ALTURAS, Calif. – Big Valley Ranger District range managers applied for and received a grant from the California Deer Association (CDA) to build a buck-and-rail fence around Sweagert Flat, northwest of Adin. Local CDA members also volunteered to help build the fence.
California Deer Association is no stranger to Modoc County. Several wildlife projects have been implemented on the Modoc National Forest and elsewhere with the help of CDA. CDA State Wildlife Project Director Dale MacDougall said CDA is in a good position to help assemble and unify various organizations and individuals to work together and get more work done.
“Many times we see people go their own direction,” said MacDougall. “Working together helps assure projects we implement are well thought out and benefit as many animals and people as possible.”
“The Modoc National Forest is partnering once again with CDA and local volunteers to fence out a high-elevation spring system and the associated wet meadow to protect it from over grazing,” said Range Technician Justin Gibson. “Due to harsh winter conditions damaging the existing barbwire fence, cattle and horses are not effectively being kept out of the spring.”
The approximately 1.5 mile fence around Sweagert Flat spring will be designed to allow wildlife access, but exclude cattle and horses.
The spring is in the middle of the Round Valley grazing allotment, which is available for cattle grazing from June 1 until Sept. 15. “The cattle tend to congregate in the meadow during the late part of the summer when the temperatures are high,” said Gibson.
“An exclusion fence will benefit the deer population and other wildlife by improving water quality and quantity, especially in the late summer months,” Gibson added. “Fencing out cattle and horses decreases riparian degradation and improves water sources for all kinds of wildlife.”
CDA works with various entities all over California, including land management agencies, cattlemen associations, non-governmental organizations and local volunteer groups to implement projects and help community members understand their value.
“Many times people have an interest, they just don’t know it yet,” joked MacDougall. “They may have come across some information, seen a presentation or project, but haven’t yet gotten involved. Outreach activities in cooperation with our partners help spark interest, then folks come out to get involved.” He said they often work with youth to give them some on-the-ground experience. “Some find out supporting wildlife is a desire they have and stay involved in one way or another.”
“It takes six minutes to prepare and broadcast seed an acre of ground with 15 kids helping,” added MacDougall. “That’s faster than using a seed drill.” Volunteer manual labor is a great way to get work accomplished. Meadow restorations, aspen protection and enhancement, water protection and development are all good projects for volunteers. “Wildlife and our communities get a huge return on this manual labor, and we might even have a BBQ at the project site to feed everybody.”
“It is a numbers game,” MacDougall continued. “The more interest we have and the more alliances we can build, the stronger our coalition becomes and the more we get done on the ground for deer and other wildlife.”
CDA members and employees consider themselves fortunate to be a voice for deer, but also know deer are a good umbrella species to indicate the health of the habitat. “In Modoc County, there are something like 120 other species that also do well when conditions are right for healthy deer populations,” said MacDougall. "This includes other large game species, but also migratory birds, small game, predators, fish. The list goes on.”
Other benefits of habitat improvement projects include increased forbes and cleaner water. “The Pit River provides a lot of water to the Sacramento Valley, so in that way we are impacting wildlife and livelihoods throughout the North State with the work we are doing in Modoc County,” concluded MacDougall.
Press release from Modoc National Forest