Sierra Summit

Conversations and observations about California's mountains

September 3, 2008
Dry times, downed trees and climate change
Not many people spend more time outdoors in northeast California than Jay Fair. An 84-year-old fishing guide, he knows just about every back road - and every trout fishing lake - across the lonesome high desert region. 
This spring, I spent a day with Jay and asked him about global warming and climate change. 
 "I can see it," he told me. "All of our desert lakes are drying up. How can you possibly deny it? All you got to do is look around. 
"My goodness, I started fishing Eagle Lake 35 years ago and it's down over 12 feet. I see a drought everywhere. We're into it and we're going to suffer from it."
Jay grew up in New Mexico in the 1930s during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. He knows dry times.  And what he sees on his travels across the back-country worries him. "There's a huge lake right behind us," he said outside the small town of Madeline. "It's four feet lower this spring, during the run-off time, than it was last fall."
There's something else that troubles him, too  - large swaths of juniper trees, some centuries old, that are being logged on public land to shred into wood chips to burn as green energy in power plants . It's all part of a federal program to restore the land to pre-European ecological conditions. 
But Jay and his son Glenn believe that in an age of climate change, California needs those trees for carbon sequestration and other purposes. ""If we're not careful, we're going to do everything we can to get energy and just devastate the planet," Jay said. 
Watch for my report from northeast California on junipers, carbon and climate change in an upcoming issue of the Bee. 


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About Sierra Summit

The Author
Tom Knudson lives in the Sierra Nevada and travels widely throughout the range. His hobbies include fly-fishing, backpacking and cross-country skiing. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, one for a 1992 Sacramento Bee series "Sierra in Peril," a watershed work about environmental threats to the mountain range. E-mail Tom at

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