Category: News

Safe self-isolating on public lands? Think again

IMG_2052
The bleak scene Tuesday, when you could still walk into Peets in Pasadena to pick up your brew. (Jim Burns)

 

Hello fellow fishers, sheltering in place.

It seems a natural to decamp to the great out of doors right now, to escape the virus anxieties and homebound blues. After all, municipal golf courses are still open, so what’s not to like in an even bigger venue?

That idea for me came crashing down when my friend and fishing guide Chris Leonard sent me an excellent blog post about how Bishop, California, is dealing with an onslaught of climbers. As one of the West’s best bouldering spots, I can see how the draw to go would be strong. But, questions arise as out-of-towners look for supplies and indoor camaraderie.

Here’s a sample from Thundercling:

     Bishop, California, hosts some of the finest bouldering in the world, along with a friendly community dependent on visiting climbers. With COVID-19 sweeping into every nook of our nation, however, the town is struggling to limit visiting climbers; so far, unsuccessfully, putting the local population at risk for infection, a bleak prospect for a tiny community hours from the nearest metropolis.

        “The current scene feels like people are on winter or spring break,” said Tammy Wilson, a local climber, skier, restaurant worker, and Volunteer Coordinator for the Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival. “Lots of cars in the parking lots, more people at the boulders than Thanksgiving week. Massive crowds of people camping and in coffee shops and grocery stores.”

     Despite mass outreach and the desperate warnings from physicians and health care workers worldwide, climbers from around the country have descended upon Bishop as though a global pandemic were some sort of hall pass from responsibility and magnanimity. These climbers, many of whom laud social services and universal health care and employ progressive social media messaging, have willed themselves to rise above distress and summarily jettisoned the very meaning of community in favor of sending some random V8 on volcanic tuft.

And that stalwart of independent journalism in the West, High Country News, turns our attention to the crowds descending on Arches National Park. Many years ago, environmental pioneer Edward Abbey warned that good roads would cause greater crowds to visit the park, but I’m sure he never imagined this scenario.

 Read the entire article:

        Ski resorts have shuttered. Disneyland is closed. Professional sports have been           canceled. For most of the United States, social events and attractions ranging from museum visits to music festivals have vanished. But despite nationwide warnings that people should stay at home and limit unnecessary outings, national parks and monuments have, for the most part, remained open. 

      As a result, visitors desperate for activity and distraction have flooded into Moab, Utah, the gateway to Arches National Park. “We had crowds of people that felt like peak summertime,” said Ashley Kumburis, who manages a rafting and jeep tour outfitter that’s still open. “If you didn’t know this contagious virus was spreading, you would think it was a regular summer day in Moab.” 

    On March 16, doctors from Moab Regional Hospital sent a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert, R, asking for help. “We are writing this letter to implore you to shut down all non-essential business service in Moab,” it reads. Citing a lack of hospital beds and no local intensive care unit — at a time when lodging for the following weekend was estimated to be at between 75-95% capacity — officials were concerned that “tourism would drive the spread” of COVID-19. Within a few hours, the Southeast Utah Health Department issued an order closing restaurants and lodging, and camping on both public and private land to outside visitors. 

Even though it hurts, stay home. I just pulled out of a trip I’ve been absolutely crazy to take for months,  spring fly fishing the Western Sierra. We need to stop this thing any way we can. It’s not a hoax, fake news, overblown, over-estimated. It’s real.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Boulder clusters could make a difference for urban fish

Flow
(Courtesy Bureau of Reclamation.)

If you fish and the above look like prime spots to cast your dry fly, you’ve got a good eye. The incredible part is that these images don’t come from a fast-flowing stream in Montana, but are lab representations of what could happen in the LA River to slow the water flow in certain areas, providing structure and habitat.

Currently, most of the river runs with an even flow, purposely created by engineers to move water out to the ocean. Flood control, not habitat, was the U.S. Army Corps original consideration after widespread destructive flooding in Los Angeles during the 1930s.

In all, the Bureau of Reclamation plans to test 12 designs alternatives that would “increase the size and roughness of a low-flow channel that would fit within the larger concrete flood control channel.” Features could include:
— a meandering low-flow channel with pools and riffles
— flow detectors
— a multi-threaded channel
— backwater areas
— boulder clusters (like the one pictured)
— mid-channel islands with alternating bank-attached bars

It’s all part of an innovative approach that may lead to a design within confined urban streams to create suitable depth and velocity conditions for native fish to thrive.

“The study only looks at hydraulics while recognizing that other biological factors, such as water temperature and cover are important,” said the Bureau of Reclamation Lead Investigator Nathan Holste by email.

Saying “hello” to native rainbows and “goodbye” to invasive carp is a stretch, but this is a welcome step in the right direction to return aquatic habit to our waters.

The Council for Watershed Health, in partnership with Holste, and several other project partners submitted a grant application to the Wildlife Conservation Board to fund a LA River Fish Passage Study, according to CWH Executive Director Eileen Alduenda, and are hopeful of receiving the additional funds to continue the study.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

First big test of housing vs. LA River restoration

IMG_4437 2
At the Bowtie State Park: “Appreciate hard times, someday they’ll just be another chapter in your success story.” (Jim Burns)

From the Los Angeles Times:

Los Angeles’s twin challenges of building more housing while restoring its namesake waterway are clashing along a shady 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River between downtown and the hills of Griffith Park.

On a 7-acre parcel in that stretch, a developer wants to build the riverfront’s first major development, Casitas Lofts, a 419-unit mix of mostly upscale apartments, offices and restaurants bordering neighborhoods on the east side of the river, Glassell Park and Atwater Village.

But opponents — including many nearby residents, the influential nonprofit Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Natural Resources Defense Council — contend the development would disrupt habitat restoration efforts, trigger gentrification and erode the area’s allure.

Yurok Tribe declares personhood for Klamath River

klamath
The Klamath River now has the legal status of personhood. (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

From High Country News: This summer, the Yurok Tribe declared rights of personhood for the Klamath River — likely the first to do so for a river in North America. A concept previously restricted to humans (and corporations), “rights of personhood” means, most simply, that an individual or entity has rights, and they’re now being extended to nonhumans. The Yurok’s resolution, passed by the tribal council in May, comes during another difficult season for the Klamath; over the past few years, low water flows have caused high rates of disease in salmon, and cancelled fishing seasons.