He’s bold, he’s red

31 01 2020

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He’s Master Hayden.

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FYI: Local (Cortez) newspaper The Journal published an article about the HMAP-revision scoping period in its Thursday online edition.

And in case you missed it, here’s the link to my previous blog post about “Revising our HMAP.”





Secret snow

30 01 2020

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In the secret, almost hidden, winter-white, winter-quiet forest, Piedra wonders how the heck I found her.

It’s a secret, sweet girl. It’s totally top secret. … And P.S., you all showed yourselves on the other side of the ridge just as I happened to look. πŸ™‚





A most puzzly puzzle

29 01 2020

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Do you see what I see?

There ARE three mustangs in this pic, and don’t feel bad if you can’t spot them. I passed them once and saw them only after I spotted the horses on the ridge where I am taking this photo, and turned around to get back to where I could most easily hike up to them.

Round Top is in the distance, and the treed ridges in the farthest background are beyond Spring Creek Basin.

Hint: There’s one grey and two dark horses, just this side of where you can tell the road is going to cross that arroyo in the sort of middle distance.





The days we live to love

28 01 2020

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Look at Tenaz, lookin’ all handsome-like in the melty fresh snow, with the clouds clearing over the La Sal Mountains on the far horizon.

The clouds released rain on us first, in the dark of early morning. That turned to snow, even as the temperatures crept above freezing. And even as the snow fell, it melted and dripped from roofs and vehicles and filled old hoofprints in the lanes.

The basin got at least a couple of inches of fresh stuff – already very much melting by the time I spotted Tenaz’s band and he posed for me so handsomely. In the photo above, you can see the tease of sunshine on lower Disappointment Valley.

Want a better view of that faraway?

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Heaven, you say? Yes, just a little part of it. πŸ™‚





The grey and the brown

27 01 2020

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Houdini is less than worried while Maia calls to a band mate across a small arroyo. Another band was in the area, and Maia apparently didn’t think her family should be too spread out.





Blooms ‘n bellies

26 01 2020

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What is it with those snakeweed bouquets? πŸ™‚

We do still have a bit of snow in patches. More is in the forecast tonight and tomorrow, but with temps in the 40s, it probably won’t last long. Still, it’s more moisture, and we need all the winter wet we can get!





The prettiest look

25 01 2020

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“You can’t see me if I hide under this juniper tree!”

Dear, sweet girl. Yes, yes, we can. πŸ™‚





Walking in the cloud

24 01 2020

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Skywalker seems to be asking where his view has gone.

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After an early morning with sunshine – and fairly warm (at freezing) temps – the fog rolled in again. And THIS time, I found a cooperative pony!

By the time I saw other horses, the fog had almost completely cleared, the ground had not only thawed, it was SUPER muddy, and the ponies were far from the road. (There’s hiking, and there’s hiking in MUD.)

And yes, it is M.U.D.D.Y. out there! There’s quite a lot of moisture on/in the ground … and we need more. There I go, being all greedy-like. πŸ™‚





On the edge of soft

23 01 2020

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Dark lady of the woods, Cassidy Rain.

The ground was just starting to thaw and get soft when I took this photo of the dark beauty as I was leaving the band after a lovely little visit (that also seemed sunnier than this pic shows).

“The thaw” in mid-morning (depending on sunshine and temp and overnight temp) is its own little natural miracle. It happens. It’s simple. It’s complex. It’s normal. It’s unique. It’s a wonder of nature, just like our mustangs.





Revising our HMAP

22 01 2020

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Same basic, iconic view … different day, different grey!

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As most regular readers of this humble blog know, we have worked closely and for many years with BLM managers of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. Our partnership is one to be envied; we have great respect for our BLM folks – especially herd manager Mike Jensen – and the health of our mustangs and the range they call home is directly because of that partnership.

