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Bringing Water to the Desert and to Desert Bighorns!

November 22, 2017
posted in: News

Bozeman, Montana – November 22, 2017: Partnering with the Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS) and the California Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation (CA-WSF), the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) and more than 45 volunteers labored for two days recently under the southern California sun to construct what is known as the Lava Guzzler, situated on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.

In what some locals categorized as perhaps the driest place in North America, this water development project included prepping a rainwater collection apron, excavating, installing, and plumbing two huge water storage tanks with built-in drinkers, and reclaiming the disturbed area as much as possible, using only a variety of hand tools.

Without these precious water developments, desert bighorns would struggle for survival, and many desert mountain ranges in southern California would be void of desert bighorn sheep. According to California Wild Sheep Foundation President Darryl Williams, “desert bighorn require about 4% of their body mass in water per day, drinking at least once every three days.” Additionally, “desert bighorn normally do not move more than a few miles a day to seek forage, water, and escape terrain,” added Williams.

“Strategically locating water developments across the desert links scattered desert bighorn sheep habitats,” stated Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep President Steve Marschke. Added Marschke, “depending on remoteness and difficulty in accessing work sites, these guzzlers cost $25,000-35,000 apiece to install, and periodic maintenance is required to keep these systems functioning. We appreciate the assistance of the Marine Commandant at the 29 Palms base, and we look forward to continuing our joint program of developing guzzler sites in this portion of the California desert.”

According to WSF Senior Conservation Director Kevin Hurley, “SCBS and CA-WSF have a long history of locating, designing, installing, and most importantly, maintaining guzzlers throughout the Mojave Desert, to benefit desert bighorn sheep, quail, mule deer, and a variety of desert-dwelling game and non-game wildlife.” Furthermore, “as incredible as it seems, both organizations and their dedicated volunteers have been doing these kinds of projects for more than 50 years, on their weekends and time off from work” added Hurley.

“Through the efforts of our WSF Chapters and Affiliates, in this case CA-WSF and SCBS, on-the-ground wild sheep conservation happens,” stated WSF President and CEO Gray N. Thornton. “The Wild Sheep Foundation was pleased to present a $25,000 check in support of the long-term water development and maintenance program that our two California partners are spearheading,” added Thornton.


  • The Wild Sheep Foundation, formerly the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS,) was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. WSF’s Mission is to enhance wild sheep populations, promote scientific wildlife management, and educate the public and youth on sustainable use and the conservation benefits of hunting while promoting the interests of the hunter. With a membership of 7,000 worldwide and a Chapter and Affiliate network in North America and Europe, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep, other mountain wildlife, their habitat, and their conservation. Since forming in 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation and its chapters and affiliates have raised and expended more than $115 million on conservation, education and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe and Asia towards its Purpose to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain®”. These and other efforts have resulted in a three-fold increase in bighorn sheep populations in North America from their historic 1950-60s lows of ~25,000 to ~85,000 today. WSF, our Chapters and Affiliates and agencies partners are also working together to ensure thinhorn sheep thrive in their northern mountain realms for generations to enjoy.


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