Friday, February 16, 2018

Northern Arizona University: Mycorrhizal Fungi boost nutritional value up the Food Chain

Plants, and bacteria, and fungi! Oh My!
Image - Wanderlust Travel

Nancy Johnson collecting soil samples in the Serengeti
Nancy Johnson, an Northern Arizona University ecology professor, contributed field samples to a global-scale study of the biogeography of Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, also known as AM fungi. Johnson is listed as an international co-author on the paper. These fungi support 80 percent of plant species, including crops, by capturing nutrients from soil. Johnson said understanding how different species of AM fungi are distributed around the globe is important because of the vital roles they play in the ecosystem. These researchers gathered 1,014 fungi samples from six continents, and what they discovered was surprising. “Our study suggests that most species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are found all over the world, which is rather unusual among organisms,” Johnson said. “The question is, how do they get everywhere?”
Abstract: The global biogeography of microorganisms remains largely unknown, in contrast to the well-studied diversity patterns of macroorganisms. We used arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungus DNA from 1014 plant-root samples collected worldwide to determine the global distribution of these plant symbionts. We found that AM fungal communities reflected local environmental conditions and the spatial distance between sites. However, despite AM fungi apparently possessing limited dispersal ability, we found 93% of taxa on multiple continents and 34% on all six continents surveyed. This contrasts with the high spatial turnover of other fungal taxa and with the endemism displayed by plants at the global scale. We suggest that the biogeography of AM fungi is driven by unexpectedly efficient dispersal, probably via both abiotic and biotic vectors, including humans.


The complex Serengeti ecosystem, which spans 12,000 square miles extending from northern Tanzania into southwestern Kenya, is home to millions of animals, including 70 species of large mammals. It is a hotspot for mammal diversity—including herbivores such as wildebeest, zebra and gazelles that graze on grasses and trees, as well as lions, crocodiles, leopards and hyenas that survive by preying on the grazing herbivores.  

(New Study) published in the Journal of Ecology by a team of Northern Arizona University researchers shows the food web supporting this remarkable variety of wildlife would appear very different without the nutrients supplied by arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. The interdisciplinary study, authored by graduate students in NAU’s School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability  —Bo Stevens, Jeffrey Propster, Andrew Abraham and Chase Ridenour—along with assistant professor of informatics, computing, and cyber systems Christopher Doughty and Regents’ Professor of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability Nancy Johnson, quantifies the importance of AM fungi in the soil of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

Illustration by Victor Leshyk

Artist’s depiction of the Serengeti food web with normal AM (left)
 and a hypothetical food web without nutrient inputs from
 these important symbioses (right).

AM fungi, a type of mycorrhizal fungi, penetrate the roots of grasses and other plants native to the Serengeti. Considered natural biofertilizers, AM fungi provide their host plants with water, nutrients and pathogen protection in exchange for photosynthesis. The symbiotic relationship between AM fungi and plants, which has evolved for millions of years, is critical for the uptake of essential plant nutrients such as phosphorus. In turn, the nutritional quality of the plains’ grasses and trees influences the biomass of the herbivores and their predators.  

By creating an ecosystem simulation that enabled the researchers to measure the biomass of AM fungi across a natural soil fertility gradient and estimate the contribution of mycorrhizal symbioses to the biomass of all plants and animals in the Serengeti, the researchers were able to estimate the animal biomass that results from phosphorus supplied to plants through AM fungi.  

This study shows the contribution of mycorrhizal symbioses to the growth and nutritional quality of grasses cascades through the biomass of large grazing mammals and their predators. Although AM fungi amount to less than 1 percent of the overall living biomass in the Serengeti, their predicted nutrient inputs into the food web doubled animal biomass.  

“It’s really surprising that a small group of microbes can have such a large impact on an entire ecosystem,” said Stevens, lead author of the study. “We always knew that mycorrhizal fungi were important for grass nutrition in the Serengeti. Now we can say how important they are for the nutrition of animals up the food chain, from zebras to lions.”
"The answer my friend is isn't blowing in the wind"
Image - Roeselien Raimond

Image - Earthcrew Inc
The main subject of this research was certainly mycorrhizal fungi, but not the type that produces truffle or mushroom formation that we are used to seeing. This fungi was endo-mycorrhizal fungi which produce large propagules which don't necessarily move through soil pores as easily as the tinier microscopic spore of the ecto-mycorrhizal truffle which can explode with a cloud of brown powder we see in real life. This spore dust can even travel for miles and land in numerous places along the way. These spores are so tiny that they can move and be washed downward into the soil during rain storms where roots can make contact and colonize. But not the propagules of endo-mycorrhizal. Personally I always thought their movement was facilitated by animals like pocket gophers, maybe various insects etc. But this research was still interesting given that we accept endemic species (plants, animals, birds, fish, etc) around the globe to specific geographic locations, but many of these same identical endo-mycorrhizal species apparently are everywhere around the globe. How did that happen ??? 😲 Given that they don't exactly blow in the wind like all the exploding puffball ecto-mycorrhizal spores, how do they move and travel ??? Maybe it's the soil scientists doing it with their field trip sample collections 😄