We have accomplished almost everything on our big-goal to-do list for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs, including the commitment to using bait-trapping if/when we need to remove horses in the future and our successful fertility-control program using native PZP. How successful is it? We’re celebrating our NINTH year of NO roundups and removals in Spring Creek Basin. I’d say that qualifies. πŸ™‚

All of the things we have done and are doing – and the fact that our current one is 26 years oldΒ  – means we’ve come to another big goal: updating Spring Creek Basin’s herd management area plan. Mike Jensen has been working on that for a while now, and a LOT goes into it.

So to *start* the process (see above where I note that a LOT goes into it, including time in the field doing vegetation monitoring over the last few years, archaeological-site assessments, ongoing data collection about our PZP program, etc.), we come to the scoping process for updating the herd management area plan, otherwise known as the HMAP.

Here, you will find that scoping letter on BLM’s eplanning website.

At the left side of the page, click the “Documents” link. On the next page, under “Document Name,” click the link for “Spring Creek Basin HMA Interested Parties Letter.”

At the first link, read the information (the other two links will take you directly to the page to access the document link and the comment link, and the letter itself):

“The BLM is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA) to analyze the proposed action and alternatives to that action.

“What: Name/Type of Proposed Project: Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) Revision.

“Where: General and Legal: This Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area (HMA) is located within the Spring Creek Basin portion of Disappointment Valley in Southwest Colorado. The HMA is approximately 21,932 acres is size and lies within both Dolores and San Miguel Counties.

“Disturbance: Estimated Disturbance (acres/area) Description: The HMAP Revision will include the proposal for constructing two water catchment structures which will result in approximately 1.0 acres of total of ground disturbance.

“When: Expected Implementation and Duration: The Herd Management Area Plan would be implemented immediately following the issuance of the Final Decision.”

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On to the letter.

What it’s TELLING you is that Tres Rios Field Office (where Mike is employed as a rangeland management specialist and Spring Creek Basin’s herd manager) is “seeking input on a proposal to revise the 1994 Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan (I just realized, on typing that, that they swapped a couple of words) for the Spring Creek Basin Wild Horse Herd Management Area in Dolores and San Miguel Counties, Colorado. …”

In addition to advising interested parties about potential disturbance of about an acre of land total for the construction of two (more) water-catchment structures, this is the stated “purpose and need” of the HMAP revision:

“The BLM is proposing to revise the 1994 Spring Creek Basin HMAP. Herd Area Management Plans (again, word swap!) identify specific management actions, goals, objectives and monitoring for managing wild horses and /or burro herds and their habitat. Therefore, the proposed HMAP revision will identify goals, objectives and monitoring to address 1) existing appropriate management level (AML) of wild horses; 2) rangeland health conditions; 3) population control measures; 4) removal criteria and gather techniques; 5) genetics; 6) population dynamics; 7) range improvements; and 8) sustaining healthy populations of wild horses.”

What it’s ASKING is for the public to offer comments about those issues along the lines of answering these basic questions:

Do you agree with those topics/issues BLM has identified?

Are there additional topics/issues you might like to see identified/addressed in the revised HMAP?

The comment deadline is Feb. 19, and as you’ll see in the letter, there are a variety of ways of delivering those comments: There’s a “Comment on Document” button on one of the pages linked above; send an email to Mike (address in the letter); send your comments via USPS mail to the office (address in the letter).

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Now some suggestions.

First of all, do we want Spring Creek Basin’s HMAP revised and updated? Yes, please! πŸ™‚

Do we want a couple of new water-catchment structures? Yes, please!

So let’s look at each of the topics from the letter.

