Saturday, September 10, 2016

Should Grizzly Bears be Reintroduced in California ?

A well intentioned Rewilding Movement motivated more by heart felt emotion than real world boots on the ground research based on logic and our present Climate Change reality
Photo: Craig Kohlruss

I've previously written about the disaster presently going on in California forests where millions upon millions of dead and dying conifers, oaks and other trees are the result of intense drought exacerbated by Climate Change.
Millions of dead/dying trees have nothing to do with Climate Change ???
But now there is word out that some ecology rewilding groups wish to reintroduce the Grizzly Bear back into the state of California again. The state once had a unique California Grizzly bear species, but humans forced it's extinction. I believe the last one was killed somewhere back in the 1920s. Here are some important pertinent quotes from the "Bozeman Daily Chronicle" on potential for rewilding efforts:

"The Center for Biological Diversity has collected some 20,000 signatures on an online petition urging the state Fish and Game Commission to consider studying the feasibility of reintroducing the grizzly, which is listed a federal threatened species."   
"The group also is doing social media ads for its campaign in preparation for presenting a formal petition to the commission in a few months."   
"Environmentalists call the messages part of a broader national campaign of “rewilding” areas to restore large carnivores such as bears, wolves, badgers and otters and protecting large connected habitats for them."   
"Large predators and large habitats, rewilding advocates say, are essential to keeping ecosystems healthy.
Okay, I get this. I totally understand the reasons and emotions behind the well intentioned idea. But careful forethought and planning need to be done before any rash decision making for reintroduction of the non-native variety of Grizzly Bear into California. I say 'non-native', because the actual unique native California Grizzly has been extinct for almost a century now. Any bears will have to be captured in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming. Just like plant systems, there is unique species specific importance for localized seed when you attempt replanting any disturbed area. It should be no different with wildlife. To their credit, the Center for Biodiversity called for a feasibility study. Frankly, it shouldn't actually take that much time and money to figure out whether or not this could succeed. Follow me below on this, but first, here is another online journal link on the subject from California.
Mercury News: Grizzly bears in California: Reintroduction push ignites strong emotions
What about the eco-green ecosystem reality on the ground in California ???

(Dan Honda, Bay Area News Group)
Take a quick close look at the two minute video above of the millions upon millions of dead and dying trees occuring in this Sierra Nevadas of California flyover. This is actually just one small speck when compared to the overall massive picture of dead and dying trees all across the west. Now look at the photo at right of a Grizzly Bear. There now, this is the ideal type of habitat a real Grizzly will be looking for, but there is not much of that left in California, The movement to reintroduce the Grizzly Bear back into it's once former range within California is doomed to failure before it starts. But how can that be possible ? It isn't so much that the negative would be that there are so many people (there is), but rather it's about their diet. What will they feed on ? Does the video above of the millions of dead and dying trees reveal a landscape of plenty ? Of course not. But for a moment, take the example of other call to re-engineer again a Mammoth from the DNA found in one of the many frozen carcasses over the years from Siberia.

Image - Matt Dunham/AP

Even if they could play Jurassic Park Geneticist by reconstructing the DNA of frozen Woolly Mammoths and combining it somehow with the DNA of a living Asian Elephant today, Sci-Fi World aside, if (and that's a big if) they could actually do this, what kind of world would they be bringing these creatures back to ? This planet is ruined and there is hardly enough sustainable wild habitat for even the large animals in Africa anymore. Most likely it would be an artificial Animal Park with the poor animals being fit with radio collars and wearing ear tags. Seriously though, is that what people really what ? Getting back to Grizzlies though. Once again I get all the emotion and heartfelt desires, but they have to be logical about this. These animals will go where there is food and that means people. Already there are conflicts in many places with black bears not being able to forage out in the wild and entering suburban areas. Then there are the issues of available waterways like streams and rivers. Grizzlies love both and need fishing, but that is also in doubt when it comes to  California. I never thought I would see this day when California would lose most of it's historical forests. 
Major Challenges with Food and Foreaging Natural Resources within California

CREDIT: Justin Sullivan/Getty

When you think of big brown bears like Grizzlies, what else does this bring to mind ? Salmon runs and fishing. At one time way back in history, the native California Grizzly Bears were King throughout California all the way down into Baja California. Juan Bautista de Anza the Spanish Explorer in 1774 & 76 and Fray Pedro Font who accompanied him on the trek, both wrote about Bears (Los Osos) in their expedition diary journals when they passed through Southern California. Sightings were along water courses like the San Jacinto River in Hemet/San Jacinto Valley. Other sightings were after they had crossed the Santa Ana River and heading west through the I-10 corridor region of Ontario, Pomona & San Dimas. Many rivers flowed year round in those days from the northern canyons of present day Angeles National Forests. The rivers ran full all year and contained large populations of the native and now almost extinct Steelhead Trout or Salmon. Perfect Grizzly habitat in those days as even the forest tree lines were far lower in mountain elevation than they are today. Wetlands, marshes and large scale riparian woodlands were everywhere as well from the descriptive writings of Pedro Font and Juan Bautista de Anza where they often mentioned having to avoid them in many places which required long detours. The next recorded Grizzly sightings were towards Ventura/Santa Basbara, but especially further north in the river floodplain and delta region of the Santa Maria river south of San Luis Obispo where numerous bears gathered for fishing. 

Sadly, all these once pristine wild scenes are all barely a memory now. Most of those former rivers and streams are dry sandy rocky washes now. Dams were built way upstream and rainfall now days is almost nothing. Any periodic flooding comes from street runoff and other human industrial infrastructural development. Southern California will never ever again support any Grizzly population, not even a small one. The Sierras are also doubtful as millions upon million of various species of trees die off. Northern California would be the only choice, but it would still have to be large deep isolated wilderness and there is not much of that in a state of millions of humans, even as they move into more rural areas. Plus the Grizzlies would never be content to stay put there, especially with any food resources being almost nill. People are where the food is and that is where the failure of reintroduction would come in.
Grizzlies, Salmon & other wildlife require healthy viable green vegetative ecosystems
I've touched on dead and dying trees by the millions upon millions, but all success hinges on this. For all the wildlife concerned. It's not a matter of replanting. You need healthy normal climate dynamics to return for that and at present this seems unlikely. Much talk is being done to save the dead forest snags from big timber interests and other opposing scientists are in favour of logging anyway to fuel energy plants with wood to reduce coal. The argument being that these trees will burn and pump CO2 in to the atmosphere anyway if they stay put and are later consumed by wildfire. But will just leaving these trees really encourage the forest to return naturally on it's own ? I doubt it. There is a problem with regards where the viable seed will come from. Many of these trees were sick and thristy long before the bark beetles finished the job. When trees are stressed, they pump what little water resources there are into defensive survival mode as opposed to offensive seed production. So it's highly doubtful there was much of a viable wild seed bank out there in many areas where these trees died. If there were cones, then most of the cones would have opened up and released seed when they died and dried out. Any seedlings which may have resulted would most likely never had a chance in the present drought and if made if to sapling stage, then any resulting wildfire cooks that rehab. The much praised and celebrated fire ecology rebirth strategy becomes toast in such dead forest wildfire because there is no viable seed to kickstart the renewal process. Consider that these forests are dying on a massive wholesale scale. Replanting is also another option, but will that succeed ? Not without climate correction to bring back a normal rainfall pattern. This too seems unlikely. Also consider from what sources would the seed for seedlings come from. Most often today from out of state. Specific habitats require seed from those regions. Much failure has been experienced where region specific seed has not been used. This is even true of chaparral restoration projects.

Artemisia tridentata. Photo by Sue Weis, Inyo National Forest.

Many restoration projects for Silver Sagebrush habitat restoration have failed because of
well intentioned people have used seed from wrong species. Same goes for forest restoration.

