‘Desert Chrome’

2 05 2021

‘Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West’

(Photo courtesy of Kathryn Wilder)

Kathryn Wilder‘s debut book, “Desert Chrome,” will be published in mid-May by Torrey House Press!

Longtime readers will recognize Kat’s name as an advocate for Spring Creek Basin mustangs. In this vulnerable, deeply touching and wide-ranging memoir, she recounts her life’s journey that eventually led her to Disappointment Valley and Spring Creek Basin – among earlier and parallel events that shaped her among heartbreak, water and wilderness. About the mustangs, she writes about getting to know them and the great strides we’ve made in the management of our herd with the use of PZP.

Kirkus Reviews calls it “testimony to the healing power of wildness” and “a spirited and impassioned chronicle.” And it is, without a doubt, all of that.

Suzanne Roy, fierce director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, wrote: “Kat Wilder’s beautifully written memoir takes us on a journey of a life lived on the move, full of love, loss and searching, finally finding peace among a herd of mustangs in Colorado’s magnificent Disappointment Valley. Wilder’s insight into the wild horses, why they’re worth saving and how to save them, will be of interest to anyone concerned with preserving the West’s last remaining wild spaces and the wild animals that inhabit them. A must read.”

Pre-order the book from Torrey House Press, your local independent bookstore or from Amazon.

Kat will be doing numerous readings, both virtual – Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe, and Maria’s Bookshop and Cortez Public Library here in Southwest Colorado – and in person at Sherbino Theater in Ridgway and Entrada Institute in Torrey, Utah.

Here are some particular deets:

Maria’s virtual event for “Desert Chrome” will start at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 20, on Zoom and Facebook Live. Check Maria’s events calendar page for details.

Kat’s first live reading will be from about 6 to about 7:45 p.m. Saturday, May 22, at The Livery in Norwood. This is basically our backyard! Head over to Between the Covers’ Facebook page to find out more.

The Cortez Public Library will have an online reading with Kat starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 26.

On Thursday, June 10, Ridgway’s Sherbino Theater will host Kat for a live reading from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Visit the website for tickets, on sale 30 days before the event. Ridgway’s also fairly local to us, and several mustang friends call it home.

If you’re in Torrey, Utah, on Saturday, June 26, stop by the Entrada Institute for a live reading.

Be sure to find and follow Kat on Facebook to keep up with other events as they’re scheduled, and I’ll post reminders about the above readings close to their happening dates.

(Kathryn Wilder’s “Desert Chrome” with Chrome’s newest grandson, Jasper, with Brumley Point and Temple Butte in the background; Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area, Disappointment Valley, Southwest Colorado)




12 from 2020

30 12 2020

It seems to be a *thing* for people to highlight memories from the year as the year comes to a close. It’s natural to want to remember those beautiful times, which our photos are particularly primed to help us do. That’s the ultimate goodness of *pictures*.

Over the years, I’ve gotten away from long, rambling explanations and photo-heavy blog posts in favor of single photos and a sprinkling of words – every day – to highlight a moment in a day on the range with the mustangs. So today’s post, at the end of a long year that challenged our endurance, is a way to give a little better explanation of what was happening in the instant the shutter snapped on that moment. They also serve as a challenge to find ways to show my beloved mustangs in their natural beauty … and all the infinite reasons why they should be valued and preserved (in general), in addition to explaining why I do what I do to protect this herd in Spring Creek Basin (in particular).

What follows is one photo for each month. Some have been on the blog previously; others have not. Onward.

January

In January, we had fresh snow, and I was happy to find Hollywood’s band in the scenic eastern part of the basin, a short hike from the road (I may even have strapped on my snowshoes). McKenna Peak and Temple Butte are iconic landmarks, and I love to feature them in photos behind/above the horses. Because of the way they were standing, however, Brumley Point, seen here, made the obvious background (the peak and butte are farther to the left). Even though Shane had her rear toward me, the horses were so relaxed, their winter coats so velvety thick and glowing in the low winter sunshine, their demeanor so peaceful, this became one of my favorite images of the day (and month).

