Category: News

Biden to review Trump’s changes to Bears Ears National Monument, among others

President Biden may restore Bears Ears National Monument in Utah to its original size, created by President Obama. Under President Trump, the monument lost 85 percent of its land. (Courtesy USDA Forest Service)

If you read my “Ten things to cheer about in 2020,” then you know my No. 1 item was the election of Joe Biden on a climate agenda. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Check out this except from the story on PBS Newshour:

Bruce Adams, who stood next to Trump cheering at the Utah Capitol in 2017 when he signed the declaration shrinking the monument, said Wednesday he thinks it’s a foregone conclusion Biden will restore Bears Ears to the size Obama created, if not make it larger. Adams is county commissioner in the area where the monument is located and said the impact on the county of having to clean up trash and rescue unprepared visitors outweighs any benefit from people spending money at local hotels and restaurants.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Ten things to cheer about in 2020

Even without the West Fork, you can still find trout in our local mountains. (Credit: Jim Burns)

We’ve never experienced anything like this year that’s coming to a close, both collectively and individually. As my wife and I watched the Christmas star last week, its first appearance in some 700 years, it made me wonder. As a writer, I’m all about signs and portends, so I thought it could either mean the coming apocalypse or a brighter future, as it did so many centuries ago. I chose the latter.

As we have all watched so many of our systems go haywire or barely hang on, there is still much to cheer. Here are my Top 10 in no particular order.  

  1. Election of Joe Biden on a climate agenda
    1. The former president’s environmental record is beyond abysmal. Start with the shrinking of Bear’s Ears National Monument and rushed move to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Both are a disgrace to our heritage of enjoying federally owned open lands.  
  2. Women embrace fly fishing
    1. From April Vokey’s podcast, to Montana Rodsmiths’ Aurora Lady Flex, unique rods build for women, to #chickswhofish, the sport is taking on a much-needed feminine side.
  3. Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, some major corps pledge to cut emissions 
    1. It may not be perfect, but it’s a beginning with a goal of zero emissions by 2050 or 2060, depending on who you read. Climate change is real and caused by human activity. May disdain for science and disdain for experts now live only in the past. My grandson will thank you. 
  4. Defeating Bristol Bay
    1. Alaska’s Trout Unlimited brought the heat and, as a result of a sustained community effort, the Pebble Mine isn’t being dug. The effort was two decades long, and we should all thank TU’s Meghan Barker for the many days she personally devoted to this defeat. 
  5. Bring down the Klamath Dams
    1. As CalTrout writes “The removal process for the four Klamath Dams will start in 2021 and extend into 2023. We look forward to celebrating the day when the Klamath River flows freely for the first time in over a century, and more than 300 miles of spawning and rearing habitat are once again accessible to native salmon and steelhead.” The Iron Gate Dam will be the largest in history to come down.
  6. New sentiments and community effort: the Eklutna Dam in Alaska falls
    • From Trout Unlimited: “Return to Us chronicles the historic effort spearheaded by Eklutna, Inc. and The Conservation Fund to remove the abandoned Lower Eklutna Dam and kickstart the return of diminished salmon runs to the river in Southcentral Alaska, near Anchorage.” In 2019, 90 dams in 26 states fell, setting a record number. I don’t currently have the 2020 figures.
  7. Beginnings of a fish passage on the Los Angeles River
    • Planning has begun to deepen part of the river to allow the endangered Southern California Steelhead access to its spawning grounds in the mountains. We are still a very long way off from the entire river being navigable for these fish, but it’s a start. 
  8. There are still wild trout in the San Gabriel mountains
    • The loss of the West Fork is a devastating experience for those of us who love the outdoors. I wrote a story for the upcoming “California Fly Fisher” (hard copy only) in which those in the know recommend other spots for fish and enjoy. My last outing, I was surprised to catch three native rainbows in a couple of hours in our local mountains. They were small, cold and beautiful.
  9. The first Native American to be nominated for the Interior Department would replace former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt, as part of Biden’s climate-forward agenda.
    • Plus Jennifer Granholm for Secretary of Energy, Michael Regan for Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Brenda Mallory for Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, Gina McCarthy for National Climate Advisor, and Ali Zaidi for Deputy National Climate Advisor would all join Deb Haaland.
  10. LA River Fly Fishing turned 10!
    • I never thought this site would last past a couple of years, but here I am clicking away. The site remains ad-free and has garnered around 235,000 views since I started writing and curating. Thanks for your support over the last decade. We’ll see how the LA River improves in the coming year. 

Happy New Year and see you on the river, Jim Burns

West Fork San Gabriel update: Closure extends to April 1, 2022

Better times on the West Fork, before the Bobcat Fire virtually destroyed this beautiful fishery. (Jim Burns)

Letter to the Editor from California Fly Fisher: I much appreciated Jim Burns’s story on the West Fork of the San Gabriel, which did a good job of capturing the character of a place that I have been visiting for decades. (“The West Fork of the San Gabriel,” September/October 2020.) Unfortunately, shortly after the issue came out, much of that river’s watershed was reduced to charcoal and ash by the Bobcat Fire.

By the way, readers of Cal Fly Fisher might like to know that the Oct. 13 issue of the Los Angeles Times has a great article on the ecological devastation wrought by the fire, and it noted that the river also faces additional harm from mud flows when the rains of winter arrive. That’s a helluva one-two punch against this little fishery. Only time will tell whether it has been KOed for keeps — Fred Martinez, Los Angeles.

