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Death Valley Prepares for Annual Bird Count

Death Valley National Park invites the public to a fun day outdoors counting birds on Saturday, December 21. All skill levels are welcome for this opportunity to meet new people and learn about birds while contributing to a citizen-science effort continuing for over a hundred years.

The Christmas Bird Count will begin at 7 a.m. on Saturday, December 21 at Furnace Creek Golf Course parking lot in the Oasis at Death Valley. No experience is necessary! This is a great opportunity to learn about birds, get identification tips, and meet others interested in birding. Participants should dress in layers and wear sturdy shoes. Bring a hat, sunscreen, water, and snacks. Binoculars are recommended. Participants do not need to commit to the entire day, but must be there at 7 a.m. Contact Carol Fields at 760-786-3252 or carol_fields@nps.gov to sign up for the count.

This event is part of the nation-wide National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (CBC). This year will be the 120th year of the national Christmas Bird Count, making it one of the longest-running citizen science events in the world. Death Valley National Park has been collecting CBC data since 1957. The data collected helps demonstrate the important role national parks serve for migratory and overwintering bird populations.

The data collected by CBC participants documents the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other bird surveys, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed over the past 120 years. The long-term perspective made possible by the Christmas Bird Count is vital for conservationists. It helps guide strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. Each year, the CBC mobilizes more than 70,000 volunteers in more than 2,400 locations. Results from past counts can be viewed at http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count.

BLM Conducting Pile Burns in Mono County

BRIDGEPORT, Calif. – Wildland fire crews from the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office are planning winter pile burning operations with interagency partners for south of Bridgeport, Mono County, when weather and air quality conditions permit.

 

Slash piles, composed of limbs, branches and trees will be burned on approximately 270-acres of BLM-managed public lands at several locations in the Mormon Meadows and Bridgeport Canyon areas. Prescribed burning helps to reduce hazardous fuels, moderate the potential negative effects of wildland fire and increase firefighter and public safety.

 

During burn operations, smoke may be visible from Bridgeport, Conway Summit, Conway Ranch Estates, June Mountain, Lee Vining, Mono City, U.S. Route 395 and Virginia Lakes Road. The BLM is requesting the public to avoid congregating on or near roadways, which can obstruct fire equipment and emergency vehicles.

 

The BLM is committed to keeping public landscapes healthy and productive. These prescribed burns are part of a larger strategy to improve sagebrush habitat conditions throughout the Bodie Hills. Trees have been cut and piled in historically open sagebrush areas to increase ecosystem resiliency and restore habitat for several species, including sage grouse and migratory mule deer. All prescribed fire operations are conducted in close coordination with the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District.

 

For more information, please call Heather Stone at the Bishop Field Office, 760-872-5000.

IMACA Appoint New Executive Director

The IMACA Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Robert (Bob) Hughes has been appointed as IMACA’s new Executive Director beginning December 2, 2019. He will succeed Charles Broten, who is retiring after 5 ½ years with the Agency.

Mr. Hughes has professional experience in banking and was the President/CEO of the Thrift/Pan America Bank and Beneficial State Bank in Porterville CA. One of his key accomplishments there was developing relationships with auto and furniture dealers that required fair treatment of customers in order to participate in lending programs. He also adapted a business model to effectively serve low income and Spanish speaking communities.

Recently, Hughes worked as AmeriCorps Statewide Volunteer Infrastructure Project Leader in Napa Ca. He led a group of 130 + volunteers serving dozens of non-profit agencies in the State. He completed a 1700 hour service year with CalServes/AmeriCorps.

Carolyn Balliet, IMACA Chairperson, says, “IMACA has been extremely fortunate to have had Charlie Broten in recent years, working successfully to implement the goals of our Mission Statement and assist the managers to maximize their talents in serving the low income people in our Counties. We look forward to working with Bob Hughes to continue increasing the impact IMACA has in our community.”

Winter Storm Causes Multiple Accidents Over Thanksgiving Weekend

The California Highway Patrol conducted its annual Maximum Enforcement Period for the Thanksgiving holiday between November 27 to December 1.

During this time, there were quite a few reported collisions in both Bishop and Bridgeport CHP’s jurisdiction. The combined amount of total crashes in the four day period was twenty-three.

The Bishop Area CHP reported thirteen total accidents, with three of them involving injury. Out of the thirteen total crashes, eight of them were non-injury collisions. Additionally, nearly every reported accident was weather related.

