NMA/CO’s night for mustangs

19 10 2018

Wednesday night at the Sunflower Theatre (Cortez, Colorado), the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association hosted a fundraising gala to benefit the mustangs of Southwest Colorado, including Spring Creek Basin, Mesa Verde National Park and off the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation.

Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin was our guest speaker and presented information about the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office‘s Mounted Patrol, which uses mustangs, on the long-ago recommendation of members of Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen, some of whom are mustang adopters.

Short film “500 Miles” also was shown. It’s about Heroes and Horses, and how these wild horses help human warriors after combat and service to their country. From the Heroes and Horses website:

“Heroes and Horses is a Montana-based nonprofit organization that has created an innovative, three-phase reintegration program, which is offered to qualifying combat veterans (at no cost to them) suffering from PTSD. Our program utilizes the remote wilderness of Montana, coupled with human and horse connections, to challenge and inspire personal growth in veterans suffering from mental and physical scars.”

We know mustangs help those of us who *don’t* bear these tremendous physical, mental and emotional burdens. How much more intense must their connection be with these veterans??

On behalf of board members Tif Rodriguez, David Temple, Lynda Larsen, Sandie Simons and Nancy Schaufele, we are so thankful to our donors and to everyone who came to the Sunflower Theatre last night to help us in our ongoing endeavors to support and protect the wild horses of Southwest Colorado. (List of donors at the end of this post.)

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Board members Sandie Simons (right) and Lynda Larsen look over the offerings for the night’s silent auction.

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Some of the art donated: At left is a painting by renowned artist Veryl Goodnight of Mancos, Colorado (just east of Cortez); in the middle is a print by Corrales, New Mexico artist Ric Speed; and at right is a drawing of my boy, Grey/Traveler, by my friend, Denver-area artist and Spring Creek Basin mustangs (two!) adopter, Teresa Irick.

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Also close to my heart is this painting by friend and long-time supporter of Spring Creek Basin mustangs Karen Keene Day. It’s of Grey/Traveler (disclaimer: yes, it came home with me! :)).

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Taken from the theater balcony as people arrive to the fundraiser. Two Spring Creek Basin mustang supporters and often-visitors – Sue and Dennis Story – are in this crowd. Fun fact: They were the first to arrive!

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Attendees talk near the sheriff’s display of photos of the county’s Mounted Patrol Unit, which features three mustangs.

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Sandie, right, talks with Jeri Friesen while Jeri’s husband, Vern, bids on an auction item. Jeri and Vern have adopted three Spring Creek Basin mustangs, and as members of Four Corners Back Country Horsemen, have ridden two of them in Spring Creek Basin as part of 4CBCH’s wild horse counts. At left, Lynda talks with artist Veryl Goodnight (in blue) and Kate St. Onge, who bid on and won Veryl’s beautiful painting.

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Tif Rodriguez, NMA/CO’s executive director, introduces our organization and what we do to help mustangs. In the foreground is a photo (part of the auction) she took of Mesa Verde National Park mustangs a few weeks ago.

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The attentive crowd.

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Sandie speaks about the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office’s Mounted Patrol Unit during her introduction of Sheriff Steve Nowlin.

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During Sheriff Nowlin’s presentation, what struck me most – even more than all the work he and his staff did to bring mustangs to Montezuma County – was how admiring he is of the horses and their deputies and the work they have done, not only in crime fighting (pulling over drunk drivers!) but in community outreach.

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Because of grants and BLM help, bringing mustangs here as part of the county’s first mounted patrol cost taxpayers nothing. Each of the three mustangs – Rebel, Charlie and Cody – is valued at about $85,000. WOW – am I right? These horses are valuable not only because of the time and training and care put into them but because of how they help Montezuma County be a safer place. Criminals apparently ignore people on horseback (this is a rural county, after all, and people on horses is a common sight), but kids and community members are drawn to them as if by magnetic force, the sheriff said.

