Sunrise light on a grove of tufa towers emerging from the water of Mono Lake with soft green and dusty-red wild grasses in the foreground, Canada geese in the shallow water with reflections of the rocky towers, and desert hills in the distance.

2013 for Mono Lake, the year in review

This time of year you can stand in one spot in the Mono Basin for an hour and alternately be in bright, blue-sky, sunny-ness and freezing, white, thick fog. It’s poconip season, and this year weather systems are lined up in such a way that our localized fog is often part of the daily routine. As I sit here writing, the fog comes and goes—leaving me alternating between these two extremes, and it strikes me as a perfect metaphor for 2013. Click the links along the way to get a picture of Mono Lake happenings in 2013.

The year was dominated by working towards the Stream Restoration Agreement. From the key negotiators to the staff who kept operations running so the negotiators could do their thing, it was an all-hands-on-deck affair every single day. It’s not an exaggeration to say that we lived and breathed (and dreamed, and worked crazy hours and endless weeks) to turn sheer will into a new era of restoration for Mono Lake’s tributaries. And, like standing in the poconip, there were moments of clarity and moments where it was tough to find our way. It has been a wild ride, and, in the end, the Stream Restoration Agreement is a the right thing for Mono’s tributary streams, and the lake too, (not to mention a fitting way to mark the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct).

As all-consuming as that process was, we accomplished a lot outside of it too. Some highlights include: the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Los Angeles, a great season of Field Seminars, some notable wildlife sightingsthe official naming of Mt. Andrea Lawrencethe Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner, an all-staff trip to Los Angelesthe Barefoot wine honoring Mono Lake Committee co-founder Sally Gaines, honoring Joseph Sax with the Defender of the Trust Award, the Mono Lake Volunteers, a wonderful crew of seasonal staff (including a second generation intern!), two great Mono Lake Committee Scholarships.

Holy smokes the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua is popular, somehow, despite having absolutely zero budget, we pulled off more Eared Grebe counts than ever, and the 30th year of California Gull research happened, and so did the Tioga Pass Run. The Mono Lake Newsletter keeps on coming, walking and canoe tours happened throughout the summer, restoration field trips were super fun and held invasive plants at bay, and of course there were amazing Sierra wave cloud sunsets.

The Trail Chic fashion show fundraiser celebrated the Outdoor Experiences program, we hosted book signings and gallery openings and talks with researchers at the Information Center & Bookstore. We kept up with monitoring Mill Creek and the Wilson Diversion System, and unfortunately it was a record-breaking summer for hot weather in the Mono Basin, but somehow the Osprey had a well-documented and successful year.

The fall colors were amazing even with the government shutdown smack in the middle of it all. We discovered a Tamarisk, and, of course, took care of it, and early this winter we learned about one of the most interesting scientific connections to Mono Lake we’ve ever seen.

There were some somber moments too, with 2013 marking 25 years since the inspirational Mono Lake Committee Co-founder David Gaines passed away, and the passing of one of Mono Lake’s biggest champions, Huell Howser. And there’s no doubt we would have liked to have seen more snow, and a net rise in Mono Lake but we did our best—did you see our most recent “rain dance” efforts? We discovered serious streamflow violations, and DWP botched lake monitoring, but we didn’t let it slow us down—in fact, quite the opposite.

Back here overlooking the Mono Basin the poconip has cleared, and it’s beautiful and sunny. Sure, we could use some serious precipitation, but overall, outlook for 2014 and beyond is clear and sunny too. Without so much as a day of relaxing into this Stream Restoration Agreement, we’re nose to the grindstone on making the Agreement the best it can be. And so, as we look back at 2013, it’s hard not to say, wow, we worked hard, and when I say “we” I mean all 16,000 Mono Lake Committee members. Together we did worked very hard for this special, special place. Thank you, and I hope you’ll raise a glass to Mono Lake at the end of this year—I know I will be.