A good example of the importance of site specific species to any  region is in several Silver Sagebrush restoration programs. While once I was researching about a native (Giant Palouse Earthworm) of eastern Washington which apparently thrives in native bunch graaslands and Silver Sagebrush Steppes, I stumbled upon the reference to a region where replanted Silver Sagebrush had failed because it was not the specific type of Artemisis to the area. If I can find that reference I'll come back and post it here later. Much of this region has been converted to dryland farming with millions of acres in wheat production. But a reference to habitat restoration of Silver Sagebrush Steppe in this region mentioned failure of Artemisia establishment because the wrong species was used. They all died. Many Silver Sagebrush restoration initiatives have ended in failure because several factors for regeneration have been ignored. And successional management models have identified these as underlying causes of failure as good site availability, species availability, and species performance. 

Image: Northwest Conifers

White Pine (Pinus strobus)
My point here is that any region's specific tree seed source (Ponderosa, Fir, Oak etc) needs to be used to avoid failure in replanting California mountains. And it's a big if. But like I said, if climatic conditions are not restored soon, failure even with the correct seedlings will fail big time. This is what will be the biggest challenge not only to Grizzly bear, but also Salmon and other wildlife. Remember, although people may view Grizzlies as vicious carnivores, Grizzly bears are actually omnivores, and their diet can vary widely. They may eat seeds, berries, roots, grasses, fungi, deer, elk, fish, dead animals and insects. All these important food resources also need a healthy viable forested ecosystem. Remember the issues with White Pine decline and Grizzly Bear survival ? So vital is White Pine in their diet that massive decimation of White Pine by a blister rust pathogen has had major negative effect on Grizzly populations.
See: (National Park Service - Yellowstone: How Important is Whitebark Pine to Grizzly Bears?)

Image - U.S. Forest Service

Beetle killed trees in Colorado's Never Summer Mountains

This photo above is from Colorado Rockies where millions of acreage of unhealthy forest trees are also under attack from Bark Beetles. Bears here along with other wildlife are struggling. Does anyone actually believe that California forests would be anymore inviting to a hungry Grizzly ? Frankly, forget the danger to people scenario for a moment. I think it's just as unfair and unkind towards the non-native Grizzly Bears to insert them into such a lousy habitat. It'll be nothing more than eye candy for eco-activists. There is no Quickie Nirvana here folks.
 Update: September 12th, 2016
Hungry bears focus on gaining as much fat as possible before winter hibernation
"They become very food obsessed. It's really all around gaining as much fat as possible, right before the winter,"  said conservationist Kevin Van Tighem.
Wonder how desparately food obsessed native Rocky Mountain Grizzlies will be if introduced into non-native degraded habitats in the drought stressed extremes of California ???
CBC NEWS: Grizzly bears in Alberta family's yard were 'food obsessed,' expert says
Past Posts where I wrote about historical references to Grizzlies in California
The San Jacinto River Valley that Juan Bautista de Anza saw
San Jacinto River Wildlife Refuge & the wetlands potential beyond to Corona
Anza's Dairy & the Lessons Learned

Monday, August 1, 2016

Creating Little Desert Trees as Ornamentals for Indoors & Patios

The Sonoran Living Desert Museum in Tucson has always inspired me when it comes to Landscape Design
Image - Mine 

Ironwood Gift Shop - Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson Arizona

Image Mine
Ever see something which looks to have incredible potential and think, 'If only I thought of starting such a business concept years ago.' But no one can go back. Still, if a human could live forever, can you imagine the limitless possibilities of opportunities you could pursue ? Of course the world would have to be a much radically different place than it is at present. But think of the potential for perfecting a craft like this Bonsai root over rock Ficus art. And you'd never need to be in a hurry. In such a world patience would be common place. It's only that our short bubble of a life span most of us to be impatient and rushed to acquire things, things, things that throws a wrench in the works. Obsession with consumerism and making such the foundation of a nation's economy is literally killing this planet. This photo above I took was in June 2016 outside the Ironwood Gift Shop and Restaurant at the Sonoran Desert Museum which is just west of Tucson Arizona. What a perfect desert native patio tree. Or possibly a pool side and landscape tree. It's clean and it's sharp looking which tremendous amounts of natural character. Interesting textural form and character. What the developers of this design have done here is merely to replicate Natural Design. 

Image - Mine - Sonoran Desert Museum - Tucson, Arizona

Below here is a fun tutorial on creating a Ficus root over rock bonsai container patio plant, hence Rock Fig as can be commonly found in nature's desert areas like Baja California and Sonora Mexico. I won't post more than one video, but you can go to YouTube and type in "Rock over Root Ficus Bonsai" and bring up multiple videos of people who have enjoyed this hobby for years and have found the need for sharing this fun pursuit. These are people who actually out there who do not have a time wasting need for things like Pokemon Go.

Image - Mine - Sonoran Desert Museum - Tucson, Arizona
Rock figs (tescalama): Ficus palmeri and Ficus petiolaris
"Rock figs are a legacy of the tropical origins of the Sonoran Desert. They are a kind of strangler fig. Tropical strangler fig seedlings start life as epiphytes high on the branches of host trees. The fig roots encircle the host's trunk and eventually reach the ground. The roots then enlarge and squeeze the host tree's trunk while the upper branches overshadow it and starve it for light. The host dies and rots, leaving a hollow giant fig tree."  
"There are no trees in the Sonoran Desert large enough to host a stranger fig seedling. Desert rock figs took to establishing on cliff faces and "strangling" rocks. They may live as dwarfed saxicoles their entire lives. But if their roots eventually reach the moist soil of a canyon bottom, they will grow into large trees."
Some great references on Rock Figs
The large contorted and twisted Ficus above is Ficus palmeri in situ about 100 meter from Sea of Cortez south of Punta Frailles.  The tree measures over 25 meters (80 foot). Likely blown over by hurricane many year ago. It's kept trimmed by goats to expose the trunk. The possibilities for replicating designs found in Nature are limitless. These forms are found everywhere in Nature and in every kind of plant. Consider where the Japanese art form for Bonsai came from. Most of us who have ventured outdoors on a hike in any mountain ranges have seen wild forms of Bonsai from trees which under ideal growing conditions are towering giants. But in such a stunted form in rock formations where root space is restricted, they can live for centuries. Like the write up in the webpage of the Sonoran Desert Museum stated, they can live for centuries on rock outcroppings, but if their roots ever hit water, they'll turn into large trees. This makes them the perfect container patio tree if you design them properly.  

Image - Hennie Cloete

Ficus petiolaris - Canyon Santiago and Verde Rivers

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Palo Colorado Canyon now a Paradise Lost ?

Previously I've over the years visited this secret place and only a couple of years ago wrote about it. But Recent Wildfire events in California (this is the latest 'New Abnormal') have brought live to the area to ashes. Here are my previous posts. The first one is about the joy of being able to show my Swedish wife who has never seen the Redwoods of NoCal a little private hideaway slice of giant Redwood Groves. Honestly, other than locals up this way, most tourist and most resident Californians in general no nothing of this hidden gem. That has always been the beauty of this pristine area. That's all changed now. First, ere is what I previously written about Palo Colorado Canyon.
Palo Colorado Canyon Rd, Big Sur California
My other article dealt with the extreme California Drought designation label given specifically to Central California's Coast where extremely low rainfall amounts over the past five years have left most streams and rivers as dry creeks, washes and floodplains. But not here. Why ? Because of the ideal location for fogbelt influence which acquires another type of precipitation normally overlooked. Because of this, streams and rivers still run here. There is also the natural phenomena of "Hydraulic Descent" which almost no one mentions anymore. This is a large part of why these streams still ran to the Pacific Ocean.
Why Streams still flow in California's officially designated "Exceptional Drought" zone
Now, fastforward to the Soberanes Wildfire

Image - David Royal, Monterey County Hreald via A.P.

