SCC crew cutting tamarisk

1 06 2014

Last week, a Southwest Conservation Corps crew spent four days in Spring Creek Basin cutting and spraying tamarisk. Kathe Hayes with San Juan Mountains Association played a big part in getting the crew here for this project, which – I think – was funded out of the Director’s Challenge grant our Tres Rios Field Office was awarded a couple of years ago.

Crew members are from Fort Defiance, Ariz. Several of them have been together since March, and a couple of them volunteered to join the crew for this project in the basin. Crew leader Lance Hubbard said this is his fourth or fifth season with SCC. Most of those have been spent doing irrigation, wash restoration and trail work; this was his first season to do chainsaw work. From here, they’ll head back to Ganado, Ariz., for all of the above.

Tamarisk eradication has been done off and on for many years in the basin. Some of our University of Missouri students have worked on it during alternative spring breaks with Kathe. Also working in the basin last week was a Forest Service sprayer, Gary, working in some of the main arroyos.


Five guys and one woman, ranging in age from 20 to 25, were on the crew (I couldn’t get them all in one frame until I made them pose for me at the end because they were all constantly in motion). Two wielded chain saws, cutting tamarisk as close to the ground as possible so the stumps would pose as little hazard as possible to the horses. Three cleared the branches and carried them to slash piles for later burning. And one sprayed the stumps with “Habitat” to prevent the tamarisk from growing back. Crew members traded spraying, carrying and cutting duties each day.


Shoanyah Halwood wielded one of the chainsaws. My back ached just watching her!


Matthew Begay wielded the other chainsaw. Adrian Benally was his partner to clear and carry branches to the slash piles.


Another one of Adrian and Matthew working together. Sprayed stumps are visible in the foreground.

Alonzo Moses, 23, carries cut tamarisk branches to a pile to be burned later.

Alonzo Moses carries branches that Shoanyah cut to a slash pile.


Crew leader Lance Hubbard also carried branches to slash piles.


Rolando Billie handled spraying duties on the crew’s last day in the basin. It was pretty warm during their week, but they had a little bit of cloud cover toward the end that helped.


From left: Adrian, Matthew, Rolando, Lance, Shoanyah and Alonzo. They’re standing where a big clump (grove?) of tamarisk once grew.

Getting rid of moisture-leaching, salt-depositing tamarisk is a big, worthwhile project in Spring Creek Basin, and we appreciate their work on behalf of our mustangs! They did see a couple of bands during the week and thought the horses were pretty cool. 🙂 Thanks to this hard-working crew!

Alternative spring break – day 2

27 03 2014

Not only are these University of Missouri students good workers, they’re good luck!

They arrived with smiles and good cheer and high energy, and we know why.

Chalen was the group leader for the second year this year. Last year, rumor had it that Chalen was up at 4 at least one morning (!) to cook breakfast for his crew. Kyla confirmed that while most UM alternative spring break groups are eating Cheerios and granola for breakfast and scrounging dinner on their own, Chalen is making sure his charges not only eat, they eat well! Kathe Hayes, with San Juan Mountains Association, sets up a couple of dinners for the students during the week each year, but I have it on good authority that the kids dined on steaks last night, courtesy of Chef Chalen. Niiiiice! (They deserve it!)

Wednesday’s stretch of fence work was fairly short, especially compared with Tuesday’s stretch. The goal was to finish relatively early, then take the students to the interior of Spring Creek Basin to see the reason for the work: the mustangs!

Tuesday’s work ended at a little arroyo that flows (when it rains) under the fence. The approach is fairly flat, but the north side is steep – and shaley (read: slippery). Tuesday, students built an H-brace on the flat side.


Wednesday, students ran wire up the steep slope to a newly-built H-brace (pictured is the brace built Tuesday). Students set up an impromptu relay system while carrying staves up the hill. Jake to Kyla in front, Sam to Dustin below, Casey and Chase bringing up the rear. It worked!


Forest Service firefighters Kevin and Chris helped with the work Wednesday. Kyla photobombed. Again. 🙂


From there, students removed wire and ran new wire to the next stop – a big juniper that students padded with 2-by-4s (to protect it from wire). This photo actually shows the female fence leadership in place Wednesday: Tif, Kathe and MK. They tied off the second strand of wire (you can see the first, bottom strand already in place and tight). Go, girls!

