Alternative spring break!

31 03 2017

Many hands DO make the work go faster, and with nine University of Missouri students, two San Juan Mountains Association people, four BLM’ers and yours truly, we had plenty of hands to make the most of one day on Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern fence line during alternative spring break.

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Speaking of hands, let’s start with feet (!). ๐Ÿ™‚ After hiking to the fence line with the tools of our trade, all our shoes looked like this! (We did get some lovely rain!) Those hiking boots belong to Kathe Hayes, volunteer coordinator extraordinaire. She has been leading the students to projects on San Juan public lands (in partnership with BLM and the Forest Service) for nearly 20 years.

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Students got right to work removing old wire in the next section up the line. The H-brace in the background is where students stopped last year (we had SNOW last year). Here, Gabby,ย  Katy, Natalie and Angela receive guidance from Kathe (in purple jacket).

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Then, of course, we had rusty ol’ barbed wire to roll. Take a gander at Katy’s boots.

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Natalie rolls more old wire while students continue removing strands.

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Meanwhile, our herd manager, Mike Jensen …

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… and Garth Nelson, also a rangeland management specialist, tackled the new H-brace at the other end of our day’s fence section with Brian, Blake, Chris and Matthew. (I missed most of their building while helping the girls remove and roll the old wire.)

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The original fence line was a little cattywampus (!), so we had to do some straightening. The orange string indicates a straight line between last year’s H-brace and this year’s H-brace. Some T-posts had to be uprooted and repounded. One good thing about the mud: It was pretty easy to pull the T-posts out AND pound them back into the soft ground.

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The Mikes – Mike Schmidt, left, BLM wildlife biologist, and Mike Jensen, herd manager – unrolled new wire between the H-braces. You can see the first strand already in place and tightened.

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We did give students a few minutes to sit down and eat lunch. ๐Ÿ™‚ Left to right: Natalie, Angela, Katy and Gabby.

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Then it was back to work. Blake and Chris start clipping wires to T-posts using metal “clips” made specifically for the task.

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Brian demonstrates good clip-attaching technique to Katy and Angela while Blake (behind him) also watches.

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Then Angela and Katy were pros!

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Chris and Natalie use one of the measuring sticks to ensure wildlife-friendly spacing of the wires before they clip them to the T-post.

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Gabby and Caitlin did their share of wire clipping.

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Brian holds the measuring stick while Jessica clips the wire. Jessica made her second trip in two years to Southwest Colorado for alternative spring break. This year, she’s the student leader.

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To end the day, Mike S. grabbed my camera to nail this shot of Brian and Matthew hoisting the old wire over the next stretch of old fence while Garth and I wired the gap after the new H-brace. You can see why we’re keen to replace this whole fence line for the security of our mustangs.

Then we trekked back through mud to the vehicles and well-deserved snacks, courtesy of Kathe.

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Thanks again to all of you wonderful Mizzou students and BLM’ers and SJMA’ers who worked hard to continue our tradition of keeping our mustangs safe and protected within Spring Creek Basin! We’re super appreciative of your efforts – all done with smiles and enthusiasm!

THANK YOU!

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One day = new fence

30 03 2017

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Ma Nature struck again this year and delivered rain on the first of our two-day alternative spring break project in Spring Creek Basin! So the above smiles are on day 2 … *after* walking (slogging) through messy, slippery mud to get to the fence line.

(But they carried just one roll of wire for supplies – the rest being tools – so we were also smiling about the mule-packed fence materials, which made our one day even easier!)

I ran out of time to get to pix for a full morning-after post, so you get just the one today … and hopefully a fuller post tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚

Above, by the H-brace they built (!), the two girls seated are (left to right) Angela and Gabby. Beside/above them in front of the H-brace are Natalie, Katy and Chris. Behind the H-brace are Brian, Blake, Caitlin, Matthew (assistant to Kathe), Kathe Hayes (volunteer coordinator with San Juan Mountains Association), Jessica (student leader; this is her second trip to Southwest Colorado from Mizzou), Garth Nelson (BLM range specialist) and Mike Schmidt (BLM wildlife biologist). Not pictured but much appreciated are Mike Jensen (our awesome herd manager) and Keith Fox (BLM).

THANK YOU, Missourians! We decided that we rebuilt a quarter-mile of fence under excellent sunny skies across drying muddy ground. Definitely not muddy enough to dampen enthusiasm. You guys ROCKED the fence! Your work helps keep our mustangs safe and protected in Spring Creek Basin, and we are grateful to you all!





More mules

16 03 2017

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We do have water in the desert, in spite of our very dry late-winter conditions.

