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UCCE Sonoma County

UC Agriculture & Natural Resources News

Elusive, endangered mammal at center of forest debate

Pacific fishers are at the center of a conundrum. Most people have never seen them, but judging from photos of researchers cuddling the furry creatures, they are adorable. The nocturnal and obsessively shy fisher is related to the mink, otter and marten. They once ranged from British Columbia down through California's Sierra Nevada, but only two native populations remain today -- one around the western California/Oregon border, and one in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, according to the Environmental Protection Information Center.

Fishers' preferred home in dead trees and their tendency to move around put them at odds with fire prevention goals, according to a story last week in the Sierra Star. The article was based on a community meeting held by a group of scientists who are working together to protect wildlife and promote forest health. The scientists have formed the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Plan (SNAMP).

The event, covered by reporter Jill Brackett, was intended to collect community input on management of the local forest and wildlife.

"It's your meeting," the story quoted Kim Rodrigues, the director of UC Agriculture and Natural Resource's North Coast and Mountain Region whose academic specialty is forestry. "The ultimate purpose is collaboration. You are embarking on this with us."

The story said SNAMP is in the early stages of their "adaptive management loop," and that no decisions were made at the meeting. A follow-up discussion was proposed for October.

Researchers hold Pacific fishers
Researchers hold Pacific fishers

Posted on Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 9:45 AM
Tags: wildfire (150), wildlife (38)

What Price Pollination?

Silver wings

What are insect pollinators worth to the global economy? Well, it's a lot less than the Wall Street bailout...er...rescue plan. Recent research published in the journal Ecological Economics  reveals just how important insect pollinators are. A Eureka Alert press release issued...

Silver wings
Silver wings

The honey bee, resplendent here with silvery wings, is gold to the global economy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee on almond blossom
Bee on almond blossom

A honey bee visits an almond blossom. California's 700,000 acres of almonds require two hives per acre for pollination. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 11:43 AM
Tags: almonds (68), economy (22), honey bee (203), pollination (22), price of pollination (1)

Consider every eventuality before planting vineyard

Sacramento Bee food editor and restaurant critic Mike Dunne devoted two columns in a row to the sad saga of winegrape grower Harmon Overmire. After retiring from the aerospace industry, Overmire planted four acres of Malbec wine grapes in Sheldon, Calif. A somewhat uncommon winegrape variety, Malbec creates an inky red wine with plum-like flavor and is often used for blending, according to the Malbec entry on Wikipedia.

Overmire's sorrow, according to Dunne's first column (published Sept. 24), springs from the inability to find a buyer for his crop. "I haven't found a soul. No one was even interested, and the grapes are ready to pick right now," Overmire was quoted. "I would just like to break even."

In today's column, Dunne looks to a UC Cooperative Extension expert for perspective on Overmire's plight. He spoke to Lynn Wunderlich, the viticulture farm advisor for El Dorado and Amador counties. Growing and making wine is probably one of the more romantic pursuits for whiling away an active retirement. But Wunderlich warns, "If they need to make money at it, think again."

According to Dunne, Wunderlich suggests would-be winegrape farmers must be serious about growing quality fruit. She urged farmers to join the local grape-growers association and to network with winemakers.

And all this should be done early. "Harvest time isn't the best time to sell," Wunderlick told Dunne.

Overall, Dunne said, Wunderlick is upbeat about prospects for new winegrape growers.

"There are still opportunities for growth, but it needs to be well thought out," she was quoted.

A cluster of Malbec winegrapes.
A cluster of Malbec winegrapes.

Posted on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 at 10:28 AM
Tags: wine (34)

Seeing Spots


If you spot a ladybug, don't just start reciting "Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home." Aim, click and shoot. With a camera, that is. Agricultural Research Service scientists and entomologists at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and South Dakota State University, Brookings, are surveying...


A ladybug crawls along the leaf of a Russian sage. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)


A ladybug pupa on Russian sage. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 2:19 PM

Debate over Prop. 2 continues in earnest

An article in the San Diego Union Tribune over the weekend presented both sides of the debate over Proposition 2, the initiative on the November ballot that, if passed, will set new standards for farm animal confinement.

The story implied that UC Riverside poultry specialist emeritus Don Bell is an "opponent of the measure" when it followed a statement about concerns that Prop 2 will increase food prices with his quote.

According to the story, Bell said:

“Pennies, nickels, dimes and dollars add up as today's prices for everything (increase) – not just eggs and not just food. Unjustifiable cost increases are a luxury we simply can't impose upon the public in today's troubled economy.”

The story included a wide variety of viewpoints on the measure:

“It will put us out of business.” - Ryan Armstrong, Valley Center farmer

"It would be a bad idea.” - Nancy Reimers, Gustine veterinarian

“These animals are sacrificed for the benefit of people. The least we owe them is to treat them humanely.” - Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States

“If anybody who buys eggs went to one of those factories, you would have a hard time convincing them to keep buying those eggs.” - Nigel Walker, Dixon farmer

"'Battery' cages are certainly promoting suffering." - Ixchel Mosley, Eastlake veterinarian

“This is not a trivial effect for the individual farmer, to the allied businesses associated with egg production and to the egg-consuming public." - Don Bell

“The most likely outcome . . . is the elimination of almost all of the California egg industry over a very few years.” - Dan Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center

Posted on Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 9:52 AM
Tags: animal welfare (16), eggs (25), Proposition 2 (5), public policy (29)

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