Ventura CA Chapter Uses Horsepower for Habitat


By Mike Horne, Chapter Volunteer

With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to loosen, the Ventura Chapter of Quail Forever identified several guzzler repairs that needed our attention. We settled on one guzzler in the Los Padres National Forest that required extensive apron work, a new berm around the perimeter, and a new debris trap. We estimated 28 sacks of concrete and a tremendous amount of water. The downside of the project was the inability to drive to the work site pursuant to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations. It was just too far and too steep for us to carry those materials and tool ourselves.

Although motorized vehicles are prohibited in this area, animals are not. Through a little research and a few well-placed phone calls, we met Beth and Curtis Newman of United Trail Maintainers of California, (UTMC) who own several mules trained as pack animals. For the last ten years, the Newmans have volunteered their mules to complete many projects for the Forest Service all over California. UTMC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. They agreed to help out on our workday.

With two trail horses and three mules, over 2,000 pounds of concrete and water was packed to the guzzler. Our 18 volunteers, including five kids, made short work of the repair. The mules even brought lunches up to everybody!

I couldn’t help but feel we had taken a big step back in time. With all the modern conveniences we have today, all the technology, we needed to get back to the basics to get this job completed. Isn’t this how our country was built? I wonder if we’re the first chapter to use livestock like this?

We want to thank Beth and Curtis Newman who are true professionals (they even let the kids ride the horses) and were willing to do anything we needed. To the Mount Pinos District Ranger, Karina Median, who quickly approved our project. And to all the Ventura Quail Forever volunteers who donate hundreds of hours and drive hundreds of miles, all to benefit wildlife.

This story originally appeared in the 2021 Fall Issue of the Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Quail Forever member today!