Reminder

20 08 2018

Maiku

One week from today, on Aug. 27, the deadline closes on your opportunity to affirm to Tres Rios BLM that yes, we want bait trapping to be the method of choice when it comes to gathering and removing our mustangs – IN the future, WHEN needed (which is not now).

Follow this link to information for DOI-BLM-CO-S010-2015-0001-EA (Spring Creek Basin HMA Bait Trap Gathers).

Refer also to this blog post – ‘Do NOT freak out!’ (because we are NOT removing horses) – for more information about what this EA is about and why it’s a good thing.

The deadline for comments is Aug. 27, 2018. Please do comment favorably about bait trapping in Spring Creek Basin (in the future, when needed): Alternative A – proposed action: “The proposed action would utilize bait/water trapping as the primary gather method to remove excess wild horses from the HMA. No wild horses would be removed as long as population was or remained within AML.”

The population of Spring Creek Basin’s mustang herd IS within current AML (which is 35 to 65 adult horses, and yes, we know that’s fairly low, and yes, we are working to get that raised in the hopefully-soon-to-be-updated herd management area plan). NO removals of any mustangs from Spring Creek Basin are planned or “on the horizon,” as our herd manager, Mike Jensen, has told us.

Thank you to all who have sent in their comment letters! We appreciate it more than you can imagine. Please also let Tres Rios BLM staff know that you appreciate their commitment to Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs, as well as to the volunteer advocates who support them and partner with Tres Rios BLM for the horses’ continued good management. 🙂

 

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Do NOT freak out!

28 07 2018

under the rainbow

Some of  you may have received an email from Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson regarding an EA now out for public comment about bait trapping in Spring Creek Basin. If you didn’t, you can follow this link to DOI-BLM-CO-S010-2015-0001-EA (Spring Creek Basin HMA Bait Trap Gathers).

At the above website, you will find links to the “public notice: opportunity to comment” letter as well as the EA. You’ll also find this summary of information:

The BLM is analyzing the environmental effects of removing wild horses by bait and/or water trapping in a site-specific analysis of potential effects that could result with the implementation of a proposed action or alternatives to the proposed action.

Background
In August 2014, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Tres Rios Field Office (TRFO) received a Bait Trapping Proposal for future removal of excess wild horses from the Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area (HMA) from Kathryn Wilder, TJ Holmes, Colorado Chapter of the National Mustang Association, Four Corners Back Country Horseman and the Mesa Verde Back Country Horseman [collectively known as Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners].

The proposal is for the BLM to use bait and/or water trap methods for future removal activities of excess wild horses within the Spring Creek Basin HMA located in Disappointment Valley, Colorado. ***It should be noted that the BLM TRFO is not proposing to remove any excess wild horses from the HMA at this time.***

The purpose of the proposed action is to implement the use of bait and/or water trapping methods for removal of excess wild horses within the Spring Creek Basin HMA in order to maintain a thriving natural ecological balance with healthy sustainable rangelands by maintaining the appropriate management levels (AML).

The proposed action is needed because, at some future date, the BLM may determine that the number of wild horses on the range within the Spring Creek Basin HMA exceeds the established Appropriate Management Level (AML), and horse gathering is necessary in order to maintain the population at an appropriate level in balance with the ecosystem.

Decision to be Made
The BLM will decide whether or not to use bait and/or water trapping as the preferred gather method for removing excess wild horses from the Spring Creek Basin HMA. This analysis and subsequent decision will be utilized for future gathers over the next 10 years.

Project Location
The Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area is located between Norwood and Dove Creek, Colorado in the Disappointment Basin. The main access is from the west via San Miguel County Road 19Q (also known as Disappointment Road).

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*** Do NOT overlook this very important sentence: “It should be noted that the BLM TRFO is not proposing to remove any excess wild horses from the HMA at this time.” (Emphasis, mine.)

This, dear readers and wonderful supporters of Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs, is a good thing.

As noted, in 2014, we submitted a proposal to BLM to consider bait trapping above all other methods of rounding up and removing mustangs from Spring Creek Basin. In other words, bait trapping over helicopters. That led to a scoping period, during which BLM received 8,000 letters (give or take) favoring bait trapping over helicopters (thank you!).

Here’s the thing: Spring Creek Basin MUST be able to support its mustangs.

