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Conservation in the IWV: Birds, Gardens and Water

Contributed by Melanie Branson–   

Many of us here in the Indian Wells Valley (IWV) are looking forward to springtime with warmer weather, birds, flowers, and more time outside. As we head into our sunny month of April, most of us are probably not contemplating Earth Day on April 22. Really, why do we have an Earth Day? We celebrate many good things in our lives – important people who take care of us – medical, fire, police first responders – our family, friends, social groups, charitable organizations. The Earth is also good to us, providing us with clean water, air, building materials, medicine, and a way to “get away from it all” through camping, hiking, and gardening.

Who gives back or celebrates the Earth? We have a surprising number of organizations here in the IWV that work behind the scenes. Perhaps they are even “unsung heroes”—acting as good stewards of the Earth. By good stewards, we mean those who monitor and help conserve our wildlife, plants, and ecosystem services such as clean air and water. Here are just a few of those local “good stewards.”

You may have never heard of the Aguabonita Flyfishers here in Ridgecrest, but they do some amazing things. Working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, in just a couple of their volunteer conservation programs, they help monitor water quality in our Eastern Sierra creeks and support “Trout in the Classroom” for teachers to bring into local schools. Trout only live in high-quality watershed ecosystems, and the Aguabonita Flyfishers bring important volunteer hours to maintain our clean mountain streams. (

Ridgecrest’s Quail Forever group also does some impressive conservation work with water. As we humans have experienced in our dry desert valley, so birds are always on the lookout for water sources, especially during the long drought periods. Our local Quail Forever organization works with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to maintain roughly 88 wildlife water guzzlers or man-made cisterns in our area. I had the pleasure of seeing them in action on a project last year, working to fix a pre-framed raptor protection cover over one of the cisterns. This can be grueling work, hauling equipment over rough terrain and working in dry, remote areas. Should you like to know more about what they do or get involved, they have a Facebook page called Ridgecrest’s Quail Forever. You can also see their headquarters page at

As many of us love birds, you will be happy to know that the Kerncrest Audubon Society ( is a local organization highly dedicated to our valley’s bird conservation. The Kerncrest Audubon chapter is deeply committed to giving feedback on new environmental proposals, monitoring bird species fluctuations through valley-wide bird counts, and helping BLM maintain the Cow Haven natural spring access for wildlife. They also sponsor school bird clubs and other naturalist educational events at the Maturango Museum.

We have two other strong wildlife stewardship organizations in the IWV that support species on the International Union of Concerned Scientists Red List of Threatened Species ( One supports a near-threatened mammal – the Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Council (, and the other supports a critically endangered reptile – the Desert Tortoise Council ( Both groups are led by experienced desert scientists and naturalists who collaborate with government agencies and public entities to study their animal’s behaviors and strategize to preserve habitats. These highly dedicated groups welcome volunteers and encourage them to become involved as trained citizen scientists.

If you are more interested in sustainable gardening (natural, balanced, and non-toxic) with native plants and flowers and growing healthy vegetables, then the Eastern Kern County Resources Conservation District ( and the Ridgecrest Community Garden ( are active in our valley. These wonderful organizations promote our water-saving strategies in a balanced, eco-friendly way. The EKCRCD provides native plants and seeds online for sale each fall. The Community Garden, as the name suggests, engages Ridgecrest people by teaching them to grow healthy food for the body and mind. They also hold workshops at their community garden space, the most recent being “How to Create Biodiversity in your Garden.”

We have many more good stewards here in the IWV – our “unsung heroes” helping to conserve our valley’s water, plants, animals and ensure a cleaner, more balanced and sustainable future for our children. If you know someone you admire in their eco-friendly efforts, please give them a hug, pat on the back, or high five this Earth Day month. And if you’d like to become involved in good stewardship, or find out more about some of these organizations, the Maturango Museum is holding a “Conservation in the IWV” event on their free Saturday on April 13, 11 to 2 (