Removed wire: Check.


Ran new wire, four strands: Check. MK and Tom, both with San Juan Mountains Association, ran the last strand of wire from the padded tree to the H-brace while Grace, back right, helps channel the wire.


Dug post holes and built another H-brace: Check (oh yeah, and they carried these two thick, treated posts from the road just for this brace, at the top of the steep arroyo hill, to anchor the rest of the fence). Check, check! Here’s Chalen tightening the cross wires to strengthen the brace and Chris pounding in a spike (in a hole drilled earlier by Kevin) to secure the post to the cross piece.


Ran wire up the steep arroyo hill to then tighten and attach to T-posts: Check and check. Kevin carries the wire up the hill while Tif, Chris and Kyla tie it off at the H-brace below.


One more to show the steepness of the hill. Thank goodness it was just a short stretch!


Installed staves: Check. Mark, Sophia and Kyla made quick work of it.


Stopped for lunch: Check! 🙂


Here’s a shot of MK standing right in the bottom of the little arroyo while she attaches a stave to the wires. Tom and Chase are just up the slope. It’s just a narrow little thing, as you can see from the edge of the H-brace at the right edge of the photo.


And one more project to finish off the whole deal: Dustin, Chase and Tom installed a “dead person.” Back story: Most fence-building crews call these a “dead man” – “dead men”? But being the modern folks we are, and not to exclude an entire gender, in the last couple of years, with fence-building guru Tom Kelly – recently retired from the Forest Service – we started calling them “dead persons.” We’re innovative like that. This old tree trunk fit the bill perfectly; it will block the gap below the wire, and it will swing with any seasonal flows that wash through the arroyo.

Fairly early in the work, we had a couple of visitors:


Kevin Heiner with Southwest Conservation Corps brought his daughter, Mariah, to check a potential work project for one of his crews next year in Spring Creek Basin. Kathe Hayes with San Juan Mountains Association is trying to raise funds to bring a crew here to tackle a VERY steep – and long – hill coming up on the fence line. The hope is that the SCC crew might work at the same time as next year’s alternative spring break crew from Mizzou in order to add another dimension to the partnership.


While they were here, Kevin and his “executive director” also talked to students (Casey, Sophia, Mark, Chase and Grace pictured) about internship opportunities. Baby Mariah looks like a future outdoorswoman who will complete numerous projects on our public lands, doesn’t she?


Grand finale: Tif and Kathe follow the students to the vehicles after two days of work well done. How awesome is that fence??

Wednesday’s weather was quite a bit different than Tuesday’s: Somewhat cloudy, windy, cooler. Grey skies greeted us as we drove east with the idea to drive into the basin to look for mustangs to show the students. We saw Ty’s band at a distance from the road. By the time we got to Road K20E, we decided that the grey we were seeing was dust, not rain, so in we went. Chrome’s band delighted us by being a little closer to view!

And here’s where the good luck comes in. While it cut short our potential viewing of wild horses, the wind that stirred the dust also brought rain. Just a little. Enough to make the road the tiniest bit tacky. That’s more than we’ve had for weeks. Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!

So, dear students, thank you, thank you again, from all of us, on behalf of our mustangs – which belong to all of you, too! Please enjoy the rest of your stay – Sand Canyon today? Travel safely back to Missouri. Come back and see us! We so appreciate all your hard work!


Back row from left: Mark, Kathe, Chalen, Chase, Casey, Dustin and Sam. Front row from left: Damon, Grace, Sophia, Tif, Jake and Kyla.

Thanks. 🙂 You all rock!

How does your donation to NMA/CO help the Spring Creek Basin mustangs?

28 05 2013

This question was asked recently, and answering it gives me another chance to let local folks know about the Pati Temple Memorial Benefit Bash we will hold next week, Monday, June 3, at the Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus, Colo. Follow that link for the details and to purchase tickets if you haven’t and plan to attend.


Now, on to an answer(s) to the question!

