In living color

28 07 2017

Rain over the La Sal Mountains at sunset.

Rain at sunset over Utah’s La Sal Mountains, looking to the northwestish – golden rain.

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And looking to the eastish across Spring Creek Basin to McKenna Peak, Temple Butte, Brumley Point and beyond … pink rain.

Mother Nature has a pretty amazing palette out here in the wide, wild, beautiful world. 🙂

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Tiny dancers

26 07 2017

Friend and mustang lover Bebe June Mantooth created this AMAZING scale model of Spring Creek Basin mustangs, and my folks brought it to me during a visit from Texas (where they and Bebe live). It was the first time I’d seen it (not even pictures), and to say it was a “pleasant surprise” is the understatement of the year!

The photos really don’t do it justice. It’s simply spectacular. Specific mustangs in Spring Creek Basin – including horses in two bands and several bachelor stallions – are memorialized in this model (contained in a box that is painted inside – also by Bebe) that I will treasure forever.

Model of Spring Creek Basin mustangs by Bebe June Mantooth, Troy, Texas.

This is the view through the looking glass (window) in one end of the box. Bachelors are in the foreground, and two bands are in the distance (middle ground and back). Can you identify anybody? 🙂

Model of Spring Creek Basin mustangs by Bebe June Mantooth, Troy, Texas.

Looking straight into the box of beautiful. You can see the window at right. Not shown in any of the pictures is the lid, which is lined with tiny lights, so when the lid is closed, you can look in on the mustangs’ tiny little magical world. 🙂

Model of Spring Creek Basin mustangs by Bebe June Mantooth, Troy, Texas.

Another view that shows some of the topographic detail. Don’t miss the grey mares under the juniper trees.

Model of Spring Creek Basin mustangs by Bebe June Mantooth, Troy, Texas.

A closer view of the bands – and look! They’re going to water! Which is awesomely awesome because we’ve just had some more incredible rain, which was a pond-filling gift from heaven!

Model of Spring Creek Basin mustangs by Bebe June Mantooth, Troy, Texas.

A better look at the bachelor boys. Surely readers will recognize some of the horses? 🙂

Model of Spring Creek Basin mustangs by Bebe June Mantooth, Troy, Texas.

Through the looking glass again. Below the window is the little plaque my mom and dad had made for it. 🙂

HUGE THANKS to artist Bebe for the skill and love that went into creating this one-of-a-kind mustang masterpiece! I can’t even begin to tell you all how meaningful and incredible this is!





Rain over paradise

25 07 2017

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These screen captures of rain over Spring Creek Basin are almost as much fun to post as photos of the horses themselves! 🙂





Assessments, Day 2

22 06 2017

Yesterday was Day 2 of the Land Health Assessment in Spring Creek Basin.

Yep, it was hot. Yep, the gnats were still bad (but yours truly remembered her head net).

Mike Jensen, Justin Hunt and Nate West were back to assess more of Spring Creek Basin’s land health. We did some great sites, and a couple of them were higher, which allowed for great views!

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BLM range management specialist Mike Jensen and range tech Justin Hunt walk a site in Spring Creek Basin with views of McKenna Peak and Temple Butte.

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At the end of each site assessment, Justin and Mike took pix in two directions for future comparisons.

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We don’t have many trees in Spring Creek Basin, so many of the sites were the wide-open places (as in the photos above). But we had a couple of sites that were in pinon-juniper woodlands. This site (and the one pictured above) had really great grass.

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And then we headed uphill for our last site of the day.

Spring Creek Basin

Which led to an amazing view. Straight ahead is Brumley Point, and at the farthest left is one side of McKenna Peak.

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Those who go up must go down! Especially when the truck is at the bottom. 🙂

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Big thanks to BLM’s Mike Jensen, Justin Hunt and Nate West for persevering on these hot days to assess the land health of Spring Creek Basin. Again, as far as I can tell, we’re in pretty good shape.

Horny toad held by BLM wildlife biologist Nate West in Spring Creek Basin.

We think this little guy (gal?) might agree. 🙂

 





Assessing the land health of Spring Creek Basin

21 06 2017

Baby, it’s hot out there.

The mercury hit at least 100 degrees Tuesday in Disappointment Valley. Might be hotter today.

But we don’t shirk our duties when it comes to assessing the health of our range – which directly affects the health of our mustangs – in Spring Creek Basin. 🙂

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Don’t let the long sleeves fool you. This was our last site of the day, and it was toasty out there. We were glad for every bit of brief cloud cover that came our way. On the right is our excellent herd manager, Mike Jensen (rangeland management specialist), and on the left is wildlife biologist Nate West, both with Tres Rios Field Office. In the background, of course, are McKenna Peak and Temple Butte.

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Here, Mike and Nate – and our range tech, Justin Hunt – are checking examples of particular things that we were looking for, depending on what kind of site we were assessing – here, “basin shale.”

At each of the five sites we did (we have more to do), we completed a 17-point checklist to assess such things as “presence of water flow patterns,” “bare ground,” “amount of litter movement,” “effect of plant community composition and spatial distribution on infiltration and runoff,” “functional/structural groups” (what kinds of plants – annual/perennial grasses, shrubs, forbs – we should expect to find), “expected annual production” (which we are supporting with actual vegetation monitoring studies) and “potential invasive (including noxious) species (native and nonnative).” Each site has a list of expected standards that we should find according to soil types, including “basin shale,” “clayey salt desert” and “salt flats.”

Pretty fascinating, really! For the most part, my civilian observation is that our range is pretty healthy in Spring Creek Basin.

Our mustangs do seem to support that assessment. 🙂

Thanks to Mike, Justin and Nate for trekking to the basin on the hottest days of the year to perform these assessments that positively affect the good management of our mustangs!





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 (!). 🙂 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,  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. 🙂 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!





Snow scenes

25 03 2017

McKenna Peak

Did I mention that we got rain? Upper Disappointment Valley got some white stuff. 🙂 That’s McKenna Peak in the foreground.

Temple Butte

Iconic and locally relevant and important-to-us Temple Butte.

Brumley Point

Brumley Point.

Brumley Point and Temple Butte

A different perspective showing Brumley Point in the foreground and Temple Butte in the background. Brumley Point is mostly within Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. Temple Butte is just outside the basin’s boundary.

McKenna Peak

Temple Butte and Brumley Point, along with McKenna Peak, are in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, which overlaps the eastern, southeastern and southern portions of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area.

All three features are prominent from just about anywhere in Spring Creek Basin. The elder Mr. Brumley was a prominent member of the local community, and was a rancher and timber man; Pati and David Temple were and are prominently involved with advocating for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs. I haven’t been able to learn anything about McKenna, but with a peak and a wilderness study area named after him, he (?) must also have made significant contributions to the region.

After the unseasonably warm, dry weather we’ve been having, it seems wild to see snow on the ridges, but the ground and vegetation needs it badly, and we’re immensely glad for the snow and the rain!