September 18, 2007

BLM Issues Decision to Provide Water to Bighorn


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued a decision authorizing the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) to place a wildlife guzzler (an artificial water source) in the Sheephole Valley Wilderness in southeastern San Bernardino County, about 20 miles east of Twentynine Palms, to provide needed water to desert bighorn sheep.

Sterling White, BLM’s Needles Field Manager, said the decision carefully balances the needs of maintaining healthy bighorn sheep populations with minimizing impacts to designated wilderness. “When water is recognized as a limiting factor for the health of a desert bighorn sheep population, and in the absence of documented adverse impacts of water developments, proponents of bighorn sheep believe water developments should be a component of effective bighorn sheep management. To do otherwise will continue to place bighorn sheep populations at risk for extirpation,” he stated.

The decision cites authority for this action as Section 4 of the 1964 Wilderness Act and Section 103 of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act. Copies of the decision have been mailed to all those who commented on the draft issued in February 2007. The environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact, and decision record can be found at

BLM issued a similar decision in 2003, which was appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. Based on concerns about cumulative impacts of other potential projects in the California Desert, BLM requested the case be remanded back to review its longer-term management perspective for the area. Since then, BLM has been working with CDFG, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and interest groups to better clarify the need and impacts of guzzlers throughout the Desert.

For more information regarding the decision, contact Stephen Razo, BLM California Desert District Public Affairs at (951) 697-5217.