Water update

17 05 2018

Comanche at the new catchment trough.

Comanche and his band have found the “new” catchment trough (where we installed the apron and new trough two summers ago and the evaporation cover last fall).

The horses have two ponds and the two catchments as water sources, as well as numerous (if not high quality) seeps in various arroyos throughout the basin. Our BLM herd manager (Mike Jensen) is committed to closely watching the drought situation (we’re in the D4 category now – exceptional drought). Our awesome water hauler (Steve Heath) is able to pump water directly into the storage tanks. In the next week or so, we’ll be scouting locations that his water truck can reach to pump water into big troughs – supplied by BLM – elsewhere in the basin if conditions warrant.

Local ranchers have been hauling water continuously already this spring because it’s so dry.

And that wind – that howling, awful wind – is leaching away the moisture we don’t have, day after day.

It’s tough, folks, for wildlife and for livestock, and certainly not only in Disappointment Valley. That said, please know that the mustangs do not seem to be stressed. They have decent forage, as well as water sources, and they’re well dispersed throughout their range, not sticking to certain places as they would if they were stressed about sustenance/water.

Members of Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners are monitoring conditions closely, and the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association has offered to help pay for water deliveries to Spring Creek Basin.

We are so grateful (as always) to our Tres Rios BLM guys for being committed to the well-being of our mustangs!

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The fence is right*

28 03 2018

For the many-th year (20?), we welcomed University of Missouri students to Spring Creek Basin once again to celebrate spring. And as absolutely always, we love these kids!

They bring their enthusiasm and energy across the country from Columbia, Mo., to Southwest Colorado, to complete beneficial projects on public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

We started restoring Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern boundary fence, in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, way back in 2012. This year, we didn’t have two work days as in years past. We didn’t get snowed out like we did the last two years (we did get a little work done those years). We DID get basically to the end of the project (the base of a steep hill where a Southwest Conservation Corps crew took over a couple of years ago).

Wow.

University of Missouri students can take proud, beautiful credit for this strong, beautiful fence, and we are SO proud of them for all the work each of these students brought to the benefit of our beautiful mustangs.

We also give a special shout out to San Juan Mountains Association’s Kathe Hayes, who is “semi-retired” and enjoying winter with her horses in Arizona. For all the years of alternative spring break’s history in Southwest Colorado, Kathe headed the program. MK Gunn has stepped strongly into those big shoes left by Kathe, and we’re happy to have her (you might recognize her from years past, helping with alternative spring break). *The title of this blog post comes from MK. 🙂

Now on to some pix.

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Wild stallion Ty (see him? just right of center) made an appearance as students hiked to the work site yesterday morning.

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Because of the work by the Forest Service mule pack string last year, the students carried just tools in and old wire out. Pictured are Austin (with the bucket), Xavier, Jim, Erin, Gracie and a couple of others.

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Our esteemed herd manager, Mike Jensen, modeled a full beard for this year’s alternative spring break. We like it! But apparently, his family doesn’t. 🙂 Erin was starting to roll a strand of old wire …

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… and Mike came up the hill to show Erin and Gracie how to roll the barbed wire to get it to stick together.

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And then they were pros! (If you don’t believe me, check out the last photo in this post.)

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In this last stretch of fence line, we needed to remove some old T-posts and pound new ones to replace old juniper posts, so Erin stepped off the distances between posts, and Xavier dropped the posts where she indicated.

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Range tech Justin Hunt (left) watches range specialist Garth Nelson as he saws off the end of the horizontal post of a new H-brace held by Mike while our trio of awesome BLM guys built the H-brace at the end of the line. The post was bolted at both ends and then cross-wrapped with wire to hold the tension of the wire strands.

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Because there was a steep little drop from the end H-brace (to the right), Justin helped Erin and Austin dig a hole for a big post to help hold the tension of the wires.

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We have used these measuring sticks for a lot of years now. We start with the bottom wire and roll them out and tighten them and clip them from the bottom up. The measurements are wildlife friendly, so elk calves and deer fawns can crawl underneath the bottom, smooth-twisted wire, and adults don’t get caught between wires when they jump. The top strand also is smooth-twisted wire. The middle two strands are barbed wire, to keep cattle (outside the basin) from pushing against it.

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Mike and Justin unroll another strand of wire from down the hill up the hill.