Take this species of endo-mycorrhizae in the photo at left here is found in most popular commercial Mycorrhizal inoculent blends offered by many companies. Glomus deserticola fungi are found everywhere around the globe, even Siberia. I assume it was given the name because it was first recorded and given the name from it's first documented location in the southwest. It's an important fungal species, because they are found in nearly all terrestrial habitats, including arable land, deserts, grasslands, temperate, boreal, tropical forests, and tundras. Anyway the mode of movement is still very intriguing and fascinating. Next time you hear someone recite an old chant of, "You don't need to inoculate because the spores are just everywhere out there in the air," don't believe them. Inoculate anyway. 😉 Now, let's consider another important possibility of spore travel that the researchers mentioned above left out.
NASA Earth Observatory: "Smoke's Surprising Secret"
credit: US Air Force photo
 Forrest Mims II is a very well known, "Citizen Scientist," who had no formal academic training in science. And yet Forrest Mims has had a successful career as a science author, researcher, lecturer and syndicated columnist. His series of electronics books sold over 7 million copies and he is widely regarded as one of the world's most prolific citizen scientists. He does scientific studies in many fields using instruments he designs and makes and he has been published in a number of peer-reviewed journals, often with professional scientists as co-authors. Much of his research deals with ecology and environmental science. A simple instrument he developed to measure the ozone layer earned him a Rolex Award for Enterprise in 1993. In December 2008 Discover named Mims one of the "50 Best Brains in Science." But's it's Forrest Mims' daughter who steals the show here with her simple experiment on how fungal spores can travel great distances which is related to the subject I'm posting here. It's ashame the researchers never referenced this important experiment published by NASA.

(Image by Mark Gray, GSFC)

(Photograph by Forrest M. Mims III)
Sarah Mims, a teenager from Seguin, Texas, studied how smoke and dust that arrived over her hometown from thousands of miles away from Mexico's. By her senior year in high school, she had already made some surprising discoveries. This Satellite image from the days Mims conducted her experiments revealed smoke from fires in Central America flowing over the Gulf of Mexico and into the Texas sky. Blue-gray smoke stretches from the bottom center of the image toward Texas at the upper left. The bright region extending towards the top of the image from the Yucatan Peninsula is the sun glinting off the ocean’s surface. This image was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer. 

(Digital Scans by Sarah A. Mims)
Sarah Mims exposed Petrifilms that you see in the photo above outside of her Texas home in April and May of 2002. She was expecting to find micro-organisms carried by Asian dust. Instead, colonies of bacteria and mold (right) grew on days when the air was filled with smoke, not dust. Under a microscope Sarah Mims found fungal spores along with chunks of black carbon or the individual particles of smoke. Once she knew the micro-organisms were associated with smoke, not dust, she needed to find their source and that's wheere NASA's satellite images helped pinpoint the source of the smoke. So this is yet another travel means of microbes globally. How endomycorrhizal propagules reach the soil surface from underground is another mystery. Still, this is interesting.
Earlier Relevant References on the same subject from the Northern Arizona University
(Image courtesy Victor O. Leshyk)
"Ectomycorrhizal fungi (the mushrooms connected to the roots of the tree) increase the uptake of nitrogen by the plant, even when that nutrient is scarce in soils. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (associated with the grass roots on the left) do not provide that advantage to their host."
NAU’s Hungate co-authors research report published in ‘Science’

Credit: mdd/Shutterstock
Study of Serengeti soil may provide model for increasing productivity of croplands in U.S. (2011)
Mycorrhizal Fungal Blend Producing companies

Mycorrhizal Applications Inc

Image - Valent

Valent: MycoApply® EndoPrimeTM

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sustainable Alternative Uses for Western Juniper

Invasion Alert! The western juniper (juniperus occidentalis) 😬😱😨
Image - earthbeours.dom

The beautiful ancient looking tree above is named the Bennett Juniper and it's believed to be the oldest specimen of Juniperus occidentalis known, estimated at about 2200 years old, which is down from an earlier  3000 year age calculation. Still, this tree germinated back in BCE. It's located in the Stanislaus National Forest of California. Its height is 78 feet with an average crown spread of 56 feet. The diameter at breast height (4.5 feet above ground) is 12.7 feet. So it makes it tough to understand the present  alarmist reaction to a tree being called invasive in it's native home range. As you can see in the photo at right, there are a number of trees encroaching on what use to be grasslands. It's not only the Western Juniper that is demonized, but also the Eastern Red Cedar, Ashe Juniper and even the common Pinyon Pine. Ranchers mostly dislike it. They claim the Junipers encroach and destroy grasslands for their grazing operations. Other say it is a greedy water gulping worthless tree. They even provide old historical photos of the landscape vegetation cover from many years ago of an exacting location and what it looks like today as proof of invasion. Take a look below.

