Winter 2000 Newsletter
The rains are at last falling as I write this, and fingers of fog are lazily creeping between the Ponderosa pines on the far hill. Glistening raindrops are lodged in the plump, velvety green mosses on the large gray rock outside my window. Already, I am looking forward to the rewards of the rain a few months henceforth when my view will include colorful expanses of wildflowers amid carpets of green.
We are all so very fortunate indeed to be able to live in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This newsletter is full of ways we all can take action to ensure that we will always have the wildflowers of spring to thrill us. If we who live in the Sierra and enjoy the magnificence every day don't speak up, don't take action, how can we expect outsiders to bear all the burden and fight all the fights to protect what we so treasure and gives us so much? I know we all feel insanely busy these days. But this is time truly well-spent. January is always a month when we strive to do better. And we can do better.
Your voice and action are sorely needed. According to a recent report Californians have eliminated 85 percent of the state's old-growth redwoods, 91percent of the state's wetlands and 99 percent of the state's once-expansive grasslands. Nearly six out of 10 California fish species has gone extinct or are "on the road to extinction if present trends continue,"while more than half of the state's frog species need some kind of government protection. Of the 342 species of land birds found in California, one in five is on the state or federal list of endangered animals. This U.S. Geological Survey report, "Status and Trends of Our Nation's Biological Resources", had been four years and $1 million in the making and involved about 200 government and university scientists.
So make a resolution to give something back to the environment that gives so much to us. There are a lot of options available to you-from "adopting a wilderness area" to voting in the March 7 primary. You don't have to save the world, only a little part of it. Read on. And Happy New Millennium!
Reclaiming the Wasteland: Revegetation Techniques
Ever wonder why those abandoned mine sites of 100 years ago still don't support vegetation? Most people guess that its all the toxins in the soil that result from mining that prevent plants from growing. That's just part of the answer! Learn the whole story as Karen Wiese walks you through the steps in revegetating severely disturbed landscapes such as mine sites or your own back yard. Karen will present a colorful slide show that illustrates how to create "soil" where there isn't any, collect seeds of native plants, prepare the site for planting including erosion control, and how to seed and plant. Actual examples from abandoned mine projects will demonstrate these principles that can be used in reclaiming your backyard or a 1000 acre gold mine. Whether you are a gardener, landscaper or just interested in revegetation or mine reclamation, you'll enjoy this talk. Karen works as a plant ecologist for the California Department of Conservation's Office of Mine Reclamation where she conducts research on reclaiming severely disturbed landscapes. Karen is also the author of a new book on Sierra wildflowers, coming out next Spring. Karen and other experts will be available to answer questions after the 45 minute slide show, plus a display of 'reveg' tree shelters, container types, weed control mats and other materials and a list of restoration growers. Come early and enjoy the magnificent Natural History Museum display in the halls of the science building (Sewell Hall). Refreshments will be available early as well.
How to get there: Take the Rocklin Road exit off I-80. Go south or follow signs to college. Approx 2 blocks to the 'West Entrance' of the campus, park in the first parking area to the left or to the right as you enter the campus. Sewell Hall is the building with the green copper roof at the west end of the campus. Don't forget to bring a dollar for parking.
At the January 26 Chapter meeting, we will vote on the following nominated slate of officers for two-year terms. If you would like to nominate anyone else, please contact Carolyn Chainey-Davis at 273-1581 or firstname.lastname@example.org before January 25.
The Redbud Chapter owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Carolyn Chainey-Davis for her sterling service as president of our Chapter over the past two years. Carolyn has worked an untold number of hours to make our Chapter a stronger organization and to further the reach of CNPS. She has proved indefatigable in her conservation efforts-Hell's Half Acre, the Dry Creek corridor, the Darlingtonia fen, the Bennet Street grasslands, to name just a few-and we are very fortunate that she is continuing in her post as conservation chair. She has played a key role in the success of our recent plant sales, and is always ready to share her extraordinary knowledge of native plants. She has brought creativity and a fresh approach to every problem. And she has just been plain fun to be around. An inspiration to us all! Thanks, Carolyn.
