Black Bear Study on Central Coast

From the California Department of Fish and Game:

Black Bear Study Underway Along Central Coast

Media Contact: Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Scientists Splitting Hairs to Estimate Population and Breeding Patterns

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is conducting a multi-year population study on black bears in San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties.

CDFW researchers are collecting bear hair this summer in San Luis Obispo County with non-invasive hair snags. DNA from the hair will be analyzed in a laboratory.

“With residential development encroaching further into bear habitat, it’s critical that we gain some scientific insight into California’s black bear population,” said CDFW state bear program coordinator, Marc Kenyon. “Understanding this expanding population will help us make informed planning decisions that are in the best interest of the bears.”

Samples are collected with hair snags: small barbwire corrals with non-consumable bait placed in the middle. As the bear passes through the wire to investigate the bait made from fermented fish and steer blood, the barbed wire gently pulls hair samples.
Scientists check and re-bait traps on a weekly basis, collecting hair specimens and sending them to the UC Davis Wildlife Genetics and Population Health Lab for testing and analysis.
“Extracting DNA from hair follicles allows us to identify unique individual profiles of bears, explore familial relations, breeding trends as well as gain insight into black bear movement patterns,” said UC Davis associate professor Holly Ernest.
Hair sampling is one of the most cost-effective and increasingly common methods of estimating abundance and density of bears on local scales. The method, known as capture–mark-recapture, is commonly used to estimate population sizes of wildlife, particularly when a complete head count is not possible.

Population size is estimated when a portion of the population is “captured” via a hair snag, “marked” by a DNA profile and “recaptured” when hair from the same animal is collected again. By evaluating the proportion of bears whose hair is collected repeatedly to the total number of bears sampled, scientists can estimate population size and identify general trends.
CDFW researchers plan to continue collecting hair samples into August and then will move operations north to Monterey County this fall.

Fracking Workshop

Fracking workshop set for Tuesday

A workshop on the oil and natural gas production method of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, will be held noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1000 Aguajito Road.

The workshop is open to the public and is being held by the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.

The purpose of the workshop is to get input on a “discussion draft” of state regulations that the agency hopes to have in place within about 18 months. The draft is available at CA fracking documents

The group Progressive Democrats of America will hold a protest outside the Hilton from 4 to 6 p.m.

I am planning to attend at least part of this meeting tomorrow, and busy educating myself before hand. I have read the proposed regs, the background info, the FAQs sheet, and the general information post. The first three are in PDF, so they can be downloaded and saved in iBooks for marking and highlighting. I would suggest that anyone interested in the potential impact, if any, of HF in the Salinas Valley, near Jolon, on the water we drink here in Big Sur, get as familiar as possible. I am finding high school chemistry, only a vague self-education on geology, little hydrology other than to know how it affects the highway and how much my spring produces, to be wholly inadequate to understand this issue. But I am trying.

Judge holds BLM violated law in fracking leases in Monterey

From today’s Herald:

Judge: U.S. violated law in Monterey County oil leases

Environmental standards broken in leases
Herald Staff Writer
Posted: 04/08/2013 03:12:03 PM PDT
Updated: 04/09/2013 09:21:44 AM PDT

Question of the Day
Is fracking worth the environmental risk?

Nearly 20,000 acres of prime Central Coast farm and ranch land may be protected at least temporarily from oil and gas “fracking” due to a federal judge’s “watershed” ruling.

Environmentalists and local representatives cheered the decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal, who said federal land managers violated a key environmental law when they auctioned off the rights to drill for oil and gas on public lands in Monterey County, home to one of the largest deposits of shale oil in the nation.

Grewal faulted the Bureau of Land Management for not reviewing the potential impacts caused by fracking before accepting bids for the drilling rights, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

The judge did not say whether the leases themselves would be invalidated, but said he would decide their fate after the parties meet and send him a proposal next week.

“This important decision recognizes that fracking poses new, unique risks to California’s air, water, and wildlife that government agencies can’t ignore,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, who argued the case for the plaintiffs. “This is a watershed moment — the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the monumental dangers of fracking.”

