May 13, 2011

Water plan being developed for Mojave National Preserve

Restored game guzzler near Goffs, March 25, 2009. (Chris S. Ervin)
By KAREN JONAS, staff writer
Barstow Desert Dispatch

MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE • The National Park Service is seeking public input for a plan to manage water sources in the Mojave National Preserve.

The plan will focus on what will be done about abandoned above-ground water sources — such as abandoned wells, former stock ponds, springs, previous development by ranchers, and artificial water sources for wildlife that are already in use, said Linda Slater, public information officer for the Mojave National Preserve. The proposed plan also includes water sources below ground.

Slater said that many of the ranchers who previously used the preserve are now gone and have left behind many of their abandoned water structures. The preserve needed to develop a comprehensive plan so it already has a game plan when it comes to water issues instead of resolving issues on a case-by-case basis.

The plan will most likely include at least four alternatives developed with the help of public comment — including taking no action on the water sources, said Slater.

The large water sources mainly affect bighorn sheep and mule deer, said Slater. The artificial water sources were mainly intended for bighorn sheep and are currently maintained by a bighorn sheep conservationist group, said Slater.

A study was started in 2008 to determine the effect on mule deer when water sources were opened for them, said Slater. Researchers would shut off water sources and turn them on again over periods of time. They fitted mule deer with radio tracking collars to determine their location when the water sources were either off or on. The study is still underway and Slater did not have preliminary results on Friday.

The plans to possibly open up more water sources to wildlife is complex and the preserve wants to make sure that it isn’t locked into anything that would lead to problems, said Slater. She said the scientist who is leading the study on the mule deer wants the plan to be flexible, so it can be adapted as more information is gathered on the complex relationship between water and wildlife.

It will most likely be months before the plan is put into place, said Slater. There will be a number of scoping meetings in nearby areas, including one in Barstow this June. Public comments on the plan will be accepted until July 11 and an environmental impact statement will be developed after the public comment period is over.

For more information on the plan, visit