The above photo is from the Soberanes wildfire burning above a home in Palo Colorado Canyon in Big Sur, Calif., Sunday July 24, 2016. Thousands of homes remained evacuated Sunday as California's two massive wildfires raged in tinder-dry vegetated hills and canyons. As of July 28, about 57 homes have been destroyed and other buildings.

July 24, 2016 - Infrared Imaging Map by

Keep checking the link above from the reference link I've posted below as the fire is rapidly expanding. I started this post on the 24th and change is happening rapidly.

Night Image by Caitlan Conrad - KSBW

MODIS map of Soberanes Fire - Big Sur Kate - (blue line is Sunday July 25, 2016  Fire Border)

As I've previously posted before back in July 2014 in my Palo Colorado Canyon post, this canyon and beyond is no stranger to wildfire as you can see below of the California Coast Redwood trees with charred bark. The further inland you drive to the east, the hotter the climate becomes. The area is dense wilderness and very few roads. Many of those roads can be death traps as there is very little way out of dead end trails.

Image is Mine from July 2014 (Palo Colorado Canyon Road)

CalFire engine trucks now move into the interior where fire fighting will be tougher, if not imporrible. Air (Plane/Helicopter) and Hand Crews will be the main means of fighting this basically roadless area. That was always the beauty of this area as it is mostly uninhabited. The main thrust of the fire now appears to be heading east and mainly south into the Los Padres National Forest where much of that has now been closed off to any visitors.

Image by KSBW - Caitlan Conrad

Image - David Royal, Monterey Herald

You may have to click on the above image and make it larger. Notice the non-native Sea Fig these fire fighters are strip removing ? Mostly likely on the steep coastal slope side down to the Coast Highway. I'm curious as to how many of these firefighters will acquire poison oak breakouts. For those familiar with this steep coastal environment right down to the Pacific Ocean, the predominant plant here is low growing poison oak. I saw this back in 2014 the last time my wife and I went through here. We stopped periodically to take photos from off the roadway and it's an obstacle and maze of trails through poison oak. Along with poison oak, the other dense invasive I saw were small non-native Pampas Grass everywhere. The stuff is literally everywhere folks. Keep an eye out if in this area. On every single steep treeless slope along the coastal highway there is one solide mass of poison oak from Carmel all the way to Cambria.

Image by Lucus Gillman - Big Sur, California
San Luis Obispo News: "Climate change is making poison oak stronger"

Image - David Royal, Montery Herald

The image above in the northern part of the fire and also these next two Bulldozer photos are on Mescal Ridge are sad to see. The damage these machines cause can last for centuries as scars on the landscape, aside from the immediate microbiological damage where the absence will make it tougher for shrubs and trees to come back. It will better help non-native invasives to establish and grab a permanent foothold. What's worse is that the fire retardant all along those fire perimeter areas are going to help encourage & fertilize the non-native ruderals and hinder perennial and chaparral shrub regrowth. But I'm actually surprised by the one at the top wheere you can clearly see the fire has been stopped by the plane drops of retardant and only small areas of white smake are present. Clearly instead of damaging this ridge and creating a large fire break, I would think Hand Crews could do a less damaging job in putting out the smoldering shrubs and perhaps water drops.

Image provided by Michael Troutman & Big Sur Kate

This link will be of interest to some. This is an operations map showing where bulldozer firebreaks have thus far been constructed and where they are proposed in the future should the fire breach the others. Which it has multiple times.
Soberanes Fire Operations Map

Image provided by Michael Troutman & Big Sur Kate

July 28, 2016 Update: Some Sad News 
Firefighter killed in dozer accident on Soberanes fire & another dozer operator injured in similar scenario
"The operator of a bulldozer was killed while working on the Soberanes fire, one of two major wildfires burning in California and one that has already destroyed 20 homes."
 ------------------------------------------------------------------ - Bulldozer operator killed fighting California blaze 
"Another operator escaped injury when a second bulldozer rolled over and sustained minor damage, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection."   
"Battalion Chief Robert Fish said the operator was working in steep and difficult-to-access terrain when the accident occurred. Fish did not have further details about the incident but said 60 bulldozers were being used in the fight against the fire." - Bulldozer operator killed fighting California blaze
 Climate Change Extreme Drought - Beetle Killed Trees - Disease/Pathogens - Fire & Flood Apocalypse ?
 There is a plethora of life degrading events which have effected all of Earth's ecosystems everywhere. Certainly this region which is at the heart of Extreme Drought conditions, actually being designated, "Exceptional Drought Zone" by the US Government just last year. There has been a domino effect of sorts. Extreme drought followed by beetles & pathogen kill of forest trees has made this fire move much easier than it's normal previous marine moisture ecology of the past.  
Millions of dead/dying trees have nothing to do with Climate Change ???

Photo Credits - Dave Rizzo, UC Davis (2005)

Millions upon Millions of dead and dying trees and there is no Climate Change ? Of course some acknowledge there is a climate change happening, but insist it has no human cause. It's not just conifers folks, it's also oaks and other shrubs which are taking the hit here regarding diseases and pathogens.

Photo Credit - Karl Buermeyer, COMTF (2003)

Susan Frankel, USDA-Forest Service
The image above and at right are of dead (Tanoaks - Notholithocarpus densiflorus) along Big Sur highway, Monterey County, California. I know no one wants to talk about dead forest trees causing wildfire to worsen, but hey, this is the "New Abnormal" , remember ??? Like those millions of dead Ponderosa Pines and Fir trees over on the eastern border of California, these trees are helping to spread the wildfire in a region which is traditionally Marine Air influenced by moiture. Sadly, this is a part of that major plague in California called Sudden Oak Death. Also remember that this area has been designated in all the drought maps as Extreme Drought Condition. The worst hit from Climate Change of anywhere throughout all of California. This is about all I'll write on this for the moment. You can follow the other links below and perhaps I'll provide periodic updates here from time to time.
Update August 1, 2016
 (David Royal - Monterey Herald)

This photo shows Cal Fire firefighters keeping a lookout from Sky Ranch off Cachagua Grade as smoke and flames from a back burn light up a ridge to the south as firefighters battle the Soberanes Fire in east Carmel Valley on Monday August 1, 2016. Even though the photo is hazy, can anybody see the numerous dry dead oak trees within this forest canopy ? All vegetation, living green or dead brown will burn. But it's the dead material which allows the wildfire to move faster and gain more ground. And that's exactly what this fire has done.
Soberanes Wildfire Tracking Website Links
KSBW: Soberanes Fire prompts evacuation order for Rancho San Carlos
Central California Coastal Ecology and Wildfire History
Mid-Coast Fire Brigade: 'Area Fire History'
Garrapata Creek Watershed Council & Watershed Assessment

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Millions of dead/dying trees have nothing to do with Climate Change ???

