Conservation groups seeking volunteers for water projects


By JIM MATTHEWS www.OutdoorNewsService.com

As hunting seasons wind down this month, hunter-conservation groups in the region are seeking volunteers for an energetic slate of projects to create, restore, and enhance water sources for wildlife across this arid region.

“This is a great way for hunters to give back to the wildlife,” said Gary Thomas with the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep. “Our work projects and making our efforts a success depends on volunteers. Water sources have disappeared all over the region and our job is to get water restored so the sheep and other wildlife don’t disappear.”

Thomas said the Sheep Society has scheduled its first work project of the year for the weekend of Feb. 20-22 to restore a developed spring in the Marble Mountains east of Amboy. The volunteers will be cleaning out dirt and mud that has washed into the spring the last few years, replace water collection pick-ups, and -- if time permits -- prepare a pad for a new tank to be installed later this year.

Other project dates will be March 27-29 and April 24-26. There will also be a May project, but dates aren’t set on that one yet. Ongoing drought will also mean that the Sheep Society (and many of the other groups) will be spending a lot of time hauling water to tanks and guzzlers (man-made water catchments for wildlife) this spring and summer. For information on the work projects, contact Gary Thomas at dezman7@outlook.com or g.cranky@verizon.net. If you are interested in helping haul water to wildlife drinkers, you will need to have a four-wheel drive truck, call Terry Anderson at 760-408-7118.

Water for Wildlife, started and run by Cliff McDonald, said his fledgling group will be starting its 10th year of conservation work in the east Mojave Desert, and that it will be expanding its range into the Eastern Sierra Nevada this year with a project just north of Bishop.

“I can’t wait to start another year,” said McDonald. “The Water for Wildlife volunteers worked hard in 2014, and they did it all for nothing but a thank-you and some food around a campfire.”

McDonald said the first project weekend will be Feb. 13-15 in the east Mojave near Needles just south of Water Road of Interstate 40. The next projects will be March 20-22, April 17-19, and May 15-17, all on the Mojave National Preserve. The last project of the year will be Jun 12-17 to repair four guzzlers north of Bishop on Bureau of Land Management lands. For more information on any of these projects, contact Cliff McDonald at 760-449-4820 or at bigmc@citlink.net.

The Santa Clarita Valley Chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation has “planned to make bold moves to restore, upgrade and build over a dozen wildlife water guzzlers in the Angeles and Los Padres National forests” in 2015, according to Derek Fong, chairman of the group that has been restoring and creating new water sources for 20 years.

“There's a five-year plan to restore as many as 40 more guzzlers. This is a ‘ground-breaking’ program and the only thing we lack is more strong backs,” said Fong.

Fong said the drought is the number one reason why the club and its supporters are focusing so much attention on water sources now. The club has lined up funding to buy materials and equipment from federal and state government along with private dollars. “Our local [county] Fish and Game Commission has supported these programs more than any other County commission in Southern California,” said Fong.

“Since the 1940's, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, and many conservation groups have built hundreds of guzzlers here in Southern California. There are so many from Bakersfield to San Diego, I could start five new chapters just to maintain the existing known units,” said Fong, sounding the call for more volunteers.

Fong said the SCVQUWF project dates are being set now and volunteers should contact John Nelson at 661-253-4091 or jnelson@scvquwf.com or Derek Fong at 661-733-1740 or dfong@scvquwf.com to volunteer and get more information. The club’s website at http://www.scvquwf.com will also have a schedule and contact information.

The San Gabriel Valley Quail Forever Chapter also has a complete slate of projects in the Angeles National Forest and west Mojave Desert this year. Habitat work days are Feb. 21, March 21, April 18, May 16, and June 20 for the first half of this year. Contact Robert Armijo at 626-919-7663 or Dave Ramirez at 626-287-5113 for details and to volunteer. The club’s website also has more information at http://sangabrielvalleyquailforever.org/.

The High Desert Chapter of Quail Forever is finishing up final paperwork to get grant money from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife this year to continue with its extensive guzzler restoration and spring development work in the west Mojave Desert. As soon as this is completely, the club’s habitat leaders -- Neil Ringlee and John Shaver – said they plan to start back up this club’s program in February once they can purchase materials. To volunteer here, contact Ringlee at 760-245 6034 (or nrringlee@yahoo.com) or Shaver at 760 217-7898.

Petition to keep trout

plants at 2014 levels

An on-line petition to lobby the state legislature to keep trout plant funding at 2014 levels by giving the Department of Fish and Wildlife access to the inland fisheries hatchery fund has been created by Allan Sharp, the former owner of the Big Bear Lake Marina on Chang.org.

Sharp’s petition is in response to the news that the DFW would be reducing trout plants by 50 percent for 2015. This is because the legislature has not yet given the agency access to the special hatchery fund (as it did for the past three years). The DFW is seeking permanent access to this fund rather than having the legislature authorize or not authorize use of the money.

The money is allocated from the DFW budget into this fund each year, but not spending the money is a stunt by the legislature to say they have made budget cuts. The reality is that the “cuts” do not save the state money. It is merely a book-keeping stunt.

To sign the petition go to change.org and search “restoring trout plants.” The look for “Grant DFW access to Hatchery and Inland Fisheries Fund.” This is the direct link: https://www.change.org/p/mike-morrell-jay-obernolte-edmund-g-brown-john-laird-grant-dfw-access-to-hatchery-and-inland-fisheries-fund?recruiter=73784239&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=des-lg-share_petition-reason_msg&utm_content=rp_petition_fb_share_desc:control.

Two giant rainbows

caught in past week

Two behemoth rainbow trout were caught at two different Southern California lakes over the past week. The first was a 15-pound rainbow landed by John Estrada of Victorville at Hesperia Lakes, and the second was a 20-pound, three-ounce rainbow landed George Tebelekian of Los Angeles. Tebelekian’s fish is the largest rainbow landed in Southern California during our urban trout season.

Both big trout were caught on pretty standard trout fishing far. Estrada was fishing with rainbow PowerBait when his big fish hit, while Tebelekian was fishing with a Trout King plastic trout worm.

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