Hands off San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, NGOs say

Just as millions joined women’s marches around the country in January to protest the election of President Donald Trump, now more than 100 hunting and fishing business owners and sporting organizations, and a California state congresswoman are reacting to the president’s executive order to review the Antiquities Act.

While the earlier protests were shouted into megaphones and emblazoned on signs, this one is quieter, in the form of a letter to Congress and a renewed attempt at legislation.

” We are writing in support of the Antiquities Act of 1906 and to request that it be used responsibly and in a way that supports the continuation of hunting and fishing in America,” begins the letter, signed by multiple companies across the country, including Abel,  Charlton and Ross reels in Colorado, but only one firm in California.

Four NGOs have lead the effort, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited.

“The outdoor industry accounts for $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million jobs, making it one of the largest economic sectors in the country,” said Jen Ripple, editor in chief of DUN Magazine and a Tennessee resident. “Much of this economic output depends on public lands. Tools for conservation like the Antiquities Act will help ensure that America’s public lands remain not only a great place to hunt and fish but also an important pillar of the hunting and fishing industry.”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, currently in Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, must produce an interim report in June and make a recommendation on that national monument, and then issue a final report within 120 days.

According to NewsMax,  Trump said the protections imposed by his predecessors “unilaterally put millions of acres of land and water under strict federal control, eliminating the ability of the people who actually live in those states to decide how best to use that land.”

The land-controls have “gotten worse and worse and worse, and now we’re going to free it up, which is what should have happened in the first place,” Trump said at a signing ceremony marking the executive order.

Trump accused Obama in particular of exploiting the 1906 Antiquities Act in an “egregious abuse of federal power,” adding that he was giving power “back to the states and to the people, where it belongs.”

In December, shortly before leaving office, Obama infuriated Utah Republicans by creating the Bears Ears National Monument on more than 1 million acres of land that’s sacred to Native Americans and home to tens of thousands of archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings.

Meanwhile, closer to home the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, created by Obama in 2014, is one of 27 under review, which are mostly in western states. Last week, Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) reintroduced the San Gabriel Mountains Foothills and Rivers Protection Act, according to Pasadena Now.

“President Trump has declared an open assault on our nation’s natural resources and outdoor spaces in favor of energy companies and oil exploration. Well I will not let him threaten our rivers, forests, wildlife, and outdoor opportunities in the San Gabriel Mountains. That is why I am proud to be reintroducing this bill to establish a National Recreation Area and expand monument designation boundaries, Chu said.”

At the time of its creation, some local conservation groups, including the Arroyo Seco Foundation, wondered why the national monument borders precluded some areas of the San Gabriel Mountains.

In an interview with Jeff Vail, supervisor of the Angeles National Forest and the national monument, that appeared in Sunday’s Pasadena Star-News, readers got a taste for what changes have occurred within the monument.

“The first year, we had five field rangers, last year, we had eight or 10 and this year we are upping that to 14,” he told columnist Steve Scauzillo. “We have a volunteer coordinator, Chris Fabbro. He has been in place now for close to two years. We have new positions, a partnership coordinator and conservation/education coordinator.”

According to Vail, last year Congress appropriated $33 million to his budget, while corporations have donated $5 million since 2014.

If you want to weigh in on why this national monument so close to 14 million Angelinos is important, comments may be submitted online after May 12 at http://www.regulations.gov by entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the search bar and clicking “Search,” or by mail to Monument Review, MS-1530, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

According to the Interior Department, this is the first-ever formal comment period for Antiquities Act monuments.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Calendar Item: Learn to fish the LA River with Trout Unlimited (for free!)

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Here’s the definition of “cool, chillin’.” And check out the length of that rod! (Courtesy Michelene Cherie/Friends of the Los Angeles River)

Each summer, more anglers discover our home water — and more Angelinos want to check out the sport. We’ve got the warm-water species: carp, bass, tilapia, aquarium dweller … All you have to do is learn how to suit up and catch ’em.

This free event should be a blast, so I hope you’ll come and listen to Bob Blankenship, So Cal TU president, Michael Miller, who leads LA River trips for the Pasadena Casting Club, and me. If you’re new, come on down. You’ll learn all you need to get started. (Yes, buy a fishing license …). If you’re experienced, come and tell us your fishing tales, maybe reveal why a tortilla fly is your fav instead of a Glo-Bug. Or tell us about the day dad caught that insanely famous bass on a popper.

Of course, we won’t be revealing the fishiest spots to throw in, but with the info you garner — and practice — soon you’ll have your own secret spot.

Here’s the official blurb and a link to the FB posting. Hope to see you Sunday.