Bark Beetles Decimating Forests as Industrial & Eco-Activist Ideologues scramble for position on who owns the "Science" ??? Don't hold your breath that both sides will soon be holding hands singing 'Oh Lord Kumbaya"  and "We are the World" in celebration of  a viable "Climate Change Solution" anytime soon!  
2 Timothy 3:1-5
But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, . . . unthankful, disloyal,  , , , not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, , , , and from these turn away." 
 Yup, that just about sums up the disfunctional times we  live under today.
Illustration by Bill Mayer

I just read a great post by John Ikerd of Fairfield Iowa who writes about sustainable economics and particularly on agricultural subject matters. But he wrote a piece about how there really is no such thing as scientific consensus and why that is true. Ever notice that all sides of any debate always insist that they have the prevailing *cough-cough* settled science behind them ? So at the very beginning of his post John Ikerd poses a few relevant questions about science in his opening paragraph:
"Do you ever wonder why scientists can’t seem to agree? Why do nutritionists reach different conclusions regarding the risks and benefits of eating fats, carbohydrates, red meats, eggs, and sugar? Why did it take scientists so long to reach a consensus concerning the causes of climate change or the health risks of tobacco smoke? Why do competent economists disagree about causes of and solutions to just about any economic problem that arises?"
For the most part those are very interesting questions. Like other human endeavours when it comes to leadership and authority [Politics, Business, Religion, Etc], why should Scientists be any different than any other average human being in positions of authority ? They're not. They are as equally flawed as any other human being on this planet, despite the fact that they often blow their own trumpet about personal qualifications. He goes on further to say this:
"With respect to environmental problems, such as global climate change, the first principle of ecology is that “everything is interconnected” – you can’t do just one thing. So by definition, ecological causes and effects cannot be isolated. It is impossible to isolate the human contribution to greenhouse gasses from contributions of soils, oceans, on other animals because human activity affects everything else on earth and everything else affects human activity. Again, addressing the problems of global climate change will affect just about everything, and the economic stakes are enormous."
"The data necessary for social and economic studies inevitably reflect the choices of people. People are not machines. They do not all make the same choices and don’t necessarily repeat the same choice and actions over time. People are continually trying to solve old problems and exploit new opportunities. As they do, their choices, actions, and reactions change. Scientists are also people. It’s impossible for scientists to isolate their particular worldviews and belief systems from their scientific observations and conclusions, particularly when those observations involve other people and their conclusions effect their Professional $ucce$$." (emphasis mine)
JOHN IKERD.COM - Solving Wicked Problems
Yes, varying ideological beliefs or business fortunes do tend to colour whatever version of science you want to believe. In the whole history of science there has never been any such thing as neutral unbiased science from any side of a matter. Now fast forward to a group of ideologues who claim to have the 'real science' behind their opposition to climate change. The group is from the site, "Watts up with That?" [created by major climate change denier, Anthony Watts] and as per their usual modus operandi poked fun at climate scientist like Michael Mann who honestly stated that people shouldn't need climate computer models or scientific data to inform them something is wrong with the Earth's climate mechanisms. He stated that everyone should be capable of observing it for themselves that something is radically wrong with the Earth's natural forces regarding climate disruption.

Alfonso Bedoya in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

“Fundamentally, I’m a climate scientist and have spent much of my career with my head buried in climate-model output and observational climate data trying to tease out the signal of human-caused climate change,”
Yeah okay, you've all heard about these Climate Scientists reliance on computer models ? I remember back when this subject first hit the proverbial fan and the earliest created climate models said things would be irreversible within 100 years. Then the following year things were updated, corrections were made and it was going to be 75 years, then 50, then 40, 30, 25 years etc. Now in the latest News Reports many are saying we are now past the point of no return. But do people really need computer models by scientists to tell them something is seriously wrong ? Do you really need volumes upon volumes of data to tell you something isn't quite right with Earth's environment ? Unfortunately climate change computer models are always tentative, which basically means they are subject to change without notice pending newer discoveries.  
Climate Change: Should we put our trust in Computer Models ?
Well that appears to be the conclusion of Climate Scientists Michael Mann in this next paragraph taken from his speech and he is correct. The average human being doesn't need the so-called sophistication of computer science to reveal to them things they should be clearly observing with their very own eyes.
“What is disconcerting to me and so many of my colleagues is that these tools that we’ve spent years developing increasingly are unnecessary because we can see climate change, the impacts of climate change, now, playing out in real time, on our television screens, in the 24-hour news cycle,”
Climate Scientist - Michael Mann
The above quotes and commentary from Michael Mann make perfect sense. But most people are out of touch with their surroundings or the dangerous times we are living in. Hatred of another side's political worldview blinds many people to the real issues and the natural world itself couldn't care less about the belief systems from the Fundies of either side. But the evidence for disruption is all around us. I dare say that many who do understand the scope of climate disruption also have no clue as to the massive scale of the problem out there in the real world other than what they read about in Media or on Social Networking sites. Take this year's fire season which every year continues getting worse. Many blame the dead trees, others say no that has nothing to do with it. But facts are, the photographic evidence is everywhere, even if you do not personally visit such forest sites of mass dieoffs. The ecology problem is all due to failed leadership when it comes to land mismanagement resulting from uninformed Science policies which are  shackled to industrial business interests. Criticize any of this and you are labeled as being Anti-Science, which is a coward's way out of accepting responsibility.

Image -

The report from the Inciweb explains that the Beaver Creek Fire is burning in heavy beetle killed timber. The infested trees are subject to blowing over with large amounts of down timber, making the forest unsafe for firefighters. For the safety of firefighters, the Incident Management Team is allowing the natural process of the fire to occur while focusing their resources on the property values at risk. This suppression strategy apparently has provided for both firefighter safety and the protection of life and property. It's also allowing the elimination of the dead and dying trees which will hopefully come back, but that looks unlikely as there is not really any viable seed being released from cones of dead trees. That process is far different than when live trees with healthy viable cones open up after fire blows through to reseed the area destroyed. Even planting bare root stock will be ineffective if normal rainfall patterns do not return.

Image -

This is an image of the massive beetle killed trees which are mostly Lodgepole, Fir etc. They have smaller needles which fall off easily and quicker. And they have died by the millions in the interiors of North America. But most photographs do not capture the true immensity of just how massive a scale and widespread the problem really is.

Image -
The U.S. Government's Incident Informaton System (Inci-Web) has posted the above photograph to illustrate the scale of the problem in fighting the Beaver Creek Fire in Colorado's Routt National Forest on the border with Wyoming. Many shout it has nothing to do with Beetle killed trees. Yes green trees and dead trees burn equally well given current weather anomalies. But these kills are not normal kills as past historical outbreaks which were always localized. This scenario plays out all across the globe. So the strategy in fighting this fire is to allow it to burn and protect only human infrastructure. The natural forest infrastructure which regulates and moderates climate is effectively dismantled and nonfunctional here. No amount of fungal spores are going to create rain clouds and save the day. While I love the subject of mycology, contrary to promotion, they are not going to save the universe. The entire healthy system works together as a functioning whole. So allowing this dying forested system to burn is not destroy anything that isn't already gone. Still, many don't or won't grasp this.

Photo: Craig Kohlruss

These large patches of dead and dying trees in the above photograph are in the Sierra Nevada mountains are viewed from a helicopter back on December 2015. Mostly Ponderosa and Sugar pine trees are dying off in large numbers around Bass Lake and throughout the Sierra Nevada due to a bark beetle infestation brought about by four years of extreme drought in California. Now we are going on a year five. The dead conifers in California are different from those in the Rockies that we saw from the Beaver Creek Fire which have smaller needles which fell off easier. The Ponderosa Pines seem to keep their dead needles for two or three years. So fires blitzes very well through such materials. The debate however is ongoing in how to manage these dead trees. Leaving them or logging them will change nothing. The forests of the Sierra Nevada Mountains will not return unless the climate machanisms normalize and that is unlikely. Chaparral plants will replace these forest trees and like the pine beetles, they will be blamed for the loss of forests. Lousy land management and terrible industrial Science policies will get a free pass as usual. 