First, see this page, compiled last year by Pati, for a list of the National Mustang Association, Colorado chapter’s past accomplishments:

As it says, NMA/CO has spent nearly $100,000 to date on projects that directly benefit the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin! We rarely do fundraisers, relying mostly on memberships and donations. Administrative expenses are low, mostly what we put toward mailing newsletters. We had T-shirts and hats printed for the adoption in 2011, and we’ll soon have a link to purchase them through the website.

Fence repair and maintenance is ongoing through volunteer labor. As a result of their partnership with us as part of Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners, BLM received $25,000 last year through the Director’s Challenge grant, which purchased some materials to be used in a project on the basin’s southeastern boundary line (read about alternative spring break and University of Missouri students’ work here – – and here – I fix fences as needed while I’m in the basin doing documentation. Sometimes we use materials provided by BLM, other times by ourselves.

We also are continually encouraging BLM to look at water-enhancement projects. More than a decade ago, NMA/CO paid for a water catchment to be built in Spring Creek Basin, and it supplies the mustangs’ only clean source of water (all others being extremely alkaline, at least). We have a signed agreement from about 12 or 13 years ago with BLM to construct at least one more catchment, but it has never been built. I think the catchment cost about $10,000. Several years ago, we also started talking to BLM about water guzzlers (such as those installed on Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range) to add to the horses’ quality of water. Those are about $8,000-plus. NMA/CO also has purchased parts for the catchment’s troughs, which work on floats.

NMA/CO contributes funds to combat noxious/invasive weeds in Spring Creek Basin (knapweed, tamarisk, musk thistle, etc.).

A decade or more ago, NMA/CO was able to purchase the cattle AUMs from one of the two ranchers who held permits in Spring Creek Basin. With the help of the National Mustang Association, we were able to retire those AUMs permanently. In the process, BLM conducted a grazing EA (not sure the exact reference) and then drastically reduced the remaining AUMs and changed the timing to dormant-season grazing only – Dec. 1 through Feb. 28. For the last several years, NMA/CO has been trying to buy or trade for the permit in Spring Creek Basin to also retire those AUMs, with the goal of no cattle grazing in the basin. As BLM itself says, managing wild horses is easier when the mustangs are the priority. The permittee is willing, so we are trying to work with BLM to accomplish this goal.

NMA/CO also is asking BLM to consider the use of bait trapping in the basin, instead of helicopter-driven roundups to complement the use of fertility control. We submitted a proposal for a program using native PZP that was implemented at the 2011 roundup. To bait trap requires the use of a facility in which to hold horses as they are trapped. This facility requires a chute and pens. We recently purchase a chute ($18,000) with donated funds from the National Mustang Association (of which we are a chapter). Our primary goal in fundraising currently is to purchase the required infrastructure for this facility so BLM won’t have only the option of using a helicopter and won’t need to transport one or two horses at a time – as they’re trapped – to Canon City, which is full, as most/all of BLM’s facilities seem to be. NOTE: NO ROUNDUP CURRENTLY IS PLANNED FOR SPRING CREEK BASIN. We are planning this now to have the facility in place so a future EA can include it in the planning process. As BLM said in 2011, bait trapping was not considered because it wasn’t in the EA. It wasn’t in the EA because no facility was available. However, note that we started asking specifically for bait trapping in 2008.

Enhancing water sources, retiring the remaining cattle AUMs, establishing a fertility control program and making bait trapping the priority for roundups all were Pati Temple’s goals for the Spring Creek Basin herd. In addition to the accomplishments made for the mustangs during Pati’s lifetime, we plan to accomplish these goals in her honor.

Fence work, round 2

25 04 2013

Time to choose: Cheesecake or fence work.

Dessert in the office or working off the cheesecake you could have had.

Lucky for us – the mustangs – a six-man, one-woman Forest Service crew and one BLM’er voluntarily gave up cheesecake to build fence with the Forest Service’s Tom Kelly and San Juan Mountains Association’s Kathe Hayes on Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern boundary fence.

