On January 7 the SLO Tribune ran a story “Shrimp Hunt Threatens Housing” in which stated that a search for a protected fairy shrimp, a denizen of vernal pools, would have to be completed before a “massive housing development” could be started. Of course, the headline should have read “Housing Threatens Shrimp”, but our concept of protecting vernal pools and ephemeral wetlands on their own merit, along with their Downingia and other wetland flowers, has vanished with Supreme Court rulings. The only protection lies in the presence of certain animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, the pools and the plants having little leverage in land use decisions. I urge Paso Roblans who know of vernal pools on private land that might be protected in some way to contact me.

The Carrizo Plains plant photo collections continue to grow, and the team is close to getting most of the species recorded. Recent vegetation mapping by the Dept. of Fish & Game and CNPS have defined new plant alliances (defined by a key dominant species) and plant associations (co-associations of plants that are repeated through the landscape) in the Carrizo Plain and southern Central Valley. Thirtyeight new associations were found; the Carrizo Plain keeps surprising us.

Several people have remarked to me that the plague of Pine Pitch Canker seems to have abated, although scattered mortality is still seen. Similarly, there is still no evidence that Sudden Oak Death disease has crossed the county line from Monterey County. However if this drought persists, trees will weaken and may become more susceptible to infection, so I want everybody to be on the lookout for trouble.

–David Chipping