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And I had to include this pic that shows the camaraderie between our BLM guys. We’re really grateful to have all three of our guys. They make the work fun. 🙂

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Here, Mike and Justin paused for a minute to let Erin and Jim attach a clip to the last T-post so they didn’t get tangled in the next strand. A great thing about having many hands for a project like this is that we’re always busy with the next step, and it goes really fast!

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Here, Jim and Erin are up to the third wire strand. Notice the wood staves laid out on the ground along the fence. Students put those in place so they’d be ready when all the wires were tightened, clipped (to T-posts) and stapled (to wood posts).

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And there’s the new fence – all four strands. Gracie and Austin are rightfully proud of their work!

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One of the last steps of the process was to cut pieces of wire in order to secure the wooden staves to the wire strands. Advocate Kat Wilder (left) helps Erin and Austin cut pieces of uniform length while Xavier visits with Jessi, one of Kat’s canine companions.

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This is a closer look at the wire-piece cutting, looking down at the fence the students just built. We set up a system where the other students, MK, Garth, Justin and Mike were wiring the staves to the strands while Kat, Erin and Austin cut the wire pieces for some students to carry down the hill. They cut about 100 pieces to attach the staves in this last stretch of fence!

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Gracie and MK and Mike wire staves to the fence strands. The staves help support the fence and keep the strands at the same spacing. Plus, they provide a very visible barrier for the horses and other wildlife.

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The pups were definitely a hit with the students. 🙂 This is Gracie and Jessi.

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Mizzou students, once again, we thank you, thank you, thank you all for your work! We love the alternative spring break program and the benefits it brings to our mustangs (and other areas of our public lands). We really couldn’t have done this without ya’ll!

In honor of this year of the Winter Olympics, students show off the old wire rolls that they carried out of the basin at the end of their day of work. From left to right: Garth Nelson, Jessica (who is getting over being sick; we hope she feels better to enjoy her trip!), Erin, Jim, MK Gunn, Xavier, Austin, Gracie, fun-loving Mike Jensen and Justin Hunt. Also pictured are Jessi and Bow, who got and gave more cuddles than anyone all day. 🙂

THANK YOU, MIZZOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

We hope you enjoy your week of beneficial work in Southwest Colorado. We are so grateful that you chose to spend your vacation helping us preserve and protect our beautiful public lands, including Spring Creek Basin. 🙂





Rising and rising

1 02 2018

Almost-full moon rising overDisappointment Valley.

The moon rose hugely Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning, I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes early enough to *see* the bloody lunar eclipse but not quite early enough to get out and capture the bloody lunar eclipse on digital media. I’m not sure whether it disappeared for lack of light (it was pretty dim when I did see it, with just a sliver of silver moon showing at the very bottom of the orb) or whether clouds obscured it. Noticeably, no stars were visible in a fairly wide band above the horizon. By the time the sky was light enough to see detail, bloody clouds (they weren’t red …) were low above the western ridges.

But sunrise was briefly and sweetly – one might say bloody – spectacular. 🙂

Sunrise, morning of the super blue bloody moon eclipse.

Why yes, Virginia, that IS Temple Butte, silhouetted against the dawn. 🙂

Did you see the eclipse? How awed were you?? Share in the comments! 🙂





Doing good work

19 01 2018

A couple of days ago, we met up with our fabulous BLM guys to install the evaporation cover over the new trough – connected to the new water catchment apron – that we installed in 2016.

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BLM rangeland management specialist Garth Nelson, left, figures out which drill bit to use to drill holes through the metal of the evaporation cover to attach it to the supports BLM range tech Justin Hunt is welding to the vertical posts. The post at right already has a piece welded to it.

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See the metal thing inside the trough in front of Garth? That’s the critter ladder the guys built. It allows birds to get to the water or an animal that falls into the water to get out. Garth drilled a couple of holes and wired it to the edge of the trough.

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Once everything was in place, Justin attached small square plates to the tops of the three vertical posts and welded them into place, then used the grinder to smooth the square edges. At the near corner, you can see the “trap door” the guys built into the cover so the float below it is accessible for any work or replacement that needs to be done. In the background, range specialist and herd manager Mike Jensen, right, talks with Garth while visiting with Bow, one of Kat Wilder’s dogs.

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Sparks fly as Justin grinds the edges of the post caps to smooth roundness.

These guys thought of everything!

The cover will help preserve the water in the trough from evaporating so quickly. And with its installation, the new water-catchment project is officially complete. In warm weather, this will provide a second source of clean water for the horses.