The California Highway Patrol in the Bishop area also documented three DUI arrests during the MEP, with one DUI crash occurring.

As for the Bridgeport Area CHP, their office reports that during their Maximum Enforcement Period, they had ten accidents. Surprisingly enough with all the inclement weather in the Eastern Sierra, none of the reported accidents involved injury.

Although there were only three DUI arrests through the Thanksgiving holiday period in the Eastern Sierra, that number skyrockets when looking at the statewide statistics. In the first thirty hours of the MEP, there were a reported 314 arrests involving impaired driving. Additionally, eight people died in collisions because of driving under the influence during the four days.

Bishop Union Win Third CIF Championship in School History

Photos by Gary Young

Defense wins championships. However cliché it sounds, the Bishop Bronco’s defense is what won them the championship against the Orosi Cardinals on Saturday night.

Midway through the first quarter, the Broncos forced their first turnover of the game, when Jaydan Braithwaite stole Orosi Quarterback, Evan Lara’s screen pass, which was intended for star running back, Dominic Martinez inside the red zone. Braithwaite knew the ball was going to be thrown to Martinez before Lara could even react.

Later on, Orosi had another opportunity to score inside the red zone. Lara tried to throw a ball off of his back foot. The wayward throw was intercepted in the middle of the field by Darren Dondero, who recorded his fourth interception of the season.

Right before halftime, it appeared as though Orosi would score some much needed points trailing 13-0. Dominic Martinez received the hand off, shifted to the left and headed toward the goal line. That’s when a host of Bronco defenders stormed toward Martinez, who was on the one yard line and fumbled before scoring.

The ball looked like it had a mind of its own, inexplicably shooting out of the hands of the junior tailback toward the touchdown marker as defenders closed in on Martinez. The officials determined the Orosi Cardinal did not cross the goal line, therefore the Broncos would take possession on their 20 yard line.

Later on in the game, Lara would fumble the ball for the team’s fourth turnover on the night near midfield.

Turnovers weren’t the only facet of the game in which Ricky Beal’s defense thrived. Sophomore, Kennedy Bachelder led the team with ten tackles and two sacks. Cornerback, Joe Weaver had five pass breakups along with two tackles, and Tristan Valle recorded seven tackles and one sack.

Although Bishop’s defense is it’s strength, the Broncos offense isn’t too shabby either. Led by Luke McClean and Steven Paco, James Ferrell’s offense has scored fifty-five total touchdowns this season. Five of those touchdowns were scored in the championship.

Going into the second quarter, the game was tied 0-0. Steven Paco turned the tide in favor of Bishop with a one yard scamper into the end zone, making it 7-0. The first score of the game was Paco’s 14th rushing touchdown of the year.

Later on in the second quarter, Luke McClean found Johnny Torres, affectionately known now as “Johnny Playoffs” for his stellar performances in the post season for a twenty yard reception, which put the Broncos at the one yard line. McClean finished off the drive with a one yard rushing touchdown.

With 10:30 to go in the third quarter, McClean hooked up with the player of the game, Joe Weaver for a twenty yard touchdown pass over the middle. Bishop converted the two-point attempt to give them a three score lead against Orosi.

Luke McClean would get his second touchdown of the game when he kept the ball for a three yard touchdown right before the fourth quarter began. The rush was the star quarterback’s eighteenth touchdown on the ground this season.

Bishop’s offense would finish off the night with a twenty yard sweep to “Johnny Playoffs.” Torres went in motion from the right side, took the ball up the left, and blew past the Cardinal defenders. The game would finish 34-7.

The CIF title is the first for Head Coach, Arnie Palu and the third in school history. The team’s last championship came in 2010. Before that, Bishop had to wait fifty-three years to see a title, which happened in 1957.

Salt Creek Boardwalk and All Campgrounds Open

DEATH VALLEY, CA – Salt Creek Boardwalk and all campgrounds are now open in Death Valley National Park. However, visitors should be aware of severe winter weather forecasted for Thanksgiving week.

Salt Creek Boardwalk, which has been closed for months due to safety hazards, recently reopened. Park employees and volunteers from Apple replaced over one hundred broken or sagging boards.
Death Valley generally welcomes a large number of visitors during the week of Thanksgiving. However, travelers this year should be cautious of winter storms that might bring snow as low as 3,200 feet in the park.

