Drizzle

17 06 2018

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Grateful.

Some good news on the 416 Fire front from The Durango Herald.

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We kept getting little waves of drizzly dribbles during the day.

Sweet. So welcome. So desperately, very welcome.

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Horse Park Fire now on Inciweb

31 05 2018

Skywalker; Horse Park Fire

Another link for ya’ll: The Horse Park Fire is on Inciweb.

The fire is at 1,240 acres and 50 percent contained! Two hundred seventy-two people are working on this fire, and we thank each and every one of them! They estimate containment by June 9.

The smoke was much reduced Wednesday, even from the last couple of days.

And more good news: We got a few drops of rain. πŸ™‚ I think one of the fire reports said no rain fell over the fire, but it was cooler, and we had cloud cover. The weather is supposed to change (not for the better), so this hopefully gave firefighters a good day to make advances. The report note that the moisture in the dead logs in the fire area is about 3 percent; kiln-dried wood has about 15 percent moisture. Yikes.

It’s hard to overstate how terribly dry it is. Please, please, be careful.





Fighting the Horse Park Fire

30 05 2018

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The smoke as of Tuesday is way less from the Horse Park Fire as many more firefighters are arriving to work on it. This photo is from Sunday evening as Comanche paused while grazing. You can see the lines of red retardant on the far ridge below the smoke where the air tankers were dropping it along the fire’s edge.

Update: I wanted to add this link to a Facebook page specifically for the Horse Park Fire.

Some more links to information about the Horse Park Fire:

Cortez Journal article

Wildfire Today





Horse Park Fire

28 05 2018

The first thing to know is the most important: Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs are OK.

Horse Park is immediately north of Spring Creek Basin. The Horse Park Fire started Saturday night by a lightning strike, and firefighters were on it pretty much immediately. The fire is outside the basin’s northeastern boundary and moving basically northward, pushed by strong winds from the south/southeast.

Early in the day, I was with Steve Heath (Heath Water Service) in the basin to show him theΒ  roads. There’s a big difference in go-to-ability between his loaded water truck and my nimble Jeep, and we wanted to see where he can go with his truck to deliver water farther into the basin than the catchment when the drought situation requires it.

Good news on that front, too: Steve is confident that he can get his water truck to the places where we might set water troughs for the horses (in addition to the water catchment).

It was interesting – and a little (a lot) sobering – that while we were scouting for water locations, this fire blew up on the basin’s northeastern horizon. As of the 10 o’clock news on the Denver CBS 4 station, the Horse Park Fire was at 1,000 acres with 0 percent containment.

Following are some photos from the day:

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Several planes were in the air all day, small planes like this one (above) and big planes like the one below:

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Part of the fire was in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, where fire retardant is forbidden, one of the BLM fire guys told me. Once the fire moved north from the WSA, three big air tankers started dropping the familiar red material.

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This is the same plane as the closer photo above, a few seconds later. Looks pretty crazy, huh?

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At least two helicopters were carrying water buckets from what appeared to be numerous sources to sites that were burning on top of the ridge. The main feature here is McKenna Peak. Perfectly placed behind McKenna from this vantage point (the eastern end of roller-coaster ridge), Temple Butte is mostly blocked. The fire is to the left – north.

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I was glad to find these guys on roller-coaster ridge, watching the fire from the basin side. Crew leader Dan was helpful with information, as was Patrick Seekins, BLM fire management officer, who called within 15 minutes of me calling dispatch in the morning to report the smoke. They had been aware of the fire and mobilizing pretty much since it started the previous night.

Unofficially, by my observations and from information given by Patrick and Dan, there was a lot of activity on this fire: a crew of smoke jumpers and a crew of hot shots; a fire team out of Norwood; BLM firefighters from Dolores; three big air tankers (resupplying in Durango, Cortez and Grand Junction, I think Dan said); at least four, maybe five, smaller planes dropping retardant; at least two helicopters carrying water buckets; at least one aircraft coordinating all the others (there were a lot of “birds” in the sky!).

Here’s a link to an article about the Durango Air Tanker Base in The Durango Herald. Planes like the one pictured with the article definitely were flying above the Horse Park Fire and dropping retardant.

It is incredibly dry out there in this land of no rain. Really, really, REALLY dry. This is not the first fire in the region, and it won’t be the last.

Fire restrictions are in place pretty much everywhere. PLEASE be super careful.

S'aka, Horse Park Fire

I asked Dan to please pass along to his colleagues the thanks of Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs and their human admirers. πŸ™‚ There seems to be very little chance that the fire will burn down into the basin, but it’s close enough to raise the anxiety level.

The mustangs are in good shape – living in the moment, doing what they do. πŸ™‚

P.S. Happy Memorial Day. It is a day to remember the service of others! Thankfully, those in my family who served their country came home. Today, we remember and honor those who did not make it home to their loved ones.





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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚





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!





Hey, it’s Colorado

19 05 2017

McKenna Peak and Temple Butte

Sure, it’s May.

It’s also Colorado. πŸ™‚

And at its heart … it’s essentially WILD.