Image - Arborwell

Photo - Pail Chinn

AGRICHEM - Phosphite Product
Of course pines and other conifers are not the only trees dying by the thousands in California. The west coast is being hit hard with Sudden Oak Death (SOD). Pictured here in the photo above (clockwise from top left): dying oak tree, several Sudden Oak Death affected trees and bleeding kankers on the trunks of an Oak tree. And believe it or not, their answer is not doing anything about the cause, but rather more synthetic chemicals to kill the nasty insects as Park Ranger, Tracey Walker, for the City of San Diego Open Space calls them. While I understand the sentiment in blaming the insect for the sudden oak dieoffs, it's the overall misuse and abuses of scientific innovation shackled to big business and political interests which have brought us the present global climate disruption. This has completely changed the environment which in turn has triggered epigenetic responses within the spotted oak borers, pine bark beetles, etc. They are only responding to changes in the environment. Any checks and balances they once were subject under have now disappeared or in some way been altered. Humans are ultimately to blame, but that's hard for most people to swallow. Even for many in the environmental crowd who believe correction comes from saving land from development and creating eco-green rules enforced by a type of socialists police state brutality will not be the answer either. But the fact remains that humans have brought down the environment when they didn't have to for the economic good. And any solutions you keep reading about deal only with treating symptoms and offer nothing as far as stopping the cause. They're using the same failed business strategy as human healthcare models. If no money can be made on the fix, then it's abandoned. The simple fact is, many things should be corrected not because of making money, but because it's the right thing to do.

Finally, don't expect any Improvement or help from differing political ideologies, both are happily wedded to their Industrial Agricultural business interests who keep them in power.

Image - Miami Herald

Well, you've all heard about the big joke down in Florida of it's waters being likened to green guacamole ? Apparently it's industrial agirculture [sugar industry] which is the original cause of the pollution. Over decades they have dumped millions of tonnes of science-based synthetic fertilizers and other chemicals into Lake Okeechobee and other waterways. Both political sides are at fault here if you read the latest Miami Herald article and nobody can finger point or spit vitriol at the other side's ideology or worldview. They're the mirror image of each other. Seriously, read the article and appreciate how disgusting both sides really are here in this. Take a look at the article's title and these subheadings, then click the link and read the article.
Sugar’s decades-long hold over Everglades came with a price
The industry spent more than $57 million over 22 years to influence Florida campaigns   
Records show Big Sugar was consistently one of the largest contributors to both Republicans, Democrats
Industry’s clout helped it to transfer clean-up costs and postpone deadlines
(Source: Miami Herald)
And finally here is an aerial view of several vast locations throughout the Sierra Nevadas
The video below is of an aerial fly over of major sections of the California, Sierra Nevada Mountains and miles upon miles of dead and dying trees. It looks like almost 74% to 80% Beetle kill. Both the Timber Industry and Environmental Eco-Activists lose this one here. Both sides are at fault for supporting a system of human rule which allows for this scenario whether or not one thinks they are immune from responsibility. There are no winners, only losers. Nature loses too. Four years of extreme drought which actually followed decades of irresponsible decision making in land management. In those four years very little seed was likely produced and if any was released during that time period, then there was little annual moisture to sustain the seedlings and saplings. At this point there is no seed for regeneration. 

The News doesn't get any better from what reports are saying about the long term effects of deforestation. If all the bad decision making and stupidy of actions were to stop right now forwards, the Earth is already past the point of no return in the healing process. What's scary is that knowing this, we also know things will not change anytime soon. Here is a July 29, 2016 Update:
"Even if people completely stopped converting tropical forests into farmland, the impacts of tropical deforestation would continue to be felt for many years to come. That's the conclusion of researchers who have used historical rates and patterns of tropical deforestation around the globe to estimate the resulting carbon emissions and species losses over time."
The main character to blame here is Industrial Agriculture, controlled completely by the power obsessed Biotechnology and Agro-Chemical Corporations. Next time they call you an Anti-Science Luddite for critizing them, start showing them the evidence. And remember, you DO NOT need any Scientist to give a seal of approval to be on the right side.
Science Daily: Effects of past tropical deforestation will be felt for years to come

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Justin Vineyards: Oak Woodlands Controversy & the Solution

June 10, 2016 by Paso Robles Daily News Editor Skye Ravy
The heated controversy over a vineyard-development project in California's Paso Robles region has taken a interesting twist now that the owners of Justin Vineyards and Winery issued an apology statement for cutting an estimated 100 acres of oak trees and promising to donate the 380-acre property to a nonprofit conservation organization and plant 5,000 new oaks on their other area properties. See Here >>  (Justin Vineyards apologizes and donates Land

When this story first broke, environmental organizations and ecology groups across California immediately jumped on the corporation hate bandwagon denouncing the Vineyards expansion. I do understand the passion and upset of another part of the natural world being dismembered. But not one of the groups made any attempts to find a solution for a fix and repair of the damage done, other than the usual call for lawsuits, legal penalty action and punitive punishment, etc. Calls also went out for major boycotts of all products produced by the Billionaire husband and wife owners of the Wonderful Company who had their life history trashed all over the internet as greedy so and sos. But again not a single group offered solutions for a correction. This is common with the environmental groups these days. Most people claiming to support an ecological movement do so mainly by joining an online Social Media Network page where actual participation is a mere clicking of a "LIKE" post, providing verbal vitriol in the comments sections, signing an online petitions, etc. I find very few actually get themselves outdoors, study nature, involve themselves in habitat restoration, etc. There are many who do this, but the majority don't. 

OK enough of the negative, now what positive corrections can be done. The main worry I saw with people calling for a halt to the work being done was that if they were completely successful in stopping the project, the next rainy season could have created terrible erorsion problems on the area in question. Fortunately that has not happened.
Photo Image by Craig Heaton
Some good news from the same source referenced above here, they said that San Luis Obispo County won’t pursue code enforcement action due to the donation of property to a conservancy and land remediation.
"The county is already working with Justin to address potential erosion and runoff issues caused by any grading violations, Bergman said. The company will need additional permits to begin remediation, and Bergman said county officials will work with Justin to quickly develop and implement plans."
Some of the concern came from the removal of vegetation on extreme steep slopes. That also concerns me, but what's interesting is that steep slope vineyards & farming in general are nothing new and have been done all over the world for centuries without problems. However, those farmers and terrace builders actually took the time, patience and effort to create a solid terraced infrastructure system that was practically meant to last forever. Of course this was done by hand and without the fast convenience of modern day mechanized equipment. The people then took their time and were very skilled at what they did. As an example, the Rhineland area of Germany is well known for it's steep slope vineyards, but no one complains about those. Take for example the beautifully designed infrastructure of these steep hillside vineyards along the Ahr Valley below. Notice the rock and stone work ? 

Image - Romantic Germany Rhineland Palatinate
A well-terraced steep hillside landscape in the
 Ahr Valley of  Germany.
For a change, what we offer as advice to Justin Vineyards in replacing the Oaks, planting new Grape Vineyards and dealing with the present water crisis issues ?
As I've written previously, there are clearly more eco-friendly ways of doing things, but most modern day folks need to be deprogrammed and re-educated as to how this should be done. We all went to conventional institutions of learning and were taught at the time the conventional science-based industrial methods of quickly acquiring a profit with minimum amount of input. We were all taught this was just good business sense and modern scientific innovation was going to help us accomplish this goal. Except this same science has brought us the ruined natural world & climate disruptions we all experience today and hardly anyone is pointing this out with the exception of a handful of science researchers and other dedicated people who understand the real issues. 
Oak Habitat Restoration
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Since the Oak Tree removal was the main point of protest, it's only logical and fair to begin here. One of the more fascinating things I've found recently with the planting innovation referenced in the above photograph is that California Native Plants establishment can be incredibly easy. I first noticed in Southern California how and under what conditions most all types of native plant communities expand and/or restore themselves to be mainly during extreme wet weather events like an El Nino. My very first observation was the wetter periods between the years 1978-1983. I wrote about Bajadas and the extreme flooding events which allowed massive saturation over entire alluvial fans. One such Bajada was just northwest of the city of San Jacinto California where Portrero Creek drainage from Beaumont and points north from the San Bernardino Mountains runs through a narrow slit in the foothills of the lower San Bernardino Mountains and striaght into the San Jacinto River. This is easily seen from Hwy 79 & Gilman Springs Rd. My original curiosity for some years prior to this El Nino wet period was how do single or grouped California Sycamores & various Oaks over in and around the city of San Bernardino in those large large boulder strewn flood plains towards the north & west towards L.A. which drain from the Angeles National Forest, how do such huge trees manage to establish themselves and thrive when first hand observation reveals they were never even remotely close to any permanent running streams or other water sources ? In the western United States, where such streams do not exist, such trees need a good permanent water source to emerge and maintain themselves during the hot dry summers.