To great effect, we are using native PZP (one-year fertility-control vaccine) to slow population growth (because, as you undoubtedly know, PZP works where PZP is used). Given the fact that it is 2018, our last roundup was in 2011, and still NO HORSES ARE SLATED FOR REMOVAL FROM SPRING CREEK BASIN, I’m going to underline our successful use of PZP.

However, that doesn’t mean that we may never need to remove some horses for the continued range health of Spring Creek Basin, which is the absolute foundation of the health of our mustangs (of course, our priority is to manage our wild horses in the wild, on their home range).

This EA is the culmination of years of work by our groups (see above, noted by BLM) to make bait trapping the preferred method of gathering (yes, I’ll use that term with regard to bait trapping), as opposed to helicopter driving.

This EA does NOT mean the removal of horses from Spring Creek Basin is imminent; it DOES mean BLM wants to use bait trapping here instead of helicopters – IN THE FUTURE, WHEN NEEDED (also mentioned in the summary above) – and BLM wants your public comments to cement the deal.

We hope you’ll support us as we support our mustangs AND our local BLM folks who work closely with us toward that goal: Connie Clementson (manager, Tres Rios Field Office), Mike Jensen (herd manager extraordinaire (his official title is rangeland management specialist)) and Garth Nelson (rangeland management specialist who works with Mike and with us). (Special shout of note to former range tech Justin Hunt, now working for the recreation folks at TRFO. We’re sure – and glad – that we haven’t seen the last of him.)

The deadline for comments is Aug. 27, 2018. Please do comment favorably about bait trapping in Spring Creek Basin (in the future, when needed): Alternative A – proposed action: “The proposed action would utilize bait/water trapping as the primary gather method to remove excess wild horses from the HMA. No wild horses would be removed as long as population was or remained within AML.”

Even if/when removing some horses – for the good of the herd and the range – becomes necessary, we want to ensure that it happens in the best possible way for our beloved mustangs.

Please let me know if you have any questions. (You can query in the comment section, or leave a comment asking me to email you.)

Huge thanks. 🙂





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!





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.





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!





They’re totally rock stars

12 08 2017

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Earlier this week, I visited the BLM state office in Denver (Lakewood). As we walked into the entry way … I was drawn to the photo of mustangs on the wall (naturally, right?!).

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Photos also were on the opposite wall, but the mustangs catch your eye (of course!). (Above: Already out the door is BLM’s Ben Smith, wild horse and burro specialist based in Grand Junction, and holding the door while yours truly geeked out taking photos of a mustang photo is Jim Hyrup, president of Friends of the Mustangs, which is the group that advocates for Little Book Cliffs mustangs near Grand Junction.)

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This is the view of the photo as we walked into the building. It’s the view EVERYONE has as they walk into BLM’s state office!

I stopped to look closer … and was about to ask if anyone recognized the horses … when *I* suddenly did.

I might have gotten a little loud. 🙂

Pictured are Hayden, Jif, Chrome, Two Boots and Rio (now named Legado, owned by an NMA/CO board member). The BLM people didn’t know who took the photo, but it had to have been taken in 2010.

Because our wild beautiful ponies are just that famous. 🙂

In other pretty awesome news, we were there to support friends who advocate and volunteer and partner and collaborate with BLM for the good management of our Colorado mustangs on Colorado’s herd management areas and wild horse range: Sand Wash Basin, Little Book Cliffs, Spring Creek Basin (specifically) and Piceance-East Douglas (coming soon, we hope!). BLM folks, including Laria Lovec (on-range management), Steve Leonard (off-range management) and Ben Smith (wild horse and burro specialist based in Grand Junction), were there to recognize folks including Michelle Sander and Aleta Wolf (with Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and Sand Wash Advocate Team), and Jim Hyrup (president of Friends of the Mustangs).

FOM has been involved with Little Book Cliffs mustangs for more than 30 years and have been using PZP for more than a decade. SWAT and GEMS are about 5 years old, and advocates have been darting in Sand Wash Basin for at least the last three years. We are so happy and proud to support their efforts and call them friends and heroes/heroines for mustangs!

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Left to right: Steve Leonard, Laria Lovec, moi, Michelle Sander, Aleta Wolf, Jim Hyrup and Ben Smith.

