Celebration in Piceance-East Douglas

11 05 2017

Last weekend, BLM folks from the White River Field Office in Meeker hosted a “celebration” of the mustangs in the Piceance (“pee-antz”)-East Douglas Herd Management Area. An unofficial count of around 40 people made the trip to talk to each other and BLM range specialists and managers, and take tours of this amazing – 190,000-plus acres! – range in northwestern Colorado.

The wildlife in this area of the state is abundant and varied. It also – until recently – had a widespread oil-and-gas presence (still there, just not as widespread). Interestingly, friends say that those workers are among the friendliest they encounter while looking for mustangs, and they’re always happy to point out the locations of horses for my friends to find and photograph. Cattle and sheep ranching also is abundant in the area, and my friends pass on information about livestock and fences to the ranchers via BLM.

During this celebration, three tours were offered throughout the day, and we had the opportunity to speak with people from all backgrounds: oil-and-gas workers, ranchers, mustang advocates, local and not-so-local BLM employees, and others. We all have a stake in preserving Colorado’s public lands and wild places, and the wildlife those lands shelter, so it was a good coming together of people and ideas and planning to see how those interests can merge and move forward for the benefit of all involved.

This wasn’t my first visit to Piceance-East Douglas, and it certainly won’t be the last. BLM does want to conduct a roundup and removal of horses here (population estimate is 400-plus horses). But it also wants to start a PZP program, which would mean that – at that point – all of Colorado’s mustang herds would be managed with scientifically-sound fertility control, enabling more horses to live wild and free on their home ranges.

My friends Tom and Pam Nickoles have been visiting the area since 2006, learning about the mustangs, learning about the area … learning all the intricacies. They work closely with the BLM range specialist and herd manager, Melissa Kindall, as well as a local woman who has been documenting the mustangs for many years, Dona Hilkey. Friends of the Mustangs, the advocacy group that helps BLM with the Little Book Cliffs herd near Grand Junction, also had members present, and they might be able to provide human power and some funding to help establish a local advocacy group for the Piceance-East Douglas mustangs.

Good things are going on in Piceance-East Douglas and all around Colorado!

Not too many photos from this last visit, as I was more interested in looking wide-eyed at everything, but here are a few of the gorgeous mustangs that call Piceance-East Douglas home:


This handsome guy was with a young grey stallion and an older sorrel mare. This was the only photo I came away with that shows some of the long views available from this herd management area.


This is the young grey friend of the above stallion, showing the *short* sagebrush. Most of the sage in this region is TALL – as in, jungle-tall. Sometimes it’s hard to see any more of horses (or cows) than their ears. No pix of the mare because – ironically – she was too close for my lens. Most of the Piceance-East Douglas mustangs are extremely wild and wary, which is awesome! But challenging for photos. πŸ™‚


Case in point: This handsome family was pretty OK to watch us from a distance while we stood at the Jeep, photographing from the road. But when I took a few steps away from the vehicle, to get a better view across/over the sage and other vegetation, that was enough of a trigger for them to bid us farewell.

Young grey stallion by himself in Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.

This hunky young guy was all alone. We walked out into the sage a short distance (also mindful of ticks!), and he came to investigate …

Young grey stallion by himself in Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.

… then high-tailed it away from the two clicky ladies. πŸ™‚ Isn’t he magnificent?

Some take-away facts from Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area:

  • The mustangs are gorgeous with a capital G.
  • The region is large. Huge. Ginormous. There are a lot of roads. The roads are in relatively good condition (probably in large part because of the oil-and-gas access), but, as everywhere, beware wet conditions.
  • The scenery is large. Huge. Ginormous. Especially as seen from Cathedral Bluffs – and other places. πŸ™‚
  • The sage is tall and thick, and sometimes it’s hard to see even a few feet beyond the road.
  • What an amazing place to explore!



17 responses

11 05 2017

Thank goodness, amazing group of folks.

11 05 2017

And should be able to put together a great collaboration for those mustangs!

11 05 2017
Prairie girl

Wonderful to hear such open communication and commraderie. As you describe it, a partnership. Absolutely.
Oh how I wish Wyoming was as open minded and cooperative and concerned about working towards allowing all things wild to live in harmony.
This post is a perfect example of how it truly can be done!
Those horses are lovely and leery and I like that!
Way to go everybody.
I think I might have to visit Rawlins and Lander BLM offices and take this post with me to share with them!

11 05 2017

Ben S. was a big part of hosting the celebration. πŸ™‚

12 05 2017
Prairie girl

Man, I miss that guy. I always think Colorado “stole” him from us! Hahaha!
You’re SO lucky to have him. Like I’ve told you before, Ben is a jewel!

11 05 2017

TJ, I continue to enjoy these mustangs vicariously through your efforts. I appreciate you and all you do to allow those of us who live in far-flung places to see the beauty that God has created and enjoy it in your pictures.

11 05 2017

Thanks, Mark! For your kind words and your interest in our mustangs – here in Spring Creek Basin and other places. It is very much appreciated!

11 05 2017
Karen Schmiede

What a beautiful place for the horses. I hope they can be managed well, and always live free.

11 05 2017

I hope that, too!

11 05 2017
Sue Story

How wonderful to see photos of these beautiful mustangs and their special place in Piceance-East Douglas! Thanks, TJ! And it is so encouraging to read about all of the disparate interest groups finding a way to work together and talk to each other for the benefit of our wild horses! Bravo!

11 05 2017

When we realize we have the same goals in common, good things happen. πŸ™‚

12 05 2017

I guess it looks like we sold go to Basin Creek and contimplate goING to see there horses and the land.

14 05 2017

It’s a must-visit place!

13 05 2017

So great to see you TJ and do some wild horse viewing. Thanks for coming so far and for your support of everyone’s efforts for the Piceance horses. πŸ™‚

14 05 2017

I always love our visits – especially when the visits involve mustangs! πŸ™‚ When people are working so hard for their herds, it’s easy to support those folks. And those folks, in the case of the Piceance-East Douglas mustangs are YOU folks – you and Tom, and Dona and Melissa! Thank you so much for all you do; it’s an honor to support you!

8 07 2018
Patricia Williams

Too bad for our beautiful West Douglas wild horses. I have followed this herd for over 20 years. My heart is broken. They are not part of the East Douglas horses. They do not even look the same. BLM put West Douglas with East Douglas horses so they could zero them out to appease special interest groups and not have to manage them this far from Meeker. Same with the North Piceance herd. If I had the funds, I would appeal this outrageous decision. West Douglas horses have been here for several hundred years. BLM is annihilating this historic herd. I did not join this group as it was not in my heart as a horse advocate to report to BLM where horses are so they could round them up, build fences for the permittees that cut off water to the North Piceance herd. The West Douglas horses will always be special to me, but I pray for all of our horses everywhere that are slowly being wiped out. Be careful out there advocates because BLM has their own agenda.

8 07 2018

I’m so sorry. 😦

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