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OWAC is a non-profit association of media professionals who communicate the vast array of outdoor recreational opportunities and related issues
in California and the surrounding western region.
Camera Phone Primer and Composing Better Pictures
by John Poimiroo
Not taking pictures on an assignment because you don’t have a camera with you is no longer an excuse. Just about everyone carries a camera phone these days. The images taken by today’s camera phones are of higher quality than the film cameras most of us carried 20 years ago. Apple’s latest iPhone, the 11, has three lenses, optical zoom and delivers 12 megapixels in resolution. Even most older cell phones take pictures good enough for digital media.
President’s Message - Carrie Wilson
Feb/March 2020 Newsletter
Along with the beginning of a new decade, 2020 also marks OWAC’s 35th anniversary. As you may already know, OWAC was formed in 1985 when a small group of California members of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA) decided to form a state organization.
President's Message - Carrie Wilson
August - September Newsletter
Well, it’s the end of July and normally your OWAC conference organizers would be hard at work right now putting together our annual fall conference itinerary. Unfortunately, the stars just did not align for us this year when the destination we’d hoped for fell through. We are, however, moving forward with planning for our 2020 spring conference. Hopefully, it will be in the Bay Area, we are just waiting on a signed contract now.
From a perch above a boulder-strewn ravine, we peered with binoculars up canyon walls and across a steep jumble of rocks and dirt for endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.
The arrival of spring in the high country is when Sierra bighorns feast on fresh, water-saturated forage in the front country of the Eastern Sierra Nevada outside Bishop.
A warm, dry breeze pushed out of the north. The scent of sage was in the air. At the mouth of Sawmill Canyon, on a steep mountain face below a towering monolith, we found pockets of greenery amid the rocks. We scanned sections, segment-by-segment, for the silhouette of a Sierra bighorn, attracted there to feed.
Northern California-based kayak angler explores Florida offshore for first time
Old Town, ME (March 31, 2017): There’s a chaos that comes with kayak fishing, especially in saltwater. But it’s a chaos that’s pursued by thousands of anglers on top of Ocean Kayak ‘craft each year, many pushing the future of the sport into new, unimagined territories.
Along those lines, Ocean Kayak is proud to introduce a series of saltwater fishing videos for 2017, which will cast a spotlight on the pros, guides, and passionate everyday anglers who rely on Ocean Kayak boats day in, day out.
Sonoma County, California-based Annie Nagel is one of those anglers, a West Coast fish-head who pursues lingcod, cabezon, rock fish, halibut, steelhead and salmon… pretty much everything that swims around the San Francisco Bay area.
Annie’s versatile, and her main boat is equally adept in varying conditions: from the open Pacific to behemoth bass-filled California lakes. Her vessel of choice? Ocean Kayak Trident 11, Trident 13 and Trident 15 models, stalwart boats recently revamped for 2017 with the same legendary hull but improved ACS2 seating, center pod redesign, and a whole lot more.
With the goal of challenging her angling skills, Annie recently flip-flopped coasts, traveling with her Trident 13 Angler to the Ft. Lauderdale area for some multi-species spring break fun. Call it fishing “cold” or “blind,” Annie had no idea to expect other than shattered expectations. As anyone familiar with the Atlantic Florida coast knows, it can be a real mixed bag of species, as the video reveals.
Could that be you?
We're currently inviting media to visit Redding, the hub city for adventures in Shasta Cascade. It's absolutely beautiful there now, with too many waterfalls to count!
To discover all the adventures and attractions Redding and Shasta Cascade offer, and for additional information about the many amenities available, visit www.visitredding.com.
Looking forward to discussing the area with you. Thanks in advance.
Gadgets You May Not Know You Need
Minneapolis, MN (May 5, 2017) - Today’s hunters can choose from a dizzying array of high-tech gadgets, but how many of these devices actually improve our experiences afield? Items that work as advertised and solve common problems in many different hunting applications are well worth the investment. Here are five no-brainers.
Smartphone Mapping App
Next to a good pair of binoculars, maps and geographic reference materials are a hunter’s most valuable scouting tools. And if you haven’t checked what’s available in the way of mapping for your smartphone, tablet or computer these days, boy are you going to be surprised. Apps such as HUNT by onXmaps include detailed satellite images with landowner overlays. While these apps aren’t free, they’re worth every penny in areas fragmented with a mosaic of different landowners. Obtaining permission to hunt private ground just got a whole lot easier. Learn more at HuntingGPSMaps.com.
Once reserved for military and law enforcement use, thermal-imaging technology is becoming better, increasingly affordable, and is now widely available to civilians. FLIR’s Scout TK pocket-sized thermal vision monocular retails for under $600 and is a powerful tool for hunters. The Scout TK works in all lighting conditions, making it the ideal optic for scouting game in full sun, fog or total darkness. In addition to aiding in game recovery, the FLIR Scout TK also helps hunters detect and elude large predators and avoid bumping game animals while traveling to and from hunting stands in the dark. Did I mention it records still images and videos? Learn more at FLIR.com.
Robert Desmarais is no ordinary caretaker, living as he does in a ghost town 8200 feet above sea level. He is also an historian, story teller, geologist, chemist and licensed blaster. He speaks of the people who inhabited this place as if he’d known them all personally, which due to the eerie nature of this town, he might well have. Robert is in the process of putting together a book on the history of the town. Hopefully it will be available before long, as just the few stories he told us made me want to learn more.
On a late April day, snow still thick on the high peaks, I joined the Eastern Sierra 4X4 Club for a trip up the rugged, steep dirt road to Cerro Gordo. We drove south out of Bishop, known as the “Little Town with a Big Back Yard,” and headed south to Lone Pine, where we picked up the 136, the road over to Death Valley. Just past the fading town of Keeler, we turned left and abandoned the highway for a dirt road that wound up eight miles to this historic mining town. Bishop indeed has a very big back yard.