Sound familiar? It should. This section is north of the section of southeastern boundary fence the University of Missouri students rebuilt when they were here on alternative spring break at the end of March. We had hoped to knock it all out while they were here, but while we rebuilt a good section of fence, and built the H-braces for this last section, we didn’t have time then to remove the old wire, restring the new wire and insert staves in the last section Kathe had scouted.

So on a beautiful day in Disappointment Valley, that last bit was what this crew finished.

Let me introduce ya’ll to the cast of characters:


Front row from left: Sara, Dave, Kathe and Derrick. Back row from left: Tom, Kevin, Kevin, Paul and Sean. Derrick was the group’s lone BLM’er.

To get started (and thank you, Mizzou students, for building the braces a month ago!), the crew unstapled and unwired the old barbed wire strands, then rolled that wire. Perfect wreaths were insisted upon. No one wanted to be “that guy” with sloppy wreaths. Happily, we had a crew of perfect-wire-wreath-rolling-peeps!

Kathe Hayes rolls a perfect barbed wire wreath.

Kathe perfects her wreath roll.

Paul and Derrick roll old barbed wire to pack out.

Paul demonstrates his on-the-ground roll technique while Derrick finishes a rolled wreath.

That was the un-building. Then the crew moved to re-building:


Tom, our fence-building guru, checked the straightness of the fence …


Derrick pounded re-aligned T-posts while Kevin, right, and Paul, left, looked on supervised and Kathe documented …


Sara and Dave walked with Sean and Kevin to unroll new wire for the fence …


Kathe and Paul used the miracle swizzler to attach wire strands to the T-posts …

Miracle tool.

Ahhh … two twists’ll tighten!

And …


Kevin, Kevin, Sean and Sara wired wooden staves between the T- and wooden posts.

Voila! What a crew!

Tom said the second-best part of the work day is lunch. One of the Kevins (Sara/h and Kevin: names of the month), naturally and without missing a beat, noted that the best part of the work day is – of course! – quitting time. I was too busy eating lunch to take pix of everyone eating lunch (the most interesting included cold pizza and a tuna salad avalanche with Doritos primer), so here are two pix of quitting time:

Derrick (BLM), Kevin, Sean, Paul, Kevin, Tom Kelly, Kathe Hayes, Dave and Sara.

Photo suggestion by Tom to show the view looking southish toward the Glade. If you look closely, you can see the fire lookout tower – Benchmark Lookout. It’s on the farthest hill basically between Sean’s and Paul’s helmets (and yes, managers, we received the safety talk(s)). From left: Derrick, Kevin, Sean, Paul, Kevin, Tom, Kathe, Dave and Sara.

Dave, Derrick (BLM), Tom Kelly, Kathe Hayes, Kevin, Kevin, Paul, Sara and Sean.

Then I made ’em all smile again – say mustang! – so I could take their pic looking southeastish and showing off the new fence. (Disclaimer: This actually is part of the section the students rebuilt, but there were more trees in the section these guys rebuilt, and this had the more open view!) The previous pic was taken just up the hill to the left looking out to the right.

Thanks for your marvelous work, guys and gals! It was a fun day, and hopefully it beat the cheesecake (though I hope your co-workers saved you some … or Kathe makes another one just for you all!).

Boundary fence – aka the fruit of the students’ labor!

28 03 2013

When the students finished work on the fence Tuesday, I was so excited, I forgot to take pix of said finished fence! So yesterday, on a near-perfect spring day in Disappointment Valley, I straddled my mountain bike for the first day this year and pedaled up to the boundary. I haven’t figured out a decent way to carry my camera while biking (it’s not little), so I apologize in advance for the crappy quality of these cell-phone images. But I believe they show the excellent quality of our new, student-built fence!


I say, isn’t that a rockin’ mountain bike! Oh, wait, I mean, isn’t that a *tight* H-brace! This is at the road (the cattle guard  is immediately to the left), and the brace was loose. Despite the poor image quality, I think you can see the shiny new wire. The sign says something about no motorized vehicle access (because it’s McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area).


This was shot from in front of my bike looking up the fence line. Does it rock or what?!

Compare the above shot – brand-new fence – with the one below, the original fence, photo taken the previous weekend when the crew cleared the greasewood and other brush from the fence line so the students could build:


This is from the other (west) side of the fence, looking back toward the road, but it’s the same section of fence.