Images -

Image - Karen Bryz  (2014)
The so-called Juniper invasion here is a comparison of historical and recent photos taken on the Keystone Ranch east of Prineville, Oregon. There are a number of reasons for the spread like Climate Change, blame given to lack of fire within these ecosystems, but also Juniper seeds don't blow in the wind, they are infact eaten by an incredible variety of birds which later poop them out elsewhere. Like these bluebirds above right. I was reading an article on what trees Oregonians favoured the most when it comes to trees. The Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Firs led the charge for being the most popular as well as Redwoods. I dare say though that if it were their precious Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine or Redwoods which were invading and encroching onto the grassland landscape, nobody would really be freaking out over a so-called invasion. Human Beings have a tendency to judge things in Nature the same way they judge other human beings. What they value as worth is what they find pleasing to the eye, taste or some other personal preferences within the five senses. Money can be made off those species for their natural resources, which would infer Junipers, Cypress, Pinyon, etc are worthless and valueless in their eyes. Yet not everyone sees these trees this way. Take for example this research done by Bob Harms from the University of Texas in Austin. Bob Harms found out that the native Texas Ashe Juniper (also demonized as a grassland invader), actually has worth as a nurse plant for Texas Madrone (Arbutus zalapensis).

Images - Bob Harms
The Texas Madrone is yet another beautiful and desirable tree, but of course if your business is in the cattle industry, then maybe not so much. Like most nurse plants, it would mean that Ashe Juniper probably also provides a symbiotic relationship through the mycorrhizal fungal network. Plau like most nurse plants, they probably also provide an excellent source for hydraulic lift and redistribution of water from deep subsoil layers during the hotter Summer months to other plant's seedlings. And if the hydraulics work one direction, they probably have the ability to reverse that service downwards during the wetter season. Winter rainfall quite possibly may be further facilitated into deeper subsoil layers by these woody plants. Here's what Bob Harms says in his own words about the Junipers ability as a nurse plant as well as an important wildlife food & nesting source.
"I do not view the native junipers on our land as an undesirable invasive species, but rather as a plant that offers numerous benefits not generally appreciated, even beyond providing important nesting materials for the Golden-cheeked Warbler and a winter food source for birds and mammals. Many areas of our once overgrazed ranchland are gradually being restored thanks to the mulch from our junipers, surviving on bare calcareous slopes that otherwise would have suffered even greater erosion. The view of cedars replacing open fields of grass must be balanced against that of native grasses and numerous other plants gaining a foothold thanks to the mulch and shade that otherwise would be absent. And in fact, only overgrazed fields are at great risk of juniper invasion."
(Source: Bioscience - University of Texas)
Of course this doesn't mean that Ranchers and other land managers will buy into the wildlife and nurse plant importance of Junipers. Worldview and Political Ideology are strong religious dogmas which are strongly entrenched into the pysche of Juniper haters. Environmentalists aren't often much help either. Take the video below. While they do draw attention to a practice of bulldozer and chain ripping of Pinyon & Juniper habitat (something I also dislike), they then proceed to fingerpoint at a much hated opponent's Political Party as the enemy. Fact is the present administration is not at fault since this practice goes all the way back to the 1990s. The moment they blame game an opposing ideology, you soon realize it's not about protecting Nature, but rather scoring Brownie Points in the hopes of acquiring political power and hanging onto it. If you are a non-profit environmental organization, then the vicious attacks are used as ammunition for membership drive for the cause and monetary donations. As soon as the hysterical outrage has been milked for all it's financial worth, they move onto something else. Sadly, Nature still comes in last no matter who believes they won the fight. Watch this SUWA video and you soon realize it's never been about Nature as much as created hatred towards the present ruling authority.

Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project
What Eco-Activism fails to ever provide the Public with are real world viable solutions to real world needs for raw building materials and food. Demonizing other people whose worldview they hate and blaming them for what ails Nature is not the answer. Nobody responds favourably to in your face civil disobedient Activism. Seriously folks (NatureLovers), in any matter of controversy life that may involve you personally, have You ever responded favourably to someone else's point of view when they were in your face, used foul language, personal derogatory insults or violent attacks on your property or bodily harm ??? Of course not, but this method and playbook strategy is generally what we see today on the Nightly News reports. What they need to do instead is convince the landowners there's gotta be a better more responsible way of making money with land where Pinyons & Junipers also reside. On the other side of the coin, can any landowners consider the waste they have when utilizing prescribed burns after dragging a chain by Bulldozer ??? It's a waste of a valuable wood products resource and one that is basically free and pays for it's removal as opposed to just paying for it to be removed. Even if they do this themselves, there are major financial cost setbacks. Clearly appealing to their sensitivity to ecology and wildlife doesn't always work, so why not try the money angle approach as the better choice ? On that note, I'll now post a number of videos below which provide excellent explanation on how some inventive entrepreneurial people have done just that. The first videos simply go about the challenges many are facing with the increase of trees into their grassland ranges. One has an opinion of a Rancher from his prespective. Another provides an example of a small lumber mill business operator who deals specifically with Juniper wood products. Finally there is another business venture which back east actually logs large forests for wood stove pellets to be shipped all the way to the United Kingdom to service the pellet stove industry there which promotes itself as one of the eco-green solutions for alternative engery. Actually it's anything but sustainable eco-green.
The Quiet Invasion... Managing Juniper in Eastern Oregon Part 1

 The Quiet Invasion - Control or Prescribed Burns, part 2

The Quiet Invasion- The Rancher Perspective

Alternative Sustainable Use forWestern Juniper for Profit

Western Juniper for Lumber Mill Operations
Check out the link below 
Joseph's Juniper, Inc., Hines, Oregon 

Maybe sometime in the future when we take a weekend drive in the country on a backroad, instead of seeing a sign that says, "Prescribed Burn Ahead"

Maybe we'll start seeing more responsible signs that say something like, "Juniper Reclamation Ahead"
Good & Bad about the Wood Pellet Industry
Two articles from Daily Mail Online - (2014) & (2017) - Both self explanatory 
Daily Mail Online (2014)

Daily Mail Online (2017)

Daily Mail: Pure idiocy! How spending billions on subsidising an efficient coal-burning power station to burn wood is actually WORSE for the planet than before
The Lethal Dangers of Wood Pellets - Especially When Shipping Overseas (Sweden)
How Wood Pellets are Manufactured

Wood Pellet Stoves are becoming more and more popular. My brother has one. Having had a conventional wood burning stove on my property for 20+ years high up in the San Jacinto Mountains above Palm Springs, California and heating my house that way, I did save money, but it was also hard back breaking work doing Fall preparation and messy both outside and inside. But it seems reasonable that there could be a market for some pellet mills somewhere in the western states. Maybe a couple of Mills. I mean what a waste burning is and I'm not exactly on board with the "burn baby burn" people either. I just don't get this incessant love affair with fire. Yes, fire is natural, it occurs in nature. But not at the rates these guys want to shove down everyone's throat. 90% of wildfires today are human caused, the other 10% come from lightning or Volcanoes. I don't care that Indians (Native Americans) did it. They are and always have been human beings equal to everyone else on the planet. They used fire to exploit the environment for it's resouces. They used it for war. They used it to run buffalo (Bison) off cliffs, often more than they could use despite the narrative of taking only what they need. That's what being a human being is all about. Anyway, below is an interesting bit I've included with a guy who did his own energy calculations and money savings. Enjoy! 
Are Wood Pellet Stoves Energy Efficient???
Further Reading References
Important Note: I don't endorse any of these activist non-profit sites. They do provide some interesting info, but support, follow and donate at your own risk.

Friday, January 19, 2018

How exactly does one go about fixing what ails the Salton Sea ???

Interesting set of articles recently from the Los Angeles Times on various schemes for fixing the problems of the Salton Sea 
Animated Gif - Los Angeles Times

(Gary Coronado /Los Angeles Times)
The issue with the eventual fate of the Salton Sea is at a critical point now. It actually always has been critical, but clearly the present set of negative ecological circumstances surrounding the sea encompass so many other health and ecological issues as never before. There have been many proposed solutions over the years, but nothing has ever really gotten done. After the initial Colorado river bank breach was corrected back in 1907, the sea level has been maintained by the irrigation runoff from farms in the Coachella and Imperial Valleys and two rivers (horribly polluted) coming out of Mexico, the Alamo River and the New River. The danger became even more elevated when the impending legislation to transfer some of the local farmers’ share of Colorado River water to San Diego County. Even then the studies showed that this disastrous decision would make the shoreline recede by more than a mile. And this is where the concentrated salinity and toxic pollution increases causing massive fish kills and bird dieoffs. Another side effect which damages human health are all the toxic dust storms from the dry fine silty lake bed where the sea has receded.

