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Wolves get more protection in California

State decides on endangered species status for wolves even as feds proceed with national de-listing push

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Wolf pups near the Oregon-California border may be the offspring of a wolf that has lived part-time in California the past few years. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

FRISCO — When wolves start to reclaim their historic territories in the wilds of California, they’ll be protected under state law. The California Fish and Game Commission voted last week to protect gray wolves under the state’s Endangered Species Act after being petitioned by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The decision came just a few days after biologists documented the presence of two wolf pups  in the Oregon portion of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest that straddles the California-Oregon border. The pups, which are likely to be part of a litter of four to six pups, are the offspring of the wolf known as OR-7, which has made California part of his range for the past four years. Continue reading

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Can Squaw Valley slow the development juggernaut?

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Legendary Squaw Valley, California.

Resort residents want to form town to exert more control over land use

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The never-ending ski town battle between local residents and corporate interests has morphed into a new form at historic Squaw Valley. Residents are on a quest to incorporate a new town, to be called Olympic Valley, and they’re crowdsourcing for financial support on indiegogo.com.

Using web-based social networks may be a new twist, but many of the issues are the same that affect many other mountain communities, as real estate exploitation and environmental degradation threaten the very values that made those towns so appealing to begin with. Continue reading

Environment: Feds release plan for expansion of two marine sanctuaries off the coast of California

Nutrient-rich area crucial for feeding whales, seabirds

The northern boundary of the proposed expansion is a few miles north of Port Arena. Credit Jennifer Stock/CBNMS/NOAA

The northern boundary of the proposed expansion is a few miles north of Port Arena. Photo courtesy Jennifer Stock/CBNMS/NOAA.

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Expansion of marine sanctuaries will benefit a wide variety of wildlife.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Seals, salmon, sharks and seabirds will have a little more room to play off the coast of California, with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries releasing a proposal to expand the boundaries of Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank national marine sanctuaries. The agency is accepting public and stakeholder comments on the proposal and related regulations through June 30.

The proposal is intended to protect the distinctive marine ecosystem north and west of the sanctuaries’ current boundaries. It would include waters and submerged lands off of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, including North America’s most intense “upwelling” site offshore of Point Arena. The nutrients brought to the surface during upwelling events at Point Arena are carried south into the sanctuaries by the prevailing California Current; these nutrients fuel an incredibly productive ocean area protected by GFNMS and CBNMS. Continue reading

Morning photo: 2013 Travel shots

Around the world with Summit Voice

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A classic sunset view of San Francisco sky from the Coit Tower.

FRISCO — If you’ve been a Summit Voice reader for a few years, then you’ve probably had a chance to visit a few special places with us — maybe the olive groves of Corfu, ancient castles and world heritage sites in Albania or the icefields of Antarctica. This year’s trips included a short visit to San Francisco early in the year, and an autumn journey to Iceland, fulfilling a long-time travel dream. It’s hard to narrow down hundreds of shots to find some “favorites,” so I just went with my gut feeling, choosing the images that evoked the strongest feeling as I scrolled through the archives. Happy trails to you in 2014! Continue reading

Report: Unsustainable groundwater pumping leads to record land subsidence in California’s Central Valley

USGS outlines threats to critical infrastructure

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California’s Central Valley, as seen from the International Space Station. Photo courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Farmers and cities in central California are pumping so much groundwater that the land is rapidly subsiding across a large area, with potentially serious consequences for the region’s water infrastructure.

In a report released last week, the U.S. Geological Survey said the subsidence is occurring in such a way that there may be significant operational and structural challenges that need to be overcome to ensure reliable water delivery. In some places, the land subsided as much as 25 feet between 1926 and 1970.

Delivery of surface water from the north helped relieve pressure on the aquifers, but drought conditions between 1976–77 and 1987–92, and drought conditions and regulatory reductions in surface-water deliveries during 2007–10, once again led to increased pumping and renewed subsidence. Continue reading

Climate: October temperatures below average across lower 48 states, but Alaska readings reach all-time high

Year-to-date wetter and warmer than average

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The western U.S. was cooler than average in October 2013, with a few pockets of record cold readings. Map courtesy NOAA National Climatic Data Center.