The shadows don’t allow for much detail in this shot, but this is the first H-brace the students built, using the tree as the anchor. Notice the extra “padding” around the tree.


Here’s a closer view. The staves protect the tree from wire biting into the bark – thank you (again), Tom Kelly, Forest Service fence-builder extraordinaire!


This is the brace just to the left of the tree and shows – I hope – the somewhat intricate weaving of the wrap, which holds it all together.


And here’s the fence continuing on up the hill.

Kudos again to the students for building this wildlife-friendly, mustang-protecting fence!

Alternative spring break – day 2

27 03 2013

We must not have worn out the Mizzou students Monday because they came back Tuesday! (All except one of the Sarahs – who came up sick – and Tori, who stayed with her. Sarah, feel better soon!)

With the H-braces set in place, the day’s plan was to take out the old wire and string new wire. Following wildlife-friendly strand spacing, the top wire is smooth twisted wire and 42 inches above the ground. The bottom wire is smooth twisted and 18 inches above the ground. The middle two strands are barbed wire. Deer and elk can jump over, fawns and calves can crawl under, and cattle hopefully will respect the barbed.

So we had to cut wire pieces off the existing fence strands and pull staples and roll barbed wire. Gloves and shades were must-have accessories. Once again, fence-building guru Tom Kelly showed the most jaded of us, who thought we knew a thing or three about fence building, a new technique to tighten the wire fence strands to T-posts (metal) and staves (between T-posts or wood posts).


Tif watches Tom demonstrate the new-to-us tool to attach a wire fence strand to a metal T-post. She’s holding a stave on which she has marked the heights of the wire fence strands.


MK took over this “wonder tool,” and I’m not sure she ever let it go! Instead of a traditional “clip,” this is a short piece of wire with loops on both ends. The hook goes through both ends, you swivel it, and voila! Your wire strand is tight to the post!


But I’m getting excited and ahead of myself. First, we had to get rid of the old wire. Here, Emerald demonstrates careful barbed-wire-rolling technique.


MK and a “barbed wire wreath”!


More perfect rolls.


BLM guy Tom with his, uh, not-so-perfect “roll.” Lesson: Don’t let BLM roll up your fences! Fortunately, he redeemed his agency’s good name later with his wire-strand tightening skills.


Marissa carries wooden staves to drop off along the fence line. These help stabilize the wire and keep the spacing even. Note the colorful eyewear, courtesy of SJMA. This was to protect against the potential boinging – Kathe’s word! – of broken wire. (Note: As far as I’m aware, there was no boinging of wire or injury to students!) Right in front of Emerald’s shins, note the strand of wire. This is how it got there:


Students Chalen and Marissa help volunteer Keith unroll smooth twisted wire. Note the wire strand in the bottom left corner of the pic. It started at the road, tied off at the H-brace there, and was unrolled up to the first H-brace, which is just beyond Tom Kelly (back left), where the trees start. Then another strand is tied off there and the roll walked back to the road and that brace. The process is repeated with the barbed wire in this section, and then with the smooth and barbed wire strands from the H-brace behind these guys up the hill to the next brace.


Keith carries rolls of old wire to the trucks while Tom and Chalen carry good wire to the next H-brace to string it from there to the third brace. Note the very valuable set of fencing pliers sticking out of Keith’s pocket. Students were well-acquainted with these tools after two days in Spring Creek Basin!


Here, the bottom and top strands are in place and have been stretched (tightened). In this pic, Sarah and Aaron are measuring and stapling the strands of fence wire for the rebuilt fence. Note the marks on the stave Sarah is holding. The marks are at 18 inches, 23 inches, 30 inches and 42 inches. Marking staves made it easy for students to work in pairs: measure and staple.


Emerald and Ellen, foreground, and Corrie and MK measure and staple fence strands to posts. Ellen and Emerald are at the next H-brace, up the hill.


Mizzou students are the epitome of seriousness after day 2 of fence work on Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern boundary line. In the background, our excellent new fence! I can’t believe I didn’t take a pic of the finished product; to come. (It looks excellent!)

