Lip service or sweat equity? How to do things that matter for local wildlife
By JIM MATTHEWS
Though social media and the Internet, we can keep up our friends -- and with the enemy.
Who is the enemy? For hunters and fishermen and our nation’s wildlife, it is anyone who by design, stupidity, or indifference allows or orchestrates programs that ban hunting or fishing or negatively impact wildlife and its habitat. (If that seems like an oxymoron to you, you are part of the enemy because you just don’t understand.)
About twice a week, I get e-mail “alerts” from the Center for Biological Diversity’s Kieran Suckling begging for money to “stop the wolf slaughter” or “end sport killing” of something or other. They target people who have no idea wolf populations are growing by leaps and bounds or that regulated hunting as it exists today doesn’t and won’t impact any species at a population level. Regulated hunting is like a coyote killing rabbits; both the humans and coyotes are both skimming the surplus nature produces. But if you read Suckling’s plea, you would believe wolves are about to be shot into extinction or that hunters are evil creatures who have an unquenchable blood lust. They are lies.
But stupid people do believe his pleas. They send money to CBD (or one of dozens of other similar groups) hoping they are helping wildlife -- and if you are one of those people, I’m sorry if I offend you, but you are stupid. People like Suckling are lining their pockets and socking your money away in their retirement accounts and using the rest to sue state and federal wildlife agencies, forcing them to hire attorneys with money that should be used in the field for wildlife and habitat. They interfere with ongoing programs to restore or enhance wildlife populations. Rarely do they do anything that benefits wildlife on the regulatory side of things. Never, and I mean never, do they actually do anything to help wildlife in the field.
But I also received an e-mail this past week from Cliff McDonald, who is the ramrod who started and acts at the benevolent Godfather of a group called Water for Wildlife. This is a loose knit group of volunteers who like to camp together in the desert and do actual things on the ground that benefit wildlife that lives in the parched and beautiful country known as the Mojave Desert. They are the antithesis of CDB.
This past weekend (Feb 19-21), 31 volunteers busted their hump to completely restore three guzzlers in the East Mojave. (Editor’s note: A guzzler is a permanent man-made water catchment that collects and stores water year-around for wildlife use.) One guzzler was non-functioning, nearly completely destroyed by time and vandals, and it required a complete rebuild (before and after photos above). The other two were in need of major refurbishing. After the work, all three drinkers were also filled with 300 gallons of water each so they didn’t have to wait for El Niño or monsoon rains to fill up. There were a total of 341 hours of time invested by the 31 volunteers (not including their travel time). What few donations received by Water for Wildlife (the short, descriptive name for the Society for the Protection and Care of Wildlife) are used to purchase material and equipment to complete these efforts. Truth be told, usually the volunteers end up throwing $20 bills into a hat to go get a used tire for a work trailer that was ruined by a slice to a sidewall or an extra couple of bags of concrete.
If you actually want to make a difference for wildlife, you can donate to or volunteer with the Water for Wildlife crew. The next project will be March 18-20 in the Goffs area, followed by projects April 8-10 and May 13-15 in the Clark and Kingston mountains region. You can get more information on Water for Wildlife’s projects and upcoming events on the website at http://www.waterforwildlifeemd.com/ or on the group’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/WaterForWildlife/. You can also contact Cliff McDonald at 760-449-4820 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Water for Wildlife isn’t the only option for people who actually want to spend their money and time on projects that actually benefit the critters. There are at least a half-dozen chapters of the Quail Forever (from Bakersfield to San Diego) that have their noses in the dirt this time of year restoring or building guzzlers, springs, or other water sources. Habitat improvement projects (usually non-native plant removal) are also ongoing efforts with these local groups, and Quail Forever volunteers are also planting wildlife food plots now at many state wildlife areas.
The Santa Clarita Valley Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation received a grant this year to repair 17 guzzlers in the San Gabriel Mountains and into the west Mojave Desert, but they need volunteers to help with the labor. These water sources have not been maintained since the 1960s and many are not functioning.
The Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (mentioned in last week’s outdoor package) is coordinating this Sunday’s bighorn sheep survey in the San Gabriel Mountains, and it has other water work projects scheduled for this spring, and there is an ongoing monitoring program that always needs volunteers.
All of these groups can be found with simple Internet searches, but if you have trouble with finding a local organization that is doing good things for wildlife (or you want feedback on one not listed here), don’t hesitate to give me a call (909-887-3444) or send an e-mail (email@example.com). I’ll be happy to help steer you in the right direction.
And if you get an e-mail from Kieran Suckling asking for your money with an emotion-filled plea, delete that e-mail and send your check to one of these local groups who are actually helping wildlife.
Redding artist wins 2016
upland stamp art contest
Roberta “Roby” Baer of Redding became the first California artist since 2011 to win the Upland Game Bird Stamp Art Contest conducted annually by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The artwork of a male ringneck pheasant with a Brittany spaniel on point in the background will adorn this year’s collectable Upland Bird Stamp.
All upland bird and dove hunters in California are required to purchase an upland bird stamp validation. In the past, the stamp was pasted on hunting licenses to show the purchase was made, but under the new digital license age, hunters simply purchase the “upland validation.” Knowing that many hunters collect the original stamps, the DFW has continued to have the stamp competition and print stamps for collectors. They may be purchased by collectors, and hunters can request the printed stamp be mailed to them when they purchase their hunting license and upland validation.
The DFW used to print over 200,000 upland stamps per year, but with the new automated licenses that include the stamp validation, only about 17,000 stamps are requested and printed each year now, increasing their collector value.
The money generated through the sale of the 175,000 Upland Game Bird Stamps sold to hunters is earmarked just for upland game bird-related conservation projects, hunting opportunities, and outreach and education programs. However, the DFW’s funding of upland related work has actually declined since the stamp program began in 1993. The DFW has diverted funding that once came from the Fish and Game Preservation Fund (license sales and federal grant money) and back-filled with the upland stamp monies. The intent of the stamp was to increase upland bird funding, but ironically it has had the opposite effect.
Artists from across the nation submitted original art for the competition. This year’s art called for a ring-necked pheasant as the main subject in a natural background.
Four anti-gun bills to be heard
in first committee on Tuesday
Four anti-gun bills in this year’s legislative session in California will get their first hearing on Tuesday this week in the Assembly Committee on Public Safety.
AB 1663 and AB 1664 are similar bills that would expand the current definition of “assault weapon” to include all semi-automatic centerfire rifles with detachable magazines.
AB 1673 would ban the sale of the popular “80 percent” receivers by expanding the definition of “firearm” to include an unfinished frame or receiver that can be “readily converted to the functional condition of a finished frame or receiver.”
AB 1674 would expand the “one handgun per month” law to include all firearms. It would prohibit anyone from purchasing more than one firearm during any 30-day period.
The National Rifle Association says “these egregious bills would do nothing to reduce California’s violent crime rate or stop criminals from breaking the law.”
The NRA is encouraging all gun owners to contact the committee members and urge them to kill these bills in committee. The assembly members are chairman Bill Quirk (D) at 916-319-2020 or firstname.lastname@example.org, vice-chair Melissa Melendez (R) at 916- 319-2067 or email@example.com, Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D) at 916-319-2059 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Tom Lackey (R) at 916-319-2036 or email@example.com, or Patty López (D) at 916-319-2039 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-887-3444.]