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Sheriff Nowlin also told the crowd how he and a local representative crafted a state bill that affords law-enforcement horses the same legal protections as law-enforcement canines. That bill was signed earlier this year by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Sheriff Nowlin has a framed photo of the occasion and the pen used that he brought as part of his display.

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The sheriff showed the display his office made that they took to all the schools in the county, asking for help naming their new mustangs. More than 2,000 schoolchildren responded, and the names Rebel, Charlie and Cody were chosen (Nowlin said it took his staff a month to pick from all the suggestions). The horses and their deputies visit schools and senior centers throughout the county as part of their community outreach efforts.

Sheriff Nowlin said he has received interest from police and sheriffs across the state and country, asking about their program. Another big win for mustangs. 🙂

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Also recognized during the evening were these talented young wordsmiths from Mancos Elementary School. Hannah Sword, right, was presented with a poster featuring her winning poem about Sundance and Arrow. Aysia Mathews was presented with a poster featuring her winning poem about Spirit. Each of the girls read their poems to the crowd. The third winner, Jordan B., who wrote about Sundance, moved away earlier this year (her poster will be mailed to her). The girls were in fifth and fourth grade, respectively, when they wrote their winning poems.

Artist and idea-bringer Ginny Getts also was recognized for her help in getting Mancos teachers and kids excited about mustangs. (And she donated a painting to the auction!)

Added thanks to San Juan Mountains Association‘s volunteer coordinator, Kathe Hayes, who not only provided finger foods for this event (and others we’ve done) but has done so much for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs through work projects, especially alternative spring break (see blog roll for posts … late March every single year :)). Alternative spring break brings University of Missouri students to Southwest Colorado for a week each March to work on projects on public lands: BLM Tres Rios Field Office (including Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area), San Juan National Forest and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Again, we sincerely thank every single person who donated to our silent auction and came to our event to respect and honor mustangs and the work NMA/CO does in Southwest Colorado on their behalf. Special thanks to Tif Rodriguez who did the lion’s share of work pulling together this fabulous evening!

Many huge thanks to these donors who helped us help mustangs (below from Tif … list unfortunately delayed by yours truly, who had technical difficulties this morning 🙂 ) :

Kerry O’Brien
Montezuma Mexican Restaurant, Dolores
Shiloh’s Steakhouse, Cortez
Ric Speed
Equus Chiropractic – Petra Sullwold
Skyhorse Saddlery
Ginny Getts
Teresa Irick
Veryl Goodnight
Karen Keene Day
Dunton Hot Springs
Victoria Calvert
Trail Canyon Ranch
Chavolito’s, Dolores
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Cortez
Abundant Life, Cortez
Kokopelli Bike & Board, Cortez
FB Organics, Cortez
Millwood Junction, Mancos
Lynda Larsen
Tim McGaffic
Wendy Griffin
Nancy Schaufele
TJ Holmes

Special thanks to Ginny Getts, Mancos Elementary Students, Hannah Sword, Aysia Mathews, Jordan Berry; and to Diane Law (graphic design for poster art), Lisa Mackey (photo/poster printing).

AND

Sheriff Nowlin and the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol Unit mustangs
Heroes & Horses – https://www.heroesandhorses.org/

And a very special thanks to:
Sunflower Theatre’s Dan and Desiree, Lyn Rowley, Kathe Hayes, Sandie Simons, Curly and Madison Rodriguez, and TJ Holmes





Reminder

20 08 2018

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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. 🙂

 





Do NOT freak out!

28 07 2018

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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. 🙂





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!





Yippee!

2 09 2016

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If these awesome folks look familiar, they should. They returned to Spring Creek Basin recently to install the water trough below the basin’s second catchment.

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In that first photo, they’re celebrating because this trough – shown filling with water – now is full of water for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs. 🙂

Ginormous thanks to (top photo, left to right) Justin Hunt (BLM range tech), Pat Amthor (4CBCH), Kat Wilder (advocate), Frank Amthor (4CBCH), Garth Nelson (BLM range specialist) and Carol Capps (4CBCH)! Our mustangs have even more water, thanks to you all!





