Mojave Preserve Considering Keeping Water

spectr17

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MOJAVE PRESERVE CONSIDERING KEEPING WATER -- Jim Matthews -- 22may2002

Cattle water developments may be preserved in Mojave to support native wildlife

Outdoor News Service

    KELSO -- Cattle water developments that have supported wildlife
for up to 100 years in the East Mojave may be retained even as cattle
allotments are retired. Sportsmen came away from a meeting Tuesday with
the National Park Service and Department of Interior staff heartened that
there was now at least a dialogue that could lead to the retention of
important water sources for wildlife.

    But no one was holding their breath.

    Cliff McDonald, a Needles sportsman who pulled together a diverse
coalition of sporting groups who applied pressure to retain the cattle
water development locally and through Washington D.C., said he was
disappointed that some water sources already shut down would not be
restored during this drought year. But the door was left open to retain other
water sources and even to restore those in Carruthers Canyon.

    "We got a lot of people together who should be on this issue,"
said McDonald of the representatives at the meeting, which included
Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, Safari Club, the Foundation
for North American Wild Sheep, the Mule Deer Foundation, California Deer
Association, Quail Unlimited, Western Gamebird Alliance, and California
Varmint Callers. "I feel that we made a point -- that we're not going
to roll over and just let this happen."

    But it was also clear that park superintendent Mary Martin didn't
believe the cattle water was either necessary or even allowed under
rules that guide her management of the preserve. Under the biological
opinion written for the endangered desert tortoise, all cattle water must
be turned off in tortoise habitat when cows are no longer on an
allotment.

    Paul Hoffman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, was less
pessimistic about what could be done. "We want to take all of this
information back and see what we can do to work this out. Hopefully, we can
work this out to benefit everybody and get a win-win situation."

    Hoffman said there were a lot of competing uses and conflicting
regulations and guidelines that the park service must follow, but that
"there are a lot of flexibilities built in" that would allow for
artificial water to be maintained on the preserve.

    The meeting was held at the Hole-In-The-Wall Visitor Center in the
middle of the preserve. Afterward, I drove up Wild Horse Canyon and saw
four mule deer adjacent to one of the still-functioning windmills, and
the area was tracked up with deer sign. According to my maps, the
nearest open water for deer was a natural spring nearly four miles away.
There's no doubt in my mind, these deer would use that spring water if the
windmill and stock tank were moved, but it would reduce the available
habitat these deer could use and probably would result in lower numbers
overall. Deer, like cattle, tend to stay close to their water sources.
With lots of water they distribute and move, making their impact on the
habitat more general, making predators' jobs tougher. Their numbers
increase. This isn't rocket science.

    Some of us fail to see how this is a bad thing, especially if you
can't document significant negative impacts with the added water. It's
not like we want to add water into an environment that doesn't have
any? There are over 100 natural springs on the preserve, and the preserve
staff have agreed not to pull out the 133 small game guzzlers and six
big game guzzlers. How is the historic cattle water any different?

    The park service sees the additional water as "enhancing" the area
unnaturally for wildlife. Some would even like the guzzlers to go.
Sportsmen conservationists see enhancement and mitigation as our role. We
need to help restore some of the historic water sources and wildlife
populations that once existed in these areas. If one in six canyons has a
natural spring, what's wrong with adding water to two or three more
canyons with windmills and water tanks feeding small drinker boxes?

    At the meeting, one of those against "artificial" water suggested
that perhaps adding water for bighorn sheep wasn't a good idea. It
didn't seem to matter than on a range of mountains in the preserve that
once held only an occasional group of sheep now has a population of over
200 thanks solely to the addition of water. It didn't seem to matter
that bighorn sheep once numbered over a million in the West and now the
number is a tiny fraction of that. Adding that water was artificial and
somehow wrong.

