Look to Montana for habitat restoration and fishy inspiration

I just came back from an enlightening trip to Butte, Montana, ground zero for turn-of-the-century copper extraction, just as Thomas Edison discovered electricity and the USA wired the entire country to go from candles to light bulbs. Millions of miles of copper wire came from ore extracted in Butte. As a result, tons of extremely toxic mining waste polluted the area’s water and fouled the landscape, killing off thousands of trees.

Butte gets rich, then goes bust

Richest Hill on EarthButte got rich and richer, then went bust. One hundred-plus years of mining left 10,000 miles (not a typo) of mines beneath the city. At one point, more than 100,000 souls called it home, many Irish immigrants; mining shifts worked around the clock, and Charlie Chaplin complained he’d “never worked that hard in his life” because of having to play to multiple shifts of miners as they got off their shifts. Today, the population has decreased to around 34,000, up 4,000 in the last decade.

Better times ahead

Butte is experiencing a bit of a Renaissance, with a freshly minted film festival, good spots to stay and to eat, close airport access to the Big Hole, one of America’s premier freestone rivers, fly rods designed by women, for women, and a fine local bourbon.

As I fly fished my way around the area, the LA was on my mind. I caught cutthroat trout in Silverbow Creek, where wading would have been dangerous just a few decades ago.

Cutthroat
A beautiful Cutty, caught at a former Superfund cleanup site. (Jim Burns)

Environmental Protection Agency officials declared it a Superfund cleanup site in 1983.

So, for inspiration about what our river could become as it loses its concrete straitjacket, check out this video. Next carp you catch, squint your eyes and see what it might become.

 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

 

 

‘Wild LA’ invites readers to explore urban nature

Let’s get to know the Great Blue Heron, although it could just as easily be the Monarch Butterfly, or the Black Bear, or even the Red-eared Slider.

All of these creatures have their own pages in the breezy and fabulous new book “Wild LA,” created by the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

When the rest of the country thinks of LA, it’s Disneyland, beaches, babes, wildfires, but probably not our wildlife. Yet, this pithy guide would have us “explore the amazing nature in and around Los Angeles.”

To accomplish this for the reader, the museum put together a formidable cast of writers and photographers, including Charles Hood, who teaches English and occasionally journalism, shoots engaging nature photography and writes in his book-jacket biography that he is a reformed birder, who stopped counting at 5,000 species.

He and the book’s other authors explore what the term “urban nature” means in several essays about wild Los Angeles, including one about water and the LA River, viewed through the journal of Franciscan missionary Gaspar Portola some 200 years ago, to its current-day role as “an unlikely gem in the city — still a place for wildlife to survive and for humans to thrive.”

IMG_4342
THE AUDUBON SOCIETY was created at the end of the 19th century, in part by women activists, to regulate the feather trade and bring herons and other birds back from the brink of extinction. Believe it or not women’s hats — and the huge amount of feathers needed to create tens of thousands of them — were to blame. (Jim Burns)

Going back to that Great Blue Heron, in the field guide section of 101 LA species readers learn he stands some four feet tall, with a wingspan of six feet. Fair enough. But what makes this book such a gem is that once you’ve read up on a favorite species — and probably discovered many a new one in the book’s pages — the text cross-references trips to areas where, with a little patience,  you can see them.

Sure enough, our Great Blue Heron can be spotted on five itineraries in the book’s final section that features 25 trips for nature lovers, including the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve, Ballona Wetlands and the LA River at Frogtown. Here, herons hunt with that impressive, sharp bill any unwary “fish, frogs, crayfish, lizards, snakes, mice, birds, grasshoppers and dragonflies.”

Make room for this fun guide in your day pack and don’t forget your fly rod.

Wild LA

By Lila Higgins & Gregory B. Pauly

with Jason G. Goldman 7 Charles Hood

332 pps

$24.95

http://www.timberpress.com

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Sixth annual River Day highlights a river on fire

The Los Angeles River continues to be scalding hot, and that’s not just the summertime temps of the water. Two big river events in two days this week, the official groundbreaking for the Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge, followed by the sixth annual River Day at City Hall.