Rain water for mustangs

1 07 2016

It takes a village … to manage a mustang herd. And for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs, our village includes Mike Jensen, Garth Nelson and Justin Hunt with BLM’s Tres Rios Field Office.

We are so grateful to have an excellent partnership with BLM and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners (which includes the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association, Four Corners Back Country Horsemen and Mesa Verde Back Country Horsemen), as well as unaffiliated advocates who simply love the mustangs. We do a lot of small projects for the horses – water enhancement, fence repair and rebuilding, trash pickup, etc. – and now and then, we do something big.

Last weekend, we did something big that, as NMA/CO president David Temple noted, was about 20 years in the making.

Spring Creek Basin has a water catchment. Actually, we have two – and the second one is the subject of this post. But let me explain the first catchment first: Twenty or so years ago, NMA/CO and then-Spring Creek Basin herd manager Wayne Werkmeister partnered to install a couple of water-storage tanks that were provided by an oil-and-gas company. At the catchment in the main area of Spring Creek Basin, volunteers and BLM also installed two heavy-plastic “aprons,” laid out on a slope to catch rain and snow and funnel it to the tank, and from there to a float-controlled trough from which the horses can drink. That catchment system (aprons to tank to trough) provides the horses’ only clean water in the basin.

The second catchment consisted of a water-storage tank and a big tractor tire-as-trough (bentonite was mixed with the soil at the bottom to keep water in the tire). Water had to come from a truck delivery – or not at all. And it hadn’t come for all the years I’ve been involved.

Our existing catchment has been hugely beneficial to the horses; now our second catchment has its own apron to deliver water to the tank and from there to a new trough. NMA/CO purchased the supplies, including the apron and pipe, and BLM purchased the new trough. Labor during the weekend project was provided by BLM range staff, Wild Bunch volunteers and unaffiliated advocates.

Read on for pix from the first day of our big weekend of work, and please join me in sending huge thanks to our BLM range staff and our volunteers – all of whom are working together for the benefit of our beloved mustangs of Spring Creek Basin!

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When you grow up in Texas, you grow up with these words: “Don’t put your hands where you can’t see them.” That translates to “watch out for snakes in rocks.” Mike found a snake while we were collecting these rocks to eventually place on top of the apron; fortunately, a red-tailed hawk already had gotten to it.

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Some people – David – show off a little when you point a camera in their direction. 🙂 All that pipe would eventually go in the ground to carry water from the apron downhill to the tank.

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The rolled-up apron, custom made in Mancos, Colo., weighs 1,000 pounds.

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We can’t start work without the obligatory safety talk. David Temple, left, talks to Garth Nelson, Pat Amthor, Justin Hunt, Mike Jensen and Frank Amthor.

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Who says safety talks can’t be fun? (Note Temple Butte in the background.)

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It wasn’t all sitting around watching David move dirt with his awesome little Bobcat. On day 2, we did a lot of shovel work and pipe-fitting and more shovel work, and remember that 1,000-pound apron? We spread it out and (wo)manhandled it into position.

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David takes a drink-n-snack break from dirt work to discuss the site layout with Mike.

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Well, hello, awesome BLM’ers and volunteers! From left, Justin Hunt (BLM range tech), Frank and Pat Amthor (4CBCH), Garth Nelson (BLM range specialist) and advocate Kat Wilder. Note that they’re sitting on the rolled-up apron – the foundation of the whole fabulous project.

Huge, huge, HUGE thanks to all of you!

Day 2 pix and report to come as soon as I can get through the photos!





Alternatively …

31 03 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Libby and Nina carry staves up the big hill.

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

And then it snowed again.

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

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

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

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

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

Between the waves of snow, students carried armloads of T-posts and staves, buckets of tools and handfuls of tools, stretched a string to straighten the next section of fence, built an H-brace, pounded T-posts and cut wood away from the path of the new fence line (actually done by our BLM range tech). A couple of them even got as far as dropping posts and staves along the line. But we didn’t have time to take down old wire and string and stretch new wire.

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

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

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

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

We’ll continue this project on other (sunny) days. 🙂

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

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