    The difference is philosophy. Neither side is really right or
wrong, but it comes down to how you feel about our role in managing and
protecting resources. Some of believe that in today's world of impacted
environments we should be "enhancing" places like the preserve for all
300 species of plants and animals that live there -- not just endangered
species, not just game species, but all of them. The removal of cattle
and burros will be a boon for plant species and other species that
depend on those plants. Closures of many of the dirt roads will benefit
tortoises and many other species. Controlling raven numbers (at 1,500
percent of historic levels) would help so many species, protecting them
from the ravens' increased predation.

    But the decision to be proactive is sometimes the hardest one.
Burros and ravens need to be shot. That would be hugely controversial.
Vegetative management and plantings may be needed for some plant species.
But the hands-off crowd is against that. Herbicide use on non-native
plant species would be a good thing -- but impossible because of
political constraints. Removing some cattle water may even prove to benefit
some species. We don't know that to be true now, but we do know that  the
water helps many species. The preserve is an incredible resource now,
it could even be better with aggressive management that includes
enhancement. With an ever shrinking natural world, we need to optimize what we
have for wildlife. That requires a change in management philosophy for
the National Park Service, and there's not a place better for that to
start than on the Mojave National Preserve.
   
 



spectr17

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MOJAVE PRESERVE CONSIDERING KEEPING WATER -- Jim Matthews -- 22may2002

Cattle water developments may be preserved in Mojave to support native wildlife

Outdoor News Service

    KELSO -- Cattle water developments that have supported wildlife
for up to 100 years in the East Mojave may be retained even as cattle
allotments are retired. Sportsmen came away from a meeting Tuesday with
the National Park Service and Department of Interior staff heartened that
there was now at least a dialogue that could lead to the retention of
important water sources for wildlife.

    But no one was holding their breath.

    Cliff McDonald, a Needles sportsman who pulled together a diverse
coalition of sporting groups who applied pressure to retain the cattle
water development locally and through Washington D.C., said he was
disappointed that some water sources already shut down would not be
restored during this drought year. But the door was left open to retain other
water sources and even to restore those in Carruthers Canyon.

    "We got a lot of people together who should be on this issue,"
said McDonald of the representatives at the meeting, which included
Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, Safari Club, the Foundation
for North American Wild Sheep, the Mule Deer Foundation, California Deer
Association, Quail Unlimited, Western Gamebird Alliance, and California
Varmint Callers. "I feel that we made a point -- that we're not going
to roll over and just let this happen."

    But it was also clear that park superintendent Mary Martin didn't
believe the cattle water was either necessary or even allowed under
rules that guide her management of the preserve. Under the biological
opinion written for the endangered desert tortoise, all cattle water must
be turned off in tortoise habitat when cows are no longer on an
allotment.

    Paul Hoffman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, was less
pessimistic about what could be done. "We want to take all of this
information back and see what we can do to work this out. Hopefully, we can
work this out to benefit everybody and get a win-win situation."

    Hoffman said there were a lot of competing uses and conflicting
regulations and guidelines that the park service must follow, but that
"there are a lot of flexibilities built in" that would allow for
artificial water to be maintained on the preserve.

    The meeting was held at the Hole-In-The-Wall Visitor Center in the
middle of the preserve. Afterward, I drove up Wild Horse Canyon and saw
four mule deer adjacent to one of the still-functioning windmills, and
the area was tracked up with deer sign. According to my maps, the
nearest open water for deer was a natural spring nearly four miles away.
There's no doubt in my mind, these deer would use that spring water if the
windmill and stock tank were moved, but it would reduce the available
habitat these deer could use and probably would result in lower numbers
overall. Deer, like cattle, tend to stay close to their water sources.
With lots of water they distribute and move, making their impact on the
habitat more general, making predators' jobs tougher. Their numbers
increase. This isn't rocket science.

    Some of us fail to see how this is a bad thing, especially if you
can't document significant negative impacts with the added water. It's
not like we want to add water into an environment that doesn't have
any? There are over 100 natural springs on the preserve, and the preserve
staff have agreed not to pull out the 133 small game guzzlers and six
big game guzzlers. How is the historic cattle water any different?

