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Current Events

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Current Events:

5/2006 A proposal to name a peak in Yosemite in honor of ranger-naturalist and botonist Dr. Carl Sharsmith has been gathering momentum for several years and needs your support to make it happen. For over 60 years (1931 to 1994) Carl was a ranger in Yosmite, working mostly from Tuolumne Meadows. He has inspired thousands of visitors, scientists and rangers to appreciate the complexity and wonder of the Sierra. Many Yosemite locals have long called Peak 12,002 (click for map), along the Sierra Crest and just north of Tioga Pass, Sharsmith Peak. A group proposes to go before the USGS Board of Geographic Names (BGN) and make that official. For more information and to send in your own testimonial of support, go to

4/2006 Yosemite National Park Announces Public Scoping Comment Period for the Aquatic Habitat and Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Restoration Project

Yosemite National Park News Release
May 4, 2006
For Immediate Release

Yosemite National Park is proposing a project to restore a small number of remote, high-elevation lakes to their native fishless conditions to help restore mountain yellow-legged frog populations. Such low-impact fish removals will have a negligible effect on recreational fishing in Yosemite because a large proportion of the park's lakes will continue to harbor healthy fish populations. This project would also benefit hundreds of other amphibian, reptile, invertebrate, and bird species. Proposed project components include:

* Re-establishing mountain yellow-legged frog populations at sites where they once were present.
* Removing fish from less than a dozen small, high-elevation lakes. These lakes currently contain non-native populations of brook, brown, or rainbow trout. The planting of fish in many lakes and streams in the Sierra Nevada has been one of the negative factors thought to be causing the demise of the mountain yellow-legged frog, as these fish prey on frogs, eggs, and tadpoles.

Public scoping for this project will occur from May 17, 2006 through June 16, 2006. Scoping is an opportunity early in a planning process for the public, organizations, and other agencies to suggest issues to be considered by the National Park Service in preparing the proposed Environmental Assessment (EA). An EA is proposed to be issued for public review in early 2007 .

Written scoping comments should be postmarked no later than June 16, 2006. To request a hard copy or CD ROM version of the Environmental Assessment and to submit comments:

Mail: Superintendent, Yosemite National Park
Attn: Aquatic Habitat and Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog Restoration Project
PO Box 577
Yosemite, CA 95389

Fax: 209/379-1294

Comments can be submitted during a public Open House to be held in Yosemite Valley in the Visitor Center Auditorium on May 31, 2006 from 1pm to 5pm. For more information, visit the park website at


4/2004 EPA names Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks as being in violation of federal smog standards.

4/2004 National Parks and Conservation Association: Code Red: America's Five Most Polluted National Parks

America's national parks are endangered by polluted air. In fact, many of these parks suffer some of the nation's dirtiest air, rivaling or even exceeding that of our most polluted cities, such as Atlanta and Los Angeles. This level of pollution occurs even though Congress in 1977 amended the Clean Air Act to ensure that certain national parks and wildlands, called Class I areas, would have the cleanest air in America. Although surveys show that Americans expect clean air in the parks,1 the important promise of the Clean Air Act remains largely unfulfilled. This report examines the current state of air quality in our national parks.

12/17/2003 State issues mercury warning
Toxic metal from mining taints Sierra lakes, streams, fish.
By Stuart Leavenworth -- Bee Staff Writer

Published 2:15 a.m. PST Wednesday, December 17, 2003
State health officials urged anglers Tuesday to curb their consumption of fish from five Sierra reservoirs and parts of the Bear and South Yuba rivers because of toxic mercury found in bass, catfish and trout.

The mercury warning marks the first time the California Environmental Protection Agency has issued a formal health advisory for fish taken from a Sierra lake or stream. It probably won't be the last. Authorities expect there will be many more warnings as scientists test waters below hundreds of old mines in the Sierra Mother Lode, where miners used toxic mercury to separate gold from ore.

2/2003 Red Snow Possible CO2 Sink

An article in the Jan. 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Surface gas-exchange processes of snow algae by William E. Williams, Holly L. Gorton, and Thomas C. Vogelmann) indicates that the single-celled alga Chlamydomonas nivalis — aka red or watermelon snow — may be a significant absorber of atmospheric CO2. Some snowfields with high concentrations of the algae consume CO2 about 10 times more than green plants do.