It was clear, long before reaching our destination, that my two wheel drive car wouldn’t have made it, particularly on a steep section with loose rock. A good SUV with fairly high clearance would do just fine in dry weather. A four wheel vehicle could continue on the White Mountain Talc Road, which runs along the ridge and is supposed to return to the 395 at some distance north, but don’t take my word on that before heading out.
Cerro Gordo was considered the Comstock” to Los Angeles, with tons of silver bullion taken from the rich ore in these mountains. The Union, the main mine, drops about 1100 feet straight down, the ore car, still supposedly operational, reaches down 900 feet, and was last used years ago for an Annenberg Foundation video documentary. The foundation paid for the use by restoring the boiler room and pully in the huge building that sits just above the town and can be visited if escorted by Robert. Over 32 miles of shafts connect to this vertical hole, and there are over 50 total miles of mines at Cerro Gordo. During the mining years, miners got 30 ounces of silver from every ton of ore, which was considered rich ore. While coal miners suffered from Black Lung Disease, silver miners got silicosis from the silica dust. We were shown an underground rebreather that was used by the miners, as sulfur dioxide was a mining hazard.
Complete article to appear in California Explorer.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” -- Albert Einstein
A century of wildfire suppression, four years of drought, and restoration practices that replanted burned and harvested forests with plantations of similar trees have led to a crisis in the Sierra Nevada that threatens a watershed that supplies 60% of the water used in California, sustains 60% of the state’s wildlife, and is essential to our populace, economy, environmental quality and way of life.
This is a manmade problem whose solution, as Einstein stated, cannot be achieved with the same level of thinking that created it.
The Sierra Nevada forest became unnaturally overpopulated primarily because of years of wildfire suppression that allowed forests to become more congested than is natural. In the late 1900s, fewer trees began being cut after environmental regulations and cheaper foreign lumber put loggers and mills out of business. The result is that high-intensity wildfires have increased in size and frequency.
Today, not a single active saw mill is processing raw timber into lumber in El Dorado County. Very few remain anywhere in the Sierra. Eldorado National Forest Supervisor Laurence Crabtree said, “If I were to offer a sale (of timber) today, there's no one locally to buy and process the logs. The cost of trucking logs to a distant mill substantially reduces the value of the public's timber."
The decline of California’s forest products industry has had serious consequence on the ability of local contractors and wood processing companies to compete successfully for U.S. Forest Service (USFS) contracts against larger, often out-of-state businesses with lower overhead and operational costs.
Not only are there fewer and smaller companies of loggers and saw mills to reduce fire danger and improve forest health, but the USFS has lost revenue from timber sales that previously helped fund forest restoration.
The USFS manages 6.3 million acres in the Sierra Nevada, about 60% of the range’s total forested area. It estimates that 500,000 acres of forest will need to be treated annually (two to three times greater than current efforts) in order to restore the watershed.
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC), a state agency, reports that very little progress is being made in the pace and scale of watershed restoration, quoting the USFS that “only an environmental restoration program of unprecedented scale can alter the direction of current trends.”
To help build a consensus on what to do, the Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative (SNFCI), established five years ago, brings together diverse perspectives from local government, environmental and conservation organizations, the wood products industry, fire safe councils and public land management agencies.
Their biggest impediments are funding and what to do with the biomass cleared from the forests.
Presently, when a forest is thinned or cleared, logs are piled and burned (as there are few mills to process the timber and no market for it), but doing so on 500,000 acres of forest annually would ruin air quality, create a massive release of greenhouse gases (GHG) affecting climate and greatly damage recreation, tourism and quality of life in the Sierra.
In its report, “The State of the Sierra Nevada’s Forests,” SNC states that diverting the biomass generated by these forest treatments from pile and burn to bioenergy could reduce GHG emissions by 3.15 million metric tons annually. Over ten years that would be the equivalent of eliminating the emissions of 3.9 million cars.
There are 14 biomass power plants in the Sierra Nevada today, with inadequate capacity “to handle the pace and scale of restoration” SNC reported. It described a 2013 incident in which the Honey Lake biomass power plant stopped all chip deliveries in mid-summer at a time when forest restoration was in full swing and places that would accept forest biomass were in high demand.
Without a place to dispose of the biomass that summer, a number of proposed restoration projects could not be completed.
Limited options to restoring the watershed, through logging, result in publicly unpopular choices, such as increased use of planned or prescribed fires (set intentionally to remove unwanted vegetation).
Local air districts impose very tight burn windows and durations of prescribed fires, which can complicate their implementation, resulting in the unintended consequence of enabling larger, more damaging fires, which emit more pollution than would have been released by controlled burns.
Despite funding, biomass disposal and prescribed fire limitations, a number of collaborative watershed restoration projects have been conducted in Fresno, Amador, Calaveras, Shasta, Placer, Madera, Plumas and El Dorado Counties, including $5 million allocated by the USFS to reduce fuel and help restore the Eldorado National Forest watershed.
In the Caples Lake watershed, Eldorado National Forest and the El Dorado Irrigation District are partners in trimming selectively, creating fire breaks, conducting controlled burns with ground crews and by helicopter in remote areas to create multi-age stands, and restoring the forest and its watershed to a more natural and fire-resistant condition.
Nevertheless, what’s being done to restore the Sierra Nevada watershed is virtually a drop in the bucket. It is a problem that only can be solved by thinking and acting at a different level.
The third and final part of this series will describe benefits of restoring the watershed.