More little things

29 05 2020

As if we needed more proof that our mustangs are divine and under the shine of a higher power!

As May comes to a close, I want to remind readers that the comment period for our Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area Plan EA is coming to a close (Saturday, May 30). If you’ve already submitted your comment letter, thank you! If you’ve procrastinated, now is the time to type out a letter of positive support regarding Tres Rios Field Office’s HMAP EA. It will guide the management of our mustangs for the next couple of decades and ensure that they are managed and protected to our highest standards.

Here’s the link to BLM’s eplanning site, on which you can find the draft HMAP EA and the button that will allow you to comment through that site:

Or you can send an email to our excellent herd manager (and author of the HMAP EA), Mike Jensen, at m50jense at blm dot gov.

Please note that you support Alternative A – Proposed Action. If you have personal knowledge of our herd and mustangs – whether by visits or even through this blog – please let them know.

Read more at my initial post about the draft HMAP EA at https://springcreekbasinmustangs.com/2020/05/02/little-things/.

And thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚ We so appreciate your support.





Little things … that become ginormous

2 05 2020

041320Ravenbird1

Do you see the little bird, taking flight in front of Raven?

Do you see the head and ears of the horse below and beyond Raven?

Do you see Raven, divine wild girl, in all that delicious evening light?

Do you feel the magic?

********************

My friends, my fellow lovers of Spring Creek Basin’s marvelous mustangs, the draft HMAP EA is out for comments. (That’s herd management area plan environmental assessment in non-acronym-speak, and it lays out the overall plan for the next umpteen years of management of our Spring Creek Basin mustangs.)

It’s kinda huge.

OK, in the grand scheme of all that’s going on in the country, in the world, right now, it’s a blip. And I do not make light of those who are suffering terribly now, in so many ways.

This EA represents countless hours and days and weeks and months – the last couple of years – of work by our uber-respected BLM herd manager, Mike Jensen, at Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores, Colorado. It represents field work (vegetation monitoring, land-health assessments), and it represents computer time. It represents a career spent doing good things, positive things, for the ranges he has managed during his work with BLM. It represents gathering facts, lining up the science, listening to partners, speaking to a wide variety of people … and honoring the good management we’ve achieved, together, for Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs, these descendants of horses from cavalry, Native American, settler stock and beyond, and ensuring that what we have worked so hard to achieve will be set down in the herd management area plan going forward for Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area.

I cannot overstate the enormity of this document and what it represents. I cannot overstate the positivity of what this document represents.

It means our Spring Creek Basin mustangs will be as well managed as possible, protected, the range on which they depend will be protected, and we will continue to do all in our power to ensure that they live long, healthy lives, as wild and free as they were born to be.

There’s a lot of crazy in the world, yes. BUT. Spring Creek Basin, as so many have discovered, is a place of peace and beauty and magic and partnership, and our goals, set so long ago, are coming to fruition.

Among other things, Alternative A (preferred, of course) sets the appropriate management level (AML) at 50 to 80 adult horses, an increase from the current 35 to 65 adult horses. As Mike said, the science (the vegetation monitoring, the land-health assessments, the PZP fertility-control program) supports it. This is absolutely what I have hoped and prayed and worked so hard to have happen … for what seems like a million years.

Don’t worry – we will continue to introduce mares periodically to ensure the viability of our small herd’s genetic health. And don’t forget: Spring Creek Basin is almost 22,000 acres of high-desert, low-rainfall, kinda-scrubby, perfect-for-wild-horses geography. Translation: It’s small in terms of ranges, and we worry about water even in good years. Also keep in mind that BLM closed the allotment to livestock grazing a few years ago, and with PZP treatments keeping our foal crops low each year, we CAN increase the AML a bit and not fear that it will reduce the current quality of the range. That’s a win-win.

BLM also will continue the current, natural, 50-50 stallions-to-mares ratio. Also good.

Here’s the link to the eplanning site (the above link will take you directly to the PDF): go.usa.gov/xpJKn

Once there, click on the “Documents” link on the left side of the page. Then click the “Draft EA and Appendices” link. (Below that is the link to the scoping letter that we commented on a couple of months ago.) Then click the PDF icon to the left of “Document Name: Draft DOI-BLM-CO-S010-2020-0009-EA.pdf.” A new tab will open in your browser with the PDF document of the draft HMAP EA.

There are only two “Proposed Actions and Alternatives”: “Alternative A – Preferred Action” and “Alternative B – No Action.” We, of course, prefer the preferred Alternative A. ๐Ÿ™‚

Please comment as you have before (the deadline is May 30), for the mustangs. For all the work and blood and sweat and tears (I was crying (with joy) so hard when I called my mom yesterday morning, she couldn’t understand me and thought something was wrong!) freely given from all of us who have worked so hard to get to this point. For Mr. Mike Jensen, BLM herd manager and range specialist extraordinaire, who created this management plan that includes all our hopes for our mustangs’ futures.

This is a shining ray of light in the way things can be done for our mustangs. We are so grateful.

Thank you, thank you and thank you.

041920Voncolt2

For this little guy and all those that were born to be wild and free in Spring Creek Basin – and all those yet to come into their wild world.





He’s bold, he’s red

31 01 2020

122119Hayden1

He’s Master Hayden.

**********

FYI: Local (Cortez) newspaper The Journal published an article about the HMAP-revision scoping period in its Thursday online edition.

And in case you missed it, here’s the link to my previous blog post about “Revising our HMAP.”





Revising our HMAP

22 01 2020

012020Skywalker1

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

**********

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.”

**********

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 you might 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 linked above; send an email to Mike (address in the letter); send your comments via USPS mail to the office (address in the letter).

**********

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. Also a contributing factor to potentially raising the AML: No livestock grazing allotment exists within Spring Creek Basin; the remaining permit was relinquished and the allotment closed in accordance with BLM TRFO’s 2015 resource management plan. 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, less successfully, 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 Spring Creek Basin’s 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 managers 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.

**********

011020Hollsband2

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!

011920Madison1

 

 





More rain, frost, fog, sunshine!

10 12 2019

120919TempleButteMcKPeakfog1

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!

**********

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.





Gold ‘n bays

17 09 2019

090719pintomesaband1

This was the second of the three bands I saw in Piceance-East Douglas. They were quite a bit more wary than the first band, so I didn’t get to spend much time with them.

Notice the haze in the background; a prescribed burn was going on nearby. It was not close enough to be a danger to the herd, and the area received rain the night before, which served to cool temperatures for the first time in a long time.

It was a beautiful day on the range. Although I didn’t see many horses (the third band was far away across a road, arroyo and sagebrush-and-rabbitbrush sea), this is such a beautiful area that the looking made it all worthwhile. ๐Ÿ™‚ And the horses just happen to be as gorgeous as any mustangs I’ve ever seen!

(The yellow-flowering vegetation behind the horses is rabbitbrush, also called chamisa. The rabbitbrush in Piceance was ahead of ours here in Disappointment Valley.)





Big, shiny, healthy mustangs

15 09 2019

090719barcusband6

This handsome guy is – in fact – Guy, band stallion in Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area near Meeker. My friend Pam Nickoles gave me the ID after confirming with her friend Dona Hilkey.

Isn’t he a beefcake? I couldn’t get over how stout and SHINY these horses all were.

The horses pictured are just part of his band; he had another mare and foal pair, and another single mare. Gorgeous family!