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Newsletter - Web Edition

Bristlecone Chapter

The California Native Plant Society

“Dedicated to the Preservation of the California Native Flora”

Volume 32, Number 2

March-April 2011

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Bristlecone Chapter Meetings

March General Meeting/Presentation, March 30, Wednesday, 7:00 pm, White Mountain Research Station, 3000 East Line St., Bishop

Margot Griswold, a plant ecologist, will give a talk entitled “Using native plants in Owens Lakebed dust control efforts.” Margot has worked on the Owens Lakebed for the past 11 years, and her responsibilities have included managing saltgrass seed collection from the lower Owens Valley to plant 3.7 square miles of saltgrass. She will discuss the process of establishing more diverse native plant communities for dust control on the lakebed, and the potential to increase habitat value for plants, as well as birds. Margot has a background in family farming in the Central Valley of California which led her to study plant-insect interactions at UC Riverside (MS, 1985) and at UC Irvine (Ph.D., 1989). For the past 20 years, she has specialized in native habitat restoration. She founded and operated EARTHWORKS Restoration, consulting mainly for public agencies and conservancies from 1995 to 2009. In 2009 she merged her company with NewFields AER. She is currently Education Chair on the board of Los Angeles Audubon Society and serves on the board of the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. Her passion is guiding youth from the Los Angeles urban core to discover and value the natural history of California

March Bristlecone Chapter Board Meeting

Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 7:00 PM at the ESICE office, 512 N. 2nd St., Bishop. Members are welcome.

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Message from the Board

Welcome to the 29th year of the Bristlecone Chapter. The Chapter was founded by individuals who joined forces out of their love of our region’s natural wonders. Our early leaders explored widely, botanized intensely, and also worked tirelessly to protect our lands. One of those individuals was Vince Yoder, the first Bristlecone Chapter president, to whom we dedicate this issue of the newsletter. We were saddened to learn of his recent passing. A review of our newsletters from 1982 to 1997, when Vince and his wife Ann lived in Lone Pine, reveal Vince’s many contributions. His memory will accompany us in the field this year, and will offer strength to keep up the good fight.

Precipitation patterns thus far suggest 2011 will be an interesting botanical year. Chapter members have volunteered to lead a variety of field trips to help you enjoy it: a complete list is on the events page. When out enjoying our exquisite flora and awe-inspiring landscapes, remember that their survival depends on us. The many challenges now include a new push to build large-scale power plants (e.g. solar, wind, geothermal) within the area served by our chapter. A report from Kathy LaShure tells how one such ill-conceived proposal was defeated, but many threats remain. Add this to the usual issues such as livestock grazing, mining, reckless recreation, and the never-ending water issues, and there’s plenty to keep us busy. If you know of a particular conservation issue the Bristlecone Chapter should address, please consider volunteering and contact conservation chair Daniel Pritchett at

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Next Newsletter Deadline: April 27, 2011

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Remembering Vince Yoder 1920-2011

Vincent Stanley Yoder was born July 14, 1920, and passed away January 3, 2011. Vince was an avid naturalist, including ornithology and botany, and whatever else he ran across during his time in the outdoors. His bird-watching life list dates back to 1937. He worked for the California State Highways for 31 years and spent most of his free time locating hikes and taking us, his children along. He was a longtime member of the California Native Plant Society, in the Marin and Bristlecone Chapters. After he retired he moved to Lone Pine, CA with his wife, Ann Yoder, and the two of them continued the hiking and record keeping. Much of the botanical information is included in Vegetation of the Alabama Hills Region, Inyo County, California, published through UC Davis. He also compiled An Alabama Hills Plant List, published by CNPS Bristlecone Chapter. The Inyo County Water Commission benefited from his contributions for several years. He is survived by two daughters, one son, three granddaughters, and 3 (soon to be 4) great-grandchildren. We will deeply miss his intelligence, curiosity, and humor. We ask that you remember him by donating to a nature-focused nonprofit.

— Elaine Yoder

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Cause for Celebration
An update on the Ridgecrest Solar Power Plant project

Can I have a round of applause please? Or three “Hip, Hip Hoorays”? Or just a loud “Yippee!”? Yes, it’s true the Ridgecrest Solar Power Plant project is officially history. In a letter dated Jan. 21, 2011 Solar Millennium withdrew its application for this project. In their own words “A review of the process and staff position on the project strongly suggests success is unlikely.” In other words the continuing CEC biological staff assertion that the site should not be disturbed was not going to change, even with a Mojave Ground Squirrel genetic connectivity study (which Solar Millennium proposed).