It was the 1983 Flood in San Jacinto Valley where I saw first hand how massive amounts of Cottonwoods, Sycamores, Willows, etc established themselves. Years after that only the strongest survived down to the present. But I found this also to be true of other type of plant community ecosystems like forest tree movement intrusion into the Chaparral Plant community where Oaks and Pines utilized Chamise and other chaparral plants as Nurse companions via the planting by ScrubJays. The Groasis Waterboxx as far as I have carefully observed and researched replicates this perfectly. I've provided some links and videos done by Ranchers and University eXtensions in establishing various species of Oaks, Elderberry and other California native plants within the same central California region where Justin Vineyard & Winery is located The only other extremely important thing to do besides the planting with these devices is inoculating the Oak seedlings at time of planting with Ecto-Mycorrhizal Fungi and it's imperative that Pisolithus tinctorius be the specific fungi choice utilized. 

Green news from the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Other References - Oaks planted using Groasis Waterboxx
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Pest and Diseases of Southern California Oaks
UCCE studies a Dutch invention for regenerating trees and shrubs on oak woodland
Lessons Learned from the Bajadas (Alluvial Fans) Report: the Groasis waterboxx ©
Oak tree planting using the Groasis Waterboxx in California

UCCE studies a Dutch invention for regenerating trees and shrubs on oak woodland

Image - Hunter Industries
Once the Oak tree seedlings are planted and established, a simple deep pipe irrigation system (preferrably installed within the target area ahead of Oak seedling planting), should be periodically turned on in order to counter the negative effects of an unreliable hydrological cycling thanks to climate change. The rules have changed now and mankind is responsible for that  change. Again, small seedlings should ONLY be used for successful deep root development. I don't care about five gallon six+ foot tall specimens which are often recruited as some type of 'eye candy' to appease the rabin activist protestors. Do it correctly the first time around and it will save you money. Also the re-established Oak woodland ecosystems will develop much better in succession with other chaparral plants like California Coffeeberry, California Holly (Toyon), Manzanita, etc which should be used as companion plants for faster ecosystem establishment and long term ecosystem health. You simply cannot just plant oak trees the conventional way all by themselves. They do better with nurse companions and that is what biomimetics is all about.

Image taken from

Natural Companion Plants - Oaks & California Coffeeberry
I'll offer further input on the why of deep pipe irrigation below. But Justin Vineyards, please take note of the natural companion relationship above and I'll explain the reason why below. Replanting oak trees to satisfy an offical legal agreement and damage control is not enough. You have to do it right and do it smart. It is good business sense and aesthetically more pleasing. An important note here. If you fail to inoculate with the proper mycorrhizal species mix, your Oak restoration project will fail or at best be many years delayed. 
Vineyard Establishment the old fashioned way
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The example photo above is of the groasis waterboxx is being done to reintroduce newer vines as replacements for those that have died or were found unproductive. The process here will establish vines very quickly as opposed to the old conventional methods and provide a deeper root infrastructure which will greatly aid in survival with very little water needed. 
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I love the Canary Islands because it feels so much like home. The islands are very much involved in the vineyards and wine making business. We've even gone on some wine tasting tours there. Below is an example of dryland vineyards on the volcanic desert island Vineyards of Lanzarote. This region hardy gets any rain, yet look at the results. It's not about irrigation, it's about planting techniques and training these grapevine roots to grow deeper. It's not the subsoil moisture, but rather the capillary action movement of water within the soil which hydrates plants.

The Volcanic Desert Vineyards of Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain
Reference Links and Videos for Establishing Vineyards
The Groasis orchard capillary drill makes planting holes between the vine rows aside of the tractor
Groasis Waterboxx experiment at Celler Burgos Porta - Mas Senén Priorat

The vines were planted  beginning of July 2010, the film was end of October 2010 at Will Bucklin's "Old Hill Ranch." Incredible root development on these grapevines growing straight downwards in that short period of time of only four months.  Here is the video link:
Robert Mondavi Winery with Groasis waterboxx grape planting experiments in Napa Valley California 
Grape planting with the Groasis Technology to save water at Will Bucklin's Old Hill Ranch
How does this system save Water ? How does this deeper root development where hydration takes place in subsoil layers as opposed to Drip Irrigation ?
Illustration - Wikimedia - (2006)

I really dislike the illutrative layout above of a sophisticated $-expensive-$ drip irrigation system. While I understand it does save water as opposed to conventional flood irrigation and sprinkler irrigation as practiced in the central valley mega-vineyards, this should not be attempted in Paso Robles. The photo to the right is a simple animation of a deep pipe irrigation, though primitive and simple, even a child gets this. The main problem I have with drip is constant ongoing checking and maintenance. Plus, valuable water on the surface of the soil still heats up and evaporates. Water on the surface also encourages annual weeds (ruderals) which compete for both water and nutrients. There is also the problem of wild animals desperate in these drought years destroying drip system componants looking for water. It's not their fault as they as desperate for survival and act on instinct. While the illustration above shows a simplified  garden version of a hand watering practice, below here is another illustration which shows a concept created by irrigation manufacturer Hunter Industries who has developed a deep pipe root irrigation system which I have a feeling many have not taken much advantage of as yet. Mostly because they do not understand the basic fundamentals and principles of how most whole plant ecosystems work, function and operate. The fact is every single agricultural enterprise should be replicated with these very native plant root infrastructures in mind. 

Here on the left is Hunter's complete design concept with PCV pipe junctional fittings, branch pipe sections with goose neck design, internal bubbler fittings, etc, etc, etc. Frankly the design is great with the exception that I would prefer a solid pipe as a sleeve which would not have the various holes spaced all the way down the pipe and be  perhaps a meter in length where medium sized crushed gravel were used at the bottom of the hole to aid in percolation. The solid sides would also not allow fine sand or silt to infiltrate as would a mesh type design. I understand the idea of water percolating from top to bottom, but truthfully you only need water at the very bottom a meter down. The plants through the phenomena of hydraulic life & redistribution will supply the deeper available stored water to move upwards through their root systems into the mcorrhizal fungal network which in turn are connected to other vines or perennial plants in a mutual cooperation interface. All of this is programmed and encoded within the informational content of all these living organism's DNA. Up until now this has all been ignored by the industrial science business models which have made an obscene profit off keeping the status quo. To this very day they continue to fight against this type of research. Anything Justin Vineyards & Winery can do to keep their vines well balanced and the fruiting zone aerated with dappled sunlight will also help the grapevine's internal pest-management mechanisms to be firing on all pistons. Grapevines that are excessively vigorous (excessive water and nitrogen by conventional means) are likely to be more attractive to leaf hoppers, powdery mildew and bunch rot. No chemicals necessary here, it's all about getting deprogrammed and re-educated. The money savings from not purchasing ANY synthetic chemical inputs will also be money in your pockets. Take a close look at the picture below and meditate on it's true meaning. Most wineries understand this. Less water is most often better.