“If you’ve ever wanted to fish the LA River, here’s your chance to find out how. Members of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited will be on hand to talk about the various ways to fish, and chat about the essentials: equipment; reading water; spotting fish; tactics. The talk includes both fly and spin.

Where: The Frog Spot, 2825 Benedict St., Los Angeles 90039

When: Sunday, July 24, 3-4 p.m.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

FoLAR announces release of third river study

Hey, now, let’s get happy. Friends of the Los Angeles River just released “State of the River 3: The Long Beach Fish Study.IMG_1130

As the organization’s founder writes in the introduction: “The first time I came to Willow Street in Long Beach was to announce our first LA River cleanup in the 1980s. We called for 10,000 people to join us in trash collection and only about 10 showed up. “ He goes on to say that most would have seen this as abject failure, but, as an organization that thrived on failure, it was surely a win, instead.

Lewis MacAdams recounts how that failure lead to its first grant, one that chronicled the 200 some odd bird species living in and around the river.

Later, in 2008, came the mid-river fish study, revealing that nature is just damned hard to kill, even with our best efforts. Participants found hundreds and hundreds of non-native fish living in the Glendale Narrows section of the river, by Atwater Village.

Today, you can read about the efforts of more than 130 professional scientists and amateur anglers, all coming together to support both FoLAR and the Aquarium of the Pacific in this latest release. Five fishing events, coordinated by the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and FoLAR, plied the brackish waters from May, 2014 to August, 2015. The story of what was – and wasn’t – found unfolds herein like a good mystery. Rich field notes catalog water quality (surprisingly good), days and times of the study, numbers of participants and anglers, gear used and fish caught.

And, as with many things, it could be an odd experience. For example, one day, trash collected in seine nets lists:

— condom                               — surgical glove

— tea kettle                            — Doritos bags

— ketchup                              — trash bags

— men’s brown sock

As Robert Blankenship, president of the South Coast Chapter of Trout Unlimited, who lives in the area, writes, “I visit and fish this area regularly. I’ve caught a bunch of carp, with a few big catfish and some smallish largemouth bass thrown in” and goes on to lament that on the very hot survey days the anglers “demonstrated why it’s called fishing, not catching.”

The big prize of the survey was a tiny, native fish that literally swam into the hands of one volunteer. Dabin Lee, a California State University Los Angeles student, caught a Killifish.

Dr. Sabrina Drill, natural resources advisor, UC Cooperative Extension, notes in the book that “For some, the measure of ‘functioning’ ecosystem is whether it supports native biodiversity,” and goes on to write that by that measure the in-stream community is failing. But, given the robustness with which Angelinos now fish and kayak its waters, “the meaning of the suite of fishes in the river now is open to interpretation and depends a bit on your starting point.”

WHOA! Check out the lateral line on this beautiful, rare mirror carp Jihn Tegmeyer and friend caught. (John Tegmeyer)

WHOA! Check out the lateral line on this beautiful, rare mirror carp John Tegmeyer and friend caught. (John Tegmeyer)

Still Drill regrets the absence of native species, and there is no denying that the king we all wish to return to our area, the endangered Southern California Steelhead, is missing from this and the Glendale Narrows survey.

Although there are several photographs of two steelhead in Ballona Creek in 2008, as Rosi Dagit, RCDSMM senior conservation biologist, writes “Most years, fewer than 10 adult steelhead were seen throughout the whole area, concentrated in just a few rivers and creeks.” That is down from runs of literally thousands of fish in the 1940s, which has been well-documented in the Los Angeles Times.

“We thought for sure there were steelhead trout lurking in the river at Long Beach, waiting for concrete removal so they can make their way back upstream as they did for the last time in 1940, but no such luck,” writes William Preston Bowling, FoLAR’s special projects manager. “The California Killifish was discovered in this study and could be an indicator for water temperatures that a steelhead could survive in.”

To this end, it’s imperative that the billion-dollar re-imagining of the Glendale Narrows area go beyond architecture and new housing. What’s important for the steelhead is also supremely important to us: better water quality, reducing river water temperatures and restoring riparian function, as Dagit notes elsewhere in the text.

So, if you missed volunteering for Willow Street, don’t despair, the work continues, moving to the upper river and a chance to sign up for Wednesday’s field excursion.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

California Killifish surprise catch for fish study

I don’t know how biologist Rosi Dagit does it but every time she calls a meeting of the fishing-for-science clan, the mercury breaks another record. Today was no exception, as around 25 sweating volunteers traveled to Willow Street in Long Beach for the last effort to see what could be caught in this important area where the Los Angeles River runs into the ocean.

We saw a dozen or so mullet, as they danced around our side of the lagoon, bobbing and weaving to invisible underwater music. Four of us tried everything in the flybox, from San Juan worm, to topside stimulator. What goes into the record book is but a shadow of what’s really in the water.