Hikers in the Sierra will notice red snow as a tinge of red (or sometimes yellow) on the snow surface in spring and summer. When walked on, it often smells like watermelon. Also interesting is how the organism reaches the surface in spring: When the previous year's snow melts, the red snow organism lies dormant on the ground during the summer and winter. As the spring melt begins, the algae cysts burst. The single celled organism then uses its two whip-like tails to swim upward through several feet of the snow pack on the small trickles of meltwater to reach the surface and reproduce.

2/2003 Bighorn Sheep Wintering in Sequoia Park — First time since 1920s
From David M. Graber, Ph.D.
Sr. Science Advisor / GMP Coordinator
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Researchers from the California Department of Fish and Game Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Team spotted at least a dozen bighorn sheep from the air, including ewes, on the south-facing slopes above the western reaches of Bubbs Creek, in Kings Canyon National Park. Bighorn were spotted not far from there, in the vicinity of Charlotte Dome, late last summer (see A New Bighorn Sheep Herd is Discovered, Or Is It? below). This observation tends to support the hypothesis that this is a distinctive herd, and one that winters well west of the crest. If true, this would be first herd of bighorn sheep spending its full year inside the national park since the Mineral King herd was extirpated in the 1920s — the only known contemporary west-side herd. Genetic analysis of scat collected last fall may shed light on the provenance of this band; i.e. is it a recently-separated fragment of the Mt. Baxter herd complex, or a “phantom herd” that has long maintained a secret existence.

1/2003 Sierra Bighorn Sheep Herds Continue to Grow
(From Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation newsletter).
Since 1998 we have felt lucky to document a remarkable increase in all bighorn sheep herds in the Sierra Nevada. We could account for only about 125 total sheep in 1998. Last year, only three years later that number has doubled. This has been the best news we could ask for. It has also brought with it an added difficulty, which is the continued development of good data on herd sizes. Continued

1/2003 A New Bighorn Sheep Herd is Discovered, Or Is It?

(From Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation newsletter).
In early August we received an intriguing report from climbing guide SP Parker of 11 female sheep and young at the base of Charlotte Dome. Charlotte Dome is a rock pinnacle above Bubbs Creek on the west side of the Sierra Nevada about 6 miles as the crow flies west of Kearsarge Pass, and about 5 miles from the Sierra Crest region where female sheep have been known to reside in summer. This sighting was particularly surprising given the amount of forest around Charlotte Dome, a habitat that sheep mostly avoid. After a few summer trips into this area by various biologists associated with the Department of Fish and Game recovery program for Sierra Nevada bighorn, our impression is that a herd of females has taken up residence in the area of Mount Gardiner, and that occasionally they move further west along ridge systems to the Charlotte Dome area. This is corroborated by an observation of another mountain guide, Todd Vogel, who climbed Mount Gardiner this past spring and found fresh evidence of sheep there. Continued

12/2002 El Nino Strengthening:

(From Bill Mork, California State Meteorologist): The current warm episode is now considered among the 5 strongest in the past 50 years and would be best described as moderate to strong (Bill Mork and Jan Null). Note the Climate Prediction Centers reference to the further evolution toward basin-wide mature El Nino conditions during October.The previous CPC discussion in October described this as a moderate El Nino episode. Does that mean the evolution goes from moderate to mature? I like our interpretation of moderate to strong; this seems to make more sense. Analogs (Jan Null/Golden Gate Weather Services) for moderate to strong El Nino years with percent of normal 8-stations precip (Northern Sierra) include 1957-58 (141 percent), 1987-88 (70 percent), and 1994-95 (171 percent). Average is 127 percent for the 3 years.

10/31/2002 Herbicide makes wild frogs hermaphrodite
A widely used herbicide is making male frogs grow female gonads in the US midwest, according to a recent field study. The finding could fuel the controversy over whether or not the chemical is one of the many possible reasons amphibian populations are shrinking worldwide.

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