Animated  Map - Los Angeles Times

(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Dead trees, debris and dead fish dotted the shoreline of the Salton Sea in 2015. This is now a common  site everywhere along the Salton Sea's shores and beaches. For folks who are old enough to remember what the Sea once looked like, it's an incredible sadness to know how so much life has been destroyed. I'm fascinated with the Sea's historical creation back in 1905 with the irrigation canal construction blunder over in the Mexico area south of Yuma and some of the incredible wildlife changes which facilitated miles of shoreline ecosystem freshwater (at worst brackish) habitat. I'm even more fascinated with the sea's ancient freshwater Lake Cahuilla creation 1000s of years ago. I imagine the area was incredibly rich in all manner of wildlife, including the Sonoran beaver which would have existed in Southern California. The non-profit organization "Martinez Beaver" has a wonderful reprinted document from the state of California Fish and Game entitled, The Status of Beavers in California. Scroll down to page #23. This was an amazing piece in that it reveals the development of beaver activity in fresh water all the way to the Salton Sea via Alamo & New Rivers, which originate from the south at Mexican border. It documents a trek once taken down the Alamo River in April of 1940, by Robert Hart, from the California Division of Fish and Game, who examined this river by boat along its entire course in California from Mexico to the Salton Sea. He found evidence of Beaver activity from the Mexican border, through Holtville, through Brawley, through Calipatria and all the way into the Imperial Game Refuge near the Salton Sea past Calipatria and west of the town of Niland.

Click Here to Magnify
In one description there is mention of Beaver in and around several lakes on either side of the Alamo River next a Finney Gun Club. The map on the right shows the location of this hunting club being near Hwy 111 south of Calipatria where the highway crosses over this game refuge. Looking on Google Earth you can see the interesting pattern of these lakes (Finney, Ramer & Wiest lakes) along the Alamo River and also numerous smaller Ox-Bow Lakes which were created decades ago prior to the build up of towns and farmland creation when the Alamo was allowed to meander back and forth which is the nature of most rivers on floodplains. Now the river is pretty much maintained and kept channelized so as to not disturb the existing bordering farm fields which has tightened the river channel. But it was this region that had the heaviest concentration of beaver which would have all thrived in the rich abundant native riparian vegetation of a wide meandering floodplain, plus the same meander created countless ox-bow ponds everywhere which still exist in places. Keep in mind that prior to 1934, the Tamarisk and Arundo cane had not yet taken over and destroyed the native riparian ecosystem as it has done today. There were later drought years from 1931 and especially 1934 which brought serious water shortages to Imperial Valley. The regulation of the river by Lake Mead didn't begin until 1935 and eventually freed the Imperial Valley from the periodic water shortages and inferior water quality which usually resulted from droughts in earlier years. This same year, 1934, started the dramatic drop in beavers populations in this region and over in the New River which had a huge population they completely disappeared. Less water into the valley meant complete shut off which dried many places up to mere saline seeps. The new All American Canal started construction in 1934 so that irrigation water delivery would never again be dependent on coming up through Mexico. Still, Salton Sea has so much potential as a wildlife draw, but not under the present system of maintenance. Something radically has to change and it's starts with completely stopping the toxic pollution on both sides of the border. Fat chance that ever happening! 😒

Image - Google Earth

The image above is from Google Earth on the Hwy 111 bridge in Imperial Valley just south of the town of Calipatira, California. The view is looking south at the Alamo River which comes out of Mexico. Often at this point in the Alamo you can even see those giant foamy suds floating downstream towards it's goal north to the Salton Sea. As you can see the vegtation here is predominantly non-native Tamarisks and Arundo cane. Neither of these plants are favoured by beaver as compared to the willows, Ash and cottonwoods which dominated in the early descriptions of accounts of beaver in Imperial Valley. Although Beaver have been found to chew on Tamarisk in the Colorado River where no other palatable plants exist. If you venture over to Google Earth to this exact location and turn completely around viewing the Alamo River looking north, you will see some natives like California Fan Palms (Washingtonia filifera) which in my almost 40+ years of experience viewing this region are in fact on the increase as a result of birds. Grackles most likely.
The original Breach in Irrigation Canal Construction which gave us the Salton Sea
Animated Historical Map - Loa Angeles Times
Courtesy of Chris Landis collection

Fascinating Read on the original breach along the Colorado
Popular Science Monthly/Volume 70/January 1907/The Possibilities of Salton Sea

