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Sunny with a chance of 

ON THE COVER: Sunny, with a chance of…? Designer Urs Baur invites us to fill in the blank with whatever it is that we hope for, or long for, as the days grow longer and spring approaches. Cover design by Urs Baur

While much of the country is facing another wave of snow this week, spring is already here in the Santa Monica Mountains. Ceanothus dusts the hillsides with floral snow, the oak trees and willows are blooming, covering cars and window panes with chartreuse pollen, and we know a tree where a great horned owl is already sitting on her eggs.

For those in the Woosley Fire burn zone, the white flowers of the big pod and buckthorn ceanothus have special significance—this is the first year since the 2018 disaster that these key chaparral plants have bloomed. Some of their close relatives, including greenbark ceanothus, can regenerate from their roots, but these two species, so dominant in mature chaparral habitat, can only grow from seed. This flowering is a welcome step in the lengthy process of fire recovery.

Brush clearance is essential for fire safety, especially this year, when Santa Ana winds are already drying up the new growth, but it should be done gently, with an awareness that nesting season is underway, and that birds and other wildlife are at their most vulnerable in the spring.

The resident rattlesnake population can also come into conflict with humans during brush clearance. Rattlesnakes in the Santa Monica Mountains don’t really hibernate, they bromate—becoming active during warm weather.

Keeping wild neighbors of all types in mind during spring gardening projects helps keep everyone safe.

P-22, the Griffith Park mountain lion who was born in our local mountains and made a home for himself in the heart of Hollywood, after somehow traversing some of the most densely populated parts of Los Angeles and crossing multiple freeways, is the poster cat for human-wildlife coexistence. This extraordinary big cat just celebrated his 10th anniversary in Griffith Park. An exceptionally long life for a wild mountain lion, and a rare success story that has become an inspiration for millions around the world. 

P-22 has helped focus attention on the plight of urban wildlife, and the need for wildlife connectivity. Another iconic American wildlife species that is struggling to survive in the 21st century just won a major victory. After devastating losses during the Trump Administration’s brief but deadly open season on wolves, the species has finally had its protected status restored.

On February 10, a federal judge in the Northern District of California restored federal Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in much, but not all, of the lower 48 states. 

Those protections are needed more than ever. The species was delisted by the Trump Administration in 2020. A  2021 study found that Wisconsin hunters had killed as much as a third of that state’s gray wolf population in less than a year. It’s a grim reminder not to take wildlife or the laws that protect it for granted.

A new Center for Disease Control study finds that California has the second highest life expectancy in the country, with Hawaii taking the honors as the state with the longest lived residents. Both states averaged 80.9, with Hawaiian women living slighting longer than their California counterparts. The average for California men is 78.4; while women in the Golden State average 83.3 years.

Seven additional states have life expectancies above 80 years: New York, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington and Colorado.

The states with the lowest life expectancies—74 and 75 years—were Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. It’s not hard to make inferences about poverty, and access to health care, education, exercise and nutritious food.

The study was based on data collected in 2019, and does not reflect the impact of COVID-19. 

The pandemic is, unfortunately, still far from over, although infection rates in Los Angeles County continue to fall. That’s welcome news, but it’s still too soon to dispense with safety measures.

We are looking forward to the day when we don’t have to include reminders about masks and vaccines and social distancing. Soon, county health officials say, soon, but not yet.

Stay safe, be well.

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