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‘Staff Musings’ Category

Reflections on 40 years: A current look at the Mono Lake Committee

Thursday, May 31st, 2018 by Sally, Board of Directors
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Editor’s note: To celebrate the Mono Lake Committee’s 40th anniversary in the Newsletter, Sally Gaines, co-founder and Board Chair, is writing a series of reflections on the past, present, and future of the organization.

Today the Mono Lake Committee is widely respected as a model environmental group. I attribute this to an incredible staff, now numbering 15, as well as 11 seasonal staff, plus a cohesive Board of Directors. The policy issues grow ever more complex, and drag on for years, if not decades. The longevity of our staff means we are forever reeducating new bureaucratic staff we work with.

Several bequests have stabilized our financial picture, enabling us to improve the front of our headquarters, still and forever in Lee Vining. We continue to have excellent information for visitors, a fitting selection of books, clothing, and gifts, as well as staff offices in back. We are never changing our name either. Photo by Arya Harp.

Scientific research continues; some is old: California Gulls, Eared Grebes, lake level, salinity, stream restoration. Newer topics (more…)

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…)

Farewell to Mono Lake advocate Genny Smith, 1922-2018

Saturday, March 17th, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director
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Genny Smith, 1922–2018. Photo courtesy of Genny Smith.

On Sunday, March 4, the Eastern Sierra lost a lifelong champion with the passing of writer and conservationist Genny Smith at age 96.

Genny played a key role in protecting Mono Lake, getting involved in 1982 as a Board member of the young Mono Lake Committee at a time when court battles with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power were heating up. She was a strong advocate for protecting the special wild places that make California so wonderful, and she had the determination and strategic thinking to turn such lofty goals into real accomplishments. She helped hone the strategy of recruiting members to the cause, making sure that the Committee was building a coalition of people who cared about Mono Lake for the long haul. In later years as a Board Member Emeritus she was always available to give advice—and inspiration—on the continuing efforts to protect this place. (more…)

Tracks in the sand north of Mono Lake

Friday, February 16th, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Learning about the creatures that share our environment clearly enhances our experiences in the outdoors. It helps us notice more interactions as we explore and often paints a picture of what goes on when we are absent, exhibiting the mystery of life away from human eyes. I recently ventured out into the dunes on the north shore of Mono Lake to brush up on my knowledge of mammal tracks and immerse myself in the world of rabbits, kangaroo rats, and coyotes.

Black-tailed Jackrabbit prints (hopping leftwards). Larger hind prints on the left, smaller staggered fore prints to the right. Photos by Nora Livingston.

A common Mono Basin track is that of the Black-tailed Jackrabbit. These hares inhabit the sagebrush and dunes of the high desert, though they are widespread and found in many other habitats in North America as well. Often you don’t notice them until they shoot out from the next bush over, scaring the daylights out of you, and you just get to see their dark tail disappearing into the maze of brush in an instant. Their tracks are (more…)

Winter birding in Bridgeport

Monday, January 22nd, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide
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Just north of the Mono Basin lies a wide golden valley with a glittering half-frozen reservoir edged up against a pinyon pine forest. Winter is a fantastic time to look for birds in Bridgeport, and this winter in particular has drawn in some rare birds. The reservoir is packed with ducks like Redheads, Northern Shovelers, and Common Goldeneyes.

A half-iced-over Bridgeport Reservoir reflects the snowy Sierra Nevada, including Matterhorn Peak and the Sawtooth Ridge. Photo by Nora Livingston.

In December, the reservoir was just beginning to freeze over and the ice edge provided a perch for gulls to stand, or nap, without bobbing up in down in the cold water. A rare Black-legged Kittiwake spent almost two weeks (more…)

2018 Mono Lake calendar essay: Turning the Tide

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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This essay, written by Vern Gersh, appears in the 2018 Mono Lake Calendar.

“Least and Western sandpipers in Flight.” Photo courtesy of Alice Atwood.

“Never give up for that is the time and place that the tide will turn.” —Harriet Beecher Stowe

Forty years ago, in the Eastern Sierra, the tide was running. Like all tides it ran in one direction. Its flow must have seemed inexorable as the waters of life were sucked away.

Shakespeare referred to living in “the tide of times.” The tide that has been running strongest in my life is the stream of change. When I was born in 1955 there were half as many humans on the planet. Nothing human-made orbited the earth. There were fewer than 600 pizza parlors in the entire United States. The majority of Americans shared their phone line with a neighbor. You would dial that phone and were tethered to it with a cord. There was one Mexican restaurant in the city of half a million Americans where I was born.

Forty years ago, when the Mono Lake Committee was born (more…)

The Mono Lake Committee 2017 Annual Report

Saturday, November 25th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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Each year printed copies of the Mono Lake Committee Annual Report are sent out to Defense Trust level members and Guardians of the Lake monthly-giving club members, but it is has information that is important to members at all giving levels, friends, anyone who is curious, and the general public. So without further ado, click here to see the Mono Lake Committee 2017 Annual Report.

Did you get a yearbook in high school? The Annual Report feels a little bit like the grown-up version of getting the yearbook … (more…)

We’re thankful for all of you who love Mono Lake

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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This Thanksgiving Day, we are thankful for your generous donations, faithful support, visits to our Lee Vining headquarters, emails asking about our work, views of our website, comments on our Mono-logue posts, phone calls from far away, Facebook and Twitter comments, Instagram photos, and above all, for your love for this place. Together we are standing strong for Mono Lake. Thank you and happy Thanksgiving.

Your love for Mono Lake helps keep us standing strong on its behalf, for 39 years and counting—thank you. Photo courtesy of Andrew Aldrich.

Leaving a legacy at Mono Lake

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator
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Last spring, I sat down with Mono Lake Committee members Vern Gersh and Terry McLaughlin just before their retirement and talked with them about what Mono Lake means to them and why they decided to put the Committee in their estate plans.

As I talked with them, I was inspired by their passion and love for this place. They shared with me stories from their years of living in Lee Vining and working at the Committee, from enjoying beautiful evening walks to see the sunset to getting stuck in “Mono muck” after their first time paddling a kayak on the lake.

Over the past few months, I’ve put together a short video featuring Terry and Vern’s story. In the video, you’ll hear them reflect on the sublime beauty of the Mono Basin, the remarkable ecological productivity of Mono Lake, and the important role the Mono Lake Committee plays to ensure that this place continues to be protected and restored.

Vern’s parting words at the end of the video still resonate with me: “It’s not necessarily leaving things to the people that are on the earth, but it’s also leaving a portion of the earth to the people who are still here.”

A summer for the birds at Mono Lake

Friday, September 15th, 2017 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Jenny Rieke, 2017 Birding Intern.

As the summer season comes to a close, I thought I’d take some time to reflect on my time at Mono Lake, and the incredible birds I’ve seen along the way.

California Gull perched on tufa. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

My summer internship began with the sixteenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua, an event that brings birders together to enhance appreciation and understanding of the Mono Basin’s incredible bird life. The event includes a variety of field trips, workshops, and presentations with renowned bird guides, naturalists, and artists. This year we had (more…)

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The Mono Lake Committee is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.