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Part of the Water: H2O = Life exhibition.
Thanks to concerned citizens, flocks of birds grace the skies around Mono Lake once again. In the late 1970s, graduate students joined with the National Audubon Society to protect the lake, arguing that California had an obligation to care for its natural resources. Eventually the state's Supreme Court agreed and in 1994 the State Water Resources Board ordered Los Angeles to limit its water intake from the Mono Basin to allow the lake to partially recover.
Willow flycatchers (Empidonax traillii) were once common along Mono Lake's tributary streams, but sightings dropped off after the water was diverted in 1941. In 2000, the first territorial flycatcher in decades was spotted on Mono Lake's largest tributary, Rush Creek, and more breeding pairs have been reported nesting every year since.
How does Los Angeles cope with the loss of Mono Lake's waters? The city uses less water. Conservation efforts, such as the use of low-flow appliances, and reclamation projects, including collecting storm water for irrigation, have made up the difference, and then some.
The Mono Lake ecosystem is healthy again, but restoration is an ongoing process. It will take another 40 years for new streamside forests to fully mature--meaning that some bird species that nest in the highest trees, including the warbling vireo (Vireo gilvus) and the mountain chickadee (Parus gambeli), have only just begun to return.