July 2010

Field Journal Writing/Sketching Seminars

Courtesy of: Calaveras Big Trees Association

Calaveras Big Trees State Park — Naturalist, biologist, educator and artist John Muir “Jack” Laws will lead three seminars in the state park in mid-August, sessions designed to help young people start and keep a daily illustrated field journal.

Laws is the author and artist whose “Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada” is the standard for hikers and outdoor lovers. He is a wildlife biologist, and an associate at the California Academy of Sciences, and has won awards for environmental education. He has been a featured speaker at the Yosemite Association and at Calaveras Big Trees State Park and throughout the Sierra Nevada.

The emphasis in all three sessions will be on developing awareness and skills in young people.

The first two-hour session will be Friday, Aug. 13, at 6 p.m. Laws will hold a workshop designed for teachers, park docents and naturalists who work with children. He will teach techniques for educators and interpreters to help young people observe and to draw nature. A fee of $10 will be charged for the evening session for adults, and includes park admission (normally $8).

 On Saturday, Aug. 14, Laws will lead two free sessions for children and youth at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sketch pads and pencils will be provided for students. For those coming from outside the park for the sessions, the normal vehicle admission fee applies.

All sessions will begin inside Jack Knight Hall in the park, and seating is limited.

Reservations are required for all the sessions.
To pre-register contact Sue or Tami at the park Visitors’ Center by August 6:
Mon. – Fri. , 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Phone: 209-795-3840

 This is a great way for kids of all ages to learn the appreciation of nature. Laws, who spent six years backpacking the Sierra Nevada to research and illustrate the “Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada”, will share tricks and techniques for drawing birds, mammals, plants and landscapes. He will note signs of the season. He will also help attendees achieve the discipline and good habits that will help keep a journal going once begun.

Here is the chance to learn to observe and appreciate the natural world in a whole new way. No drawing experience is necessary. Adults bring your own sketchpad and pencils.

Click here to see some photos  of Laws amazing work.


Mercury News editorial: CA must preserve Delta’s health

The first, second and third priority for the future of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast, is preserving its health. Everything else, including the needs of the powerful agriculture industry and municipal water agencies, should move further back in line.

The massive water deal passed by the Legislature in 2009 called on the state to conduct an independent, comprehensive study to determine how to achieve a sustainable, healthy delta. A draft released last week stated uncategorically that water users are taking twice as much water as they should. That must stop, the report said, or the sickly delta will eventually become unable to provide safe, clean water for fish, farmers and city dwellers.

The conclusion does not surprise objective students of water policy. There have to be unhealthy consequences of diverting more than 50 percent of the water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers before it circulates through the delta.

Click here to read more at Mercurynews.com

Report: Delta in need of water

By Alex Breitler

Record Staff Writer

July 22, 2010 12:00 AM

Delta advocates have long asked how much water the estuary needs to recover from a decades-long decline.

They got their answer Wednesday.

In a new report, state officials estimate that about 75 percent of the Delta’s water would need to stay in its rivers and streams and flow out to San Francisco Bay to restore the estuary and recover native fish.

Right now, about 50 percent of the water flows to the Bay. In other words, cities and farms have been taking about twice as much water as the Delta can give.

The report is for information only; it does not require cutting back on water pumping nor does it impose any new rules.

It does, however, contain what officials believe to be the best science so far, and could shape discussions in coming months about a peripheral canal or tunnel.

Click here to read the full article at Recordnet.com

Our President delivers an annual State of the Union address to report on the condition of our nation and to outline his legislative agenda and national priorities to Congress.


Currently, San Joaquin County is in the slow process of updating its General Plan. Aside from rich Delta soils and amazing agricultural production, our County is host to 4 very important Rivers:

  • Calaveras River
  • San Joaquin River
  • Mokelumne River
  • Stanislaus River

To make sure that the stewardship of  these Rivers are included in our future vision for San Joaquin County and California,  propose that San Joaquin County Council of Governments host a one day symposium event, facilitated by a coalition of  non-profit organizations and government agencies.

The event would provide an opportunity for the general public, policy makers, and the media to get together and learn about the “state of our rivers”, and how we can steward them so that wildlife and people can continue benefitting from them long into the future!

Leave a comment and share what you think about this idea!

Water bond now on the bubble


Governor wants measure off Nov. ballot

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently concluded that a proposed $11 billion water bond he personally nursed for three years will probably flop in November and has called on lawmakers to take the measure off the ballot and put it before voters in 2012 instead.