Resulting Consequences to Wildlife

Photo - Milton Friend
Back in the 1950s the Salton Sea was once known as the “California Riviera” which gave life to real estate schemes of a Las Vegas by the Sea known as Salton City. Now it's one of the United States of America’s worst ecological disasters. Nothing more than a fetid, stagnant, salty lake, coughing up millions of dead fish and birds. It's been estimated that around 100 million fish thrive in the Salton Sea, but problems such as algal blooms caused by excess pollution (Miracle-Gro for Algae) in the water from Imperial & Coachella Valley agriculture and the raw filth coming from Mexico via the New & Alaamo Rivers which flow straight out of the city of Mexicali have led to these massive die-offs such as this one (above) affecting gulf croakers. I remember back in 1996, the news reports of thousands of white and brown pelicans in the Salton Sea were being killed off by this avian botulism, marking the first time that fish-eating birds succumbed to the disease. The potential for wildlife of all sorts was huge at the very begining of the Sea's modern re-creation at the hands of an irrigation canal contruction blunder at the Colorado River in 1905.

US Fish ans Wildlife Service

Flocks of snow geese (above) rest on an upland habitat adjacent to the Salton Sea that is part of the Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge. This scene flashes me back to a time when Spanish Explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza, came through Imperial Valley, there was no mention of the great Sea's existence in 1774-1776 in his journal when they camped at San Sebastian Marsh where San Felipe Creek enters into the Salton Sink. Oddly enough at the time, the climate was far different. Both Fray Pedro Font and Anza made reference on the second journey the following year of a fierce snow blizzard they encountered at San Sebastian Marsh (about the area of Hwy 85 Border Patrol Checkpoint), where conditions were so miserable that they lost several livestock and horses which they brought with them on the expedition. Hard to believe such a weather event like this happened if you've ever passed through here and seen the area's lunarscape appearance. But interestingly, when they did leave Anza Valley in the San Jacinto Mountain range and looked down into the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley from the higher elevations coming down through present day, Bautista Canyon, he did comment on what had the appearance of a massive snowy landscape in the valleys below. In reality once the Spanish expedition arrived on the Hemet-San Jacinto Valley floor, they found a massive riparian habitat where millions upon millions of aquatic birds like snow geese, maybe even white pelicans, egrets, etc covered the landscape. Ancient Lake Cahuilla (Salton Sea) must have at one time (before Anza) looked like that scene when the Colorado followed the same ancient pathway where the canal construction breach took place at the Colorado River in 1905.
1950s Las vegas by the Sea gone Bust

Postcard Image - From Wanderland
At the start of the 1950s, the sea was viewed as having so much potential as a tourist Mecca. Indeed as the post card above promises, this was a resort of Las Vegas caliber and so close to L.A. and San Diego in the west and Phoenix to the east. But that was then. Modern Science in the 1950s brought mankind the not so Green Revolution, where those miracle chemicals Allied & Axis Power Chemical Companies (DuPont, Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Etc) used for bomb making during World War II, could now suddenly be used to make deserts artificially green. Either way those chemicals destroy things. But this was the beginning of the end for the Salton Sea with this scientific miracle, sorry I meant debacle. Unfortunately, looking at the Salton Sea today and the surrounding post apocalyptic appearance it has along all it's beaches & shoreline, one could almost agree with the online gamer description of it as nothing more than "a putrid, salt-rich lake whose waters are unlikely to be home to anything you’d want to go fishing for." The Salton Sea is clearly a toxic mess, in which the same online gamer again described as being able to "burn through a man's lower intestine in seconds" if you were to ingest any of it's foul liquid. Yuck, but that's the feeling you get anyway.
So are there any real viable Soultions ???