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High skin ratio grapes produce wines with more concentration 
“we started to reduce the use of water in the vineyard [and] we got to amazing results. 1.) The vine can live with less water of what most of the people think, 2.) when you used less water, the size of the cluster and berries decrease, so finally you get more concentration and equilibrium in your wines.”
Aurelio Montes -

Image - El Cajon Historical Society
The wine industry's more quality conscious growers are not necessarily interested in the mega-quantity volume producing yields like those of a Boone's Farm or a Gallo jug wine business model, but rather a quality grape which will produce more flavour. Huge grape clusters with bulging grape diameters are not necessarily what they want as the image above from Wine Folly illustrates. So a vineyard can actually do better on less water and produce a finer wine quality grape. One thing I always found interesting about some of those old historical grape growing photographs like the one to the right which shows a man at a roadside stand selling those large heavy clusters of grapes in early 1900s El Cajon Valley California where I grew up, they actually did this without much irrigation at all if any. They mostly dryland farmed as you can see here in the other historical photograph below. Many people have no clue as to how grapes were grown in the early days of California agricultural enterprises early on. Most grape vineyards were dryland farms and most older folks have probably even forgotten that. Growing up in El Cajon Valley in the early 1960s, there were still several huge tracts of land where free standing grape vines existed, produced vines and grapes although the land had been long abandoned and sold off by previous owners to speculative land developers. Areas east of Los Angeles Like Ontario, Fontana, etc were almost entirely free standing dryland famed vineyards with deeply rooted grapevines. These continued to produce leaves and grapes long after the land was sold and vacated to land developers.

El Cajon California was once 48,000+ acres of Agriculture.
Most of that was free standing grape Vineyard dryland farming

There was an Aqueduct flume which was built to bring irrigation water from the Cuyamaca Mountains in the east to El Cajon Valley's citrus orchards which were also plentiful. But I doubt there was enough water for the 1000s upon 1000s of acres of vineyards. Today in many parts of the globe like Spain, they also dryland farm vineyards like the one in the photograph below. What is interesting about El Cajon Valley is that even to this day the water table is extremely high. Water can be hit 10' below the surface. Water was present at 10' when they test drilled at El Cajon Valley High School in the early 1970s prior to building the commercial pool and there was also some test drilling miles north of the school for water contamination  studies in the early 2000s at my former place of employment as a landscaper between Bradly Avenue and Greenfield Drive where water was also hit at the 10' (little over 3 meters) below ground level. These vines are capable of reaching and utilizing water at those depths if trained properly in the begining. But again, even if they do not hit the water table, it's the soil's capillary action which moves moisture upwards which hydrate plants.

Image - (Spain)
Deep-Pipe Irrigation Posts & Resources
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks
Hunter Industries: Root Zone Watering System
Hunter Industries: Deep Root Zone Specs
Climate Change vs Wine: A Snapshot of Year 2050 
Real World Sustainability without Insecticides, Herbicides, Fungicides and Sythetic Fertilizers & going full blown "Organic" ???

What's the difference between organic and inorganic wines ? In a nut shell, organic means to limit the human intervention during the vineyard farming and wine production process. The 'organic' label philosophy starts in the actual Vineyards where zero to very limited use of chemicals such as pesticides or fertilizers are allowed to be used for the vineyard management processes. During the wine production process, the organic wine makers usually will not allow or will use only a very limited quantity of synthetic componants for the fermenting, bottling or cellaring choices. Organic wines usually have more characters, reflect better the terroir [environmental cues such as soil & climate - loosely translated epigenetics] and they are unique to other batches of wines in terms of vintages, origins, winemaking methods, aging techniques, etc. If Justin Vineyards & Winery want to create an image make over, then organic is the way to go. Over here in Europe, my wife and I always purchase an organically produced wine and I can tell you the popularity is growing. It does matter if it costs a little more. The actual price is actually not that much more expensive. But it's what we choose.

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The idea behind companion planting here with regards numerous perennials and mycorrhizal annuals is not only to attract pollinators, but also mycorrhizal associations on grape vine rootsystems which will tap into the nitrogen fixing micro-organisms, but also mycorrhizal fungi's ability of mining the soils for nutrients which they accomplish very efficiently. They can increase a plant's nutrient and water uptake by anywhere from 200% to 800% depending on the species and soil conditions. I'll post some other links in references below this section. I'm seeing more and more vineyards incorporating numerous flowering perenials into their vineyard systems and it's not only smart, it's beautifully attractive as a whole. But there is more to this infrastructure. Aside from mycorrhizal fungi colonizing and creating a strong interface between these other plants and the grape vines, they also attract the beneficial pollinators who are also pest predators.

Image - Hydroponics Online

Earth's Natuural Pest Control

Image - Wikipedia
A huge part of being an organically run vineyard is NOT using ANY synthetic or Organic chemical sprays in preventing pests from decimating your vines. Did you all pay attention to where I stated even "organic" sprays ? Technically the official organic verification gang allows such chemicals if they are considered to be "100% Natural." But that wouldn't exactly biomimic how the natural world works when keeping balance within any ecosystem. See this small pic of a parasitic wasp ? This is an Aleiodes indiscretus wasp parasitizing gypsy moth caterpillar. Many Vineyards in California and other parts of the world are purposely planting many pollinator attracting plants for the purpose of attracting these little (almost invisible) insectt helpers. These predatary insects do not feed on the pests they hunt and kill, but their larva do. The adults however do need pollen and nectar to keep themselves healthy and functioning. That's why the flowering perenials, annuals and native chaparral shrubs are so important. The conventional Industrial Agricultural practice is to sterilize the ground of all farms. Seriously look at any farm and the only plants are those crops on industrial medical lifesupport. And it costs large amounts of money to keep that type of a system going aisde from the negative side effects to the environment. Let's consider the importance of a few beneficial chaparral shrubs that most folks have never considered.

Image - Las Pilitas Nursery (Bert Wilson)

Image - MotherNatureBackyard
This picture above is California Coffeeberry. In a way, it does look a bit like a photo of a coffee tree with green foliage and different coloured berries. But aside frombeing very ornamental and attractive, it's value is in it being one of the earliest bloomers (March) for a chaparral native. Unlike the other flowering plants we've seen in all the photographs in vineyards, this evergreen shrub has the most inconspicuous flowers you'll ever observe. But when it's dull olive yellow-green flowers do appear, what causes you to pause and take note is the loud humming coming from those shrubs. Every species of bee, wasp, fly, mosquito, beetle, gnat, etc, etc, etc are stumbling over each other on these flower clusters hoping to get a taste of whatever it is that is driving them nuts. On close inspection however, you will see tonnes of the smallest and tiniest predatory wasps who've never even imagined existed. When people in general follow the expert recommendations of using those conventional science-based synthetic sprays to kill the target pests, the chemical has no clue as to what the target is and obliterates almost everything else that is present. That's why our planet is in such a mess and why other more responsible science research is making folks take notice. Mainly because they are forced to now.

Image - Las Pilitas Nursery

Image - Eden by the Bay
The next bloomer is around the month of late May through most of June to July. The California Holly or Toyon is also a beautiful ornamental shrub which is evergreen, has large clusters of bright red berries in Fall through Winter which makes it also a nice addition for Justin Vineyards & Wines to incorporate within the native Oak tree plantings. You simply cannot plant these Oaks by themselves, you need to create a living mechanized biological infrastructure all working in mutual cooperation with one another. But knowing various plants, their blooming schedule and great companion plant abilities, not to mention the wildlife food sources which will help distract them from your grapes will be a plus. But there are other chaparral plants that don't bloom till July/August like Redshank or Ribbonwood. There are also some ornamental native Mediterranean plants which actually fit like a glove in a vineyard theme.

