Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.

The Science of Soil Health: Mimicking Nature in the Lab


Click on the image above to watch the video.

Through his observations as a farmer, Rick Haney became a big fan of the way nature does things. As a scientist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, his entire research program has been modeled on “how does nature do it, and can we mimic it in the lab?”

Advances in analysis technologies have allowed Haney to develop a set of soil tests that get a more accurate picture of what plant roots experience—not just in chemical terms but also in biological terms.

Source:  USDA NRCS

National Drought Summary for April 21, 2015


In northeastern California, exceptional drought (D4) was expanded across the northern Sierras this week, while in northern Modoc County, a one-category improvement (from D4 to D3) was rendered to the depiction to more accurately reflect local conditions. In east-central California near Yosemite National Park, the average surface elevation of Mono Lake stood at 6378.9 feet, as of April 15th. This is the lowest surface elevation of the lake since early 1996. The target elevation is 6391 feet. For the past two weeks, extreme to exceptional drought (D3-D4) covered two-thirds of California.

Anthony Artusa, NOAA/NWS/NCEP/CPC


Range of Possibilities

Rangelands, Ranching and Conservation in the Bay Area


At the Yolo Land and Cattle Company, some 80 miles northeast of San Francisco, along the eastern base of the blue-green massif known as Blue Ridge, butterflies and cattle move across a blond sunbaked plain on a warm summer day. There are swallowtails, sulphurs, skippers, and a herd of ebony Angus cattle. A swallowtail flickers across an empty chair, wing dots dancing, right “where Hank used to sit, right there, where the breeze blows through every day like clockwork,” says Karen Stone, a petite brunette of Italian descent who owns and manages the 13,000-acre operation with her husband, Scott, along with Scott’s brother Casey and his wife Angela.

“Hank” is father-in-law Hank Stone, who passed away at 84 last year. His presence in California’s agricultural community was legendary, and there is a lingering sense of loss, the feeling that he was in his prime, happy to wake up every day with so much more to do. One of the projects he was most proud of is a conservation easement he worked out with the California Rangeland Trust to protect his beloved ranch forever by prohibiting future development.

Hank was an alliance builder, willing and able to work with all kinds of people. Karen and Scott continue that tradition. Nine years ago, Audubon California approached the Stones because the group’s biologists had identified a problem: Suitable habitat for overwintering waterfowl was being lost to development. The Stones’ work on restoring riparian areas had already helped neotropical migrant songbirds. Would they help out overwintering waterfowl by enhancing the habitat of one of their stock ponds? With funding from private and public partners, the Stones restored a large pond and added a hand-carpentered goose-nesting platform. Now they’re partnering with the nonprofit Point Blue Conservation Science to monitor and evaluate the results of their efforts in terms of both bird and plant diversity. They’ve also been part of scientific field trials involving rangeland carbon sequestration. And they use recycled rinse water from a nearby Campbell soup cannery to irrigate their pastures. So for people who are looking at the whole picture of Bay Area ecology, the Stones and other ranchers like them are not just stewards of their ranches; they’re also “value-added” stewards of a significant component of the Bay Area environment—rangelands—that makes up more than 40 percent of the open space in this metropolitan region.

Continue reading here.

Source:  Bay Nature, Kelly Cash, March 31, 2015

Raising water rates isn’t just a California problem

<> on April 8, 2015 in Pleasanton, California.

A California appeals court found that one city’s tiered rate system violates a constitutional limit on fees. The ruling has potentially serious implications for California, which is deep in drought.

But California isn’t the only state struggling to set an appropriate cost for water, and scarcity isn’t the only factor putting pressure on prices.

Newsha Ajami is director of urban water policy at Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment. “You might now have a water scarcity problem, but you might also have a water quality problem,” she says.

Keep reading here.

Source:  Adam Allington, Marketplace, April 22, 2015

Down and Drought in Beverly Hills

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The fountains were the first to go. “Decorative,” they called them. No need to keep those going.

Then we lost the golf courses. An afternoon at the club range ends on the putting brown now. Afterward, in the dining room, we have to ask for water for the table. Ask. For tap water.

It would seem we are in a drought.

Apparently it’s been carrying on for a few years now. Global warming, they’re saying. Lakes are emptying, or something. And supposedly Southern California is actually a desert? I beg to differ. We wouldn’t have noticed at all, had our annual February ski trip to Tahoe not been ruined by the season getting cut short.

Keep reading here.

Source:  Devon Maloney, Vanity Fair, April 17, 2015.

Ditch the water-wasting lawns


 It is time to redefine what we think of as a beautiful landscape and get rid of ornamental lawns in the arid western United States. The idea that a comfortable and valuable home or business requires a green turf lawn is an archaic and increasingly inappropriate notion. In particular, as our climate warms, populations grow, and droughts worsen, we can no longer afford the water. And there are beautiful, low-water-using alternatives.

Lawns were long seen as a symbol of aristocracy and wealth in England and they were brought to New England and eventually the western United States with European settlers. Abraham Levitt — who with his sons was the founder of Levittown, the quintessential suburban development — said “No single feature of a suburban residential community contributes as much to the charm and beauty of the individual home and the locality as well-kept lawns.” He also said, “A fine carpet of green grass stamps the inhabitants as good neighbors, as desirable citizens.”

That may have been true in the wetter eastern and southern United States, but most of the western U.S. is arid. The climates that permitted the easy establishment and maintenance of lawns simply do not exist out here, where temperatures are much hotter and water is far more limited. Yet our mental images of residential homes, highway medians, and local businesses still include a lush green lawn.

Source:  Peter H. Gleick for the San Jose Mercury News, April 17, 2015

What you need to know about the state’s proposed water restrictions


The state water board has modified its proposed conservation regulations  in an attempt to incorporate feedback from urban water suppliers, interest groups and members of the public who had roundly criticized its framework.

The board  received more than 250 letters weighing in on how best to implement Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandatory 25% statewide water-use cut.  Some water suppliers said they should be given credit for past conservation. Others said aggressive  water-use reductions could harm their bottom line or increase wildfire risk. A few said the targets set by the board were simply unattainable.

The board addressed some — but not all — of those concerns in its latest draft regulations.

Keep reading here.

Source:  The Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2015