*****

February

We knew we were in trouble early in the winter when Mother Nature simply didn’t give us the amount of snow – aka moisture – we would need for the rest of the year. … For plants to grow, for ponds to fill, for creeks to flow (for very long). Sure, it made getting around – driving and hiking – a piece of cake, but in the case of Colorado (and much of the Rocky Mountain West), where we absolutely depend on winter white for summer green, it was looking bleak. I had hiked out to an area where a couple of bands were grazing, and later, as they started to line out toward a pond, back toward the road, I meandered along with them. … And then the sky exploded. When that happens, you’re a) glad you’re with mustangs, b) ecstatic to see Mother Nature’s art come to life and c) uber-aware of time and how it flies. The horses were following a trail, so I picked a likely spot and left the trail and set up the shot. As the horses trotted by – following some and followed by others – I hoped I remembered everything about photography that I’d ever learned … and then I hoped the computer would reveal that everything had literally trotted into place in even one rectangular, finite image. … Voila. πŸ™‚

*****

March

Most people know that, as a volunteer for BLM, I dart (some of) the mares of Spring Creek Basin every spring with fertility-control vaccine PZP. Does it work? In September, we will celebrate a full decade of NO ROUNDUPS in Spring Creek Basin. Do we still have foals? Yes, a handful or so every year. I have my own reasons for not showing them on the blog. PZP figures into this explanation because Sundance is the band stallion of the mare I darted the day I took this photo. It’s worth slowing down, even in the face of a job to be done, to appreciate peace … and the mustangs who bring so much peace to me.

*****

April

Speaking of foals, this is our first of the year. Born on Easter Sunday, she is mother Mariah’s second foal. I moseyed about with them for a fair amount of time as they grazed. As the sun was nudging the far western rim of our little world, the horses paused on a ridge trail on their way to water, and Mariah checked that all was well with her baby girl. The most fleeting moment in time. The most beautiful. The most treasured. … The most natural that goes on around the world with mothers and babies of every hue and color and species. Because I know this mother and this baby, that one moment seemed super, ultra, amazingly special.

*****

May

This – THIS! – was one of those astounding moments when you literally are in the most best place at the very most bestest time, and you cannot believe your luck and goodness and that karma is smiling on you. … And then the horses won’t cooperate. πŸ™‚ There was not one but TWO utterly spectacular rainbows against a sky promising even more rain (the second arch was out of the frame to the right). It was windy, and the horses were edgy. There were (and are) a couple of bachelors with the band, and that energy, combined with the storm, meant that they really weren’t in the mood to line up with ears up showing perfect conformation stances against the wild wonder of Spring Creek Basin and a rare rainfall. … So I “caught” them as they were walking on, and it was enough to remember the day and their wildness and their freedom to move under the magic.

*****

June

This is an image that happened almost without me being there to see it, let alone capture it on digital media. I was with a couple of bachelors on a hill far, far (enough) away, thinking they were my last quiet visit of the evening. But one of the bachelors was interested in something besides me (ah, the story of my single life!), and as he focused on *it*, I heard a sudden, sharp whinny in the distance. One whinny, three bands – plus a bachelor after my guy trotted out to meet them. I had to hustle back to the Jeep and drive closer, and then hurry out to them as the sun was sinking (neither planetary roll nor mustang waits for the photographer to get her act together – or close the gap in distance). And although it was terribly dry in June (as it had been and would be), it’s not often (almost never) that enough horses are together – and moving enough – to cause enough dust to rise for a shot like this to even be possible in the basin. So, even from drought, something beautiful.

