There's Gold in Them Hills: Golden Leaves, Golden Grasses, and Golden Flowers!
If the Bodie Hills are not a stop on your Eastern Sierra fall colors tour, you are missing out! Not only do the Bodie Hills feature beautiful golden aspens this time of year, but the rolling golden hills' fall grasses and flowers are deserving of a special visit all on their own. California's nickname, "The Golden State," rings especially true in the Bodie Hills on a crisp and sunny fall afternoon.
According to the Mono County Fall Colors Report, it is "peak week" for fall colors in the region. Almost all locations listed in the report are at the peak of their transition to winter, meaning large swathes of oranges and reds are abounding. If you have yet to get out to see the trees in all their autumnal glory, you must go now! The next couple days are your last chance for the year as winter once again is rolling around with cool breezes, and even a chance of snow in the forecast.
Send us your fall photos in the Bodie Hills by emailing email@example.com! They can be featured in future issues of this newsletter or on our social media platforms:
Sawtooth Ridge, Spring Peak, and Bald Peak, respectively.
Threats Continue on the Nevada Side of the Bodie Hills
There are three exploratory drilling projects on the Nevada side of the Bodie Hills, Klondex Aurora's project on Sawtooth Ridge, Headwater Gold's project at Spring Peak, and Paramount Gold's project at Bald Peak.
Have you ever wondered what exploratory drilling is, and why it is so destructive to the environment? If so, please watch "The Harms of Exploratory Drilling," a free online presentation featuring Lynn Boulton, Chair of the Sierra Club Range of Light Group, recorded in January of this year to answer these very questions. Lynn is the Bodie Hills Conservation Partnership's Landscape Defense Subcommittee Chair, keeping the group abreast on landscape threats on both the California and Nevada sides of the Bodie Hills, and explains some of the background information and harm done so far at the three exploratory drilling sites in the Bodie Hills in the video, resulting in a great primer for anyone just learning about these threats.
Sump pits, where water used in the drilling process is dumped, at Spring Peak drill sites number 9 and 15, respectively. Neither pit had a fence to keep wildlife out of the water.
Sawtooth Ridge Updates
Hecla Nevada/Klondike Aurora drilled at two of the Sawtooth Ridge project sites this summer and into the fall, having left only recently in the last week of September. As they are likely done drilling for the year, Hecla Nevada/Klondike will now be analyzing their core samples to see if they want to continue with the project; with drilling at any of the remaining 14 sites next summer.
The company will submit an "as-built" to the United States Forest Service by January 31st 2024, which will say what work they officially completed this summer and fall. These "as-builts" reports are usually quite brief and are sometimes just a map of the drill sites they actively drilled that year.
About the site: This project is located behind the Aurora Cemetery. In December of 2022 the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest approved the Sawtooth Ridge gold exploration project as a categorical exclusion despite the removal of over 700 healthy, mature, pinyon trees. 13 drill sites are in a pinyon woodland and three are in sagebrush clearings.
The Humboldt Pit Lake at the Aurora Mine.
Spring Peak Updates
Headwater Gold started drilling at Spring Peak shortly after they were allowed to in July and continued at Spring Peak, drilling this summer and into the fall. They were previously getting water from the Humboldt Pit Lake, which was not in their Plan of Operations. This was reported and they now refill their water truck from a big blue tank at Highway 167.
About the site: Spring Peak is in the southeast corner of the Bodie Hills on the south slope of Aurora Peak in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada. Wildlife such as pronghorn antelope, mule deer, wild horses, badger, coyote, ground squirrels, lizards, snakes, birds, butterflies, beetles, and Bi-State Sage Grouse (BSSG) all frequent the area. Spring Peak is ecologically and geographically connected to the California side of the Bodie Hills and the Stateline divides the Bodie Hills into two BSSG population management units: Mt. Grant on the Nevada side and Bodie Hills on the California side. The sage grouse in the Spring/Aurora Peak area are in the Mt. Grant Population Management Unit, but move back and forth between the two units, as the birds do not follow human political boundaries.
Photo of Bald Peak and the Dry Lakes Plateau with both "dry" lakes full!
Paramount Gold Nevada was approved to begin exploratory drilling for gold and silver ore at Bald Peak this summer, and while the company had said its target timeframe was to start drilling this year, they have not done so. It seems they are unlikely to do any drilling in the remainder of 2023, and they are unlikely to do any drilling over the winter due to the possibility of snow and its effects on the roads needed to access the site. However, damage to this unique area is only delayed, as the Paramount Gold permit from the Forest Service has no expiration date. They will be able to return to the Bodie Hills next summer.
About the site: The Bald Peak project site is on Forest Service land in Nevada at the northern end of the Bodie Hills. The project consists of 11 drilling sites, four of which are lined up on the California-Nevada state line, and Paramount says its drill holes will be up to 1,500 feet deep between straight down and an angle of 120 degrees (4 o’clock to 8 o’clock). This means Paramount can drill across the state border into BLM land that is within the Bodie Mountain Wilderness Study Area, where the company has existing mining claims. Paramount management has announced that its surface assay results suggest the potential for an open pit deposit.
Get Involved: Interested in helping monitor these drilling sites in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest this summer? Community members will be keeping tabs on activities in the Bodie Hills from a distance; you can join them and us by adding your name and contact information by clicking on the button below.
Bureau of Land Management Invests $4.5 Million from President Biden's Investing in America Agenda to Improve Sagebrush Habitat
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is announcing $4.5 million in funding to go towards sage-brush habitat restoration. The BLM will be expanding upon its partnership with the Intermountain West Joint Venture, who describe themselves as a "self-directed partnership with shared priorities for conservation, governed by a Management Board composed of federal agencies, state fish and wildlife agencies, industry, nongovernmental organizations, private landowners, agricultural producers, and tribal representatives." The Intermountain West Joint Venture focuses on wetlands and the waters that support them, sagebrush ecosystems, forests, and other habitats in the mountain west with a focus on conserving and supporting bird species, including the Greater sage-grouse.
The funding is coming from the Inflation Reduction Act, considered to be the largest climate investment in United States history. It is also a part of the larger Biden administration's Investing in America agenda, in which the Department of the Interior is implementing over $2 billion in investments to restore the country's degraded lands and waters. This work is a part of the larger federal effort to advance the America the Beautiful initiative. The initiative, which aims to both restore and conserve 30% of lands and waters by 2030, is essentially the federal version of California's own 30x30 Initative.
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