Revising our HMAP

22 01 2020

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Same basic, iconic view … different day, different grey!

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As most regular readers of this humble blog know, we have worked closely and for many years with BLM managers of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area. Our partnership is one to be envied; we have great respect for our BLM folks – especially herd manager Mike Jensen – and the health of our mustangs and the range they call home is directly because of that partnership.

We have accomplished almost everything on our big-goal to-do list for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs, including the commitment to using bait-trapping if/when we need to remove horses in the future and our successful fertility-control program using native PZP. How successful is it? We’re celebrating our NINTH year of NO roundups and removals in Spring Creek Basin. I’d say that qualifies. ๐Ÿ™‚

All of the things we have done and are doing – and the fact that our current one is 26 years oldย  – means we’ve come to another big goal: updating Spring Creek Basin’s herd management area plan. Mike Jensen has been working on that for a while now, and a LOT goes into it.

So to *start* the process (see above where I note that a LOT goes into it, including time in the field doing vegetation monitoring over the last few years, archaeological-site assessments, ongoing data collection about our PZP program, etc.), we come to the scoping process for updating the herd management area plan, otherwise known as the HMAP.

Here, you will find that scoping letter on BLM’s eplanning website.

At the left side of the page, click the “Documents” link. On the next page, under “Document Name,” click the link for “Spring Creek Basin HMA Interested Parties Letter.”

At the first link, read the information (the other two links will take you directly to the page to access the document link and the comment link, and the letter itself):

“The BLM is preparing an Environmental Assessment (EA) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended (NEPA) to analyze the proposed action and alternatives to that action.

“What: Name/Type of Proposed Project: Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) Revision.

“Where: General and Legal: This Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area (HMA) is located within the Spring Creek Basin portion of Disappointment Valley in Southwest Colorado. The HMA is approximately 21,932 acres is size and lies within both Dolores and San Miguel Counties.

“Disturbance: Estimated Disturbance (acres/area) Description: The HMAP Revision will include the proposal for constructing two water catchment structures which will result in approximately 1.0 acres of total of ground disturbance.

“When: Expected Implementation and Duration: The Herd Management Area Plan would be implemented immediately following the issuance of the Final Decision.”

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On to the letter.

What it’s TELLING you is that Tres Rios Field Office (where Mike is employed as a rangeland management specialist and Spring Creek Basin’s herd manager) is “seeking input on a proposal to revise the 1994 Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan (I just realized, on typing that, that they swapped a couple of words) for the Spring Creek Basin Wild Horse Herd Management Area in Dolores and San Miguel Counties, Colorado. …”

In addition to advising interested parties about potential disturbance of about an acre of land total for the construction of two (more) water catchment structures, this is the stated “purpose and need” of the HMAP revision:

“The BLM is proposing to revise the 1994 Spring Creek Basin HMAP. Herd Area Management Plans (again, word swap!) identify specific management actions, goals, objectives and monitoring for managing wild horses and /or burro herds and their habitat. Therefore, the proposed HMAP revision will identify goals, objectives and monitoring to address 1) existing appropriate management level (AML) of wild horses; 2) rangeland health conditions; 3) population control measures; 4) removal criteria and gather techniques; 5) genetics; 6) population dynamics; 7) range improvements; and 8) sustaining healthy populations of wild horses.”

What it’s ASKING is for the public to offer comments about those issues along the lines of answering these basic questions:

Do you agree with those topics/issues BLM has identified?

Are there additional topics/issues might you like to see identified/addressed in the revised HMAP?

The comment deadline is Feb. 19, and as you’ll see in the letter, there are a variety of ways of delivering those comments: There’s a “Comment on Document” button on one of the pages above; send an email to Mike; send your comments via USPS mail to the office.

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Now some suggestions.

First of all, do we want Spring Creek Basin’s HMAP revised and updated? Yes, please! ๐Ÿ™‚

Do we want a couple of new water catchment structures? Yes, please!

So let’s look at each of the topics from the letter.