*****

July

Maybe readers know (or maybe they don’t) that Storm is one of my very best most absolute favoritest stallions in the basin. From the time he appeared with his curled ear tips, big blaze, stockings almost to his hocks and shining like a polished penny next to his mother, still with the blood of his birth on her hocks and tail, he has had my heart curled around his perfect hooves. … Which means that – of course – Storm’s band is one of, if not THE, most elusive bands in the basin (!). Every sighting of them is like a dream. That said, I spent a fair amount of time with them this summer, and they led me into some heretofore rarely visited areas and showed me seeps I never knew existed. Though there are few of our iconic landmarks in the great expanse of background in this photo (Filly Peak and Flat Top are there), the soft light (we did have some smoke this summer …) and Storm’s handsome face alert as he checked on his band members, already at the top of a ridge that he was grazing his way up, seem to represent everything that I love about Spring Creek Basin and its wildest back of beyond.

*****

August

Did someone mention smoke? Haze from wildfires burning, burning, burning in Colorado and across the West was the story of our summer in some (many) ways. The drought that allowed (caused!) the fires to start and burn was unrelenting and brutal (and is ongoing). Still, the mustangs persevered and continued to show their resilience and beauty. Piedra, loveliest of mares, is a goddess of grace. Another image of beauty plucked from a reality not so pretty.

*****

September

In September, the heat starts to relent, the angle of light starts its descent, and still we pray for rain. The band I was with this day was grazing their way across a hillside, above an arroyo. The stallion had descended to the arroyo, and a couple of mares had followed and were already across. I looked up to check on this mare and her yearling, and though I couldn’t see beyond the scree of rock where they stood, apparently she didn’t like the look of what SHE could see. Here, she’s turning around, so after I took this shot, I went farther down the hill with the others to encourage her to find a path she liked better. Not long after this, that ol’ sun disappeared behind the long ridge on the other side of this narrow valley, and the golden light was dimmed at the close of another day.

*****

October

In October, we got a heavy, wet snowstorm that lasted roughly half a second. … OK, maybe a liiiiitttttttttttlllle longer than that (but not by much). The ponies did as the ponies do, and soon, they were grazing about in mud, not snow, and I like to think none of us minded one little bit. Although it makes the camera hunt for auto-focus, I love to be out with the horses while it’s snowing because in addition to the flakes in the air and on the horses’ noses and eyelashes, it’s just plain beautiful.

*****

November

Lingering snow, lengthening drought, a mature stallion and an up-n-comer. Life goes on, even as the calendar’s days get shorter. In all these years of photographing the mustangs, it is the late – and late-in-the-year – light that I love the best. If I worry and fret (and I do) about lack of moisture and what the coming days and seasons and year will bring, still, I seek that beauty and these amazing horses that allow me brief visits and journeys along their paths – even, sometimes, while they are making the tracks. In my fortunate gratitude, I even find it.

*****

December

We might even close out 2020 with (a little) snow on the ground, and how wonderful would that be? I like to start the year with the things I hope to fill/find/expand on in the coming year, so horses, and snow, and love, and beauty, and days in Spring Creek Basin surely are on my agenda (which I try not to make!). As the soft light filtered through a smokeless sky on this day in December, the horses browsed for the dry stuff palatable enough to eat through the thin blanket of snow. They didn’t seem to mind the cold, or that maybe there was a bit less than in some previous years, or that a human being moseyed along with them, steadying a clicking black box on a black stick, sometimes talking, sometimes singing, mostly wondering how I could be so blessed in this life.

*****

Bonus

Because who doesn’t like – or need – a little extra? And to leave you with a hopeful thought: Just when you think it can’t get any better … maybe it can. πŸ™‚

*****

Thank you *all* for reading along and following the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin. Together, we are a community of people who value wild life and all the beauty that unfolds within it.





No trails, no problem

2 11 2020

On Halloween, I had great fun hiking with a group from Telluride’s Sheep Mountain Alliance into a part of Spring Creek Basin that is overlapped by McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area.

Lexi and Mason from SMA brought five interested – and interesting – people to see this area that’s in the same county as Telluride (San Miguel) … and a world away climate- and geology- and geography-wise.