SDSU Center for Inland Waters

Comments from readers in the original article in Yahoo News
"Dig a tunnel to San Diego and fill it up."
This comment above had the right idea, but the logistics were a way off their target. Something closer to home - Mexico!
"The best thing for the Salton sea is to let it return to it's natural state as a dry lake bed."
Okay now this was a totally out of touch. True, the modern day Salton Sea was a dry lakebed prior to the construction accident in 1905, but allowing it to go back to a dry lakebed is not the answer and creates massive amounts of health issues. Both for human as well as wildlife. There was once a water pipeline plan dismissed years ago which may not have been an attractive option to save the beleaguered Salton Sea way back when, but now it may be the only best way to buy the region more time. Below here are three links to info on the scheme of building a sea level canal from Sea of Cortez to Salton Sea. This really is the only viable option, but as usual it's only a mere fix-it-pill approach which is generally the way humans ever accomplish anything. While this proposal in interesting, there should also be a side by side second canal or pipeline which should act as a release valve back to Sea of Cortez in case of another Hurricane Kathleen in 1976 and Doreen the following year 1977 flooded which made the Salton Sea level rise significantly enough to flood several coastal towns like Bombay Beach. But here are the links to canal info.
Desert Sun: How Waters from Mexico can Save the Salton Sea
Why an Unpopular Idea Could Be the Salton Sea’s Best Solution 
“Bureaucracy, made up entirely of petty minds, stands as an obstacle to the prosperity of the nation; delays for seven years, by its machinery, the project of a canal which would have stimulated the production of a province.”
Honoré de Balzac - French Novelist & Playwright 
Helping clean up the Salton Sea must also include helping Mexico clean up it's Troubled Waters
MEXICO: Farmers angry over new Sewer Plant which may clean Irrigation Water
Animated Map Sources: Tim Krantz, professor of environmental studies, Salton Sea Database program director, University of Redlands; Lisa Benvenuti, GIS analyst, University of Redlands; California State Parks.
References about Salton Sea It's Creation, it's historical Drawdowns and eventual Death
I'm reserving this spot for a furture post which deals with why the ancient Lake Cahuilla disappeared in the first place. The post is almost completed and I'll place it here, as well as the Networkedblogs Facebook page.
Los Angeles Times: "Riverside County has a new plan to fix the Salton Sea — or at least a part of it"
Los Angeles Times: "Drawdowns and death of the Salton Sea"
Los Angeles Times: "State unveils a 10-year plan to restore habitat and control toxic dust storms along the Salton Sea's receding shoreline"

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nature and a different kind of "Pay to Play"

Phoney Outrage, Self-Righteous Indignation add to these the words/terms bogus, false, fake, pseudo, assumptions, ostentatious, insincere or pretentious, etc. Shall I go on ???

The angry fist illustration has become the universal symbol all across our planet. It doesn't matter what the cause, the complaint or justification for the angry hatred. People everywhere just seem to have their collective knickers in a twist now days over any little thing that sets them off. The problems of today's vaious controversies also seem to be exacerbated by this group think mentality found on many modern day social network sites where the anger of others flow freely and feed this herd mentality for angry activism. The effect has been to pursuade many people who historically have never been a part of angry activism, but suddenly find themselves swept up in the riptide undercurrent of charismatic activist guru propaganda. But lets focus on just one thing here with this post, the National Park Service of the United States of America's decision to raise the day use entrance fees of it's National Parks and Monuments. Below is a quote from the High Country News journal which attempts to pursuade folks why everyone should be outraged.

(Brad Sutton/National Park Service)
High Country News: The price of a national park fee hike
Philosophical hostility to fees also emerged. In the 1930s, Utah Republican Reed Smoot led a growing group of lawmakers in opposition to the idea that Americans should pay anything to access lands that belonged to them. A 1932 Park Service policy barred the agency from seeking “financial gain” and asserted that parks should "be free to the people without vexatious admission charges and other fees.”  
Yet entrance and camping fees remained part of public-land management. Although revenue generated by user fees has risen sharply since 1996, it still makes up roughly the same portion of the Park Service’s budget that it did decades ago. In 1947, 11 percent of the agency’s budget was generated by user fees. In 2016, 9 percent was, with the remainder coming from donations and congressional appropriations.
So apparently there is a long history of people being upset when Park Service fees of any kind are raised. It's almost like the subject of taxes being raised or lowered. Somebody some where is going to be disturbed and outraged. Still, only 9% of the fees now raised only go towards National Park budgets ? Wow! We live now in a world where many believe that all governments owe them and they should have to pay for nothing. And that's really what this is all about. The USA has a new administration in charge and half the country hates that situation. Interestingly any decision this new administration group makes is considered outrageous and to be resisted. Oddly enough had the previously leadership in power made such a Park fee hike decision, it no doubt would have been celebrated as forwards thinking and hailed as brilliantly innovative. But now there is one interesting quote from High Country News which really exposes the unfortunate ideological motive behind this article's demand for protest:
“Rich people can see wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park at the best time of year, and poor people can’t see them at all.”
More than anything else, this is the main tool and justification for the resistence. I'll address the poor people question below with the situation in Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona Arizona at the end.

National Park Service Photo

National Park Service Proposes Targeted Fee Increases at Parks to Address Maintenance Backlog
The ideas behind much of these rate hikes for fee entrance is to do much needed rehabilitation work like this trail in Grand Canyon National Park by the National Park Service and the American Conservation Experience personnel which was funded in part by entrance fees. Below here is a document which contains a fact sheet about the National Park Service's targeted fee increase proposal and a spreadsheet showing the current and proposed entrance fee rates (regular season and peak season) for 17 national parks.