    The park service sees the additional water as "enhancing" the area
unnaturally for wildlife. Some would even like the guzzlers to go.
Sportsmen conservationists see enhancement and mitigation as our role. We
need to help restore some of the historic water sources and wildlife
populations that once existed in these areas. If one in six canyons has a
natural spring, what's wrong with adding water to two or three more
canyons with windmills and water tanks feeding small drinker boxes?

    At the meeting, one of those against "artificial" water suggested
that perhaps adding water for bighorn sheep wasn't a good idea. It
didn't seem to matter than on a range of mountains in the preserve that
once held only an occasional group of sheep now has a population of over
200 thanks solely to the addition of water. It didn't seem to matter
that bighorn sheep once numbered over a million in the West and now the
number is a tiny fraction of that. Adding that water was artificial and
somehow wrong.

    The difference is philosophy. Neither side is really right or
wrong, but it comes down to how you feel about our role in managing and
protecting resources. Some of believe that in today's world of impacted
environments we should be "enhancing" places like the preserve for all
300 species of plants and animals that live there -- not just endangered
species, not just game species, but all of them. The removal of cattle
and burros will be a boon for plant species and other species that
depend on those plants. Closures of many of the dirt roads will benefit
tortoises and many other species. Controlling raven numbers (at 1,500
percent of historic levels) would help so many species, protecting them
from the ravens' increased predation.

    But the decision to be proactive is sometimes the hardest one.
Burros and ravens need to be shot. That would be hugely controversial.
Vegetative management and plantings may be needed for some plant species.
But the hands-off crowd is against that. Herbicide use on non-native
plant species would be a good thing -- but impossible because of
political constraints. Removing some cattle water may even prove to benefit
some species. We don't know that to be true now, but we do know that  the
water helps many species. The preserve is an incredible resource now,
it could even be better with aggressive management that includes
enhancement. With an ever shrinking natural world, we need to optimize what we
have for wildlife. That requires a change in management philosophy for
the National Park Service, and there's not a place better for that to
start than on the Mojave National Preserve.
   
 

spectr17

Administrator
Admin
Joined
Mar 11, 2001
Messages
69,596
Reaction score
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MOJAVE PRESERVE CONSIDERING KEEPING WATER -- Jim Matthews -- 22may2002

Cattle water developments may be preserved in Mojave to support native wildlife

Outdoor News Service

    KELSO -- Cattle water developments that have supported wildlife
for up to 100 years in the East Mojave may be retained even as cattle
allotments are retired. Sportsmen came away from a meeting Tuesday with
the National Park Service and Department of Interior staff heartened that
there was now at least a dialogue that could lead to the retention of
important water sources for wildlife.

    But no one was holding their breath.

    Cliff McDonald, a Needles sportsman who pulled together a diverse
coalition of sporting groups who applied pressure to retain the cattle
water development locally and through Washington D.C., said he was
disappointed that some water sources already shut down would not be
restored during this drought year. But the door was left open to retain other
water sources and even to restore those in Carruthers Canyon.

    "We got a lot of people together who should be on this issue,"
said McDonald of the representatives at the meeting, which included
Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep, Safari Club, the Foundation
for North American Wild Sheep, the Mule Deer Foundation, California Deer
Association, Quail Unlimited, Western Gamebird Alliance, and California
Varmint Callers. "I feel that we made a point -- that we're not going
to roll over and just let this happen."

    But it was also clear that park superintendent Mary Martin didn't
believe the cattle water was either necessary or even allowed under
rules that guide her management of the preserve. Under the biological
opinion written for the endangered desert tortoise, all cattle water must
be turned off in tortoise habitat when cows are no longer on an
allotment.

    Paul Hoffman, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, was less
pessimistic about what could be done. "We want to take all of this
information back and see what we can do to work this out. Hopefully, we can
work this out to benefit everybody and get a win-win situation."