Disclaimer: The pic above of Juniper walking past McKenna Peak was NOT taken during our hike. πŸ™‚

We didn’t see any of our fabulous mustangs during our hike in the far southeastern part of the basin, but we did see a couple of tarantulas and lots of cool fossils (including a couple of faint but awesome nautilus impressions!). I got to talk about my favorite subject ever (I bet none of you can guess what that is … ;)), and Lexi talked to us about McKenna Peak and the CORE Act – the Colorado Recreation and Economy Act.

From the website:

“The CORE Act is the most significant and broadly-supported effort to protect Colorado’s most cherished lands, waters, and forests in a generation. The legislation would protect roughly 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado, ensuring that future generations can always enjoy our state’s mountains, rivers and wildlife.”

McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area is proposed for inclusion in the San Juan Mountains area. This link shows the locations of the areas; scroll down to read a little more about McKenna Peak and see where it’s located. The entire WSA isn’t included, just the part in San Miguel County. As with anything else, politics plays a part. Our San Miguel County commissioners are fully supportive of this inclusion, just as they were of the naming of Temple Butte, which is in San Miguel County.

Regular readers know the shape of both McKenna Peak and Temple Butte as icons of our Spring Creek Basin horizon. Given our location and lack of specific trails, I don’t think we’ll be overrun with visitors. But how cool would it be to see the status of even part of this amazing landscape go from wilderness study area to full wilderness area? It’s protected from motorized/mechanized-vehicle use currently, which enables it to feel secluded and protected to the wild horses and other lives that know its wildness (even us humans).

Being able to share it with another few like-minded humans gave me great enjoyment. To see their wonder and appreciation of this landscape I love … well, to be perfectly honest, it made me happy. πŸ™‚





Signed

22 07 2020

Thank goodness for our abundance of greasewood, which makes things look green in the basin. πŸ™‚

We have a good-looking forecast, starting today!

All the documents for the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan – signed! – now are on BLM’s ePlanning site.

From the final document:

Background: The 2015 RMP directed BLM to revise and update the 1994 Spring Creek Basin HMAP. This updated analysis and plan will incorporate specific goals, objectives, and techniques for guiding the long-term management of wild horses within the HMA consistent with the resource direction contained in the new RMP.

Decision: I have decided to select Alternative A, the Proposed Action for implementation as described in the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) Revision (DOI-BLM-CO-S010-2020-0009-EA). Based on my review of the Environmental Assessment (EA) and project record, I have concluded that the Proposed Action was analyzed in sufficient detail to allow me to make an informed decision. This decision 1) establishes an Appropriate Management Level (AML) of 50 to 80 adult wild horses that is in balance with the ecosystem and available forage; 2) implements the use of BLM approved fertility control measures to slow the annual rate of growth of the wild horse herd; 3) establishes monitoring criteria for initiating the removal of excess wild horses; 4) utilizes bait trapping as the preferred removal technique; 5) maintains genetic viability expressed as observed heterozygosity within the wild horse herd by periodically introducing outside horses from other similar herd management areas; 6) manages the wild horse herd to achieve a diverse age class and natural sex ratio; 7) establishes vegetation monitoring objectives for maintaining good ecological and forage conditions; and 8) authorizes additional new water developments for improving wild horse distribution across the HMA.

Overall, implementation of this decision will provide long-term management guidance for sustaining a healthy wild horse herd in balance with the ecosystem, while ensuring that Public Land Health Standards developed for Colorado are being achieved.





Because … this.

21 07 2020

Not too much earlier before I took this shot, the weather radar showed another lovely green blob right over us. … What we *really* had was a whole lotta blue in the big ol’ sky! I think it comes down to this: The weather gurus are just as hopeful as we are. (Otherwise, there are seriously some techy gremlins in their weather equipment.)

In very good and wonderful news, Connie Clementson, manager of Tres Rios Field Office, released a letter Monday saying that after “thoughtful consideration of the analysis and comments received” (thank you!), she has chosen the preferred alternative – Alternative A – presented by our herd manager, Mike Jensen, for our Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan revision. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Now there’s a 30-day appeal period, then the decision record becomes final, and all that we’ve worked for these last many years is the official management plan in Spring Creek Basin. Documentation, bait trapping, PZP-based fertility control, AML increase … it’s all there.