  • Existing AML. We would like to raise this slightly, and based on vegetation monitoring conducted the last few years, as well as the use of PZP fertility control and the slow, measured growth of the population during the last nine years since the 2011 roundup and removal, we believe this is reasonable. The current AML is 35 to 65 adult horses.
  • Rangeland health conditions. Having participated in vegetation monitoring in Spring Creek Basin the last few years, including the Rangeland Health Assessment, itโ€™s important to note that by and large, the condition of the range in Spring Creek Basin has improved (even during extreme drought situations) since previous monitoring was completed and is continuing to improve. This can be attributed to management of the herdโ€™s population growth with the use of fertility-control vaccine PZP.
  • Population control measures. Native PZP continues to be extremely effective in managing the population growth of Spring Creek Basinโ€™s mustang herd, and we urge its continued use.
  • Removal criteria and gather techniques. As one of the authors of the bait-trapping proposal that was accepted and signed as an EA by BLM in 2018, I urge that bait trapping continue to be the gather technique of choice in Spring Creek Basin. Many discussions have been held about the viability and potential success of this method in the geography of Spring Creek Basin, with our well-documented mustangs. Removal criteria should continue to reflect current documented age and genetics dynamics, as explored elsewhere in this document.
  • Genetics. Because Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area is small (almost 22,000 acres) and its herd is correspondingly small, genetics is an extremely important topic to consider with regard to the sustainability of this herd and its health. Introducing mares periodically, as was done in 2008 and in 2001 (and stallions in the 1990s), should continue at intervals that reflect current management practices in Spring Creek Basin, and the ages and offspring of previously introduced mares โ€“ all of which are known from the 2008 introduction because of documentation since 2007.
  • Population dynamics. To have a healthy herd, we must have a healthy mix of stallions and mares, as well as age groups within the herd. Currently, we have a fair number of horses older than 10, as well as horses filling every age year from 2007 and younger. We favor a healthy, natural relationship dynamic of a roughly evenly mixed stallions-to-mares ratio. Keeping this ratio natural with the use of native PZP is an attained goal.
  • Range improvements. During the last 20-plus years, advocates have partnered with BLM to improve the range with various projects including fencing, weed identification and location, water-enhancement projects, identification of ponds to be dug out (because of silt and sedimentation buildup), and vegetation monitoring, all of which enhance our knowledge of the range and how the horses use it. We are proud to partner with Tres Rios Field Office to keep our horses and range healthy and urge the continuation of the same partnership, which has become a model in the BLM-citizen-advocacy community.
  • Sustaining healthy populations of wild horses. Keeping our horses healthy depends on keeping our range healthy, and we remain committed to helping BLM ensure the continuation of both with volunteer projects including PZP darting, documentation, vegetation monitoring and help with all range projects.

Regarding the disturbance expected for approximately 1 acre for the proposed construction of two water guzzlers/catchment structures: Herd manager Mike Jensen explored two potential sites with an archaeologist from Tres Rios Field Office and found no cultural resources at either site, leading to acknowledgement of both sites as good for guzzler placements. In addition to providing two additional sources of clean water for the mustangs, siting the guzzlers in those locations will help with the dispersal of the horses to currently under-used grazing areas within Spring Creek Basin.

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If you made it this far, you deserve another pic of our beauties. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thank you for reading this far!

To reiterate a very important fact: We work very closely with Mike Jensen and our Tres Rios BLM folks for the good management of our Spring Creek Basin mustangs, and have for a very long time.

Much of that work is the fun stuff: In-the-field, boots-on-the-dry/dusty/muddy/snowy-ground, mustangs-near-and-far, under-blue-sky-in-the-great-wide-open awesomeness. Some of that work involves paper (and computer) work.

We thank you for following along with our Spring Creek Basin mustangs and for your support during these many years. If you’d take a few moments to send comments to Mike about this scoping letter, we’d sure appreciate it! If you’ve visited Spring Creek Basin and the mustangs, say so. If you know the horses and our advocacy work through this blog or elsewhere, say so. Say that these mustangs are important to you, and please say how much you appreciate BLM’s partnership with advocates on behalf of Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs.

