NPS Agrees to Restoration of Wildlife Water
By Jim Matthews
Editor's Note:
On the day we published this article, Jim Matthews released an update that shows the anti-hunting bias of the National Park Service at the expense of wildlife. Click on the link below after you read this article to find outwhat the NPS as done — shame on them!
Latest Wildlife Water News

The NPS finally agrees to allow cattle water developments converted to wildlife use.

In an effort to protect desert wildlife, the National Park Service (NPS) has finally agreed to allow the maintenance and restoration of water originally developed for cattle on the Mojave National Preserve.

Capping a multiyear battle between conservation groups and Preserve management, the decision was made earlier this month at a meeting between the Department of the Interior, the parent agency of the National Park Service, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), and Safari Club International (SCI), an international sportsman's conservation organization.

Since the passage of the Desert Protection Act that created the Preserve, the Mojave National Preserve's management has directed the removal of over 125 cattle water developments, most of those in the past year. The water was shut down without proper environmental documentation on its impacts. Biologists in the DFG and other agencies have estimated there has been a significant loss of wildlife in the preserve because of the water removal. Even where wildlife has been able to shift to other natural water sources, the wildlife has suffered due to crowding, making diseases more likely and increasing predation on the concentrated populations.

Working with the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. and with the NPS staff in Barstow, the Safari Club and other conservation groups stepped up the pressure to get the preserve management to stop removing water sources important to wildlife and agree to allow the DFG and volunteer groups to maintain and restore important water sources.

"Bringing the policymakers together and making decisions to facilitate the reinstatement of traditional water sources to the Mojave by organizations like SCI is a win-win for wildlife," said John R. Monson, SCI president, who noted that a Memorandum of Understanding was to be completed and signed by all parties no later than September 15.

"The Department of the Interior and the National Park Service have recently demonstrated the desire to work cooperatively on wildlife management in the Mojave National Preserve," said Paul Hoffman, deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. "The California Desert Protection Act clearly gives DFG jurisdiction over wildlife management on the Preserve. We will all work together to ensure that wildlife benefits and park resources are not impaired as a result of any of these activities."

The meeting was held August 10, when SCI invited key officials from the two agencies together at the DFG offices in Ontario and then moderated the meeting to enable NPS and DFG to discuss and overcome the often contentious obstacles encountered in the effort to maintain wildlife water development systems throughout the Preserve.

In this meeting, the following points were agreed upon:
1) The DFG will immediately submit a proposal to the NPS to restore at least 12 capped wells in the eastern part of the Preserve in the Lanfair Valley area. The NPS mandated that these wells be removed by ranchers who sold their ranches and grazing allotments to the Preserve, leaving the area devoid of much of the water that wildlife has relied upon for decades. The NPS agreed to review the proposal without delay so work could begin immediately. Restoration of additional removed water sources would be facilitated as quickly as volunteer and DFG resources allow.
2) DFG and NPS will work together on creating a water guzzler management procedural manual that outlines all the guzzler locations in the Preserve. Each guzzler, which is a man-made watering device for wildlife, will be defined by a number of categories, such as whether it exists in wilderness or non-wilderness areas of the Preserve and whether it lies inside or outside of designated desert tortoise habitat. For each category of guzzler, the manual will establish guidelines for access, maintenance, and restoration of the water source. The manual will help officials and private groups when working with these important wildlife water sources on the Preserve.
3) This preparation of guidelines will not prevent work from continuing
in the interim period, nor will it prohibit the volunteer efforts of organizations like SCI, Quail Unlimited, the California Deer Association, or other on-the-ground conservation groups from doing routine maintenance on existing guzzlers, functioning cattle systems, or filling dry water sources.

While significant damage to the desert wildlife resources has already been done by the NPS staff, this is a first step in restoring some of those resources for all Preserve visitors.

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