Sierra Nevada

NASA/Friant Water Authority

A new way to measure the snowpack from the sky is getting some positive results. FM89's Ezra David Romero reports officials hope new technology can reduce the risk of downstream flooding.

 

At the start of the year NASA crews began flying over the San Joaquin River watershed to measure the snowpack using laser pulses. This creates a way more accurate estimate of how much snow is the mountains than traditional snow surveying does.

 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

All of the recent rain and snow in California is good news for farms and cities. The runoff flowing from the Sierra Nevada is so strong this year that’s it's moving huge boulders and tons of earth down rivers. That means gold is on the move as well and as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports that has gold prospectors on alert.

 

Larry Riggs and his friends are hunting on a piece of private property near Oakhurst. There are no guns or fishing poles present. Just shovels, plastic bowls and buckets.

They’re panning for gold.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

After five years of drought there’s so much snow in the Sierra Nevada that state water officials are preparing for a massive runoff year. But the traditional way of calculating the snowpack has a huge margin of error and as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports a new way to measure it could greatly decrease that inconsistency.  

Every winter and spring a network of snow surveyors manually tally how much snow is in the Sierra Nevada. They do this by measuring snow depth in the same spots every year.

Mike McMillan / US Forest Service

A new study about how wildfires are started in the US found that people are responsible for more fires than lightning. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

 

Of the 1.5 million fires the study looked at from 1992 to 2012 84% were started by people. University of Massachusetts at Amherst researcher Bethany Bradley says that’s helped tripled the length of fire season in the US, and grow the affected area by seven times. She says fires caused by lightning usually happen in the late summer.

 

Westlands Water District website

The federal Bureau of Reclamation announced Tuesday how much water water districts across California should expect to receive this year. Eastside growers in the Friant Division within Fresno County should receive a 100 percent allocation. Ryan Jacobsen is the CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

 

Ezra David Romero

Let's face it. America loves giant sequoia trees. Native Americans believe they hold spiritual value, early settlers tried to exploit the trees and today the trees adorn the National Park Service's badge. 

In a new book called "King Sequoia: The Tree That Inspired a Nation, Created Our National Park System, and Changed the Way We Think about Nature" author William C. Tweed weaves together a narrative of human contact with the big trees. He outlines who tried to exploit them and eventually what it took to protect them. 

Ezra David Romero

Late this summer endangered frogs and threatened toads that call the Sierra Nevada home were given 1.8 million acres of protected habitat. That’s a good thing for the amphibians, but as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports private landowners and ranchers aren’t so sure it will help them.  

Yosemite National Park Biologist Rob Grasso and his crew of volunteers are in a hurry. They’re counting tadpoles from a pond and plopping them into five gallon orange coolers. These tadpoles will end up in a lake high up in the backcountry.

Ezra David Romero

Yay! You made it to Outdoorsy. This is Valley Public Radio’s new podcast, in which we explore wild places in California and interview the people who enjoy them.

We – reporters Ezra David Romero and Kerry Klein – are excited to share some of our favorite places and outdoor activities. We both consider ourselves pretty “Outdoorsy,” though we're coming at this from two different backgrounds.

US Foerst Service

Due to such dry conditions here in California wildfires in recent memory have burned enormous portions of forest. Think the Rim Fire that destroyed 400 square miles and the Rough Fire that torched about half of that. These blazes require thousands of firefighters and new resources like air very large air tankers. And as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports these large plans can hold 10 times as much as the older planes.

When a wildfire sparks air tankers are the first responders.

They’re the planes that drop pink fire retardant from the sky to hopefully quarantine a blaze.

Flickr user WBUR, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Right now in California’s Sierra Nevada, an estimated 66 million trees have died, due to a deadly combination of drought and bark beetles, which take advantage of dry, thirsty trees. But could we prevent beetles from ever attacking trees in the first place? Researchers have been asking this question for decades, and a new tool fends off bark beetles using the very thing that makes them so deadly.

http://www.dirtlabbushcraft.com/

Due to drought bark beetles have ravaged lots of pine trees in the Sierra Nevada forcing homeowners to fall dead trees around their houses. Now one organization is offering a class to teach people what they can do with all these dead trees.

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Instead of hauling dead pine trees killed by bark beetles to sawmills across Central California, Jonathon Tepperman with the group Dirtlab Bushcraft wants to offer another option to homeowners.

 

Courtesy of Dr. Sallie Phillips

The Goose Fire burning in the foothills of Fresno County near Prather has burned more than 1,800 acres. It’s threatening 400 structures and has forced hundreds of people to evacuate. The blaze is 15 percent contained. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports that people aren’t the only evacuees. 

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office is reporting that 600 animals have been evacuated off mountain ranches and homes because of the Goose Fire.   

foothills
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California needs as much rain and snow as it can get. So far this year El Nino caused storms have watered the hills of the Sierra Nevada so much this winter that as a result they’re bursting with color earlier in the year than usual.

“If you actually go up and look at those grasses you’ll see that they’re already starting to flower,” says Sequoia National Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott. “So it means that they’re coming at the end of their lifecycle.”

Elliott says even before spring rain ends grass and flowers could turn brown.   

Courtesty of Bob Wick

A hard to reach grove of giant sequoias in Tulare County is going to get a lot easier to get to later this year. The trees sit on top of a mountain seven miles southeast of Three Rivers that's part of Craig Ranch. The ranch was given to the Bureau of Land Management through a deal between the Visalia Sequoia Riverlands Trust and the San Francisco based Save the Redwoods League. Jessica Neff is with the league.

Ezra David Romero
Valley Public Radio

Last summer the Rough Fire grew so large that fire crews from around the world came to the Sierra Nevada east of Fresno to fight the blaze. Today the area is still feeling the effects of the 150,000 acre burn. And as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports El Nino is bringing a whole new set of problems to the area

Pine Flat Lake is rising about a half a foot a day.  Recent rain and snow are slowly filling it up.  

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