Image - Saint Castor Estate

Image - Ale Etiquetas
This one is a perfect match for the vineyards and general landscape around the buildings. There are so many types and varieties of Lavenders. They can bloom from Spring to Fall. Many of them also do very well here in Sweden which is something I never thought I'd see because of the damp cold. But they also thrive well in hot Summertime heat. I once saw a documentary on one Southern California News station where the reporter was interviewing a Northern California Vineyard grower. He incorporated lots of Lavender around his vineyards just because of their long blooming ability which attracted all sorts of beneficial predatory wasps which required the nectar as a food source. The man said his operation no longer used insecticides, but they still used fungiicdes for things like powdery mildew on grape leaves. However, some mycorrhizal fungi present in some of the micro-organisms blends out there add a couple of species of fungi, Trichoderma virens and Trichoderma harzianum, into the mix as they have the ability send a chemical message up into their plant host through the roots they colonize which flips an epigenetic switch to turn on and kickstart the grapewine's immune system. This wards off the mildew problems rendering fungicides useless. I'll post a link below. Many large industrial agricultural operations in the Central & San Joaquin Vallets are planting Chaparral hedges and Mounds bordering their fields so as not to have to use insecticides. Believe it or not, good science is being revealed despite the propaganda attempts by the agro-chemical industry that the world's farmers cannot live without them. Now for one of the best resources available for native plants and extremely close to Justin Vineyards.

Image - Bert Wilson

Las Pilitas California Native Plant Nursery
Salvia Celestial Blue with masses of purple flowers
Great Local Native Plant Resource for Justin Vineyards & Winery & everyone else
Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery in Santa Margaritaa, California
Attracting Wild Bees & Wasps to Landscapes & Farms is the best Insurance Policy
How Many Beneficial Functions & Services can be found in just one Fungi Species ?
 Mycorrhizal Fungi run the Largest Mining Operation in the World
How the microbiome mines the soil for nutrients & how their demise will domino effect all other lifeforms 
Update August 2nd 2016 - Another reason going the Organic route will help improve Justin Winery's image
 An analysis of 74,000 blind taste-tests by professional wine reviewers shows that Eco-Certified Wines get higher ratings than regular wines. 
Neville Nel/Flickr
UCLA Newsroom: "Do eco-friendly wines taste better?"
Finally Terracing that Steep Bare Hillside
Image - Taylor Vineyards and the Duro Valley Portugal

The photograph above points out the direction Justin Vineyards should go. They've certainly got the capital and resources available to them. The course here now is literal soil damage control and rebuilding a reputation. Heading in a eco-green organic and sustainable course is the way to go. They could show their neighbours how to proceed and I kid you not, the average small weekend ranchette landowner collectively do far worse than those large businesses put together. So even here Justin Vineyards could set a precedent and local example to be replicated by other vineyards. I like the arrangement of terrace size here in the photo which allows three or four grapevine rows on a terraced hillside. You could incorporate at the start of your vineyard project after terracing is completed & before planting, two or three rows of underground deep pipe irrigation network, only to be used after the biodegradable Groasis Waterboxx Cocoon has accomplished it's work of forcing the grapevine root systems to grow straight down deep into the subterranean soil layers. It does not matter that a deep pipe system which would place water into the soil two or three foot down, because the process of hydraulic life and redistribution will pull water towards the surface lateral roots, connecting the mycorrhizal fungi and reconnecting also with other vines and unrelated perennial plants as borders. This creates a mutually cooperative selfsustaining living system. 

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Of course they could go the cheap route and save money by simple mechanical shaping and terracing, but for me there are drawbacks to this. First there is the small slopes which are still subject to possible future erosion and also weed control issues. All that costs maintenance money. A terraced rock wall system allows for more precious space to be utilized aside from providing less weed opportunities which offer an offensive spring boards for weed seeds to infect the vineyard system itself, further costs for herbicides and/or workers weed whacking them with a power trimmer. The photo above is from Spain. The Portugese company Taylor Vineyards on their website also have simple soil terraces without the rock walls and the offer advice on how the annual plants also provide a measure of pollinator attraction in the Springtime, but there are ways around that. Anyway here is Taylor Vineyards link to sustainable Viticulture: 
Taylor Vineyards - Sustainable Viticulture
As I explained above, Lavender is an excellent summer flowering shrub which not only attracts and sustains beneficial predatory pollinators, but adds an element of Mediterranean visual to the overall vineyard landscape theme. If the rock retaining walls were shorter in height and had a shorter slope behind and above them, then this area could be planted in two rows of Lavender. It would also create a weed barrier screen and fill in space where such companion planting would be a perfect fit. They could also be deep pipe irrigate here as well.

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As I stated at the beginning, not one militant environmental activist organization offered any sustainable viable ecosolutions for Justin Winery to correct the mistakes made other than the usual activist vitriol, threats of lawsuits, online petition grand standing and product boycotts in hopes that the Wonderful Company would have all it's business ventures ruined and shutting their doors. This information I've provided can be used by anyone out there reading with an ecological passion for the natural world and growing things, not just the poeple from the Paso Robles winery. Hopefully something positive will be accomplished in Paso Robles without further negativity. Here is an excellent example of good results using mycorrhizal fungi

"When I visited the Rosella Winery in 2011, Sandi took me out to see her section of Zinfindel grapes. They had been struggling for years and the owners were considering tearing them out. I asked her to give MycoApply® a chance before starting over. Even though a surface soil application is not best for grapes I knew with time and with a couple applications the inoculum would work down into the rooting zone with the winter rains on this rocky soil. Here is her story."
Dr Mike Amaranthus
Below is a copy of the email letter Sandi Garoutte to Mike Amaranthus thanking him for the advice not to tear out their unproductive Zinfandel vineyards and give MycoApply a try. Here is what resulted below.
"Hello Dr. Mike, 
Rosellas-Vineyard-Winery-Wine-Tasting-Sign  Just wanted to follow up on our conversation regarding the application of Mycorrhizal Applications Mycorrhiza on our vineyard.  If I misuse the application of the word, I do apologize.  Mycorrhiza/Mycorrhizae/Mycorrhizal, it’s confusing!  
We have a vineyard in Southern Oregon on the Missouri Flat Bench.  I am aware that you have done extensive soil testing in this area.  After showing you our Zinfandel, you thought that there was a hardpan layer preventing the vines from getting their roots deeper in the soils.  
Due to the rocky soil and the fact that we Dry Farm, the Zinfandel, in particular, has always struggled.   So we took your advise and applied the first Mycorrhizae to all the soils in 2012.  Placing a tablespoon at the base of each plant and letting the Fall Rains wash it in to the roots. Then we applied the 2nd Mycorrhizae to the Zinfandel in Spring of 2014 and most recently the Spring of 2015 during the rains.   
The upper block of Zinfandel is now on it’s 9th leaf.  We noticed a marked change after the first application in 2012.  The subsequent Spring of 2013, the vigor of the vines and the fruit set and were much improved.  So we set out to apply again in the Spring of 2014.  The vines did so well that in a heavy wind one entire row was blown over, trellis and all because it was so heavy with fruit!   
Indeed, last year was a record year for growth the Zinfandel section of the vineyard, the rest of the vineyard has definitely benefitted,  and most notably in the Zin.  The girth of the trunks almost doubled.  They went from 3″ to about 6″.  We have again applied Mycorrhizae this Spring.  We look forward to watching the vines continue to survive. 
We are entering a palpable drought.  It will affect us all.  I am so amazed at the symbiosis of these tiny little creatures with the root systems of plants.  I admire your knowledge and dedication to the production of this product.  We look forward to using it through the years.  
Kindly, Sandi Garoutte (The link to this letter on is below)

MycoApply® Improves Zinfandel Grape Harvest in Southern Oregon - Mycorrhizal Applications, Inc.

Update - July 21, 2016 - Vineyards Part II 
Dryland Farming, Vineyards & why Plants prefer Subterranean Water Sources
Here are a couple more links