I can’t begin to articulate my gratitude and overall feelings of relief. Thank you to all those who made this happen. You know who you are, and you know you are appreciated!

The world is kinda one big crazy-town right now, but all I have to do is drive into the basin, spot some horses, walk out, plop myself on the ground (dry as it is … watching for cacti and slitheries, of course) … and all that crazy melts away.

Nature and wild horses truly are the best medicine for what ails us (somebody said that once upon a time, I’m sure of it!), and I am so blessed and thankful to have huge dollops of both in my life.





Celebrate diversity with love

6 06 2020

Look at those crazy-awesome toes!

Rather than allowing our “differences” to divide us, why can’t we celebrate all the wonderful colors and shades and nuances that make us *unique* – and beautiful?

When did “different” become “bad”? And who gets to decide that they are the baseline of “normal” so that “different” from “normal” also is “bad”?? So what, then, is “DIFFERENT” – and when the heck did it become something to hate and bully and demean? Is that “just” human nature? With all the diversity of this planet … what possible evolutionary advantage is there in being same?

What a world this would be if LOVE ruled our human behaviors. If “different” means that we’re only HUMAN, after all, only one species among many on this big blue (and yellow and red and pink and purple and green and brown and tan and orange and grey and turquoise and black and white) ball. If “different” means engaging our curiosity and asking “how can I get to know you better than I *think* I already do?”

As a journalist, I always thought I was a bit of a square peg trying to fit into a round hole because I never was a “news hound” for “if it bleeds, it leads” type news. My favorite tenure during my journalism days was my time as editor of the Dolores Star, during which I got to learn about people in the community, which also meant celebrating the community and those who lived in it. I liked telling positive stories about the people I met, doing all the interesting things they were doing.

A collaborator once accused me of being a cheerleader. I was cheered by that label, though I never would have embraced it in high school (and I wasn’t; I was in sports and band, and, of course, a horse girl) because it means that I embrace the positive; I embrace collaboration; I embrace partnership; I embrace the successes that come from all of it.

If we *embrace* more – more people, more love, more diversity, more hope – we can celebrate more … more people, more love, more diversity, more hope. See how that all comes around full circle?

Even during COVID-19 – maybe even especially during this time – can’t we achieve all of that? All of anything we want to achieve in the name of love?

Let’s NOT be color-*blind*.

Let’s be open to all the colors and shades brilliant and illuminated in the world.

Let’s be love-OPEN.





More little things

29 05 2020

As if we needed more proof that our mustangs are divine and under the shine of a higher power!

As May comes to a close, I want to remind readers that the comment period for our Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan EA is coming to a close (Saturday, May 30). If you’ve already submitted your comment letter, thank you! If you’ve procrastinated, now is the time to type out a letter of positive support regarding Tres Rios Field Office’s HMAP EA. It will guide the management of our mustangs for the next couple of decades and ensure that they are managed and protected to our highest standards.

Here’s the link to BLM’s eplanning site, on which you can find the draft HMAP EA and the button that will allow you to comment through that site:

Or you can send an email to our excellent herd manager (and author of the HMAP EA), Mike Jensen, at m50jense at blm dot gov.

Please note that you support Alternative A – Proposed Action. If you have personal knowledge of our herd and mustangs – whether by visits or even through this blog – please let them know.

Read more at my initial post about the draft HMAP EA at https://springcreekbasinmustangs.com/2020/05/02/little-things/.

And thank you. πŸ™‚ We so appreciate your support.





Little things … that become ginormous

2 05 2020

041320Ravenbird1

Do you see the little bird, taking flight in front of Raven?

Do you see the head and ears of the horse below and beyond Raven?

Do you see Raven, divine wild girl, in all that delicious evening light?

Do you feel the magic?

