What do thirteen sophomore biology students at Lone Pine High School think about Owens Lake? Karen and I got to find out last Tuesday when we made the trip down there and taught them a little bit about Eastern Sierra Land Trust and the story of Owens Lake.
Translating the concepts behind conservation easements, land stewardship, and the Owens Lake Planning Committee into something that would engage high school students was a challenge, but we pulled it off. It probably helped that I brought in cupcakes to celebrate my birthday!
Karen, our Executive Director, is a member of the Owens Lake Planning Committee, an organization of stakeholders that are developing a Master Plan which “identifies broadly supported goals and objectives to enhance the Owens Lakebed”. The plan focuses on “dust mitigation, habitat and wildlife, water efficiency methods, and potential renewable energy development.” To learn more about the planning process and goals, visit https://owenslakebed.pubspsvr.com/default.aspx. Biology teacher Linda Hubbs asked Karen to speak with the students about the Master Plan and ESLT.
The students live in Lone Pine, Keeler, and Olancha and are directly affected by one of the major concerns surrounding the dry lakebed- the alkali dust storms. It made an impact on me to hear from them how bad the dust storms were. “I have to carry rocks in my pockets to keep from blowing away some days!” one student joked, and I’m sure the dust came with that wind.
After the presentation, we asked the students what they would do with the lake if they could do anything. Some ideas were, “Put all the water back in it”, “make a biking trail all the way around it”, and “a water park!” They seemed genuinely interested in the possibility of a solar panel project because of the jobs it could bring. Some of them were hunters or had family that worked in the tourism business, so they could relate to why the Master Plan prioritizes habitat and scenery.
I also got to tell the class a little bit about my role as Education Coordinator and my year of service for AmeriCorps. I told them that one of the reasons I like it was that I got to leave my home in New Hampshire and spend a year in a beautiful place like this. Do they like living here? One responded, “No, we want to go to New Hampshire!”
I think that we were able to introduce the idea of land conservation and ESLT, raise awareness of the issues surrounding Owens Lake, and remind them that they have a say in this process and that whatever happens with the lake will affect them personally. And it was fun to get out of the office and spend some time with young people!