A typical hand-size rainbow from a trip I made in May to the West Fork. (Jim Burns)

Dear Fred,

Thanks for the props. I loved the West Fork, as I can tell you did. I thought you would appreciate this update from John Clearwater, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Forest Service:

In the course of four major fires we lost 23-percent, or nearly a quarter, of the Angeles this year.  To include some of our most beautiful areas.  It’s been a tough, heartbreaking year. 

Regarding the closure of the West Fork, the Bobcat Fire closure area extends to April 1, 2022. I don’t anticipate that the West Fork will reopen much sooner than that.

I was in there a few weeks ago with LA Times reporter, Louis Sahagun.  The area is near the origin site for the Bobcat Fire, and one of the areas that was most impacted by the Fire. 

Unfortunately, much of it now looking like an ashen lunar landscape.  It was clearly once a mountain paradise.  Now it’s heartbreaking to see.  This winter I suspect the road may disappear in a number of places due to the lack of vegetation and likelihood of runoff coming down the mountainsides.  During my time in there recently we encountered a number of rock slides breaking loose, rolling off the cliff tops and impacting onto the roadway, with rocks varying in size from that of a baseball to a soccer ball.  Any of which would have been fatal if it had struck someone on the head. 

Regardless, there is much work that will be required in the West Fork for public safety, forest recovery and habitat protection.

As for plans for the trout in the West Fork, I’ve spoken with the District Ranger team and they said the California Department of Fish & Wildlife is planning to soon relocate a number of trout from the West Fork to other areas of the San Gabriel river.  They could not provide a lot of details. 

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Fishing paradise Mammoth inundated with Creek Fire smoke

BEFORE AND HEARTBREAKING AFTER pictures of Twin Lakes, above Mammoth Lakes, Calif., from July 21 and today. The Creek Fire, which is not in Mammoth, has burned more than 338,000 acres with full containment expected by Halloween. (Courtesy BiBi Photography)

‘We’re going to turn this place into a trout stream again’

Twenty-five-inch steelhead trout caught in the Los Angeles River near Glendale, in January, 1940. (Courtesy family of Dr. Charles L. Hogue)

From Los Angeles Times environment writer Louis Sahagun:

Biologists and engineers are setting the stage for an environmental recovery effort in downtown Los Angeles that could rival the return of the gray wolf, bald eagle and California condor.

This time, the species teetering on the edge of extinction is the Southern California steelhead trout and the abused habitat is a 4.8-mile-long stretch of the L.A. River flood-control channel that most people only glimpse from a freeway.

The brutal vista of concrete and treated urban runoff exists as an impenetrable barrier to ancestral spawning grounds in the San Gabriel Mountains for the estimated 400 federally endangered Southern California steelhead left on Earth.

The Los Angeles River Fish Passage and Habitat Structures Design Plan, which is being championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, aims to change all that with a carefully calibrated retrofit.

Read the whole story here. The Council for Watershed Health has launched a webpage allowing people to keep up with the progress of the fish passage project. Read my 2012 thoughts about the possible return of steelhead here.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Angeles National Forest remains closed through Oct. 8

Due to extreme fire conditions, the Angeles National Forest, along with six other forests in California, will remain closed through Thursday, Oct. 8. This is because of a combination of extreme heat, dry conditions, significant wind events and firefighting resources that are stretched to the limit, the U.S. Forest Service said. The Bobcat Fire has burned for 26 days and is about 63 percent contained after tearing through almost 155,000 acres. Nine hundred ninety two personnel continue to fight the conflagration. (Courtesy @mrcalparks)

Thank you, tireless firefighters

There are currently 45 fires buring in California, including the Bobcat Fire in the San Gabriel Mountains that has burned for five days and consumed more than 26,000 acres. (Courtesy National Forest.)

Firefighters remember the Sept. 11 anniversary to ‘Amazing Grace’ played on the bagpipes, the most famous song played at fire and police funerals. (Courtesy Angeles National Forest)

Goodbye, Pebble Mine

Bristol Bay is safe.

I know you’ve heard that before, but this time, it’s for real, done in by the Clean Water Act. After watching the Trump Administration finalize plans last week “to open up part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas development, a move that overturns six decades of protections for the largest remaining stretch of wilderness in the United States,” according to the New York Times, I thought Bristol Bay would share a similar fate. Not so.

Check out the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers statement and be happy:

This administration supports the mining industry and acknowledges the benefits the industry has provided to the economy and productivity of this country, from job creation to the extraction of valuable resources, which are especially important as we recover from this pandemic. The Pebble Mine project has the potential to fulfill all of those needs; however, as currently proposed, the project could have substantial environmental impacts within the unique Bristol Bay watershed and lacks adequate compensatory mitigation.

Given these concerns, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finds under section 404 of the Clean Water Act that the project, as proposed, would likely result in significant degradation of the environment and would likely result in significant adverse effects on the aquatic system or human environment.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

During the pandemic, the river calls to a new generation of fishers

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FIRST FISH on the LA River for L.A. Times reporter Lila Seidman. We had a blast on the water. (Courtesy Lila Seidman)

 

From the Los Angeles Times: Despite its concrete casing, installed in the late 1930s to rein in once-frequent flooding, signs of the natural river persist. Besides birds of many feathers, it’s home to beefy carp, small-mouth bass, tilapia and — once upon a time — steelhead trout. If you tilt your gaze in just the right way, away from the overpasses and concrete shores, it could be Georgia.

There are grander digs to fish — rushing rivers with glittering trout in Mammoth Lakes and Kern County — but they lack one of the L.A. River’s greatest strengths: convenience.

Read the whole story here (paywall).