Thank you all in advance for helping us achieve our goals for our beloved mustangs. We know how much you love them, too!

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The word is MUD

20 01 2020

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In a word, it’s a muddy, sloshy, sloppy, messy, soupy, WONDERFULLY giant mudhole out there!

OK, you can’t really see all that mud in this pic of Mariah leading her band away from a drink of water in Spring Creek (puddles, not flowing), but if you scroll down and see all the white in the previous pix, then scroll back up and see how NOT-WHITE it is in the above pic, you might get the idea. ๐Ÿ™‚

All that white = our good mud NOW.





Landmarks

19 01 2020

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Two of our beautiful grey girls, Maia and Alegre, are as much icons of Spring Creek Basin as Temple Butte and McKenna Peak, seen above, rising out of the snow fog.





White and white and white

27 12 2019

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What a difference a day makes! Or, rather, a night. ๐Ÿ™‚

The south wind blew snow in waves across Disappointment Valley and Spring Creek Basin on Christmas Day, but not a flake of it stuck to the warm, dry ground.

Yesterday’s photo of Temple was taken during one of those waves of snow, right before sunset. The sun already was coming back into view from beyond the clouds and snow, and you can see the brown of the basin behind the jewels of snowflakes swirling around Temple.

Then, late after the sky cleared for the stars, we had snow in the night, and we woke up to a white, white world!





Winter solstice

22 12 2019

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Hayden.

He makes his own light.

Read more about the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice.





Little, not insignificant

20 12 2019

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The sound of the helicopter had reached us, and Comanche and Kestrel were searching for the source of the noise. You can see it as the weird white dot in the sky immediately to the right of McKenna Peak. It flew over the eastern side of the basin and over the northern ridge and Horse Park.

It didn’t bother them too much, but they watched until the sound faded.





More rain, frost, fog, sunshine!

10 12 2019

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The fog wasn’t nearly as heavy or as long-lasting this time as it was last time.

Also like last time, I couldn’t find a single cooperative pony to photograph!

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In other news:

The Bureau of Land Management seeks public comment on wild horse fertility control study.

Article about it in the Las Vegas Sun.

I’m not really sure what to think about this, let alone what to say about it. While BLM continues to search for and research various ways to limit or stop reproduction in wild horses and burros, the fact remains that PZP is a tried and true vaccine (with more than 30 years of research and use) to limit reproduction in horses and burros. PZP works where it’s used. When it’s used, PZP works. Why not use it? Why keep complaining that there’s nothing to do but round up and remove? Why wait to use what exists and works??

Yes, please: Continue to research other, *humane* ways of reducing fertility in wild horses and burros, ways that work longer and are “easier” to deploy (than native PZP).

But in the meantime, PZP WORKS. USE IT.

A very good, very effective tool exists. When it’s used, it works. When it’s not used, it’s difficult to listen to the complaints about the consequences of its lack of use.

I would love to offer support to another tool in the goal to reduce reproduction – in turn reducing the need for roundups and removals – and I really hope PZP would get the support and use our wild horses and burros deserve.

Disclaimer: We have used PZP in Spring Creek Basin since the roundup in 2011. We haven’t had a roundup since 2011, and no roundups are planned. Reason? PZP, plain and simple.

From BLM’s release at the link above:

A 15-day public comment period on the preliminary environmental assessment is set for December 5 โ€“ 19, 2019. The public is encouraged to review DOI-BLM-NV-0000-2020-001-EA (Oocyte Growth Factor Vaccine Study), located at: https://go.usa.gov/xpEvc and provide comments or concerns, prior to 4:30 p.m. (PST) on December 19, 2019. Comments and concerns may be emailed to blm_nv_nvso_research@blm.gov or sent in writing to the BLM Nevada State Office, Attention: Ruth Thompson, Wild Horse and Burro Project Coordinator, 1340 Financial Boulevard, Reno, NV 89502.

If you’re moved to comment, I would encourage readers to offer respectful comments that support continued research of humane fertility-control options. I also would encourage readers to point to the long-known success of PZP and encourage BLM to make use of it.