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Mojave National Preserve is initiating the conservation planning and environmental impact analysis process needed to inform preparation of a Water Resources Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (WRMP/EIS). This plan is intended to guide future management of ground and surface water sources within Mojave National Preserve. Through this process the National Park Service (NPS) will identify and assess potential impacts of a range of alternatives to management of water resources. As part of the EIS process, the NPS will evaluate different approaches for water resources management to determine the potential impacts on land use, water quality, geology, biological and cultural resources, human health and safety, aesthetics, visitor experience, Wilderness, and other stewardship considerations.

Mojave National Preserve (Preserve) is a 1.6 million-acre unit of the National Park System, established by Congress on October 31, 1994, by the California Desert Protection Act. The Act protected a vast expanse of desert lands that represent a combination of Great Basin, Sonoran, and Mojave desert ecosystems. The Act also specified hunting as a permitted activity within the Preserve. By the time of establishment, many artificial water sources had been developed within the Preserve to support cattle grazing operations and game populations. Human manipulation of natural springs and seeps, with intermittent maintenance, enhanced surface flow to provide additional water for the same purposes. There also existed 133 small game wildlife water developments (also known as "guzzlers"' or "drinkers"), and 6 big game guzzlers, which intercept and store rainwater for wildlife use. All of the big game guzzlers and many of the small game water developments are in areas of the Preserve which are now designated Wilderness.

Surface water availability in the form of springs and seeps is a function of groundwater flow and discharge. The relationship between groundwater, surface water, and wells is complex. Preserve stewardship and resource management activities must be guided by general principles that can be applied to specific problems. Developing and clearly explaining how these principles should be applied is a goal of the Draft WRMP/EIS. The relationship between surface water availability and wildlife populations is also multifaceted, and may be complicated by the potential effects of climate change. The Draft WRMP/EIS will provide the basis for preserving wildlife and preventing resource impairment.

The NPS intends to gather information necessary for preparing the Draft WRMP/EIS and to obtain suggestions from the public on issues and concerns which should be addressed. The NPS is seeking pertinent environmental information regarding scope of the analysis, and suggestions regarding preliminary alternatives which should be considered.

All comments must be postmarked or transmitted not later than July 11, 2011. Full public participation by park stakeholders, concerned organizations and private citizens, as well as Federal, State, and local agencies, is invited so as to fully inform the process of preparing the Draft WRMP/EIS. Four public meetings will be hosted during the scoping period: June 27 (Henderson, NV), June 28 (Needles, CA), June 29 (San Bernardino, CA), and June 30 (Barstow, CA). Confirmed details on time and location will be announced in the local press and on the park Web site (http://www.nps.gov/moja); details may also be obtained by contacting the Preserve directly. These meetings will provide current information and respond to questions and comments on issues and alternatives to assist NPS in developing the Draft WRMP/EIS.

Click here to read the complete Federal Register Notice

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