All park campgrounds are now open. However, Mahogany Flat Campground (elevation 8,200’) and Thorndike Campground (elevation 7,400’) will close if snow makes them inaccessible.

Bishop Win a Thriller to Advance to the CIF Championship Game

Photos by Gary Young Photography

Resilience is a word that comes to mind when describing Bishop’s effort Friday night.

The first half belonged to the Cardinals. Lindsay controlled the tempo on their first possession, with a methodical march down the field that lasted nearly seven minutes. Star running back, Danny Trujillo, who came into the game with more than 2,100 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns, was dragging Bishop’s front seven forward on what appeared to be nearly every play.

Nearly every time the standout halfback was hit, he would fall forward, or break a tackle, until Lindsay found themselves on Bishop’s doorstep. Lindsay scored on a one yard run, but it was Danny’s brother, Israel who punched it in.

Down 7-0, the Broncos quickly responded. Lindsay put all of their eggs into one basket by trying to stop the run the subsequent drive. With 2:40 to go in the first quarter, Luke McClean threw a strike down the middle of the field to Jaydan Braithwaite for a 55 yard touchdown.

After tying the game up at seven a piece, Bishop didn’t do much else in the first half. The Trujillo brothers were running rampant on the Bronco’s front seven. It seemed like every time a linebacker or defensive lineman had a good angle for a tackle, the Trujillo brothers were able to slip by the defense.The ground and pound formula paid dividends yet again for Lindsay, when Danny Trujillo scored a six yard touchdown to make it 16-7 Cardinals. Bishop looked tired, beaten, and battered.

Bishop got the ball to start the second half. The waters did not calm for the Broncos during the first drive. Star quarterback, Luke McClean threw an interception on the near sideline, giving the ball back to the Cardinals in Bishop territory. The interception could have been the moment where head coach, Arnie Palu’s team folded, but it wasn’t.

Instead, the turnover was a moment which appeared to galvanize the team. Bishop forced a three and out after the turnover, and for the rest of the game defensive coordinator, Rick Beall had his defense dialed in.

Those Grand Canyon sized holes Danny Trujillo was running through in the first half turned into narrow crevices. All of those missed tackles in the first half were a thing of the past. The Broncos were able to get to Trujillo before he had any steam and nullified most of his rushing attempts.

The offense followed the defense’s example, playing inspired football. In the third quarter, the Luke McClean found wide receiver, Johnny Torres for a thirty yard touchdown to pull within two.

In the fourth and final quarter, McClean went back to Torres, who was wide open for a fifteen yard touchdown. The crowd erupted as Bishop had finally taken the lead. McClean then scored the two-point conversion on a direct snap. Bishop were up 22-16.

After the score, it was time for the Bronco defense to hold the line. On a crucial third down, Sophomore, Kennedy Bachelder sacked quarterback, Randon Gomez resulting in a fourth down and long for Lindsay. The Cardinals were bailed out on what would have been Lindsay’s final play, when Sophomore, Luis Cruz got called for pass interference.

With about two minutes left in the game, Gomez threw up a prayer with hopes of trying to convert a first down. That prayer was not answered. The ball was thrown near Steven Paco, who came up with the game-winning interception.

The final score in this one was 22-16. Bishop will now match up against Orosi in the CIF Championship Game for Division Six.

Bishop City Council Vote to Protect Renters with Emergency Ordinance

The Bishop City Council voted 5-0 in favor of adopting an emergency ordinance that will prohibit landlords from dramatically increasing rent on tenants and evicting residents without just cause. The city ordinance is in response to a loophole created by AB 1482, which is designed to protect tenants from egregious hikes in an individual’s monthly rent. However, from now until January 1, 2020, landlords had the option to dramatically increase rent before the ordinance was made official.

Mayor Pro Tempore, Laura Smith spoke about the possible rental hikes saying, “We are not looking to handcuff landlords by passing this ordinance. There is a drastic shortage of housing in the area, and people are probably not going to find a place to live. We don’t want people kicked out of their homes with the cold weather and no place to go.”

Councilman, Stephen Muchovej expressed similar feelings, indicating that the council’s job is to help its citizens. “We are here to help people out in town. We should prevent these sort of scenarios [subjecting tenants to rental hikes] from happening.”

Bishop resident Steve Seats, who was previously evicted from his home at the Primrose Lane Apartments in town due to a rent increase, spoke to the city council and expressed his feelings on the matter.