  • Existing AML. We would like to raise this slightly, and based on vegetation monitoring conducted the last few years, as well as the use of PZP fertility control and the slow, measured growth of the population during the last nine years since the 2011 roundup and removal, we believe this is reasonable. Also a contributing factor to potentially raising the AML: No livestock grazing allotment exists within Spring Creek Basin; the remaining permit was relinquished and the allotment closed in accordance with BLM TRFO’s 2015 resource management plan. The current AML is 35 to 65 adult horses.
  • Rangeland health conditions. Having participated in vegetation monitoring in Spring Creek Basin the last few years, including the Rangeland Health Assessment, it’s important to note that by and large, the condition of the range in Spring Creek Basin has improved (even during extreme drought situations) since previous monitoring was completed and is continuing to improve. This can be attributed to management of the herd’s population growth with the use of fertility-control vaccine PZP.
  • Population control measures. Native PZP continues to be extremely effective in managing the population growth of Spring Creek Basin’s mustang herd, and we urge its continued use.
  • Removal criteria and gather techniques. As one of the authors of the bait-trapping proposal that was accepted and signed as an EA by BLM in 2018, I urge that bait trapping continue to be the gather technique of choice in Spring Creek Basin. Many discussions have been held about the viability and potential success of this method in the geography of Spring Creek Basin, with our well-documented mustangs. Removal criteria should continue to reflect current documented age and genetics dynamics, as explored elsewhere in this document.
  • Genetics. Because Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area is small (almost 22,000 acres) and its herd is correspondingly small, genetics is an extremely important topic to consider with regard to the sustainability of this herd and its health. Introducing mares periodically, as was done in 2008 and in 2001 (and stallions, less successfully, in the 1990s), should continue at intervals that reflect current management practices in Spring Creek Basin, and the ages and offspring of previously introduced mares – all of which are known from the 2008 introduction because of documentation since 2007.
  • Population dynamics. To have a healthy herd, we must have a healthy mix of stallions and mares, as well as age groups within the herd. Currently, we have a fair number of horses older than 10, as well as horses filling every age year from 2007 and younger. We favor a healthy, natural relationship dynamic of a roughly evenly mixed stallions-to-mares ratio. Keeping this ratio natural with the use of native PZP is an attained goal.
  • Range improvements. During the last 20-plus years, advocates have partnered with BLM to improve Spring Creek Basin’s range with various projects including fencing, weed identification and location, water-enhancement projects, identification of ponds to be dug out (because of silt and sedimentation buildup), and vegetation monitoring, all of which enhance our knowledge of the range and how the horses use it. We are proud to partner with Tres Rios Field Office managers to keep our horses and range healthy and urge the continuation of the same partnership, which has become a model in the BLM-citizen-advocacy community.
  • Sustaining healthy populations of wild horses. Keeping our horses healthy depends on keeping our range healthy, and we remain committed to helping BLM ensure the continuation of both with volunteer projects including PZP darting, documentation, vegetation monitoring and help with all range projects.

Regarding the disturbance expected for approximately 1 acre for the proposed construction of two water guzzlers/catchment structures: Herd manager Mike Jensen explored two potential sites with an archaeologist from Tres Rios Field Office and found no cultural resources at either site, leading to acknowledgement of both sites as good for guzzler placements. In addition to providing two additional sources of clean water for the mustangs, siting the guzzlers in those locations will help with the dispersal of the horses to currently under-used grazing areas within Spring Creek Basin.

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If you made it this far, you deserve another pic of our beauties. πŸ™‚

Thank you for reading this far!

To reiterate a very important fact: We work very closely with Mike Jensen and our Tres Rios BLM folks for the good management of our Spring Creek Basin mustangs, and have for a very long time.

Much of that work is the fun stuff: In-the-field, boots-on-the-dry/dusty/muddy/snowy-ground, mustangs-near-and-far, under-blue-sky-in-the-great-wide-open awesomeness. Some of that work involves paper (and computer) work.

We thank you for following along with our Spring Creek Basin mustangs and for your support during these many years. If you’d take a few moments to send comments to Mike about this scoping letter, we’d sure appreciate it! If you’ve visited Spring Creek Basin and the mustangs, say so. If you know the horses and our advocacy work through this blog or elsewhere, say so. Say that these mustangs are important to you, and please say how much you appreciate BLM’s partnership with advocates on behalf of Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs.

Thank you all in advance for helping us achieve our goals for our beloved mustangs. We know how much you love them, too!

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