Twitter for more information on the festival and the unique films we will be offering this year. We look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles on March 5!

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The Old Town Music Hall is a cultural and historical landmark in El Segundo, CA not far from the Los Angeles Airport. The theater usually features vintage silent accompanied by live performances of the Mighty Wurlitzer, a massive, wind-powered, pipe organ built in 1925. The Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Los Angeles will open with a special live performance and vintage film show. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

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