I’m reporting from the San Bernardino National Forest (SBNF) for the second time since my internship began. This post is a little late, although Marian and Krissa would be the only ones to notice, because I said goodbye to my tonsils in mid-June and spent the following two weeks in bed eating ice cream while on pain killers. It wasn’t as cool as it sounds, although I do adore ice cream, so needless to say I am quite relieved to be back in the field enjoying the beautiful summer in Big Bear.

The most intriguing project of last week was conducting a floristic inventory of a proposed overburden dump site for a limestone mine. Apparently, mining law on National Forest property has not been revised since 1872 when Grant was president. You should be thinking “yikes!” because if you stop to think about it, the world has definitely changed since then. Anyway, the SBNF includes one of the largest, highest-grade limestone deposit west of the Mississippi and there are three mining giants who have mining claims here.  The issue is, however, that the limestone deposits are often underneath very sensitive, non-restorable carbonate habitats like the pebble plains I explained in my first blog where a multitude of threatened and endangered plant species are found.

In case you’re wondering, overburden is more or less the material from a mining site that must be removed to get to the desirable material being mined.  Oftentimes, it’s a huge amount of dirt and rocks as the pictures below show, and it has to go somewhere. The area we surveyed will be clear cut and leveled and then covered with the mining refuse. So what was the point of our survey if they are just going to do it anyway? As I understand it, the mining company has to abide by the guidelines the Forest Service recommends; so our work cannot prevent the overburden from being deposited rather just where it’s deposited.

It’s a frustrating situation because once these places are destroyed there is no chance in the habitats recovering because they are so delicate. At the same time, we live in a society completely dependent on limestone; it’s in all of the following products: toothpaste, pharmaceuticals, house paint, cement, agricultural amendments (to neutralize soil pH), latex, cosmetics, paper, and plastic just to name a few. I know you all have supported the limestone industry today because it would be gross if you didn’t ever brush your teeth! Needless to say, there is no easy fix to the situation but at the same time it’s been fascinating to be closely involved in such a big, real-world issue. 

I think that’s enough for now. The experience continues to be great and I keep meeting past CLM interns all over the place! It’s a great network to be part of so a big thanks again to all those who make it possible!

-Lizzy Eichorn


Already-existing overburden site that will be connected to the one we surveyed.


Another view, I wanted to scamper to the top of the volcano-looking thing in the background but alas we had real work to do!


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