The city has worked on being “riverly” since — 1988 — according to former Councilmember Tom LaBonge who retired in 2015. It’s been a long road with our community still waiting for promised federal dollars to the tune of $2.6 billion to restore the river’s habitat.

Let’s count down what’s happened since the last River Day. The slogan could be “connect, don’t neglect” as underserved communities regain the connections lost to the construction of a concrete flood control channel:

Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI, center, and friends broke ground on the Taylor Yard Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge, which will connect Elysian Valley to Cypress Park. Once complete in early 2021, the $20 million bridge will be roughly 400 feet long with an 18-foot-wide passageway for cyclists and pedestrians. (Credit Jim Burns)

— Four new and-and-bike friendly bridges to connect communities: Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge, North Atwater Village, Red Car Pedestrian Bridge and Verdugo Wash Bridge that will connect Glendale to L.A.

— Friends of the Los Angeles River’s celebrates the 30th annual LA River Clean-up and begins #CrackTheConcrete fundraising campaign. It’s a classic FoLAR campaign that is pro Taylor Yards/G2 River Park and its long-promised habitat restoration and con Casitas Lofts, a 420-unit housing development.

— LA River, Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, to get $4.3 million from state budget for restoration.

— Opening of Albion Riverside Park in Lincoln Heights.

— $18 million in state funding for a continuous bike path along the river. Remember, this is a 51-mile waterway.

— Last week the Environmental Protection Agency awarded $500,000 to help clean up the polluted soil of Taylor Yard/G2.

— Councilmember David Ryu takes on chairmanship of river committee from Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.

“Some day the LA River steelhead will come back,” Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell said at the river celebration, echoing what FoLAR co-founder Lewis MacAdams said for many years to anyone who would listen.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

A request from the children of Lewis MacAdams

Visionary poet Lewis MacAdams pictured by his beloved Los Angeles River.

Update: As of June 10, Thank you for your extraordinary generosity and kindness toward our Dad. Because of your support, we have raised more than $40,000 for his care, from close to 150 people.

Many of you know our dad from his work as an activist for the L.A. River and as a poet.  You may have seen him striding across the bank of the river at a clean-up, his eyes on a future he helped to realize; invoking frogs and blue herons in poems that also honored the hard-edged beauty of the city he loves; or writing op-eds and fundraising letters that combined humor with a stubborn insistence that the impossible is possible.

We are writing to ask your financial support at a critical moment in Dad’s life.
  He is currently living in assisted living facility in Los Angeles, as a result of his Parkinson’s and a stroke he suffered in 2015.   Despite these challenges, he is moving ahead with the same stubborn will that helped revitalize the River: he still welcomes regular visits with friends and colleagues and is meeting weekly with journalist Julia Ingalls, who is helping him write an autobiography, entitled Poetry and Politics.

That said, the cost of care is significant and we are seeking to raise $200,000 to support his long-term living expenses and all the medical costs related to it.  These costs are not covered by Medicare and his funds are nearly depleted. The need is urgent.

We are hoping you can help Lewis in his time of need.

Here is the link to the GoFundMe site.

https://www.gofundme.com/a-request-from-the-children-of-lewis-macadams

Thank you again for your help.

Sincerely, Natalia, Ocean, Torii, and Will MacAdams 

Calendar Item: Pasadena Orvis hosts Father’s Day carp clinic

CARP CLINIC WITH LINO JUBILADO
SUNDAY, June 9, 2 p.m.
Screen Shot 2019-06-05 at 5.20.08 PMWe’re at it again with the CA Chapter Backcountry Hunters & Anglers to bring the greater Los Angles area an opportunity to learn from from one of our local gurus Lino Jubilado! Join us in the store at 2PM Sunday June 9th during our Father’s Day VIP Event as Lino runs us through fly fishing and tenkara tactics for carp on the LA River. Food and refreshments on us. All are welcome. We hope you can make it down! Click to RSVP. 

