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.

032718asb1

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

032718asb2

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.

032718asb3

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 …

032718asb4

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

032718asb5

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

032718asb6

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.

032718asb13

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.

032718asb16

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.

032718asb19

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.

032718asb20

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

032718asb21

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. 🙂

032718asb22

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!

032718asb23

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).

032718asb24

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

032718asb25

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.

032718asb26

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!

032718asb27

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.

032718graciejessi1

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

032718mizzoucrew2018

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. 🙂

Advertisements




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!

102217Sarroyocrossing1

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.

102217SCCcrewBrumley1

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

102217SCCH-bracetiein1

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.

102217SCCLance1

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

102217SCCNicoleMike1

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.

102217SCCSCBnewfence

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.

102217SCCSara1

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

102217SCCstavesarroyo

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

102217SCCfencearroyo2

… 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.

102217SCCAlycia2

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.)

102217SCCcrewarroyo1

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.

102217SCCcrew1

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. 🙂

And at its heart … it’s essentially WILD.





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.

032917kathesshoes1

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.

032917fencework1

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).

032917katywire1

Then, of course, we had rusty ol’ barbed wire to roll. Take a gander at Katy’s boots.

032917nataliewire1

Natalie rolls more old wire while students continue removing strands.

032917mikejensen1

Meanwhile, our herd manager, Mike Jensen …

032917garthbrace1

… 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.)

032917caitlinjessica1

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.

032917mikesmikejwire1

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.

032917lunchbreak1

We did give students a few minutes to sit down and eat lunch. 🙂 Left to right: Natalie, Angela, Katy and Gabby.

032917blake1

Then it was back to work. Blake and Chris start clipping wires to T-posts using metal “clips” made specifically for the task.

032917katyangelabrianblake1

Brian demonstrates good clip-attaching technique to Katy and Angela while Blake (behind him) also watches.

032917angelakaty1

Then Angela and Katy were pros!

032917chrisnatalie1

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.

032917gabbycaitlin1

Gabby and Caitlin did their share of wire clipping.

032917jessicabrian1

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.

032917wireoverfence1

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.

032917altspringbreakgroup1

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!





One day = new fence

30 03 2017

032917altspringbreakgroup1

Ma Nature struck again this year and delivered rain on the first of our two-day alternative spring break project in Spring Creek Basin! So the above smiles are on day 2 … *after* walking (slogging) through messy, slippery mud to get to the fence line.

(But they carried just one roll of wire for supplies – the rest being tools – so we were also smiling about the mule-packed fence materials, which made our one day even easier!)

I ran out of time to get to pix for a full morning-after post, so you get just the one today … and hopefully a fuller post tomorrow. 🙂

Above, by the H-brace they built (!), the two girls seated are (left to right) Angela and Gabby. Beside/above them in front of the H-brace are Natalie, Katy and Chris. Behind the H-brace are Brian, Blake, Caitlin, Matthew (assistant to Kathe), Kathe Hayes (volunteer coordinator with San Juan Mountains Association), Jessica (student leader; this is her second trip to Southwest Colorado from Mizzou), Garth Nelson (BLM range specialist) and Mike Schmidt (BLM wildlife biologist). Not pictured but much appreciated are Mike Jensen (our awesome herd manager) and Keith Fox (BLM).

THANK YOU, Missourians! We decided that we rebuilt a quarter-mile of fence under excellent sunny skies across drying muddy ground. Definitely not muddy enough to dampen enthusiasm. You guys ROCKED the fence! Your work helps keep our mustangs safe and protected in Spring Creek Basin, and we are grateful to you all!





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!





More mules

16 03 2017

031417katyseepyarroyo1

We do have water in the desert, in spite of our very dry late-winter conditions.

031417glennkarmel1

The Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regional Specialty Packstring is Glenn Ryan’s baby; he has been the head honcho and mule packer since 2004.

This link and this one to the crew will give you more information, and if you Google it, you’ll find all kinds of articles about the amazing work this outfit does throughout the West, including this one last fall in The Durango Herald.

031417katykarla1

Katy Bartzokis is a permanent seasonal employee with BLM, based in and around the Steens Mountain Wilderness Area of Oregon. She’s the only BLM packer she or we know about. She’s definitely the best one we know. 🙂

If you’re packing in and out of wilderness areas, these are the folks, and these are the mules, you want on your trail (if you even have a trail; we flagged one through the greasewood and over and through and down into and up out of arroyos).

031417katyglennjustin2

Here’s the full string, led by Katy, who led three mules, and Glenn, who led the last two. Our BLM range tech Justin Hunt is visible at the back. This was shortly after we left the trailer – loading site – and you can see Disappointment Road in the background. The big Forest Service rig may have drawn a few curious glances from the few travelers who passed by during our work days. 🙂

031417katyglennmantiskarla1

To highlight a couple of the mules, this is sweet Karla. Katy and Glenn had folded the now-empty “mantis” and bundled the ropes and then manti’d them and were tying them on Karla’s pack saddle for the trip back to the trailer (we’re at the drop site in this photo). A “manti” is what you or I would call a tarp or square of canvas. Packers like Glenn and Katy use them to wrap bundles of taped-together staves and T-posts. Very neat – and I don’t just mean “keen.” 🙂 Usually, the folded mantis went back in the emptied panniers (which carried wrapped wire rolls), but on this particular trip, we had just staves, which were packed and roped and tied like you see in the photos above. So even bundles of mantis and ropes were themselves manti’d and tied on for the return trip.

031417skid1

And this is big Skid – the only mule with a forelock and one of only two boys (johns?) in the string. Sweet boy!

All the mules have their personalities, of course, and all marched right along – this was their first job out of winter pasture – to carry a LOT of pounds worth of fencing supplies into McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area to help with our fence-maintenance projects. We love them all. 🙂

Mucho big thanks again to Glenn and Katy, Joey, Karla, Lena, Roz and Skid, Karmel and Sly, for all your work and patience with us! We’re so incredibly grateful for your skilled, amazing work – here and elsewhere on America’s public lands!

Thank you also to our BLM range folks Mike Jensen, Justin Hunt and Garth Nelson; our Spring Creek Basin mustang herd management is so good thanks to you all. Thank you to BLM’s Mike Schmidt and Keith Fox, who took time away from their regular duties to help us one day. Thank you to SJMA’s volunteer coordinator Kathe Hayes, who keeps us rolling on these projects. And thank you to advocate and volunteer Kat Wilder, who does it all when it comes to working for mustangs. 🙂