While those of us who opposed this ill-conceived project from a local and personal perspective can give ourselves some credit for standing up to Big Industry, we really owe the CEC staff a huge “Thank You.” Not only did the biological staff perform professionally, but the other CEC staff, those in charge of this project’s approval process, also carried out the proceedings in a thorough and thoughtful manner. Thanks should also go to the official Intervors: the Center for Biological Diversity (Ileene Anderson and Lisa Belenky); Desert Tortoise Council (Sid Silliman); Basin And Range Watch (Laura Cunningham and Kevin Emmerick); Western Watersheds Project (Michael J. Connor); Kerncrest Audubon (Brenda and Dan Burnett and Terri Middlemiss); California Unions for Reliable Energy (Elizabeth Klebaner). These groups and their representatives brought a wide array of expertise to the table, making sure that Solar Millennium did not slip anything over on us.

In celebration of this outcome my husband and I have spent three mornings in the past two weeks exploring the northern edge of the El Paso Mountains that overlook the site. Last Saturday we climbed the large volcanic hill just to the west of the site. While it was tempting to gaze downward at all the little green wildflower sprouts, the larger picture was more important. From the top we looked out over the El Paso Wash alluvial plain. My heart was full of gratitude that the fully functioning ecosystem below would remain a home for Desert Tortoises, Mojave Ground Squirrels, Desert Kit Foxes, LeConte’s Thrashers, Western Burrowing Owls and all the native plants that support them. It was a wonderful sight!

— Kathy LaShure,
Creosote Ring Leader

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Water Commission Hits the Ground Crawling

In recent issues I’ve chronicled the near-death of the Inyo County Water Commission, my own unsuccessful attempts to serve, and the commission’s re-birth in late 2010. The newly-constituted commission has now met twice. The results, however, are not encouraging. The first meeting, which only four of five members attended, was devoted entirely to discussions of the Brown Act and presentations by the Inyo County Water Department staff. No substantive items were on the agenda. The second meeting contained several substantive items, including one entitled “goals.” I think it is wonderful that ICWC might actually set itself goals, and I have several ideas about what they might be. Unfortunately only three commissioners (of five) attended the meeting, so the “goals” item was put off until the next meeting – in late April. I suggest one of the ICWC goals should be to track attendance records of Water Commissioners, so those missing more than 2 meetings a year can be replaced.

— Daniel Pritchett

Blackrock Saga Continues

Last year, I got to say “I told you so” when DWP objected to the CA Department of Fish and Game’s attempt to reduce groundwater pumping for the Blackrock hatchery. DWP objected on the grounds that it viewed pumping from wells supplying the hatchery as part of its water supply. I had written in 2006 that DWP exploited the hatchery exemption as a “piscine shield” allowing it to export groundwater it would not otherwise be allowed to pump.

I recently got to say “I told you so” again. The Inyo County Water Department (ICWD) belatedly concluded that “significant change is occurring” at parcel Blackrock 94 and the change is attributable to changes in ground and surface water management. Excessive pumping for the Blackrock hatchery is the culprit. Bristlecone Chapter member Sally Manning publicly discussed degradation of the parcel at a talk in 1999 at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. In 2007, after 8 years of fruitless waiting for pumping to be reduced, I wrote a formal complaint to ICWD and DWP on behalf of the Bristlecone chapter. I pointed out some of the changes that were occurring and asserted that management must be modified to avoid creating significant impacts. Almost four years after I made these assertions, ICWD finally concurred.

What has this accomplished? When DWP proposes its annual pumping plan in April, it will be difficult for Inyo County to once again acquiesce to the excessive hatchery pumping, now that ICWD has concluded it is causing a significant change. On the other hand, Inyo County Supervisors have made their love of the hatchery and their lack of love for native plants and rare ecosystem types very clear. Rather than insisting on a pumping reduction to bring about water table recovery, I predict Inyo Supervisors will direct the ICWD to make a political deal in which hatchery pumping continues unabated and DWP “mitigates” somewhere else in the valley. It is up to us to insist on water table recovery to restore the meadow.

