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Captain’s Log: Give a Thirsty Critter a Drink

Recent Interior Department decision acknowledges benefits of man-made watering holes.

Clearing the way for thirsty animals to get a drink, the Interior Department has gone on record recognizing the benefits of man-made watering holes and developments.

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Capt. David Bacon (Ramona Lisa McFadyen photo)
Safari Club International, an organization that protects hunters’ rights and supports wildlife conservation projects, said the acknowledgment came in a letter from the federal agency. The letter — which also was sent to the National Rifle Association, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, and several other wildlife and conservation groups — said artificial water developments may be used to enhance wildlife conservation and management on lands administered by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service.

The letter signed by the directors of the three Interior agencies stated that after a review of existing policies, "we find that man-made water developments are not precluded where they are deemed to be necessary.”

This is considered a victory for wildlife management, especially in areas where human developments or our mere presence prevents animals from using natural water sources. When we take water away from thirsty critters, we should find a way to replace it in a way that allows them to drink safely and without undue stress. Our vast back country burn areas were altered first by fire and recently by debris flows. Strategic placement, monitoring and refilling of man-made watering holes can provide a huge benefit to animal communities trying to repopulate the back country as it recovers from last year’s fires.

Why is acknowledgement of the value of artificial water development a victory?  According to the Safari Club, there has long been a lack of consistent federal agency approach to artificial water developments. In the past, the NPS and the BLM have often denied the benefits of guzzlers, drinkers, wells and other similar man-made devices on federal lands. The Safari Club has participated in litigation to defend the use and retention of these devices in the Mojave National Preserve and is currently defending a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona challenging the FWS’ restoration of artificial water sources necessary for bighorn sheep conservation.

In addition to recognizing the legality of these critical water sources, the directors of the three agencies offered an invitation to state fish and game management agencies to work with them to integrate these water sources into planning for federally administered lands.

Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a new nonprofit group providing seafaring opportunities for those in need.

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