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The Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Packstring is Glenn Ryan’s baby; he has been the head honcho and mule packer since 2004.

This link and this one to the crew will give you more information, and if you Google it, you’ll find all kinds of articles about the amazing work this outfit does throughout the West, including this one last fall in The Durango Herald.

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Katy Bartzokis is a permanent seasonal employee with BLM, based in and around the Steens Mountain Wilderness Area of Oregon. She’s the only BLM packer she or we know about. She’s definitely the best one we know. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’re packing in and out of wilderness areas, these are the folks, and these are the mules, you want on your trail (if you even have a trail; we flagged one through the greasewood and over and through and down into and up out of arroyos).

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Here’s the full string, led by Katy, who led three mules, and Glenn, who led the last two. Our BLM range tech Justin Hunt is visible at the back. This was shortly after we left the trailer – loading site – and you can see Disappointment Road in the background. The big Forest Service rig may have drawn a few curious glances from the few travelers who passed by during our work days. ๐Ÿ™‚

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To highlight a couple of the mules, this is sweet Karla. Katy and Glenn had folded the now-empty “mantis” and bundled the ropes and then manti’d them and were tying them on Karla’s pack saddle for the trip back to the trailer (we’re at the drop site in this photo). A “manti” is what you or I would call a tarp or square of canvas. Packers like Glenn and Katy use them to wrap bundles of taped-together staves and T-posts. Very neat – and I don’t just mean “keen.” ๐Ÿ™‚ Usually, the folded mantis went back in the emptied panniers (which carried wrapped wire rolls), but on this particular trip, we had just staves, which were packed and roped and tied like you see in the photos above. So even bundles of mantis and ropes were themselves manti’d and tied on for the return trip.

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And this is big Skid – the only mule with a forelock and one of only two boys (johns?) in the string. Sweet boy!

All the mules have their personalities, of course, and all marched right along – this was their first job out of winter pasture – to carry a LOT of pounds worth of fencing supplies into McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area to help with our fence-maintenance projects. We love them all. ๐Ÿ™‚

Mucho big thanks again to Glenn and Katy, Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid, Karmel and Sly, for all your work and patience with us! We’re so incredibly grateful for your skilled, amazing work – here and elsewhere on America’s public lands!

Thank you also to our BLM range folks Mike Jensen, Justin Hunt and Garth Nelson; our Spring Creek Basin mustang herd management is so good thanks to you all. Thank you to BLM’s Mike Schmidt and Keith Fox, who took time away from their regular duties to help us one day. Thank you to SJMA’s volunteer coordinator Kathe Hayes, who keeps us rolling on these projects. And thank you to advocate and volunteer Kat Wilder, who does it all when it comes to working for mustangs. ๐Ÿ™‚





Around the bend with mules

15 03 2017

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There are only so many hours in the day … and we made the most of an extra day to haul in more fence supplies with Glenn Ryan and Katy Bartzokis, Karmel and Sly, and Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid with the Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Packstring! (We also had the help of BLM rangeland management specialist Garth Nelson and range tech Justin Hunt, and hardworking advocate Kat Wilder.)

Ya’ll get just one pic this morning because the hours of the day ran out on scheduling this blog post. But these folks not only are incredibly photogenic, they worked super hard to minimize our work later by hauling in loads and loads and loads of wooden posts, steel T-posts, wooden staves and smooth- and barbed-wire rolls, so you’ll see more photos soon.

For projects in the backcountry, going where ATVs fear to tread (and wilderness study area rules won’t allow ’em anyway (thank goodness)), MULE POWER ROCKS!

More pix to come. And another note to locals: Glenn and Katy – and the mules! – will be at the Ag Expo at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds this weekend. Check ’em out, shake their hands, admire the mules. They’re absolutely awesome, and we couldn’t be more grateful for this excellent partnership! ๐Ÿ™‚





Mules helping mustangs, part 2

14 03 2017

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And who wouldn’t smile, to be on a good horse, packing good mules in Spring Creek Basin, Southwest Colorado, on a gorgeous spring day?!

Katy Bartzokis (above) and Glenn Ryan and their horses and mules were back to haul more fencing supplies into the basin for future work, and we had more help in the form of Mike Schmidt and Keith Fox, who came to help Kathe Hayes and Kat Wilder.

So many photo opportunities … so little time to actually peruse the images and select ones for publication! And we welcome Glenn and Katy, Sly and Karmel, and Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid back tomorrow for another few trips into the wilderness (McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, that is). (So someone has to get to bed!)