    Hoffman said there were a lot of competing uses and conflicting
regulations and guidelines that the park service must follow, but that
"there are a lot of flexibilities built in" that would allow for
artificial water to be maintained on the preserve.

    The meeting was held at the Hole-In-The-Wall Visitor Center in the
middle of the preserve. Afterward, I drove up Wild Horse Canyon and saw
four mule deer adjacent to one of the still-functioning windmills, and
the area was tracked up with deer sign. According to my maps, the
nearest open water for deer was a natural spring nearly four miles away.
There's no doubt in my mind, these deer would use that spring water if the
windmill and stock tank were moved, but it would reduce the available
habitat these deer could use and probably would result in lower numbers
overall. Deer, like cattle, tend to stay close to their water sources.
With lots of water they distribute and move, making their impact on the
habitat more general, making predators' jobs tougher. Their numbers
increase. This isn't rocket science.

    Some of us fail to see how this is a bad thing, especially if you
can't document significant negative impacts with the added water. It's
not like we want to add water into an environment that doesn't have
any? There are over 100 natural springs on the preserve, and the preserve
staff have agreed not to pull out the 133 small game guzzlers and six
big game guzzlers. How is the historic cattle water any different?

    The park service sees the additional water as "enhancing" the area
unnaturally for wildlife. Some would even like the guzzlers to go.
Sportsmen conservationists see enhancement and mitigation as our role. We
need to help restore some of the historic water sources and wildlife
populations that once existed in these areas. If one in six canyons has a
natural spring, what's wrong with adding water to two or three more
canyons with windmills and water tanks feeding small drinker boxes?

    At the meeting, one of those against "artificial" water suggested
that perhaps adding water for bighorn sheep wasn't a good idea. It
didn't seem to matter than on a range of mountains in the preserve that
once held only an occasional group of sheep now has a population of over
200 thanks solely to the addition of water. It didn't seem to matter
that bighorn sheep once numbered over a million in the West and now the
number is a tiny fraction of that. Adding that water was artificial and
somehow wrong.

    The difference is philosophy. Neither side is really right or
wrong, but it comes down to how you feel about our role in managing and
protecting resources. Some of believe that in today's world of impacted
environments we should be "enhancing" places like the preserve for all
300 species of plants and animals that live there -- not just endangered
species, not just game species, but all of them. The removal of cattle
and burros will be a boon for plant species and other species that
depend on those plants. Closures of many of the dirt roads will benefit
tortoises and many other species. Controlling raven numbers (at 1,500
percent of historic levels) would help so many species, protecting them
from the ravens' increased predation.

    But the decision to be proactive is sometimes the hardest one.
Burros and ravens need to be shot. That would be hugely controversial.
Vegetative management and plantings may be needed for some plant species.
But the hands-off crowd is against that. Herbicide use on non-native
plant species would be a good thing -- but impossible because of
political constraints. Removing some cattle water may even prove to benefit
some species. We don't know that to be true now, but we do know that  the
water helps many species. The preserve is an incredible resource now,
it could even be better with aggressive management that includes
enhancement. With an ever shrinking natural world, we need to optimize what we
have for wildlife. That requires a change in management philosophy for
the National Park Service, and there's not a place better for that to
start than on the Mojave National Preserve.
   
 

Mojave

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The environmentalists' argument that adding water sources to the desert environment is "unnatural", is a lot of hogwash. The water table in that region has been unnaturally lowered by agricultural and other human activity over the past 100 years, drying up many historic natural water sources. In the Antelope Valley of Northern L.A., Kern and S.B. counties for example, the groundwater subsidance since ag activities tapped into the aquifer in the early 1900's, has been over 200 feet. This dried up virtually all artesian springs in the valley, with a resulting plummet in wildlife populations. It is incredible how dramatically the simple addition of an available source of free water in this open desert environment affects the variety and numbers of game and nongame animals, on a local level.
 


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