Front row from left: volunteers Corrie and Tif, Mizzou site leader Chalen and volunteer Keith. Standing: MK (diving) and Kathe with SJMA, students Marshal, Sarah, Marissa, Kara, Ellen, Aaron and Emerald, Tom Kelly with the Forest Service, BLM’s Tom Rice and Dave with the Forest Service.

An important side note, Corrie, Tif and Keith all adopted Spring Creek Basin mustangs in 2011/2012.

After their work on the fence, we took the students into the basin to scout mustangs. We saw Chrome’s band, Duke and Kreacher, Hollywood’s and Comanche’s bands with Bounce, and bachelor boys Aspen, Hayden, Tenaz and Apollo. Those boys were very accommodating for students’ pix!

On our way out, we stopped to investigate the dugout, likely used during construction (way back when?!) of the defunct Custer dam.

Chalen takes a break in the old dugout in Spring Creek Basin.

Chalen taking a well-deserved break. Word Monday was that he would be awake at 4:30 a.m. (!) Tuesday to cook breakfast.


Students gather for a group photo op in the dugout. Are those some happy faces or what?

Today – Wednesday – the students will work with Kathe and MK and my friend Sam on one of my favorite mountain bike trails in Southwest Colorado: Phil’s World, just east of Cortez. It’s a not-so-secret course anymore. Thursday, they’ll work at Sand Canyon, part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, west of Cortez.

Once again, huge thanks to these fantastic university students! We so appreciate your willing and enthusiastic work to help protect our Spring Creek Basin mustangs. We hope you had fun to balance the work and that you’ll enjoy your next work projects as much as we enjoyed having you work with us! Come back soon to our corner of Colorado!

Alternative spring break – day 1

26 03 2013

Monday was the first day of work for 10 students (including two site leaders) from the University of Missouri, here to work on public lands in Southwest Colorado on alternative spring break. Instead of going to Cancun or Fort Lauderdale or South Padre Island, these young men and women pursue service opportunities across the country. For more than a decade (13 years now?), San Juan Mountains Association, a nonprofit partner with BLM and the Forest Service on San Juan public lands, has organized work projects that always include at least one day in Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. This year and last year, students will be and were here for two days. This year, as last year, students worked on the southeastern boundary fence. Last year, they rebuilt a section of fence that had been vandalized before the roundup (someone cut it in several places); this year, they’re installing braces, tightening some wire and replacing some other wire – maintenance projects much-needed on that fence line.

Volunteers from Mesa Verde and Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association also are helping with the project. Some or all of the materials were purchased with funds from last year’s Director’s Challenge, awarded because of BLM’s partnership with Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners, made up of representatives from 4CBCH, MVBCH and NMA/CO.

From SJMA, Kathe Hayes and MK Thompson, from the Forest Service, Tom Kelly, and from BLM, Tom Rice, were overseeing the project.


Sarah holds the wire strands to give Marshal room to dig a hole for a post as the first step toward building an H-brace.


Four Corners BCH volunteer Bob Volger and student Emerald watch student Ellen pound in a stake to hold an H-brace to the post set in the hole dug by Marshal in the first photo.


Student Kara helps Mesa Verde BCH and NMA/CO volunteer Tif Rodriguez tamp dirt around a post set at another H-brace while Forest Service fence-builder extraordinaire Tom Kelly supervises.


From left, Chalen, Marshal and Aaron saw limbs off a juniper to make way for building braces using the tree. Of the 10 students on the trip, these are the group’s only guys. Chalen is one of the site leaders.


SJMA’s MK painstakingly removes staples from wire embedded in the juniper tree seen in the previous photo. Moving forward, each tree used for braces will get protective staves to prevent this from happening (thanks, Tom Kelly!).


Tif watches while Kara drills a hole for a spike through the brace and tree for stability.


Emerald drills the way for another spike in another brace. Altogether, three sections of braces had posts dug and posts set in place. Because this area of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area also is part of McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, all the work had to be done by hand – no mechanical help such as chainsaws.


Sarah holds wire while Bob, Tom Kelly and Tori (also a site leader) wrap wire around the H-brace and tree (with staves) to tighten.


