The pond at China Ranch is a perfect example of collaborative conservation done right.
This pond functions as a passive irrigation system that captures the natural flow of Willow Creek through gravity as opposed to active pumping. China Ranch relies heavily on this reservoir of water to irrigate the date palm groves throughout the year and especially during the hot dry summer months.
In addition to sustaining the staple crop of the Ranch’s operation, the pond also supports crucial wildlife habitat both directly and indirectly. The date palm groves provide food, shade and cover for many species of birds, coyotes and other mammals. The pond itself also acts as a refuge for the Amargosa speckled dace which occurs in Willow Creek and throughout the Amargosa River. Maintaining a separate genetic population in the pond provides a measure of security for the Amargosa speckled dace which many suggest should be considered for endangered species protections.
The pond even provided an essential source of water for fighting the 2021 Willow Creek fire that swept through the canyon. With increasingly warm and arid summers, fire mitigation has become a priority for the Ranch and the pond provides a much needed emergency supply of water in the event of future wildfires in the canyon.
Over the past few weeks, AC volunteers have joined China Ranch in an effort to fortify and expand the lining of the pond which has been damaged in a variety of ways in recent years. Periodic floods and the 2021 Willow Creek fire have contributed to damage of the pond liner which helps maintain water levels and suppresses invasive weed growth.
Due to its conservation value, the pond project has received support through the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program to help finance the material costs associated with installation and upkeep of the pond liner. However, making improvements and repairs to the pond has proved to be extremely labor intensive. The 2021 Willow Creek fire caused significant damage to the liner and other structures which need to be replaced and resealed. The edges of the liner must be buried in trenches to prevent strong winds and other weather events from causing damage.
Fortunately, through the efforts of AC board members, staff and volunteers, the pond liner repairs are nearing completion. We’re grateful to our committed volunteers, to Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and to China Ranch for their efforts to ensure this pond project continues to provide these essential functions for habitat restoration and conservation in the Amargosa Canyon.
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