— Daniel Pritchett

Standing Committee Follies

In the November-December 2010 edition of this newsletter, I reported that the Inyo-LA Standing Committee (SC) had held a meeting on August 27, 2010, in which the only representatives from LA were DWP staff and an attorney from the LA city attorney’s office. The Inyo-LA Long Term Water Agreement (LTWA) specifies that LA be represented by “at least one (1) member of the Los Angeles City Council, the Administrative Officer of the City of Los Angeles, two (2) members of the Board of Water and Power Commissioners, and three (3) staff members.” LA’s representation was not close to meeting this requirement. Woops! The Big Pine Tribe objected that a quorum was not present at this meeting, and wrote a formal letter of complaint to Inyo and LA.

The SC met again November 4, 2010. This time, two members of the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners attended, though no members of the LA City Council were present. At this meeting, in response to public comments, Inyo County Counsel Randy Keller disclosed that Inyo County had yet to decide what, exactly, constituted a quorum for the SC. This was notwithstanding the very explicit language in the LTWA regarding SC membership and the fact that the SC had been meeting for 19 years since the LTWA had been signed. Woops, again!

At the same SC meeting, Inyo SC members were asked by a member of the public how Inyo County determined how its vote would be cast when action items were on the agenda (Inyo and LA each have one vote, even though multiple people represent each side at the SC meeting). The Inyo SC members were speechless, and sat there like deer in a headlight. Woops number three! I can’t recall a group of public officials making such fools of themselves. Later in the meeting one of the Inyo members disclosed that she just deferred to whatever Inyo County Supervisors wanted to do regarding voting.

On February 18, 2011, less than a week before the SC’s Feb 24, 2011 meeting in LA, the SC agenda was released. There was one action item entitled “Consideration of Standing Committee protocols.” Supporting material was a memo purporting to be from the Inyo-LA Technical Group (TG) containing a list of nine statements described as “a protocol for future Standing Committee meetings.” The only problem was that the TG had never actually taken the trouble to discuss and vote on the protocol. Woops number four! I have observed the Inyo County Water Department (ICWD) manipulating County Supervisors by selectively omitting relevant information, and also have evidence of DWP staff flagrantly deceiving the LA Board of Water and Power Commissioners. In this case, we have an example of both staffs jointly and openly attempting to deceive the public and the SC.

The deception, unfortunately, is only part of the problem. One of the nine items in the proposed “Standing Committee protocols” specified which SC members would have to be present for a vote to be taken. The problem is that the specified members represented only a subset of the various public officials required by the LTWA to represent Inyo and LA at the Standing Committee. In other words, the proposed protocol would allow votes to be taken with fewer SC members present than the minimum specified in the LTWA for a meeting to take place at all. Woops number five!

Inyo County, which reportedly initiated this agenda item, was apparently attempting to weaken the quorum requirements specified in the LTWA. If Inyo and/or LA wish to modify the language in the LTWA regarding membership on the SC (or any other subject), they are obliged to go to court and request a change. The SC itself doesn’t have the legal authority to modify the LTWA. Woops number six! Inyo and LA have gone to court to modify language in the LTWA at least once before, so they can’t plead procedural ignorance.

A final problem is that the Inyo County Water Department bypassed the Inyo County Water Commission in submitting the proposed protocol to the SC. The Water Commission exists to solicit public input regarding water policy and provide advice to Inyo Supervisors. The proposed protocol certainly represented a serious public policy change which warranted public discussion and there had even been a Water Commission meeting just two weeks before the SC meeting. Woops number seven! The Water Department has a history of attempting to avoid public scrutiny of its policy interpretations, and this is another example.

Fortunately, the Big Pine Paiute tribe sent a written objection regarding the proposed protocol to the SC. The surprise result: the item was tabled. A temporary victory, but in the bleak world of Owens Valley water politics, even temporary victories are rare and should be appreciated. Once again we owe thanks to the Big Pine Paiute Tribe.

— Daniel Pritchett

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The Bristlecone Chapter heartily welcomes the following new members:

  • Eva Armi – Del Mar, CA
  • Andrew Kaiser – Death Valley, CA


To RENEW: please contact Sally Manning or RENEW ONLINE

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.

Membership Application

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Bristlecone Chapter Directory

President: VACANT
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
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: OPEN
Plant Sale Committee: Sherryl Taylor (924-8742), Denise Waterbury (873-4344)
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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