Bob, Tom Kelly and Tom Rice do the last bit of work for the day: tightening the wire around the farthest H-brace for stability.

Today, we’ll tighten and replace wire strands.

Thank you to everyone who is helping with this project! We so appreciate your work ethic and commitment to our public lands!

Preparing for fence work

17 03 2013

In a couple of weeks, it will be spring break time again. And here, alternative spring break comes in late March, courtesy of San Juan Mountains Association, which has brought University of Missouri students to Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area (and other places on San Juan public lands) for something like 10 years now!

Yesterday, a crew of volunteers helped SJMA’s Kathe Hayes clear greasewood and saltbush and small pinon/juniper trees and a small, interwoven shrub we couldn’t identify away from the southeastern boundary fence so the students can start rebuilding the fence from the road with BLM, Forest Service, SJMA and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners help. For the second year, the students will work for the basin’s mustangs for two days (previous years have had them in the basin one day), and not for the first year, we’re excited to welcome them!

Some pix from our work:


Tif and her daughter, Madison (yes, our Madison is named after *this* Madison!), cut and toss greasewood away from the fence near the road.


Kathe and Lyn clear the fence of greasewood. This shot is looking back toward the road; you can see the metal supports of the cattle guard in the distance. Note Kathe’s handsaw; this part of the basin also is part of McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, meaning no motorized travel or mechanized tools – like chainsaws. Kathe and other volunteers cut some trees on another day for the students to use to make H-braces; those also were cut using handsaws.


Lyn, Madison and Tif clear brush while Kathe moves on to the next bush in need of clearing. Lyn is clearing the last bit of saltbush; the ground here was moist enough that we were mostly able to pull it up through the soil.


The couple that saws together stays together! Tif and her husband (and Madi’s dad), Curly, cut and saw a small juniper tree out of the fence line.


Curly and Madison head back to the truck after an excellent day’s work. The family that volunteers together … is super fun to have on your work crew!


Tif, her mom, Lyn (Madison’s grandma), and Kathe walk back to the truck along the newly cleared fenceline boundary of Spring Creek Basin.

In other good news, about 37 drops of rain fell while we were working. 🙂


2 12 2012

The Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores, Colo., has honored Pati and David Temple with an award that recognizes their dedication during the last 15 years to the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin.

In 1997, Pati and David joined the board of the newly formed Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association. They have served continuously on the board since then.

Some major projects have been completed in Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area at Pati and David’s urging:

* The water catchment in the basin was funded by NMA/CO – about $18,000. Although there are several ponds and seeps/springs, the catchment provides the horses with the only clean water source in Spring Creek Basin (the others being, at the least, very salty because of the alkaline soil).

* About a decade ago, NMA/CO raised $40,000 to buy cattle AUMs from a rancher who held grazing rights in the basin and, after a five-year struggle, succeeded in retiring those AUMs. Not only that, a grazing EA was prompted, which reduced the remaining AUMs and changed the grazing season to dormant-season grazing only (Dec. 1 until Feb. 28). The National Mustang Association, based in Utah, was instrumental in finally accomplishing this goal.

* Because of Pati and David, magazine subscriptions, horsemanship training videos and countless pairs of boots have been donated by NMA/CO to the inmate training program at the Canon City prison facility, where BLM has a short-term holding facility.

* Pati and David have assisted with the removal of old fences and wire from within the basin as well as construction of new boundary fences and the repair and maintenance of fences.

* For close to a decade, San Juan Mountains Association has hosted University of Missouri students during alternative spring break, which has included projects in the basin. David is an arborist, and NMA/CO regularly has funded chemical spray (Garlon) for tamarisk removal. David (pictured below at right) also has volunteered his time and expertise to help with eradication efforts.


* Because of Pati’s single-minded determination and her refusal to give up on him, when Grey/Traveler was sent to Canon City at the end of the 2007 roundup, we got him back. Pati and David hosted him at their ranch for three weeks (quarantine) until he could be returned to Spring Creek Basin (pictured below). Long-time readers of this blog will know that he not only rebuilt a band, he has the largest band in the basin at the tender age of “aged,” as aged at the last (2011) roundup.


