January 30, 2006

Mojave Preserve -- better than ever

After last year's fire, flooding
park is making dramatic comeback

By TRACIE TROHA, Staff Writer
Victorville Daily Press

MOJAVE PRESERVE — After a long recovery from a fire that damaged 71,000 acres, the Mojave National Preserve has come back as strong as ever.

With assistance from federal funds totaling $1,084,000, the preserve has repaired damaged roads, reopened the campground and taken measures to prevent erosion.

Park Ranger Linda Slater said preparations are also underway for the grand opening ceremony of the Kelso Depot information center in March.

Slater said the fire that burned through the preserve last June was sparked by lighting from a storm.
"No rain accompanied the storm and the fire really took off," she said.

Slater said the campground suffered the most damage from the fire, with two-thirds of the area destroyed. It took months for crews to remove the dead trees and debris and replace the picnic tables. The campground opened to the public again last month.

Following the fire, the preserve experienced a rainy season that caused flooding and washed out several roads.

"The roads have been re-graded so visitors can travel through the park," Slater said.

Slater said bundles of hay bales also had to be placed around archeological sites to prevent damage from rain water.

"Mines that were over 100 years old were burned in the fire," Slater said. "They had to be reevaluated and those that were considered unstable had to be protected so people wouldn't go into them."

Slater said the federal funds are also being used to help restore lost vegetation on a rancher's property.

"We are fencing off a section of his lot to protect the fragile first-year growth," she said.

The preserve's general plan indicates natural areas damaged by fires, earthquakes or flooding would be left undisturbed unless there is a threat to public safety or endangered species. Non-native plants and animals that could take over these areas, however, may be managed or eradicated if deemed necessary.

Since the fire and the rehabilitation projects, Slater said the preserve has enjoyed a resurgence of visitors.

The preserve has been welcoming up to 300 visitors on Sundays and between 100 to 200 visitors on weekdays.

"People are really enjoying it," she said.

January 14, 2006

Fish/Game seeks guzzlers for Mojave Preserve

News West

Mohave Valley News [Laughlin, NV]

NEEDLES - A proposal first floated by the California Department of Fish and Game to restore artificial water sources in the Mojave National Preserve has finally reached the public comment stage.

The state agency began meeting with the National Park Service in the summer of 2004 regarding the proposal to retrofit 12 former ranch wells in the Mojave National Preserve as wildlife guzzlers.

Ranchers raised cattle for many decades in what became the preserve in 1994. They drilled wells to provide water for their cattle. One well was first developed in the 1860s and many of them date to the dominant period of the Rock Springs Land and Cattle Company between 1894 and 1927, according to the park service.

Cattle ranchers turned their wells on and off to move cattle around, according to the park service, to keep them from overgrazing in a particular area.

Most of the larger grazing leases in the preserve have been retired, and the ranchers have shut off their wells and removed much of the above-ground equipment.

Wildlife have come to depend on the water sources initially developed for cattle and the state agency believes that the shutdown has had a detrimental effect on wildlife populations.

The state agency proposes to transform 12 ranch wells into guzzlers over a three-year period, for use by mule deer and other wildlife. The guzzlers would be filled by well water pumped into a holding tank. Generators would be carried to each guzzler periodically to refill the tank. The drinkers themselves would be placed a foot or two off the ground to keep desert tortoises from crawling into them.

Routine monitoring would try to prevent an incident similar to the one in 1995 when lambs fell into a guzzler on Old Dad Peak. The lambs' decomposing bodies poisoned the water drunk by other bighorn sheep, ultimately killing 38 sheep.

The park service has called for public comment on three possible alternatives: take no action, leaving the shut-down wells as they are; permitting the state agency to proceed with its proposal; and leaving things as they are while further scientific studies are conducted.

The park service has issued an environmental assessment that compares these three alternatives. According to the service, the assessment was distributed to libraries, but the Needles Branch Library did not receive a copy.

A copy of the assessment is available at www.nps. gov/moja and by request from Superintendent, Mojave National Preserve, 2701 Barstow Road, Barstow CA 92311. Public comments on the proposal must be postmarked by Jan. 31 and sent to this address or to MOJA_Superintendent@nps.gov.