Even from a distance I could make out the macabre tufa towers that had drawn us, like flies (obviously, when in Rome/Mono Lake, do as the flies do), to this amazing spectacle of nature man had nearly destroyed.
Air quality declined, too, as the exposed lake bed became the source of dust storms causing violations to the Clean Air Act. The repercussions were chaos theory at its finest, the Butterfly Effect rippling throughout this endorheic basin and the surrounding watershed.
Had it not been for David Gaines, twentieth-century man would have destroyed in a single lifetime what had taken Mother Nature five million years to create. In 1974, then a Stanford University teaching assistant, Gaines sparked an interest in Mono Lake among his students. Gaines earned a grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct the first comprehensive ecological study of Mono Lake, and in June 1977 the UC Davis Institute of Ecology published the report, “An Ecological Study of Mono Lake, California.”
That report drew attention to the potentially catastrophic ecological impacts of Mono Lake’s falling water levels due to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power diversion program and ultimately resulted in the establishment of the Mono Lake Committee, “a nonprofit citizen’s group dedicated to the preservation of the scenic and wildlife values of Mono Lake, California.”
On September 28, 1994, legislation resulting from the efforts of the Mono Lake Committee and others brought an international designation to Mono Lake as a site in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN); that legislation also mandated restoration policy to restore lake levels to 6,392 feet, 25 feet below its 1941 levels, at least according to this panel posted just yards from the parking lot. With luck, and the aforementioned legislation, in another twenty years that panel will sit at the edge of Lake Mono.
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