* Pati and David represent NMA/CO in our coalition advocacy group Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners. They bring to Wild Bunch – and BLM – all their historical knowledge of BLM management of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area, as well as modern visions that fit with our advocacy goals, which they use to encourage new projects to benefit the horses. With the previous herd manager, one project Pati and David suggested and we convinced BLM to undertake was digging out ponds to increase storage capacity. Some hadn’t been dug out since the 1980s. In 2009, two ponds were dug out. In 2010, three ponds were dug out. In 2012, three ponds were dug out. All but two ponds in the basin have been dug out, and at least one of those still is on the priority list to BE dug out. Currently, in a desperately dry year, all but three ponds have water. To further illustrate how impressive this is – how visionary – ranchers throughout the region are hauling water to their cattle because water sources on their grazing allotments are dry.


* Also as members of Wild Bunch, Pati and David are an integral part of the partnership with BLM that resulted in the Tres Rios Field Office being awarded $25,000 as part of the Director’s Challenge this year.

* NMA/CO always has championed the use of fertility control. In 2007, NMA/CO paid for five doses of PZP-22 to be administered to the released mares. In 2010, NMA/CO signed on to the proposal submitted to BLM for the implementation of a program to use native PZP in Spring Creek Basin to slow population growth and reduce the need for frequent roundups. Also in 2010, NMA/CO paid for my PZP training at the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Mont. Then they paid for the darting rifle. When fertility control using native PZP was approved for the Spring Creek Basin herd ahead of the 2011 roundup, we were ready to volunteer.

* Pati and David have adopted several mustangs over many years (including those they’re riding in the photo of the plaque above). In 2011, they adopted yearling Rio (Grey/Traveler or Twister x Two Boots) and renamed him Sherwood, in honor of one of the founding members of NMA/CO. Pati is a genius at groundwork, and at 2 years old, Sherwood loads readily into a trailer and accepts a cinched saddle, among other things.


* In 2012, Hollywood and Piedra had a filly. She was named Temple in honor of Pati and David.

Temple, foreground; Madison, background.

Pati and David are true mustang angels in every sense of the words. Their passion about and commitment to mustangs, particularly Spring Creek Basin mustangs, is legendary in our part of the world. Personally, I am grateful to Pati and David a million-fold for their support and friendship. Their work has laid the foundation for the excellent health of the herd today and into the future. This list hits just the highlights, but I hope it conveys how inspiring they are and should be to mustang advocates everywhere. In addition, they are two of the nicest, most generous people you’ll ever know.

The plaque reads: Presented to David and Pati Temple. Thank you for your many years of unselfish commitment and dedication to the Spring Creek Basin Wild Horses and the Herd Management Area. The support that you have provided to the BLM has been invaluable to the long-term goal of a sustainable and healthy herd area in Disappointment Valley. Without your devotion to the horses, advocacy, hard work and persistence, many maintenance, enhancement and fertility control projects would not have been accomplished. November 2012. Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office.

The photo on the plaque, taken by Durango photographer Claude Steelman and featured in his book Colorado’s Wild Horses, shows Pati on Bandolier and David on Concho, their Sulphur Springs mustangs.

With appreciation beyond words and always grateful for you both, thank you, Pati and David, for your generosity, commitment and passion. It is contagious and has infected us all! And thank you, Tres Rios, for honoring Pati and David for all they have done for our mustangs.

Die, thistle, die!

6 10 2012

To follow up from the knapweed spraying seen at the northwest pond, here are some pix of sprayed musk thistle at the east-pocket pond:

On the western edge of the pond.

On the south edge of the pond – and dying already! (Note the water.)

Dying musk thistle, full pond – what’s not to love?

Did I mention full pond? The east-pocket pond now is one of only two ponds in the basin that have not gotten dug out in recent years. It did go dry this year but rebounded (a couple of times) with rain. And the Sorrel Flats pond, which was dug out in 2010, is just to the south.

Thank you to the Forest Service and BLM for your continued partnership with Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners in managing Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area to the best of its potential! It’s fantastic to come back and see the fruits of our labors – GPS’ing sites in the spring – come to fruition in the fall!