January is not too early to start dreaming about them. Unless otherwise stated, all field trips are free of charge and open to the public. They normally begin at 9 a.m. and run through the lunch hour. Bring along comfortable walking shoes, water, lunch and an enthusiasm for the outdoors. No reservations are required, but to find out where and when to meet, and the status of the trip in the event of inclement weather for any given field trip, please contact the Field Trip Chairman, Chet Blackburn at 530-885-0201 or by e-mail at email@example.com
Also, Botanist Karen Wiese, our new Nevada County vice president, leads field trips year-round. These are weekend hikes for nature lovers for a nominal charge. For a schedule, call her at 530-346-7131.
At present, much is happening on the Conservation Front in our mighty Sierras, much of it in our own backyard.
The U.S. Forest Service administers about 9 million of the 20.7 million acres in the Sierra Nevada, making it the predominant land manager of the region. The Forest Service has a huge presence in Nevada and Placer counties in the Tahoe National Forest. The agency is currently embarked on a complete re-evaluation of its management of all 11 national forests in the Sierra Nevada. The reign of timber as king of the forest has left the Sierra sorely degraded. This range-wide project should have widespread ramifications in the Sierras for decades or even centuries to come. Begun in 1998, the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation and Collaboration is intended to "incorporate the latest scientific information and broad public and intergovernmental participation in watershed and ecosystem planning" and its general purpose is to guide future national forest management in the Sierra Nevada. The Framework study includes in addition to the Tahoe, the Sequoia, Sierra, Stanislaus, Eldorado, Inyo, Plumas, Lassen and Modoc national forests; the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit; and portions of the east side's Toiyabe National Forest. When adopted, it will amend portions of documents that guide management in the following areas: old-forest ecosystems; rivers, streams and meadows; fire hazards; noxious weeds; and hardwood forests in the Sierra's lower west-side. The project is expected to be completed in 2000. It is an important undertaking of which you should be aware. To learn more about it visit the Forest Service website: www.r5.fs.fed.us or contact the Sierra Nevada Framework project at (916) 492-7554.
A mammoth effort called Wildlands 2000 to catalog the best of California's unprotected wild lands and to craft Federal legislation in the next year or two to substantially increase the state's wilderness areas is now under way. This ambitious undertaking is being spearheaded by the California Wilderness Coalition (CWC). Last November, CWC's Bill Ritter gave our chapter a slide tour through breathtakingly beautiful areas from the Lost Coast in Mendocino county to Bristlecone pines of the White Mountains. CWC has identified seven areas in the Tahoe National Forest that may warrant wilderness designation. These are the divide between the Yuba and Feather River watersheds, Bald Mountain, Grouse Lakes, Granite Chief (already partially wilderness), North Fork American River, North Fork/ Middle Fork American River, and Duncan Canyon. At present the only wilderness area in the Tahoe is the Granite Chief Wilderness Area near Lake Tahoe. The CWC still needs help in cataloging these areas and also in their adopt-a- wilderness program. This program is an outreach program intended to generate local support for Wilderness designations. These 'friends' groups would be "adopting a wilderness". Volunteer activities could include offering slide shows to schools, community groups, churches, and conservation groups; preparing fliers or picture books and distributing them; leading "show me" tours of the area and writing letters or submitting articles to local newspapers explaining how much the area deserves to be protected. Contact Ryan Henson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-474-4808 or Bill Ritter at email@example.com or 530-758-0380.
CWC has also planned a California Wildlands 2000 Conference for May 5-7, 2000 at California State University, Sacramento. More about that in the next newsletter.