********************

My friends, my fellow lovers of Spring Creek Basin’s marvelous mustangs, the draft HMAP EA is out for comments. (That’s herd management area plan environmental assessment in non-acronym-speak, and it lays out the overall plan for the next umpteen years of management of our Spring Creek Basin mustangs.)

It’s kinda huge.

OK, in the grand scheme of all that’s going on in the country, in the world, right now, it’s a blip. And I do not make light of those who are suffering terribly now, in so many ways.

This EA represents countless hours and days and weeks and months – the last couple of years – of work by our uber-respected BLM herd manager, Mike Jensen, at Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores, Colorado. It represents field work (vegetation monitoring, land-health assessments), and it represents computer time. It represents a career spent doing good things, positive things, for the ranges he has managed during his work with BLM. It represents gathering facts, lining up the science, listening to partners, speaking to a wide variety of people … and honoring the good management we’ve achieved, together, for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs, these descendants of horses from cavalry, Native American, settler stock and beyond, and ensuring that what we have worked so hard to achieve will be set down in the herd management area plan going forward for Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area.

I cannot overstate the enormity of this document and what it represents. I cannot overstate the positivity of what this document represents.

It means our Spring Creek Basin mustangs will be as well managed as possible, protected, the range on which they depend will be protected, and we will continue to do all in our power to ensure that they live long, healthy lives, as wild and free as they were born to be.

There’s a lot of crazy in the world, yes. BUT. Spring Creek Basin, as so many have discovered, is a place of peace and beauty and magic and partnership, and our goals, set so long ago, are coming to fruition.

Among other things, Alternative A (preferred, of course) sets the appropriate management level (AML) at 50 to 80 adult horses, an increase from the current 35 to 65 adult horses. As Mike said, the science (the vegetation monitoring, the land-health assessments, the PZP fertility-control program) supports it. This is absolutely what I have hoped and prayed and worked so hard to have happen … for what seems like a million years.

Don’t worry – we will continue to introduce mares periodically to ensure the viability of our small herd’s genetic health. And don’t forget: Spring Creek Basin is almost 22,000 acres of high-desert, low-rainfall, kinda-scrubby, perfect-for-wild-horses geography. Translation: It’s small in terms of ranges, and we worry about water even in good years. Also keep in mind that BLM closed the allotment to livestock grazing a few years ago, and with PZP treatments keeping our foal crops low each year, we CAN increase the AML a bit and not fear that it will reduce the current quality of the range. That’s a win-win.

BLM also will continue the current, natural, 50-50 stallions-to-mares ratio. Also good.

Here’s the link to the eplanning site (the above link will take you directly to the PDF): go.usa.gov/xpJKn

Once there, click on the “Documents” link on the left side of the page. Then click the “Draft EA and Appendices” link. (Below that is the link to the scoping letter that we commented on a couple of months ago.) Then click the PDF icon to the left of “Document Name: Draft DOI-BLM-CO-S010-2020-0009-EA.pdf.” A new tab will open in your browser with the PDF document of the draft HMAP EA.

There are only two “Proposed Actions and Alternatives”: “Alternative A – Preferred Action” and “Alternative B – No Action.” We, of course, prefer the preferred Alternative A. πŸ™‚

Please comment as you have before (the deadline is May 30), for the mustangs. For all the work and blood and sweat and tears (I was crying (with joy) so hard when I called my mom yesterday morning, she couldn’t understand me and thought something was wrong!) freely given from all of us who have worked so hard to get to this point. For Mr. Mike Jensen, BLM herd manager and range specialist extraordinaire, who created this management plan that includes all our hopes for our mustangs’ futures.

This is a shining ray of light in the way things can be done for our mustangs. We are so grateful.

Thank you, thank you and thank you.

041920Voncolt2

For this little guy and all those that were born to be wild and free in Spring Creek Basin – and all those yet to come into their wild world.





He’s bold, he’s red

31 01 2020

122119Hayden1

He’s Master Hayden.

**********

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.”





Revising our HMAP

22 01 2020

012020Skywalker1

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

**********

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.”

**********

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).

**********

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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