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Newsletter - Web Edition

Bristlecone Chapter

The California Native Plant Society

“Dedicated to the Preservation of the California Native Flora”

Volume 33 No. 1

January-February 2012

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Bristlecone Chapter Meetings

Rare plant treasure hunters at Osa Meadows

You Won't Find Plants by Looking Up!
Award-winning photo by Rich LaShure

January General Meeting: A Summer of Rare Plant Treasure Hunts (or How the LaShures Spent the Summer of 2011)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012, 7:00 pm at White Mountain Research Station, 3000 East Line St. in Bishop. Kathy LaShure, coordinator of the Creosote Ring subchapter, will present “A summer of rare plant treasure hunts” (or, How the LaShures spent the summer of 2011). She will share information on how CNPS determines the rarity of a plant and what the several categories of rarity mean. Then she will introduce you to the 15 rare plant species for which she and her husband Rich submitted 35 occurrence records in 2011. Some were casual discoveries, while others were located on planned Rare Plant Treasure Hunts. The spring finds were desert species, while all the summer finds were located on the Kern Plateau in the southern Sierra. Finally, you’ll learn how their team, the Red Jeepsters, did in the state-wide Rare Plant Treasure Hunt competition.

Get a sneak preview on the Creosote Ring Subchapter page!

November Bristlecone Chapter Board Meeting

Wednesday, January 18, 7pm. Details TBA. Members are welcome.

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From the Editor

Next Newsletter Deadline: February 25, 2012

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If you still receive this newsletter via US Mail, please send your email address to the editor (email address above) so you can receive the electronic version. Please help the Bristlecone chapter save money, energy, and trees

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Upcoming Events

2012 Field Trip Planning Meeting

The annual field trip planning/brainstorming meeting will take place January 25 at 6:00 pm, before the general meeting (see description above). Please bring your ideas for interesting trips and be ready to sign up for dates. If you are interested in leading a Rare Plant Treasure Hunt (visit historic rare plant occurrences that haven't been re-visited for a while), Send Sue Weis a message (or call at 760-873-3485) if you want some ideas for that. Also, Michele Slaton is setting up a database with plant lists from previous years' trips for use by trip leaders. Willing to co-lead? There's probably someone who would be willing to lead a trip with you. Let's have more awesome trips this year!

There will be pizza and other refreshments for those who participate.

January Program: A Summer of Rare Plant Treasure Hunts (or How the LaShures Spent the Summer of 2011)

January 25 at 7:00 pm - see description above!

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2009 CNPS Conservation Conference Proceedings

Strategies & Solutions, the 2009 CNPS Conservation Conference brought together hundreds of botanical experts, artists, amateurs, students, and policy-makers. The Conference Proceedings, just printed in November 2011, includes 51 papers on topics ranging from rare plant introduction, regional conservation planning, habitat restoration, and mapping the vegetation of California. The proceedings cost $65, and the complete table of contents may be viewed online at Proceedings of the 2009 CNPS Conservation Conference, Strategies and Solutions (table of contents). Bristlecone Chapter member Sally Manning has an article in the book:

"Managing groundwater pumping to conserve native alkali meadow in Owens Valley, California," p.131.

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Dead Alkali Meadow Turns Deadly

(A sad reflection by Sally Manning, plant ecologist, Inyo County Water Department 1985-2008)

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” I have long said, “A healthy ecosystem hangs onto its soil.” Here in Owens Valley, water diversions and groundwater pumping by Los Angeles Deptartment of Water and Power destroys ecosystems, people’s livelihoods, and people.

Returning on November 19 from a vacation, I heard that winds resulted in the closure of Highway 395 between Big Pine and Independence on Friday Nov. 18, 2011. I immediately guessed the wind was kicking up dust from the former alkali meadow known as the Blackrock 94 parcel. This meadow parcel has been discussed frequently in this newsletter and elsewhere, because the meadow was a casualty of ongoing, excessive pumping at the Blackrock Fish Hatchery and other pumping in the wellfield in which it's located. The nail in this parcel's coffin was a 2007 wildfire. The remnant vegetation burned, and in the overpumped part of the parcel native vegetation has yet to recover. The pumps have continued pumping, and in the current runoff year, LADWP and Inyo County agreed to even more pumping from this area. Years after it burned, parts of the parcel still look like a desolate moonscape with an occasional tumbleweed (Salsola tragus). I wondered if the highway closure caused my former coworkers to be stuck at work in Independence, where the Inyo County Board of Supervisors moved the entire Water Department in 2008. There would be some irony if that had been the case, since my former coworkers, along with Inyo County leadership, were in part responsible for the death of the meadow.

A few days later, I read the Inyo Register account of the November 18 dust storm and highway closure. The paper talked about serious auto accidents, with injuries and vehicle damage. I checked some weather data and noted winds out of the west through that area up to 75 miles per hour and a large spike in PM-10 during that afternoon. Wind from the west no doubt started the sand from the alluvial fan rolling which then kicked up the silty meadow soil, lofting the PM-10 and other stuff into the air, similar to what happens at Owens dry lake and what used to happen south of Independence where the so-called Shepherd Creek alfalfa field is now located.

