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Needles BLM office reverses ban on guzzler maintenance


The Needles office of the Bureau of Land Management has reversed its decision to ban repair and maintenance of man-made desert water catchments – called guzzlers – that provide important water for wildlife in the arid Mojave Desert.

Office staff, concerned the routine maintenance might violate federal law regarding “cultural and historical resources,” halted the volunteer Water for Wildlife project early this month. But on Tuesday this week, Mike Ahrens, the field manager of the Needles Field Office, lifted the ban on the guzzler work.

In a letter to Cliff McDonald, who coordinates the guzzler maintenance for Water for Wildlife, Ahrens wrote, “Through our review we have determined that your proposed maintenance projects fall within the scope of activities covered in the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding between the Bureau of Land Management and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on wildlife management activities.

“Additionally we have determined that your group size, schedule of events, and access to public lands all mimic that of casual use within the California Desert. Therefore no further action is required from the BLM.”

The BLM had promised McDonald a meeting to discuss the ban the second week of March, but the Ahrens reiterated that it would be at least a year before the work could be fully evaluated and continue.

McDonald was surprised by dramatic and abrupt turn around, but it was welcome news to the wildlife volunteers who do work the BLM and state Department of Fish and Wildlife don’t have the money or manpower to complete routine maintenance on these existing wildlife drinkers.

“We’ve been arguing all along that our work was simply maintenance of existing facilities, and permission had been given for us to do this work for the past 11 years. We didn’t understand what had changed,” said McDonald.

McDonald didn’t have details on what happened to reverse the BLM decision.

With the green light given for the guzzler work, McDonald scrambled to get the originally scheduled April 6-9 work project back on the slate, and he was able to rustle up enough volunteers to move forward with this effort. This project will finish the restoration of four guzzlers on BLM land near Goffs, and more volunteers would be a help. You can call McDonald at 760-449-4820 or e-mail him at to get details about the project and directions to the volunteer camping area.

Hands-on Shooting Sport Fair cancelled

The Raahauge’s Shooting Sports Fair, the only hands-on gun show in the West, has been cancelled for 2017 because a fire earlier this year destroyed many of the range facilities and repairs will not be done in time to hold this year’s event.

In a letter sent to vendors this week, Elaine Raahauge wrote, “Since the fire, we have been feverishly at the task of rebuilding and redesigning our facility to meet the ever-higher demands of the shooting community we serve…. Sadly, and mostly for reasons beyond our control, we have determined that the redesign, rebuilding, and refurbishing of our facility cannot and will not be completed in time for the Sports Fair.”

The Sports Fair, sponsored by Turner’s Outdoorsman in recent years, has been held 33 times over the past four decades, but there have been cancellations in the recent years when not enough ammunition was available to hold the event.

Raahauge said this year’s cancellation is merely a postponement until 2018 when the facility-rebuild is complete.

Annual California Deer Association banquet May 6

The California Deer Association’s Southern California Chapter will have its 16th annual fundraising banquet Saturday, May 6, and the San Bernardino Elks Lodge. There is just a single CDA chapter in the southern part of the state and the dinner will feature both live and silent auctions, a general raffle, and a junior raffle.

Dinner tickets, which include dinner and a one-year membership to CDA, are $75 per person or $125 per couple. Juniors are just $40 each. There are three levels of early bird bonus packages for special gun raffles, and they are only available if purchased before April 15.

The CDA is the only conservation organization focused on improving California deer herds with on-the-ground projects throughout the state and funding major research to benefit deer. An update on the Southern California chapter’s field efforts will be outlined at the banquet.

For more information, contact Dave Mahosky at 951-237-0573.


[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 909-887-3444.]

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