Locals: Glenn (and Katy?) will be at the Ag Expo at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds this weekend with the mules and horses that made this project happen. If you go, please stop by and heap thanks upon them for helping our beloved Spring Creek Basin mustangs. Their work will enable us to rebuild fence sections without having to carry in hundreds of pounds (1,000 or more? we should add it all up!) of materials. Just one wooden post for an H-brace weighs 50-some pounds.

Many, many thanks!!

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Mules helping mustangs

13 03 2017

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Spring Creek Basin herd manager Mike Jensen leads Katy Bartzokis (BLM) and Glenn Ryan (Forest Service) and their mules to a drop site with fence materials for some upcoming projects – including alternative spring break!

We are so stoked to work with the Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Packstring to get these supplies hauled into the basin by mule power!

This project is completely possible because of some big “horse” power, so BIG thanks to awesome mules Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid, and saddle horses Karmel and Sly. ๐Ÿ™‚

And extended thanks to San Juan Mountains Association’s volunteer coordinator Kathe Hayes, who heads alternative spring break each year; Justin Hunt, BLM range tech; and tireless advocate Kat Wilder.

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Alternatively …

31 03 2016

Once upon a time in a place far, far away from civilization – better known as Spring Creek Basin – it snowed during alternative spring break. And then we had many, many years of pretty excellent weather, during which we completed many projects for the benefit of our mustangs that call this faraway place their home on the range.

Brumley Point forms part of Spring Creek Basin's southeastern boundary.

Tuesday would have been the first day of the annual two-day work project for alternative-spring-break partiers in Spring Creek Basin. However, Ma Nature had other plans, and she sent howling winds and blowing snow to this southwestern corner of Colorado.

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Yesterday was the second day of our Spring Creek Basin project. Despite a light skiff of snow on the ground in the morning, we got a fairly decent start, and students carried several loads of materials and tools to the work site – which now is about mile from the road up the southeastern fence line.

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BLM range tech Justin Hunt gives a safety talk before Mizzou students carry tools and supplies to the work site.

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University of Missouri students pick up materials to carry to the work site from BLM range specialist Garth Nelson.

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Libby and Nina carry staves up the big hill.

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Nina (left) walks back to the truck for more supplies while SJMA’s Kathe Hayes leads Jenna and Bailey to the work siteย  with a second load of tools. SJMA’s MK Gunn is at far right.

And then it snowed again.

At first, they were lovely little flakes floating on the breeze.

Then those flakes got bigger and heavier, and they started sticking to the ground, and the dirt started getting damp and started sticking to the bottoms of our hiking boots.

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Mizzou’s Chalen helps Southwest Conservation Corps-BLM GIS intern Josh Ryan carry wire to the work site along Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern boundary during alternative spring break. BLM’s Sean Waggoner follows with the chainsaw and T-posts.

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University of Missouri students Luke and Jessica carry staves about a mile to the work site while snowflakes start to fall.

About noon, we made the decision to call it a day. By the time we got back to the road, the snow had stopped … but the next wave was on its way.

Between the waves of snow, students carried armloads of T-posts and staves, buckets of tools and handfuls of tools, stretched a string to straighten the next section of fence, built an H-brace, pounded T-posts and cut wood away from the path of the new fence line (actually done by our BLM range tech). A couple of them even got as far as dropping posts and staves along the line. But we didnโ€™t have time to take down old wire and string and stretch new wire.

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Garth pounds a spike into a cross brace held by Chalen in the H-brace built before the snow really came down.

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Garth helps Chalen and Luke tighten the wire holding an H-brace together.

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Justin cuts a tree away from the fence. Sean and Mizzou’s Megan serve as safety spotters. We learned that while we can’t cut even dead trees to use as posts in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, we can use chainsaws to clear such trees from a fence line.

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Sean holds wire while Nina and Megan attach strands to a T-post when the snowfall got heavy.

Weโ€™ll continue this project on other (sunny) days. ๐Ÿ™‚

We sincerely thank this yearโ€™s Mizzou crew for being hearty and willing to brave the elements to tackle this ongoing project! It was great to meet you all … and thereโ€™s always next year! We also thank SJMAโ€™s Kathe Hayes for her ever-cheerful organizational skills and taking care of the students, as well as members of the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners (who represent NMA/CO, Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen) for helping with funding.

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University of Missouri students gather with BLM and SJMA employees in front of Temple Butte, just outside Spring Creek Basin in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, during alternative spring break. From left to right: Justin Hunt, Bailey, MK Gunn, Josh Ryan, Jenna, Nina, Jessica, Megan, Luke, Libby, Kathe Hayes, Garth Nelson, Chalen and Sean Waggoner.