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Whitmore Track Project halted; rare species of blooms stand in its way

February 12, 2011

The Whitmore Track project has been stopped in its tracks.

Fast-tracked by the Mammoth Lakes Town Council for an anticipated construction and completion by the end of the dry season, the project has no chance of that, due to a request by the Department of Fish and Game for a new plant survey.

The DFG, which regulates habitat issues in addition to critters, said it wants the survey to determine if the construction of the track would harm three “rare species” of blooms.

“We’re not happy about it,” said Elaine Smith of the High Sierra Striders, “but we’re going to accommodate the DFG.

“We must do what we must do.”

The council sped up the project to take advantage of Mammoth’s burgeoning reputation as a distance runner’s paradise. Construction was to have begun as soon as the snow season ended this year.

The town submitted an exhaustive survey on what effects the track might have on the local sage grouse population, as well as effects on the habitat.

However, the DFG was not satisfied with the habitat report and requested a new survey.

Complicating the survey is that biologists hired by the town government will have to wait until their blooming periods in May, June, July or August to coincide with peak flowering season of the target plant species.

The three plants are the Inyo Phacelia, alkali ivesia, and smooth Phacelia.

The Inyo Phacelia is endemic to California, where it is known only in the Eastern Sierra and Inyo and Mono countries.

It grows in meadows on alkaline soils. It is an annual herb growing up to about 10 centimeters high with a basal array of lobed rounded or oval leaves on short petioles.

It is glandular and coated in stiff hairs. Unlike many phacelias, which have blooms in shades of purple and blue, this species has light yellow flowers.

It’s all a bit on the geeky side, but try telling that to the DFG.

Or to the High Sierra Striders, whose track, suddenly, remains stuck in the dreamsphere.

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