February 21, 2013

Water for Desert Wildlife comes at an expense

Jim Niemiec
Western Outdoor News

Mother Nature has blessed the high desert with more than a normal amount of rain thus far this year, in addition to laying down some snow at higher elevations and freezing pockets of water in the crags of lava and granite rock. After last year's rather dismal inches of rain in the desert regions across California, Arizona and even up into northeastern Nevada, upland game bird hunters had to work hard at even finding small coveys of native chukar at higher elevations. Bird hunters that headed out after quail did a little better finding coveys of birds but they were small coveys and not near the number that a scatter gunner would hope for.

GUZZLER IN NEED OF REPAIR — This high desert guzzler is need of attention to provide desert wildlife with fresh water.

Down in Baja California and over to Baja Norte there was better rain that produced a good crop of California Valley quail for the San Telmo Valley and other arroyos south of Ensenada. Mexicali enjoyed good gunning for native pheasant and all three species of dove, but quail numbers were down. Clear down in Los Mochis there was excellent dove hunting for mourning and white-winged dove, blue pigeons and lots of ducks. One reason that Mexico seems to offer up good numbers of birds is all the farming that takes place, which brings along fresh water to irrigate and vast marshes flushed with seeds carried on to the wetlands by way of canals.

One outstanding organization that is working countless hours to bring life back to the high desert in general, the Mohave National Preserve and Bureau of Land Management holdings is the Water for Wildlife Project.

There were a total of 6 projects in 2012 starting with one in Goffs. During the course of the year Water for Wildlife volunteers completely restored 10 wildlife drinkers/guzzlers, rehabbed 3 others, Blue Maxed and patched 5 underground tanks, changed the oil in 3 windmills, buried 100 ft. of plastic pipe to prevent the public from removing a water source, installed a 100 gallon plastic tank inside an old windmill, dug out three springs and got the water flowing, built and installed two ramps for the wildlife to access the water, plus hauling over 4,000 gallons of water to the drinkers!

Cliff McDonald heads up Water for Wildlife and gathers many volunteers and supporters together and also coordinates the collection and transportation of products, material, and food that is used to bring a sustainable water supply in the desert for wildlife.

VOLUNTEERS WORKING ON A GUZZLER — These volunteers are active in Water for Wildlife and donate many man-hours to bring fresh water to the normally dry and vast desert.

Water for Wildlife has scheduled 5 more projects for 2013 and they are: Feb. Mojave National Preserve, Mar. BLM near Essex, April BLM near Essex or Mojave National Preserve, May Mojave National Preserve and June the Mojave National Preserve.

To give a person a perspective on how much material is required to repair guzzlers for the use of wildlife in the desert McDonald totaled up products and costs for 2012 projects: Concrete surfacing material cost $4,000, Merlex cost $400, Concrete ran $400, Tank cost $100,
Hydro-seal was $200, Misc. supplies and tools totaled $200 and there was another $1,000 spent on food to feed the many volunteers bringing the total expenditures for Water for Wildlife projects to $6,350, and this does not include the donated man hours, vehicle use, gas and the many other support items donated by members of this conservation group.

There were over 2000 man hours donated to Water for Wildlife projects last year, some behind the scene work and including financial donations which helped bring it all together.

Western Outdoor News thought it would be a good idea to report on one of the projects completed by Water for Wildlife in June of last year. The following is a recap of the events that took place on the Blair Ranch, which might give readers a good feeling of the valuable work being done by this organization.

June 2012 Review - Fifty-four volunteers showed up for the last project of the year. Friday morning around 8 a.m. Josh and I arrived at the camp site on the Blair Ranch. Lyle, Jim, Frank, BL and Doug had already been working on projects the previous three days. These guys finished one drinker, rehabbed another and hauled 2,500 gallons of water to the site ---they worked their butts off.

FINISHED GUZZLER READY FOR WILDLIFE — This guzzler has been rehabbed and is now ready to provide drinking water for desert wildlife. Many successful projects have been completed by volunteers and supporters of Water for Wildlife.

Myself, along with several volunteers headed out to dig and bury 100 feet of water line, the location for this dig was about 50 miles from our camp site at Marl Springs. Another crew headed south to dig out another spring, while the third crew ventured into the desert to work on another wildlife drinker. Lots of work was done this day and the crews managed to complete all projects that were scheduled for that weekend. We all returned back to camp and again the cooks and waiters were working hard making sure we were all were served a great dinner of ranch fed cattle hamburgers with all the trimmings, including BBQ beans, corn on the cob and Marie's famous per salad. We were also treated to an appetizer table that was overflowing with treats. Jim's homemade cheese-balls, homemade salsas, chips, 7 layer bean dip and pinwheel wraps. Topping off dinner after a full day of working in the desert there were 5 different kinds of homemade pies to choose from along with whipped cream topping...as told by Cliff McDonald.

Water for Wildlife receives a lot of support from many people and companies. A few that have been with this conservation project for many years include: CA Deer Association, Orange County Chapter of SCI, Predator Callers of Orange County, Quail Forever and Quail Unlimited, Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep and the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation. Other companies supporting this valuable service to wildlife in the desert include; Alpen Optics, Barstow Wheel and Tire, H20asis (ice) Hargus Disposal, Daniel's Septic and the many volunteers that devote meaningful hours to Water for Wildlife.

To find out more about Water for Wildlife, future projects and how to get involved in their conservation projects call Cliff McDonald at (760) 449-4820 or contact him by way of his email at bigmc@ctaz.com.