The kayak crew, pulling a net, came up empty, a disappointment.

John Tegmeyer fashioned his own boilies — like the Brits do, but with a dose of Tapatio Sauce thrown in for color — and came very close to landing a large carp.

Meanwhile, Zino Nakasuji fooled a 7-pound common carp with a pale egg pattern.

But Dabin Lee of Los Angeles handscooped the most important catch of the day — a tiny California Killifish, which is a native and lives in brackish water.

“I do it all the time,” Lee said, referring to her habit of catching small fish in her hands. It made for a remarkable end to four attempts over the last year and a half to document exactly what lives in this part of the river.

The great hope is to spot a steelhead.

“I just recently  got a picture of one from Cabrillo Pier,” Dagit said.

And, of course, that is the lofty dream of so many of us, that the Southern California Steelhead, currently an endangered species, will make its comeback in tandem with the river renewal. With the anticipated El Niño this winter, we may yet get that opportunity, when fish return from the ocean, hoping to ride high water in to their inland spawning grounds.

And if you missed this part of the survey, you’ll have another opportunity. Next year, Dagit is targeting the Sepuveda Dam area in the San Fernando Valley.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this silly video from the day.

 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

 

 

 

 

 

FoLAR debuts fishing line recycling program

RECYCLING: FoLAR has place three tubes along the river as part of a pilot program. (Jim Burns)

RECYCLING: FoLAR has placed three tubes along the river as part of a pilot program. (Jim Burns)

In another first, the advocacy group Friends of the Los Angeles River has installed three tubes for fisherfolk to safely discard used line in selected spots along the river’s upper banks. Trout Unlimited provided the funding, while both Councilperson Mitch O’Farrell (13th District) and the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council provided their political imprimatur.

“We support FoLAR taking a stance on discarded fishing line, while educating anglers who are new to fishing the L.A. River as well as the anglers who have fished the river for decades,” wrote AVNC co-chairs Torin Dunnavant and Courtney Morris in their letter of support.

Both the AVNC and O’Farrell’s office cited a trigger event for better line management, the death of a Great Blue Heron, called Fred by locals, who was caught in fishing line, seriously injured and subsequently died as marine biologists attempted to nurse him back to health.

Monofilament may seem harmless enough, but it represents both an eco-hazard as well as a possible deadly ensnarement for the wildlife so abundant on the river. According to FoLAR, birds can be attracted to the fishy smell on used line, then become hopelessly ensnared while digging for it in convention trash cans. Also, monofillament does not degrade over time leaving what amounts to an ageless hazard if not dispossed of properly.

As awareness has increased among state agencies, fishing clubs and individual anglers, these recycling tubes have become more common on streams. For example, a tube sits next to the angler survey box at the beginning of the catch and release section of the West Fork of the San Gabriel, a popular area for local flyfishers.

Each week, the tubes’ contents will be sent to the Berkley Conservation Institute in Iowa. The company, which produces conventional fishing line, recycles used line into 4-foot cubicle fish habitats it calls “Fish-Habs.” According to the company’s website, since 1990, BCI has recycled more than 9 million miles worth of fishing line. That’s enough line to fill two reels for every angler in America.

At the close of recreational zones on Labor Day, the program results will be re-evaluated to measure impact and the tubes could become a permanent fixture on the river.

Currently, the tubes are located at the Glendale Narrows Dover Street river entrance in the yoga pocket park, Acresite Street and FoLAR’s own Frog Spot. Future rollouts include the Bowtie Parcel and Marsh Park, if the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority that patrols the area agrees.

Fishing has only recently become legal on the river, during a certain time — Memorial Day through Labor Day — and within certain places, the carefully defined recreational zones below Fletcher Bridge, the so-called Elysian Valley River, and in a stretch in the Sepulveda Basin River in the San Fernando Valley. The fact that the pilot line recycling tubes lie outside these boundaries speaks to the growing number of anglers who search for the best places to fish, regardless of geographic boundaries.

SIGNS OF CHANGE: A new condo complex abutts the very spiffy Marsh Park within the rec zone. (Jim Burns)

SIGNS OF CHANGE: A new condo complex abutts the very spiffy Marsh Park within the rec zone. (Jim Burns)

“As the LA River is reborn, it needs the help of a variety of river huggers: fisherfolk, bird watchers, dog walkers, nature strollers.  It’s important that everyone who has a particular interest respects the interests of others, and lost or discarded fishing line can ensnare the birds and other creatures that call the river home,”” Robert Blankenship, president of Trout Unlimited’s south coast chapter, said. “We encourage all fishermen to discard used line in the collectors, and would appreciate anyone who sees old fishing line in the river area to please use the collectors as well.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns