August 21, 2008

Needles man up for conservation award

San Bernardino Sun

Cliff McDonald, a tenacious Needles hunter-conservationist who almost single handedly beat back the National Park Service's attempt to remove all man-made water sources from the Mojave National Preserve, has been named one of four finalists for the Budweiser Conservationist of the Year award.

The award carries a $50,000 prize and just being a finalist means McDonald will win at least $5,000 to further his efforts.

Besides battling former Park Superintendent Mary Martin over the shutting down of over 100 water sources used by wildlife in the preserve, and eventually winning, McDonald has now been at the forefront of organizing manpower, equipment and money to refurbish and restore the water sources that were shut down and those that were degrading. It was also at his prodding that the Park Service agreed to study the importance and impact of these water sources of wildlife, focusing the study on desert mule deer.

"Thanks to Cliff's persistence and quality volunteer service, the National Park Service has not only withdrawn its resistance but has gradually become a participant and supporter of the effort to provide these important water sources," said Anna Siedman of Safari Club International. "In the East Mojave, Cliff is wildlife's greatest champion."

It was also announced this week that McDonald won the Californian of the Year Award given by the Outdoor Writers Association of California (OWAC) for his efforts in the Mojave.

Jerry Springer, a long-time California writer and hunter who runs the online magazine from his Fresno home, nominated McDonald for the OWAC award.

"This all started in the fall of 2002 when it became obvious to Cliff that something bad was going on in the Preserve," Springer said. "He saw empty water tanks and started asking questions and found out that the staff of the Preserve was allowing over 100 water sources to go dry.

"That's when McDonald started his one-man campaign of letter writing, testifying at numerous meetings and informing wildlife organizations, in his attempt to save the wildlife of the Preserve."

When McDonald first started his restoration efforts, it was just him and a couple of buddies from Needles filling gamebird guzzlers with water or making sure desert springs had pools of water where wildlife could drink.

Today, McDonald's e-mail list of helpers is over 400 individuals long, and he's pulled together groups and individuals to create a diverse coalition.

He's managed to have Quail Unlimited, California Deer Association, Safari Club, and Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep volunteers working together on "McDonald projects," as they've come to be called.

There was and really is no name for McDonald's "group." In fact, the group is doing a major work project this weekend at Camp Cady, a state wildlife area east of Barstow.

Since McDonald started the effort, the group has repaired and refurbished 52 guzzlers and six springs, contributed more than 3,200 hours of labor, and raised more than $22,000 worth of equipment and materials for these efforts.

The list for this coming year of work is already long, targeting 40 guzzlers for repairs on and off the Preserve. There are also plans hatching for the installation of new water sources for wildlife.

Five grand will be a big help toward that work. But $50,000 would be enormous. McDonald will turn either amount into about 10 times their value in on-the-ground effort. You can count on that.

The public votes on the four finalists on the Budweiser Web site, determining who gets the $50,000. While the site wasn't set up to accept votes yet or the process delineated, I'll keep you posted on when the voting opens.

Water For Wildlife Guzzler Repair
Mojave National Preserve
December 2007

This video is about Water For Wildlife, a group of volunteers who maintain the water guzzlers in the Mojave NP in CA. This repair was on the B-18 guzzler near Goffs CA.

The work involves prepping the pad, the big flat part that catches the rain first. Chippers are used to clean off the old sealant and then Quickcrete concrete bonding adhesive is applied to the cracks. 2 coats or Merlex are then applied over 24 hours to seal the pad so the water all runs down into the underground water tank. The tank is also cleaned out and tortoise nets are installed so the tortoises can get out of the tank.

These water guzzlers are vital to the desert wildlife like the deer, bobcat, coyote, cougar, quail, bighorn sheep and desert tortoise.

Great food was served by the group and a raffle was held Saturday night to raise money for supplies to maintain the guzzlers.

Temps were in the low 40s at night and 60s during the day.

Huge thanks go out to CDA (California Deer Association), QU (Quail Unimited) SCBS (Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep), SCI (Safari Club International), Bass Pro, DFG, BLM, PCOC (Predator Caller of Orange Co.), CA FNAWS and other groups that supplied gear, volunteers or other help.

We need more volunteers and it's a great campout in the desert.

For more info on Water For Wildlife please contact Cliff McDonald at 760-326-2935.