A very special and unique place.

Drain It And Pave It
By David Carle, Park Ranger, Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve

Believe it or not, once in awhile someone suggests that the best thing to do with Mono Lake would be to drain it and pave it over. Think of the benefits, they have been known to say, of so much parking space, room for skateboard rinks and basketball courts. After all, what good, really, is that kind of salty lake?

Those people aren't really serious, of course. They are just testing for a reaction. But I have also noticed that the ones who are willing to make such suggestions have usually never been to Mono Lake. Oh, they may have seen the lake many times as they drove by on Highway 395. But I don't hear that kind of talk from people who have actually stopped and spent some time. Most of those real visitors to Mono Lake come away with plenty of personal reasons to value this place.

This overheard conversation gave me a whole new perspective on this issue:

"Drain it and pave it? Are you crazy? You want to bring economic collapse to the western hemisphere, promote criminal behavior and, worst of all, ruin your sex life?"

"What are you talking about? What has Mono Lake got to do with any of that — especially my sex life?"

"Ah, clearly you haven't given this enough thought. Listen and heed: First, consider the consequences should the lake dry up. (I will postpone consideration of the paving question for a few moments). Without the water of Mono Lake, with its unique chemical conditions, the brine shrimp and alkali flies would die. Millions of millions of lives would be lost — tiny ones, to be sure, but life nonetheless. Without the shrimp and flies, over a million birds would no longer be able to feed here. Without —"

"Yes, yes. I see the point. What if I say I don't care, huh?"

"Please, let me finish. You don't see anything yet. Your future happiness is in great jeopardy. Remember, your —"

"Sex life? Right. Sure. This is crazy, but go ahead."

"So. If 800,000 eared grebes and 140,000 phalaropes were no longer supported by Mono Lake, they might never make it to winter ranges in South and Central America. And without all that bird life down there, the predators which feed on the birds would decline. With the decline in hawks and foxes would follow an increase in rodents, which are also controlled by the same predators. Thus, rodents would overrun farms, producing famine. Also, insects normally fed on by the grebes and phalaropes would increase. Such insects could vector diseases. The miserable humans affected by all this would flee northward, flooding cities with immigrants. Disease, famine, overcrowding...can crime not follow? Can economies stand under such an onslaught? Can —"

"Can I stand here and listen to this nonsense any longer?"

"You're sitting. Don't forget about your sex life."

"Yeah, cut to the important stuff."

"But we still haven't dealt with the paving idea. Consider. Mono Lake covers sixty square miles. If you pave that much land, there may not be enough asphalt left to maintain our highways. Yet gas guzzling machines of every sort will be attracted to the area. Smog, congestion, and noise will cover the hot baking surface of pavement during the summer months. The heat will be so intense that airplanes flying overhead will be buffeted by the rising heat columns. Commercial flights will be forced to circle around the basin to avoid the turbulence. Of course, the desperate, starving folks from down south will be having their effect on this area too. Pollution, crime, ugliness..."

"Enough, already. You forced me to listen to all this because of one very personal effect you predicted for me. Are you ever going to explain about my sex life?"

"Oh, that. Yes. Well. You should realize that those people who really know and love Mono Lake would find it very hard to sit still and accept all of this. Since I love you, I want you to know that if you don't wise up, get out there, and see for yourself what it is you so casually talk about destroying, then I will personally see to it that your future sex life will be as barren as that bleak, asphalt basin would become. Understand...honey?"

And then she dragged him by his ear out of his comfortable seat (in a motorhome with a satellite dish on the roof), away from his football game on the little portable television, and marched him down the South Tufa trail.

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