March 30, 2009

Conservationists restore East Mojave guzzlers

Guzzler #S-18 near Goffs, California. (Chris Ervin)

by Leslie Ervin
Exclusive Field Report

Goffs, CA -- The Goffs Cultural Center provided camping facilities for an important work group during the weekend of March 27-29. Cliff McDonald of Needles, California, and XX of his volunteers staged their operations at Goffs while they made day trips to repair five wildlife water guzzlers in the area.

What is a wildlife water guzzler, you ask? Guzzlers come in many shapes and sizes and are made of different materials depending on the wildlife population they are intended to serve. The ones in this area consist of a concrete slab that collects rainwater and funnels it into an underground tank. The tank is covered and has a sloped opening that allows animals and other creatures to walk in and out to reach the water. Guzzlers are vital to desert wildlife like deer, bobcat, coyote, cougar, quail, bighorn sheep, and desert tortoise.

Most of the local guzzlers were built decades ago and over time they develop cracks and collect debris, which makes them less effective. Cliff’s volunteers come prepared with trucks full of equipment to make the appropriate repairs. The work first involves prepping the pad. Chippers are used to clean off the old sealant and then QUIKRETE concrete bonding adhesive is applied to the cracks. Two coats of Merlex are then applied over 24 hours to seal the pad so the water 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.

On Saturday, my husband Chris and I were interested in witnessing this work firsthand, so we took a break from our weeding at Goffs and drove to the closest worksite, just two miles up Mountain Springs Road. When we arrived at guzzler #S-18, they had already fixed the cracks in the pad and were cleaning out the tank. Since this guzzler happened to be in a particularly lush area of spring flowers, we wandered around a bit to take photos. When we returned, they had finished sealing the pad and were moving on to the next work site. You can see how nice the guzzlers look when they finish.

Finished guzzler #S-18. (Leslie Ervin)

The group assembled at Goffs consisted of volunteers from the High Desert Chapter #759 of Quail Unlimited, the California Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, and…. On Saturday and Sunday they divided into work groups and headed out to the guzzlers. They even brought along a cooking crew who whipped up such delicacies as eggs and elk sausage and elk burgers. Those of us fortunate enough to be at Goffs during that time enjoyed exchanging sleepy pre-dawn greetings and friendly waves as their caravans rolled back into camp at the end of the day.

Cliff has been the driving force behind restoration of water sources inside the Mojave National Preserve and surrounding areas. He coordinates with groups like Quail Unlimited, the Safari Club, the Bureau of Land Management, and California Fish and Game to accomplish this important work. He was recently honored with a $5,000 grant as one of three finalists in the 2009 Budweiser Conservationist of the Year Award sponsored by Budweiser and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

If you are interested in helping this worthy cause by volunteering or making a donation, you can contact Cliff at 760-326-2935.