FRISCO — For the first time since last April, the average monthly temperature across the lower 48 states was below average for the month, with the coolest readings across the western U.S. It was the first month of the year with cooler than average readings for most of the West.

By contrast, Alaska reporting its warmest-ever October, breaking the old record by 1.1 degrees.

Across the contiguous states, the average October temperature was 53.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 0.6 degrees below the 20th century average, and the 37th-coldest October on record, according to the monthly update from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. Continue reading

Biodiversity: Feds agree to study pesticide impacts to rare frogs in California

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USGS sampling found that Pacific chorus frogs in many remote Sierra Nevada locations are contaminated by pesticides and fungicides used in agricultural production in California’s Central Valley. Photo courtesy USGS.

Court settlement may ultimately help protect endangered amphibians

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — In a classic case of government do-nothingism, federal agencies have known for years that pesticides are killing rare California frogs — but have failed to act to protect the amphibians from the poisons.

But that should change soon, as a federal court this week approved a deal that requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prepare detailed environmental studies on the effects of seven common pesticides: Glyphosate, malathion, simazine, pendimethalin, permethrin, methomyl and myclobutanil.

The studies, called biological opinions in government jargon, will evaluate and disclose how the use of those chemicals affects California’s red-legged frogs when they’re used in and near the frog’s aquatic and upland habitats. Continue reading

Summer of 2013 the 8th warmest on record

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A tale of two summers …

Warm West, cool East

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Despite the near absence of record heat across the contiguous 48 states, the summer of 2013 (June-August) ranked as the eighth-warmest on record, with an average temperature of 72.6 degrees, about 1.2 degrees warmer than the 20th century norm.

The data tallied by the National Climatic Data Center suggests an era of new normals, with temperatures running well above historic averages even in non-El Niño years. Taken separately, August 2013 was the 28th-warmest on record with an average temperature of 73..1 degrees, 1 degree above the 20th century average. Read the full report here.

The Alaska statewide average summer temperature was 2.7 degrees above the 1971-2000 average and ranked as the second warmest summer in the 96-year period of record for the state. The warmest June-August occurred in 2004 when the statewide temperature was 4.1 degrees above average. Continue reading

Environment: Forest Service agrees to study snowmobile impacts on five national forests in California

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The U.S. Forest Service may finally address the environmental impacts of snowmobiles, at least in California, where the agency settled a lawsuit with a promise to do better studies.

Conservation groups say agency has been avoiding detailed studies by approving trail systems under streamlined categorical exclusion permitting process

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The U.S. Forest Service may finally come to grips with the environmental impacts of snowmobiles under a new legal agreement that will require a full assessment of snowmobile impacts on wildlife, plants and quiet recreation in five California national forests — the Stanislaus, Eldorado, Tahoe, Plumas and Lassen.

The agreement settles a lawsuit that challenged the Forest Service’s practice of avoiding detailed environmental review on these national forests in the central and northern Sierra and southern Cascades. In many cases, the agency has used categorical exclusions to authorize snowmobile trail grooming without taking a hard look at impacts like federal environmental laws require. Continue reading

Feds issue emergency rules to protect sperm whales

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Activists seek to halt drift gillnet fishing altogether

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal officials this week enacted emergency regulations to try and protect Pacific Ocean sperm whale population from California’s drift gillnet fishery, which has been killing non-commercial fish and marine mammals at an alarming rate.

The practice of setting miles of floating nets may be one of the cheapest ways to fish for commercial species, but it’s also one of the most destructive to marine resources. Recent fishery observer data indicates that, for every two swordfish the fishery catches to sell, on average one blue shark, 15 ocean sunfish, and a long list of other fish are thrown overboard dead or injured.

The new regulations issues by the National Marine Fisheries Service will shut down California’s drift gillnet fishery if a single endangered sperm whale is caught dead or injured. Continue reading

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