The Wilderness Act celebrated its 35th anniversary in 1999, and to date America contains over 100 million acres of wilderness in 44 different states. But much more can yet be done. Out of nearly two and a half billion acres in the United States, so far we have truly protected only about 4% as wilderness. The majority of these areas are snow-capped peaks, frigid tundra and deserts. All of the best, richest, most productive lands have been developed. Nearly 96% of the U.S. is presently unprotected from development such as timber harvest and roads. If America protected another 60 million acres of public forest land in its wild state, that would still leave roughly 93% of our nation available for farming, mining, logging, road-building and development interests.
More than 80% of our National Forests remain unprotected. Over half of the lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service have already been impacted by decades of forest clearcutting, oil and gas development, mining, and other industrial uses. These 90 million acres are criss-crossed with 377,810 miles of official roads - more than 8 times the U.S. interstate highway system. In California it is estimated that over 675,000 acres of potential wilderness -- an area almost the size of Yosemite National Park -- has been lost in the past two decades due to logging and road building. This amounts to 97 acres of wild lands destroyed every day since 1979.
Native plants are the cornerstone of wilderness areas. California's millions of acres of unprotected wild lands contain thousands of plant species; many support a vast array of other life forms, including lichens, fungi, mosses, insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. The richness of plant species contributes to diverse plant communities unique to the Golden State.
Over 226 rare, threatened or endangered plant species life in California's unprotected wild places. Designation of new wilderness areas is our best hop for preservation of these species.
An almost 2,000 acre development in western Placer County called the Bickford Ranch threatens to decimate 960 acres of blue oak woodland, destroy 81 acres of wetlands and pave over 483 acres of annual grasslands. In addition, it would result in the removal of 11,700 native oak trees protected by the Placer County Tree Preservation Ordinance. And yet hardly anyone has ever heard of it and it is working its way through the Placer County planning process. The development, which is roughly bordered by Sierra College Blvd., Highway 193, Clark Tunnel Road and English Colony, has been flying under the radar screen until lately. WPCARE (Western Placer Citizens for an Agricultural & Rural Environment) is now sounding an alarm. In addition to the loss of precious oak woodland, this development will have profound impacts on the residents of Loomis, Penryn, Rocklin, Newcastle and Lincoln in terms of air quality, traffic, water quality and supply. WPCARE can use your help. The full impact of this development needs to be publicized, and County planners need to hear from you. Blue oak woodland is one of the most threatened and vulnerable habitats in the state. For more information, contact Mike Rogers at 916-645-0353 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.psyber.com/~wpcare.
Prop 12, the Safe Neighborhood Parks bond, and Prop 13, the Safe Drinking Water bond, are on the March 7, 2000 ballot. These bond acts received strong bipartisan support in the Legislature, recognizing the tremendous need California has for parks, open space, and recreation as well as clean water for its growing population and natural environment. These bonds will not raise taxes, and all funds will be appropriated through the state budget and subject to careful review and annual public audits.
Prop 12 is a $2.1 billion bond act that includes much needed funding for state and local parks and other agencies and non-profits that protect open space and recreational resources. Funds will be available for land acquisition, habitat restoration, coastal protection, open space protection in fast growing suburbs, protection of remaining wildlife areas in some of our fastest growing counties, as well as playgrounds, zoos and soccer fields, urban conservation corps, and recreation for at-risk youth.
Prop 13 is a $1.97 billion bond act that addresses water pollution issues and makes our water cleaner by funding watershed restoration, improving sewage treatment, and reducing "non-point source" pollution caused by street runoff in urban areas. According to the Association of California Water Agencies, Prop 13 will improve California's water supply by one million acre-feet.
California League of Conservation Voters, Audubon, the League of Women Voters, the Nature Conservancy, and California Chamber of Commerce all support Prop 12 and Prop 13. In addition, the Sierra Club, California Organization of Police and Sheriffs and AARP endorse Prop 12 and the Association of California Water Agencies and Agricultural Council of California are backing Prop 13.