The needless accidents and awful dust are the direct result of poor management under the Inyo/LA Water Agreement. For many years, my former coworkers and I knew about the degraded conditions in the meadow. Internally, I strongly recommended that pumping in the wellfield be managed (reduced) to permit water table recovery to the meadow root zone, and I took serious issue with my former coworkers’ decision to run additional groundwater wells near the parcel in the guise of a pump test in 2003 [Ed. See "The Well Test That Wouldn't Die" for a detailed history of this outrageous test]. I gave presentations and tours, wrote reports and articles for annual reports, and coauthored articles for the peer-reviewed scientific literature. To make a long story short, no steps were taken to save the meadow, and I no longer work for Inyo County. And some of my former coworkers were recently overheard saying they had been stuck returning from Independence due to the highway closure!

— Sally Manning

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Good news from Blackrock

Having spent last year writing newsletter articles about excessive pumping at the Blackrock area, Inyo County’s self-defeating challenge to DWP’s 2011 pumping in the Blackrock area, and DWP’s challenge to Inyo County’s right to challenge its pumping program (yes, you read that correctly), I thought it would be appropriate to start the new year by writing… another article about Blackrock! This article, however, will document some very good news.

While Inyo and DWP were playing their legal/political games, the Owens Valley Committee had sued the California Department of Fish and Game over the adequacy of its 2010 EIR for its statewide fish hatchery and stocking program. In response to comments from the Bristlecone Chapter, DFG had proposed in its Draft EIR (in late 2009) to mitigate effects of excessive pumping for the Blackrock hatchery by reducing pumping to the volume of the former flow of Blackrock Spring. After DWP and Inyo County both objected, DFG removed this mitigation from its final EIR in early 2010.
The Owens Valley Committee then sued DFG over the adequacy of its final EIR, and in late 2011 won a big victory in the form of a settlement. The description of the settlement, below, was provided by the Owens Valley Committee.

“The settlement agreement provides for DFG to identify a groundwater pumping limit at Black Rock Hatchery no greater than 8,000 acre-feet per year, the approximate amount of the springs' original flow. Although that is a reduction from the current pumping average of 12,000 to 13,000 acre-feet per year, DFG deems the amount adequate to supply hatchery fish production. DFG has also agreed to support a modification of the current “exempt” status for the two Black Rock hatchery supply wells to limit the pumping exemption to 8,000 acre-feet per year.

Because DFG receives hatchery water from and leases the hatchery and associated wells and pumps from LADWP, these modifications will be subject to LADWP's approval. The settlement agreement therefore provides for the DFG, by January 2012, to present a proposal to LADWP that addresses potential environmental benefits of reduced pumping and to modify the existing hatchery supply wells, at DFG’s cost, to enable the limits on pumping. The proposal will also include a plan to maintain historic fish production levels in the Eastern Sierra to accommodate for any reduced fish production due to reduced groundwater pumping at Black Rock.

The settlement also provides for work at Fish Springs, allowing collaboration between the DFG and OVC to conduct an impact analysis in the Big Pine well field at the Fish Springs Hatchery.”

While it is a foregone conclusion that DWP will refuse to reduce pumping and will have to be sued, the interesting question is how Inyo County will respond. Inyo Supervisors have been rabid opponents of any reduction in hatchery pumping on the grounds that fish production would be reduced and (by implication) non-native fish are more important than native meadows. Now that DFG is committed to both pumping reduction and maintaining fish production, will Inyo Supervisors make a rational decision to support the pumping reduction? Or will they continue to oppose pumping reductions out of spite, because reductions are supported by much-hated “environmental groups” such as CNPS?!

The answer should be known soon and will be reported in the next newsletter.

— Daniel Pritchett

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The California Native Plant Society is an organization of lay persons and professionals united by an interest in the plants of California. It is open to all. The society, working through its local chapters, seeks to increase the understanding of California's native flora and to preserve this rich resource for future generations. Varied interests are represented.

To JOIN or RENEW: please contact Sally Manning or JOIN or RENEW ONLINE

Membership Application

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Bristlecone Chapter Directory

President: Yvonne Wood
Past President / Partnerships: Steve McLaughlin (760) 938-3140
Vice President: Holly Alpert
Treasurer: Rosanne Higley (760) 387-2803
Secretary: Rosemary Jarret 760-387-2782
Membership: Sally Manning (760) 873-3790
Newsletter Editor: Daniel Pritchett (760) 873-8943
Conservation: Daniel Pritchett - (760) 873-8943
Adopt-A-Highway: Scott Hetzler (760) 873-8392
Plant Communities:
Sally Manning - (760) 873-3790
Education: VACANT
Programs: Holly Alpert
Field Trips: Sue Weis (760) 873-3485
DeDecker Native Plant Garden: JoAnn Lijek (760) 873-8503
DeDecker Grant Program: Jan Bowers (760) 938-3140
Publicity: Jenny Richardson 760-872-6589
Historian: Ann Fulton (760) 873-9261
Librarian: EvelynMae Nikolaus - (760) 878-2149
Rare Plant Committee Chair: Kathleen Nelson (760) 873-2400
Plant Sale Committee: Katie Quinlan (760) 873-8023, Sherryl Taylor (924-8742)
Book Sales: Sue Weis (760) 873-3485
Posters: Stephen Ingram (760) 387-2913
Creosote Ring Sub-Chapter Coordinator: Kathy LaShure (760) 377-4541
Webmaster: Maggie Wolfe Riley

THE CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANT SOCIETY ( Bristlecone Chapter Newsletter comes out bimonthly. It is free to chapter members. To subscribe to this newsletter without joining CNPS, please send $5.00 per year to CNPS, P.O. Box 364, Bishop, CA 93515-0364. ATTN: subscriptions. Send newsletter articles (not memberships) to newsletter editor Daniel Pritchett at

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