“It sickens me when I heard that over forty families were at risk of being evicted from their homes.” Seats said.

Seats, who now says he lives in his car and spends most nights in the parking lot adjacent to the City of Bishop Council Chambers, also told the public about his experience of allegedly being harassed by a member of the Bishop Police Department since being evicted from his apartment.

“Last night an officer threatened to arrest me for sleeping in my car in the parking lot.” Seats said. “The officer became progressively more and more aggravated when I did not comply. The behavior was inappropriate by the police force.”

Shortly after Seats spoke, Mayor Jim Ellis gave his thoughts on the ordinance saying, “This ordinance is to protect our citizens.” Ellis also added that the housing market makes things difficult for low-income individuals. “We have a tough housing market here. I don’t think any of us have a problem with voting in favor of an ordinance.”

Laws Museum Appoint New Museum Administrator

The Board of Directors of Laws Museum is pleased to announce the selection of Raven Angeles as our museum Administrator. Since beginning her employment as office manager in May 2019, Ms. Angeles has consistently met the highest professional standards in her position. Her bookkeeping and office management expertise is matched by her problem solving skills and her dedication to do what is best for the museum, staff, volunteers, and visitors. The Board of Directors looks forward to a new and exciting future for Laws Museum with Raven Angeles on the team as our Administrator!

When you visit Laws Museum, what you experience is the result of the many years Howard Holland has dedicated to the museum as our Exhibits Manager. At the October meeting of the board of directors Howard Holland announced his retirement and his intention to “pass the torch” to Katie Olson. We are thrilled to announce Katie Olson has accepted the position of Exhibits Manager. Katie was elected to the Laws Railroad Museum & Historical Site Board of Directors in June after retiring from a thirty eight year career with Walt Disney Imagineering. Katie brings a wealth of experience to the Laws Railroad Museum and we are excited about her new role at the museum.

Please join us in congratulating Katie and Raven on their new positions!

A New Regional Dispatch Center Could be Built in Bishop

The Bishop City Council unanimously voted 5-0 to approve funding for a site-study of a new regional dispatch center that would be based in Bishop.

The idea is for the Bishop Police Department, Mammoth Lakes Police Department, Inyo County Sheriff’s Office, and Mono County Sheriff’s Office to have all of their dispatchers working together in the same space.

Bishop Police Chief, Ted Stec argued in favor of the project saying, “A Regional Dispatch Center would save money because it would require less personnel from all agencies in the area in the long run.”

Mammoth Lakes PD and Mono and Inyo County Sheriff’s Offices are requesting that the City of Bishop pay $25,000 to help split the cost of the study of feasibility four ways with the total estimated at approximately $100,000 dollars.

Currently, Bishop has not budgeted for such a study, whereas other agencies have pooled together their resources and approved the funding for the investigation.

Council member Chris Costello of the City of Bishop seemed wary of the cost. “We already have a great dispatch center in place. I think if the system is not broken, then don’t fix it.” the council member stated.

However, Costello also said that he did not want to leave the town’s neighbors hanging out to dry, and brought forth the idea of providing $5,000 dollars of funding toward the study to in order to demonstrate good will.

Mayor Pro-Tempore Laura Smith expressed interest in the project saying, “Yes, we already have a good dispatch center set up, but we can make it even better by adding emergency medical dispatch services to the regional dispatch center.”

Police Chief Stec acknowledged the feasibility of adding medical services to the center but said the dispatchers would need further training in that realm to add it into the center’s repertoire.

During the meeting, it was apparent that most members of the city council were wary of being perceived as being bad neighbors. Karen Schwartz of the city council spoke on the issue saying, “I support the regional dispatch center because it supports the greater good and helps out our entire region.” Mayor Jim Ellis expressed similar feelings on the matter, and seconded Schwartz’s motion.

Rob Patterson, the Finance Director for the Town of Mammoth Lakes was in attendance and told the council he did not believe the project would be as expensive as the estimated price. “I don’t think the cost of the study will be $100,000.” Patterson said. “It may be around that amount, but we just want to ensure that there is enough money available to complete the study. There is also a chance that it could be something the California Office of Emergency Services covers, we have to explore that further.”

Shortly after, the council voted unanimously to approve funding not to exceed $25,000 dollars. Councilmen Costello and Muchovej reluctantly voted in favor of the study, whereas Smith, Schwartz, and Ellis supported the study.

The study is expected to take a few months, with no solid timetable available at the moment.