Prop 12 and Prop 13 contains ENORMOUS opportunity for the future conservation of California's native flora and habitats. Local projects that we support and our own projects will be eligible for bond funds. And your help is needed to pass these important bond acts. Tell you family and friends about these bond acts and how important it is to vote in March 2000. You can also help by donating funds to the organizing campaign for Prop12 and 13 (Californians for Safe Neighborhood Parks and Clean Water, 926 J St., Suite 612, Sacramento, CA 95814; (916) 313-4538)
Further information on Prop 12 and Prop 13, including summaries, votes of your legislators, fact sheets and visual aids, is available on Audubon-California's website at http://www.audubon-ca.org/. Additional information on Prop 12 is at http://www.safeparks.org, and information on Prop 13 is at http://www.prop13.org.
by Kathy Van Zuuk, Tahoe National Forest botanist
Monitoring of known sensitive plant locations on the Tahoe National Forest in 1999 produced some disturbing findings. Several of the known locations of Lewisia serrata (Sawtoothed Lewisia) and Lewisia cantelovii (Wet-cliff Lewisia) appear to have experienced poaching (illegal collection from National Forest System lands). At one Sawtoothed Lewisia site, almost all of the mature plants were taken. There was no evidence of disturbance other then scrapes on the rocks and small holes.
Lewisias are beautiful plants that are sold throughout California. They are used for horticultural purposes. Collection of sensitive Lewisia plants or any other vegetation on National Forest System lands is illegal without a permit. Permits are required so that collection of plants or plant materials can be tracked and the impacts monitored. There are no permits for collection of sensitive plants issued from the Tahoe National Forest. Lewisias are limited by the type of habitat where they grow. These often steep areas with shallow soils do not withstand disturbance. In addition, these sensitive Lewisias are slow growing. Therefore, the management for these plants is usually to avoid them, i.e. buffer them from disturbance which includes collection. This type of management (avoidance) was developed to insure that Forest Service management activities do not contribute to listing them as threatened or endangered.
Maintaining sensitive/rare plants on National Forest System lands is also an important part of maintaining biodiversity of the National Forest. Now that you know that this illegal activity occurred (and why it is an illegal activity), what can you do? Ask nurseries where they got the Lewisia plant that you are thinking of buying. If they are vague or cannot answer the question, maybe you shouldn't buy the plant. Report to the Forest Service botanist if you see anything suspicious while you are out enjoying the forest. Volunteer to "watch" sensitive plant occurrences-kind of an adopt-a-plant program. We all enjoy having National Forest lands near where we live. Lets all join in and help maintain it. Lets try to stop a few individuals who are trying to make a few dollars while degrading our National Forest. If you have any questions or comments, please call Kathy Van Zuuk at 530-478-6243.
By Arthur Shapiro, Professor Evolution, Ecology and Entomology, UC Davis.
The western foothills and lower montane zones of the Sierra Nevada contain species populations and biotic associations ("communities") which are not globally endangered (hence not protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act) and often not endangered on a statewide basis (hence not protected under the California statute) but which are at high risk of regional extinction in the Sierra Nevada. Many of these are restricted to unusual soils (such as serpentine, gabbro, limestone and certain clays) that make up minuscule proportions of the counties concerned, although they may be widely scattered over the region. Others are restricted to areas with impeded drainage such as bogs, fens and vernal pools. Why are they important?
They are usually 'relicts'-populations left behind in special places by climate change. Many have persisted for 10,000 to 20,000 years since the last Ice Age. A good example of a relict species in our zone is Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuata), which today only occurs in very local colonies in the Sierra, but is common and widespread in the North Coast Range
They are often genetically unique, due to long-term isolation from gene flow. An example is the California Pitcher Plant (Darlingtonia californica) at the Grouse Ridge fen, which has a color morph unknown in any other population.