Trout Unlimited’s Bowtie workshops impact urban fishing

First-timer Michael, left, gets a lesson in the art of the improved clinch knot from TU volunteer Tom Blankenship, while attendee Erica looks on. (Jim Burns)

Over the last couple of weekends, the stalwarts of Trout Unlimited South Coast Chapter put on a series of beginning workshops at the Bowtie parcel, a 17-acre site near Fletcher Bridge that is as urban as it gets. In 2003, California State Parks purchased the narrow strip of land adjacent the Los Angeles River, once part of Southern Pacific Railroad’s maintenance and operations facilities called Taylor Yards. If nothing else, it’s a chance to squint your eyes and see what it could become.

And Los Angelinos certainly have embraced this urban outlier in any number of positive ways, including the LA River Campout that is so popular, the 75 campers are chosen through a lottery. This chance to cuddle up in a sleeping bag and see the stars is an initiative of California State Parks in partnership with Clockshop, the National Park Service and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

As for fishing, TU led the way last year with “Vamos a Pescar,” during which some 120 urbanites learned to fish.

This year’s stats showed 110 attendees over the two May weekends, with a third under 18, and pretty evenly split overall between female and male.

After two Saturdays filled with the joy of passing our sport along to others — and the chance to practice patience while unspooling line from inside a reel (how does that happen?), I thought of these words from “A Place in Between”:

What is a park? Is it a place to escape the surrounding city? A place to breathe and contemplate? Or is it a gather place? A place to celebrate, laugh, play and compete? Perhaps it is a place to learn and grow? A place where our shared cultural and natural histories are celebrated? Is it a place of beauty? A place of pride designed by our finest architects? Or a place apart, left alone for nature to run its course?”

THE PREZ SEZ: Chapter President Ban Luu makes a point to the crowd about river ecology. (Jim Burns)

As you squint your eyes at the Bowtie, what is magically becomes what could be. Our collective imagination will be our compass, our guide, our pole star for the future.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Bingo! LA River opens for seventh season

Cut the ribbon
Then Councilmember Eric Garcetti opens a part of the bike path along the Los Angeles River in 2011. (Jim Burns)

Ah, Memorial Day, the traditional beginning of summer, baseball, eating hot dogs, drinking roadside lemonade from stands run by enterprising youngsters and, yes, that time of year when the Los Angeles River also opens for recreation. You may not have realized it, but the rest of the year, it ain’t legal. But authorities no longer raise an eyebrow if you’re wading through its Tide-scented waters, fly rod in hand.

So, dig in legally from Friday, May 31 (because of the recent storms), through Sept. 30 to try your hand at fishing and kayaking in either the Elysian Valley or the Sepulveda Basin. The dets are all here, provided by the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority. And, to avoid getting a ticket for fishing without a license, be sure to pony up the $49.94 if you are 16 or older. There are also two free fishing days this year, both Saturdays, July 6 and Aug. 31. I get my license every year at Big Five sporting goods store.

If you want to know what the water quality is before you go, LA Sanitation and Environment staff sample and test water twice a week at two locations in each Recreation Zone, according the its website. I always keep hand sanitizer in the car for river visits and the city also recommends you:

  • Avoid/Minimize water contact
  • Wash your body with soap and water if you contact the water
  • Do not drink the water

That said, remember the river flows with recycled water that comes from reclamation plants, such as the Donald C. Tillman Reclamation Plant near the rec zone in the Sepulveda Basin. I’ve never gotten sick from wet wading in the water.

So, take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and visit the river this summer. Throw in a line, try some urban kayaking, or bring the binoculars for some birding. Here’s a trip down memory lane, from my story in 2013 when all of this was a pilot project.

See you on the river, Jim Burns