Snow is in Saturday’s forecast. Please send good thoughts. This dry weather has to end.





We have the coolest neighbors

31 12 2017

Fox - common gray fox

Isn’t this little guy/gal gorgeous?!

It’s a “common gray fox,” and my Field Guide to the Rocky Mountains says they eat rabbits, rodents, birds, grasshoppers, fruit and berries. They “often climb trees, unlike fox and coyote”! They’re found on the “lower slopes of mountains, wooded canyons and scrubby plains” in “southeastern Wyoming (rare), western, central and southeastern Colorado.” The book also says they’re “mainly nocturnal, year-round.”

Fortunately for my camera and me, this one didn’t get the nocturnal memo. 🙂

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Happy New Year’s Eve!





Continuing the good-work good news

23 10 2017

We have our fair share of good-news stories here in Spring Creek Basin. In the wake of the National Advisory Board’s recommendations last week, it’s a good thing we have more good news to share.

We’re no strangers to partnerships with the Southwest Conservation Corps, based in Durango. Most recently, readers may remember a fence project on the basin’s southeastern boundary line two years ago. Crew members hoofed (!) materials and wire up a steep, steep hill beyond where University of Missouri students have been slowly but surely rebuilding the fence north from Disappointment Road. This has long been a project in partnership with San Juan Mountains Association, alternative spring break (with Mizzou), Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners. ** I nearly forgot to mention the awesome work by the U.S. Forest Service’s mule packing team, which delivered materials to the site earlier this spring!

And beyond the steep hill, the fence cross the bends of an S-arroyo that brings water into the basin when it rains. Since 2011, we’ve been talking about rerouting the fence there so it crosses just one bend, goes up and beyond the arroyo and ties into the fence as it continues toward Brumley Point.

I hadn’t seen their work until yesterday, and boy was I wowed!

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This is now the fence over one bend of the S-arroyo. The branches are wired to the fence but aren’t embedded in the ground so they can give when water flows through. That’s Brumley Point in the background.

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From the bottom of the arroyo, this was my first view of the crew, hard at work.

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Crew members were putting the finishing touches on the end of the rerouted fence, adding wooden staves between metal T-posts and wiring the existing fence to the new H-brace. Pictured are Molly, Sara, Nicole and Mike.

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Lance has his work flow down as he wires a stave to the fence strands.

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Mike and Nicole attached the wire strands of the existing fence to their new H-brace, which tied the new fence to the old fence. Brumley Point is at back left, and McKenna Peak is visible behind Mike.

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A longer shot, showing McKenna Peak and Temple Butte. The new fence is that good-looking thing at left, and the old fence is visible (a couple of T-posts) straight ahead. To the right, down the hill, is the S-arroyo.

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Crew co-leader Sara carries extra wire and tools back along the fence at the end of the day.

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Sara (right) and her co-leader Alycia had just a few more staves to wire in …

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… with Molly (left) and Lance before the end of the work day. Here, you can look down the hill to the arroyo. At far right, you can see just a bit of their new fence going down the hill to cross the bend (first photo in this post). The fence used to run across the drainage at far right across the bend, through the trees to the left, across the first bend (as the water flows) and up the hill.

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Alycia walks down the hill along the crew’s new fence at the end of the day … and a job well done! (The crew still has a couple of days left in their hitch and will work on patching some saggy places in the fence line.)

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This perspective is taken from the south looking north. The fence is coming from behind my right shoulder, down to and across the arroyo, then up the hill to the left. It makes a corner toward the top of the hill (see pic above this one with Alycia) and runs across the hill above the arroyo – cutting the middle of the pic – to where it ties back into the existing fence above the first bend of the arroyo.

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Big kudos to this small group of huge-working young folks! This fence reroute will serve to keep our mustangs safe on their home range by ensuring that the fence doesn’t wash away during rain events that flood the arroyo. We’re so happy to have the help of (left to right) Mike, Sara, Nicole, Molly, Alycia and Lance!

THANK YOU!





Frosted

11 10 2017

Reya and Corazon, the Glade

Reya and Corazon cooperated with the photographer by standing on high ground with silvered golden aspen groves in the background … but not so much with attentive ears. 🙂

The background is above Disappointment Valley and beyond Spring Creek Basin. Our fall colors at lower elevations show in wildly yellow rabbitbrush and cottonwoods along Disappointment Creek (which does not flow through Spring Creek Basin) and orangey tamarisk in the drainages. … And sometimes a sliver of snow on the far edges.