County officials and environmental groups expressed concerns two years ago about BLM’s plans to auction off the drilling rights for parcels near the lush Salinas River


Valley before doing a sweeping review of the impacts on water, wildlife and air quality.
While the ruling directly affects lease sales on only about 2,500 acres in south Monterey County, the lawsuit’s co-plaintiffs, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, are poised to sue over 17,000 acres that BLM subsequently auctioned off in December 2012 while Grewal’s ruling was pending. The latter sale involved land in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties.

“We’re very excited. We’re thrilled,” Rita Dalessio, conservation chairwoman of the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club, said of Sunday’s ruling. “I’m sure the champagne is flowing in (Sierra Club offices in) San Francisco.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, employs huge volumes of water mixed with sand and chemicals to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The oil industry maintains the practice has been safely used for decades. It has resisted identifying what chemicals are used, however. Environmentalists worry the technique can contaminate groundwater and pollute the air, as well as trigger seismic activity in the state’s most earthquake-prone area.

The affected leases sold in September 2011 include scenic stretches of southern Monterey County, where cattle ranchers and wine grape growers rely on tight water supplies to irrigate their pasture lands and vineyards. The area is also part of the historic range of the endangered California condor, whose global population was recently estimated at less than 400 birds.

The lawsuit alleged the bureau relied on inadequate 2006 studies to assess the environmental risks associated with increased oil and gas development. BLM maintained the leases would not necessarily involve fracking and new reviews were not necessary until requests were filed to drill on the leased property.

BLM spokesman David Christy said Monday afternoon he could not immediately comment on the decision as the agency had not had time to review it, but said officials planned to meet with the other parties according to the judge’s direction.

Monterey County Supervisors Dave Potter and Simon Salinas were two of the local representatives who sought the delay of the 2012 lease sales that relied on the same 2006 studies. Given the challenging water issues in the Salinas Valley, and the potential for earthquake damage to the area’s dams, both said Sunday’s ruling was a victory.

“This puts the brakes on and forces everyone to do more environmental review,” said Salinas, adding that it may provide time for passage of state legislation to ensure safety.

While he hears a lot about the number of jobs that could come, Potter said, he’d like to see environmental impact be more of a priority than “making money for oil companies.”

“It’s a bit like the way FEMA approaches disaster,” he said. “They just wait until after the disaster and then say, ‘Here’s how we’re going to repair it.’ I’d rather know on the front end.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Virginia Hennessey can be reached at 753-6751 or

Fire on Fremont Peak? – North Fire

6:00 pm – was still black smoke from the FHL fire just before dark, but it was only 250 acres, and both the USFS and the FHL FD were working it, no evidence it was going to escape into the forest.

Got this eyewitness account from a reader, who forwarded it to me.
“Big fire in Prunedale today, 6 Nov2012! Been working for the last 8 days and upon returning, today at 1:20 p.m., I was helping at the Prunedale Grange voting site and spotted black smoke on the ridge above the American Legion in Prunedale. I heard a fire engine and called the am 1080 radio station so they could immediately alert families in the Prunedale area. They did. However, the other radio stations were running election news and I couldn’t get on the alert onto other stations. The grew bigger as it rapidly moved north up the ridge until we could see flames above the Eucalyptus trees. Embers were falling and a fire started just behind the American Legion. It was surprising how fast the embers started spreading the fire. I called my relatives on McGuffie Road because the fire could have also been on that side of the ridge. No one home so I raced over to their house. Because the wind was blowing east there home wasn’t at risk. About 35 minutes later a CalFire air plane flew over the fire. Meanwhile four fire trucks were above Prunedale North Road with firemen protecting dwellings as the planes dropped retardant. So all of us who paid the recent CalFire protection fee just received our money’s worth.”

4:45 pm – confirmed, North Fire (Fremont Peak) structure fire into vegetation. Evacuations in progress. Also, heavy smoke from South East of me, and a 400-500 a re fire reported on Ft. H-L, but no details yet. It is too far south for the previously mentioned CB near Old Stage Rd and Crazy Horse in North Salinas Valley. I’ll be watching all of this, and trying to get additional details.

4:15 pm – One of my readers reported a fire on Fremont Peak. I am trying to confirm that now. If you have any information, please add to the comments below. I will update as soon as I know more.