A few occur only in the Sierra Nevada, such as the two races of the Milkwort Jewelflower (Streptanthus polygaloides)- a species of special interest for its bizarre flowers and for its ability to accumulate enormous and toxic amounts of nickel from the soil.
Why are they at risk? Precisely because they occur in many localities, they have not been perceived as being at risk. And because some are relatively common and widespread in the Coast Range or elsewhere, their Sierran populations have not been viewed as being of special concern-but they are at risk. The very local Sierran populations are scattered over several counties, from Plumas and Butte to Kern and Inyo. At the county level they are afforded no protection. As a result, more and more populations are being lost to development, willy-nilly. There is no monitoring across county lines. Several of them will be or have been lost from much of their range and only then will an alarm be raised that they are in danger of being lost from the Sierra altogether. And by then it will probably be too late.
Most species have a dynamic of colonization and extinction. Local catastrophes such as fires may wipe out local populations, but other populations exist sufficiently close by to allow relatively easy recolonization. As more and more populations are lost, the ones remaining are increasingly isolated from one another and hence increasingly vulnerable to being lost forever. Consider MacNab Cypress (Cupressus macnabiana), a tree confined to serpentine and gabbro soils. There are about 15 known populations in the Sierra, from Yuba to Amador County, occurring in clusters (two near Oregon House, Yuba County, three near Grass Valley, two or three near Nevada City, etc.). Because they are clustered (reflecting the distribution of serpentine and gabbro soils), if one is lost there are many nearby seed sources. But suppose the colony near the hospital in Grass Valley is completely lost to development. A small colony across the freeway near the quarry was nearly wiped out last year. A small colony east of McCourtney Road is down to about 15 trees and may soon disappear. That will leave only the population at East Van Tam Road, adjacent to the county landfill. If it should be destroyed, what are the odds that any seeds will reach any of the sites from another county? MacNab Cypress has a special butterfly, John Muir's hairstreak (Mitoura muiri), which feeds on it. It is apparently on most of the known stands, but it is conspicuously absent from the southernmost stand at Mt. Aukum, Amador County, despite that stand being one of the largest populations of MacNab Cypress (5-10,000 tress). We suspect it was there, became extinct for some reason, and has never been able to recolonize because the place is so far from the nearest colony. If we allow these species to disappear site by site with no control, they will disappear from the whole range of the Sierra Nevada.
The survival of serpentine and gabbro specialist plants and butterflies has been favored by the poor quality of those soils, which has discouraged development until very recently. Now we see an accelerating loss of such sites. In Placer County a significant serpentine site is being developed residentially at Iowa Hill right now. In Eldorado County the suburbanization of Pine Hill has apparently led to a complete loss of its rare and endemic butterfly fauna, which was common as recently as the 1960s. Even if these species survive elsewhere in their geographic ranges, their loss from the Sierra Nevada removes an element of patrimony that cannot be replaced. If we act now, our descendants will still be able to see them in place and not have to travel to Mendocino or San Luis Obispo to see rare and beautiful organisms that once existed happily just down the road.
I encourage Nevada County (and Placer County) to confer a reasonable level of protection on such organisms, including, but not limited to, the plants identified as meriting special concern by the California Native Plant Society.
The University of California requires an explicit declaration that the above opinions, while reflecting my best personal judgement, are personal and are not to be construed as the official opinion of the University, the Davis campus, any department or administration unit thereof, or any person other than myself.
Love to talk? Love sunshine? Volunteers are needed to help with one-day spring 2000 events. Redbud members set up displays, and talk with the public about conservation and wildflowers at Tahoe National Forest events, Earth Day, and other weekend outdoor events. Call Karen at 530-272-5532.
A Chapter Board Meeting will be held at the home of Bobbi Wilkes at 9:30 on Saturday, February 12. All members are index to attend. Contact Bobbi at 268-2046 for more information and directions.
Board of Directors:
* All phone numbers are in the 530 area code, with the exception of
Shawna Martinez, which is 916.