There’s a problem: He had already counted on voter approval of Proposition 18 and set aside $1 billion of the money in his pending budget for dozens of new water supply and environmental projects that he now must shelve.

Schwarzenegger could have a bigger headache: Lawmakers may balk at taking the measure off the ballot, even those who opposed it in the first place.

Click here to read more at Signonsandiego.com

The following Letter to the Editor was printed in the Stockton Record on July 21. To their credit, Stockton East just submitted the environmental documents to NMFS in order to move forward with next steps to publish the Draft Calaveras River Habitat Conservation Plan! – Jeremy

Stockton East actions hurt fish

Several weeks ago, Stockton East Water District and consultants from Fishbio promised to submit the environmental documents required for the long-overdue Calaveras River Habitat Conservation Plan. As of July 12, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the agency responsible for approving the Draft Calaveras River HCP, has yet to receive them.

The habitat conservation plan is important because it is a way for the public and agencies to work together in the conservation of endangered wildlife habitat. Without it, Stockton East may not apply for an incidental take permit, a protection against accidental harm of the steelhead population as a result of its operations.

For years, Stockton East has been allowed to take fish in the Calaveras River without having the proper permit. Recently, 43 steelhead trout (listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act) were found stranded in the Calaveras River. How much longer will Stockton East be allowed to leave threatened steelhead and other important fish in the Calaveras River high and dry?

Read this  and more Letters to the Editor at Recordnet.com

By: Steve Stocking, Education Chair, Sierra Club Delta-Sierra Chapter, 7/12/2010

It has been a glorious spring here between 1,000 and 3,000feet in the Sierra foothills. Farewell to spring has been widespread and abundant but is not the only wildflower to give us notice that summer has begun. By the 4th of July weekend most of us are thinking about field trips to the high Sierra. This year with the late snow and cool spring some native plant enthusiasts are staying down low longer while others are finding wildflowers between melting snow banks. Some of us who remain at the lower elevations are appreciating the flowers still blooming as the hills turn brown.

Why do some plants wait until summer to flower? At least some of these are what are called “long day plants”. These initiate flower when the nights are 10 hours long or shorter. They flower before the short day plants which flower during the july-September period. It is the dark period length which is critical. There are lots of other “day neutral plants” which flower not in response to day length but to temperature, stage of maturity or a combination of factors. Got that? You could check a “Plant Biology” text to learn more about photoperiodism. One long day plant flowering along roadsides in early summer is manyflower tobacco (Nicotiana acuminata). All species of tobacco plants contain several quite harmful toxins and should not be eaten nor smoked.

Another of the roadside plants flowering in early summer is moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria). This native of Eurasia has been used medicinally and as a garden ornamental. The flower color, genetically controlled, is most commonly yellow but some populations are white or purple flowered. White flowered wild carrot (Daucus carota) is often called “Queen Ann’s Lace and is closely related to the cultivated carrot. It came here from Eurasia as a garden vegetable. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is also found in roadside areas and its foilage is used as a vegetable and its seeds for flavoring. Some people cal this plant anise. Mexican whorled milkweed (Asclepias fascicularium) found in similar areas. It is one of the food plants for Monarch butterfly larvae. The chemicals that the larvae get from the plant protect them form predators. All milkweeds are highly toxic to many animals including humans, horses and chickens.

The common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) also flowers in summer. It is a native wild type of the cultivated sunflower. The seeds are excellent food for small birds. Other members of the sunflower family flowering in summer are telegraph plant (Heterotheca grandiflora), common madia (Madia elegans) and virgate tarweed (Holocarpha virgata). The tarweed turns some fields yellow when the grass dries. It makes some areas of rangeland unpalatable to livestock but it does produce edible seed for wildlife and its pollen is an important food for bees. St. Johnswort or Klamathweed, (Hypericum perforatum) is the “poster plant” for biological control. Several introduced beetles have greatly reduced this troublesome plant. But what remains is toxic to livestock, particularly those with light colored skin. Other plants still flowring at these lower elevations include toyon ( Heteromeles arbutifolia), bush monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus), and buckeye (Aesculus californica). As the hills turn brown, the temperatures rise and the streams and rivers drop we still have these flowering plants to remind us that much of the vegetation is not dead but “resting” and waiting for another glorious spring.

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