So the entrance fees during peak season, which varies but is generally from May 1 to September 30 for most parks, would be raised to $70 per private non-commercial vehicles, $50 per motorcycles and $30 per person on bike or foot. The increase would be nearly three times the current rate for some parks. But interestingly a year Pass card to visit all Parks would be about $75 to $80. I thought about a comparison of sorts with two of my favourite nature parks, the San Diego Safari Park for which I always had a yearly membership and San Diego Zoo.
1 Day Pass - $54 Adult (Age 12+) & $44 Child (Age 3-11)
2-Visit Pass - $86.40 Adult & $76.40 Child 
Annual Pass (Zoo & Safari Park) - $112 Adult & $54 Child
Wow, what a difference. But of course it is closer and convenient. Like the National Parks maintenance is high and fees probably don't cover everything which is why they also rely on outside funding by grants and donors. Only the annual pass provides free parking, otherwise the daily fee or two day pass is still separate from the parking fee you must pay. This also doesn't generally provide discunts towards concession services and stores, but there may be some with the yearly pass. The point is the fees when you take all things into perspective with today's outrageous inflation shouldn't be such a problem. I also find it interesting that people have no problem with using money for other things less important, even going into sign on the dotted line debt for many things in life they want. For example, what about that new 40 inch HD Television sey, or an NFL Game Pass Sunday Subscription, that new XBOX one, Galaxy Note, Iphone 8, verizon unlimited monthly bill, new seasonal clothes selection at your favourite retail outlet, that choice of the big SUV over the compact vehicle, weekly outings to favourite restaurants just to name a few flavourites. Stop and reflect all you do before before you whine about an annual pass to a national park. Something else is a miss. Another thing that has always puzzled me is that most people who claim to be for Nature and ecology are rarely known for actually getting off their back sides and actually doing some type of land restoration or park volunteer work somewhere - anywhere. But what if the Fee whiners would volunteer in the Parks for a certain amount of hours to get a free Pass ??? Then there wouldn't be any reason for crying about the fees. Some of these parks around the country wouldn't even be open if it wasn't for the volunteers. You find them everywhere, but no one ever considers this when they are invited to participate in the latest civil disobedience activism anarchist event. It seems to be more of a problem with who you wish to target the blame. Take that last quote again:

“Rich people can see wildflowers in Rocky Mountain National Park at the best time of year, and poor people can’t see them at all.”
Oak Creek Canyon & Slide Rock, Arizona where "Pay to Play" helps
"July trash helped make Oak Creek unsafe to swim"

Photo from Red Rock News
"With a final 2016 summer cleanup still scheduled for Indian Gardens in less than two weeks, two Oak Creek Ambassadors Nick Kowall and Max Tapia reported the removal of 800 pounds of trash from Oak Creek last month, including over 150 pounds of poop — primarily from people."
(Source: -
Let's take the subject of those poor folks and the "Pay to Play" game. Back in 1976 when I first visited Sedona Arizona and Oak Creek Canyon, I thought this place was the koolest spot I'd ever found. Slide Rock State Park was amazing. It was beautiful. Later in 1983 and 1985 when we visited, we were told by residents at a place of business in Sedona that the canyon and creek were kept clean by locals who volunteered on Mondays to pick up the filth left by city people who came up for the weekend. If they hadn't, then over time the area would have looked like the rough areas of Los Angeles or Phoenix. The second to the last time I went there in 2001 with my son, we went to Slide Rock State Park. It was packed with, *cough-cough*, many of these same poor people the protest folks are whining about. I won't go into a deep description of these folks (culture, ethnicity, etc), but lets just say they were all from the greater Phoenix area and packed out Slide Rock State Park because it was a no Fee required area. You could hardly walk around there were so many people, filth was everywhere and like this article above, there was massive amounts of adult poop and 100s & 100s of baby diapers thrown in bushes everywhere. Unbeliebly this once beautiful place was now a foul mess. But now the last time my wife and I visited, this past 2015, there was a change. Cleaned up quite a bit, less people because no parking allowed along highway and the only parking is limited and costs anywhere from $20 to $30, depending on time of year you visit. Some eco-activists want less humans around to save nature, even going so fas as to calling human beings a plague on the earth. So wouldn't a fee hike helping to keep more humans away from Nature be considered a positive thing ??? In any event, most industrial recreation is as bad or worse, than the conventional things that usually ruin our natural world and fees being raised can barely cover what many nature lovers have destroyed in the past for no other reason than massive sheer numbers in popular areas. Seriously eco-folks, go out and volunteer more and pay less attention to all those social media gurus who keep you stirred up. Proof that you care about Nature has nothing to clicking "LIKE" on someone's Facebook group page.

Image from Canyon Country Zephyr