Many of our valued volunteers couldn’t attend the meeting, but Stella Trueblood and Connie Wagner (SWAT), Marty Felix and Billie Hutchings (FOM), and Pat and Frank Amthor and Kat Wilder (Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners) are standout folks who spend hours working for our mustangs – and have done so for years and years. Marty earns the longevity award for more than FORTY years with Little Book Cliffs’ mustangs! Pat and Frank Amthor have logged TWENTY years supporting Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs!

In the “coming soon” category, Dona Hilkey and Pam and Tom Nickoles have been visiting, photographing and documenting Piceance-East Douglas’ mustangs for at least 12 years. They’ve been working closely with BLM, and folks are close to forming an advocacy group for that herd (and perhaps casting an umbrella over West Douglas as well). When that happens, it will mean every mustang herd in Colorado will have the support of volunteer advocates!

THANK YOU to every one of our dedicated volunteers!

And THANK YOU to BLM for recognizing and appreciating their work for our Colorado mustangs!





Partnering for mustangs

18 10 2016

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Yep, once again, volunteers showed up to support Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs! This is the apron project to provide a second source of clean water for our mustangs – now fenced to protect the apron from the horses walking on it. They’ve sure enough found the water in the trough below the tank, which is below this apron.

This crew has a lot to smile about because in just a few short hours, these awesome folks built a four-strand smooth-twisted-wire fence around the apron! Our BLM guys snuck out of the office last week and dug holes for almost all the heavy wooden posts – which serve as H-braces and the nifty new gate – and that was most of the hard work.

In the photo above, left to right: Laura and Bob Volger (Four Corners Back Country Horsemen), Kat Wilder, yours truly giving the thumbs’-up, Frank Amthor (4CBCH), Mike Jensen and Garth Nelson (range specialists; Mike is the herd manager), and Kat’s son Ken Lausten, fence-builder extraordinaire. Always-present Pat Amthor relieved me of my camera to take this pic of our hard-working crew. 🙂

Some more pix below before I got caught up in the efficient assembly line of pounding posts, wire stringing and stretching, and clipping wire strands to posts:

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Garth (left) and Frank work together to set the horizontal braces in the, you know, H-braces. Luckily for us, Garth and Mike Jensen already had done most of the hard work, digging holes and setting most of the wooden posts during a jail break, err, an escape from the office last week. In the background, Mike (left) and Bob Volger are digging a hole for another post to complete that H-brace.

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Here’s a closer look at Mike and Bob setting their post.

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As soon as Garth and Frank had finished this H-brace, Ken and Kat got right to work stringing wire. Mike’s running a T-post through the wire to unroll the next strand down to the next brace.

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Comin’ through! (The apron is to the left.)

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Ken stretches the end of the lower strand of wire, helped by his mom, Kat. At a diagonal, you can see the wire already tensioned into place by Mike and Garth. (That’s probably not really a word, but the diagonally-wrapped wire holds tension on the two vertical posts, so the one posts helps the other hold the horizontal wires stretched between H-braces.)

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And this is a good view of the apron, which we laid out in June – the object that we’re protecting from sharp mustang hooves. Why yes, it IS already working to funnel what little rainwater we’ve received down the newly laid pipe to the catchment tank AND to the trough, which is up-to-the brim full of water for the mustangs (held level by a float ball). 🙂

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Garth pounds a T-post between H-braces while (in the background) Bob and Frank dig a hole for another post to serve as an anchor in a slight depression between H-braces so it will hold the wire tight without pulling the T-posts out of the ground.

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Laura Volger (4CBCH) helps Mike hold a wire strand in place so he can staple it to the post. We set our wires at consistent heights all the way around.

And things continued in just such a manner until the apron was all fenced in and protected.

This was another fabulous project in Spring Creek Basin with BLM employees and volunteers, all working together for the benefit of our beloved mustangs!

Just in case you thought it was all work and no good food, Pat Amthor brought homemade apple cake made with home-grown (Durango area) apples. You better believe we all polished that off and sent Pat home with an empty cake pan! (Sorry – no pix. It went from pan to bellies too fast!)

Thank you, thank you, once again to our committed BLM range specialists and our dedicated volunteers. With your help, our Spring Creek Basin mustangs continue to thrive on their home range!