Water update

17 05 2018

Comanche at the new catchment trough.

Comanche and his band have found the “new” catchment trough (where we installed the apron and new trough two summers ago and the evaporation cover last fall).

The horses have two ponds and the two catchments as water sources, as well as numerous (if not high quality) seeps in various arroyos throughout the basin. Our BLM herd manager (Mike Jensen) is committed to closely watching the drought situation (we’re in the D4 category now – exceptional drought). Our awesome water hauler (Steve Heath) is able to pump water directly into the storage tanks. In the next week or so, we’ll be scouting locations that his water truck can reach to pump water into big troughs – supplied by BLM – elsewhere in the basin if conditions warrant.

Local ranchers have been hauling water continuously already this spring because it’s so dry.

And that wind – that howling, awful wind – is leaching away the moisture we don’t have, day after day.

It’s tough, folks, for wildlife and for livestock, and certainly not only in Disappointment Valley. That said, please know that the mustangs do not seem to be stressed. They have decent forage, as well as water sources, and they’re well dispersed throughout their range, not sticking to certain places as they would if they were stressed about sustenance/water.

Members of Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners are monitoring conditions closely, and the Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association has offered to help pay for water deliveries to Spring Creek Basin.

We are so grateful (as always) to our Tres Rios BLM guys for being committed to the well-being of our mustangs!


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!


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


… 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.


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.)


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.


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!


More water work for mustangs

3 07 2016

Welcome back! The following is the report of work on the second day of our apron-installation project in Spring Creek Basin. (Day 3 was just some finish work; no photos.)

Make sure you have plenty of water or Gatorade, a hat, sunscreen, lip balm, more water, neck rag or shirt to soak for evaporative coolness, more water to drink – it’s HOT out there! – and let’s get started. We have a lot of ground to cover – literally!


To reintroduce you to some of our cast of characters, that’s NMA/CO president David Temple atop the Bobcat, mugging for the camera again; Mike Jensen and Justin Hunt, BLM range specialist/herd manager and range tech, respectively; and Four Corners Back Country Horsemen/Wild Bunch volunteer Frank Amthor. Did I mention that this was *weekend* work? The BLM guys are cleaning up the trench that the edges of the apron will go over and be buried into, and Frank is helping David dig out the stump of the lone (small) tree that had been standing in the way of progress.


Let’s take a closer look at that big ’ol mustang-love grin. 🙂 David has been waiting a long time to make this project happen for Spring Creek Basin mustangs!


There was a lot of measuring going on. The apron was 40 feet by 100 feet and consisted of narrow strips seamed together. The edges go over dirt berms and are then buried in dirt along those outer edges. The site was irregular because of the hill, which made for a good place of drainage with a couple of points from which water could hit and drain to the lowest point.


That irregular hill also made for some challenging measurements, and the guys decided to dig a second trench along one side to ensure apron coverage. This was hot, dusty work, and we went through gallons of water and Gatorade.


Here’s another view of the trench work. Yours truly did put down the camera and make use of the shovel in my other hand, but someone has to pull double duty and document the awesomeness! 🙂 Multitasking, don’cha know!


Yet another view and additions to our cast of characters: Advocate Kat Wilder in the center and 4CBCH volunteer/Wild Bunch rep Pat Amthor at back upper right. The pipe standing vertically at lower right is the location of the drain in the apron. When all was said and done, the pipe wasn’t that tall, of course. Behind Kat is the eventual trail of the pipe down the hill to the water tank. Please allow me this moment to point out that Pat will be 70 in a couple of months, and Frank is 73. Our volunteers rock!


Here, we’re looking back up the hill while David fills in the berm around the drain pipe. This is a good opportunity to mention that David is an absolute wizard with that machine. He joked that he needed the last 20 years to perfect his technique and be ready for this project, but that’s all to say that he has had LOTS of experience. We’d consider hiring him out if he wasn’t already so darn busy. 🙂


There’s still a lot of work to be done at this point, but this was a pretty big moment: The apron ready to be unrolled and positioned on the site. Then the big question: In which direction does it unroll??


As it turned out, not this direction. But we didn’t get too far along before we realized it. At right, Justin is handing the all-important “boot” – for the drain pipe – to Pat for safekeeping.


Did I mention that the whole thing weighs 1,000 pounds?


Now we’re cookin’ in the right direction.


While photo-documenting, I might have shed a few tears of sheer happiness at the sight of this apron moving into place. The water it will provide for our mustangs in this area of Spring Creek Basin will have a hugely positive impact on their ability to comfortably graze this area.


For good measure, here’s one more photo of the unrolling process.

The apron covers the site at the catchment project in Spring Creek Basin.

Then it was all hands on deck to (wo)manhandle the giant apron into place so it covered the whole site – yes, it was heavy, and yes, that black plastic got hot fast. The perspective: I’m at the top of the hill, Kat is walking downhill along the edge opposite the drain, Frank is at the bottom – which has a slight slope from which rain water also can drain – and Mike and Justin are at the drain-side edge. The pipe was then fitted together and laid into a trench around the side of the hill (behind Justin) and down to the tank.


Fast forward through the work of spreading and flattening and placing rocks and filling trenches to cover apron edges … and also introducing additional volunteers: Kat Wilder’s sons, Tyler (left) and Ken Lausten. This perspective is taken from the bottom (where Frank was in the previous photo) looking uphill. The drain is to the right.


Now Justin and Frank start the process of measuring the “boot” to fit over the drain pipe (which has been cut down to size in this photo – remember it very tall in earlier photos?). Behind Justin is the filter that will attach to the top of the pipe and allow water down the pipe but keep out other debris.


David starts digging the trench from the apron to the water-storage tank while Ken and Tyler are at the ready to do finer shovel work. At right, out of the frame, Justin and Frank are working on the drain pipe in the apron.


Old hands and young hands. Volunteer hands and BLM hands. Hands doing work for mustangs. YEAH! (Those helping hands are the property of Frank Amthor and Justin Hunt. 🙂 )


We love it when a plan comes together! Justin and Frank are working on the drain pipe in the apron; Ken, David, Mike and Tyler are working on the trench to hold the pipe that will carry the water; and Kat and Pat are supervising. (And I’m loving the whole blessed project!)


As volunteer photo-documenter and volunteer shoveler, one of my most solemn multitasking duties is to accept heckling – and then put it on the blog for all to see. 🙂 Fabulous job, David, Ken and Tyler!


Because, really, we absolutely cannot let all this hard, hot, dry, amazing and amazingly appreciated work go unnoticed or undocumented! We do small projects for the horses throughout the year every year that are documented for our local folks, but this was big – and it was huge – and let me say again how incredibly appreciative we are of our BLM folks and all our advocates and volunteers who make projects like this happen – through funding, through buckets of sweat (it’s “dry” heat, right?!) and through lots of tears of happiness while we try to make sure photos are in focus. 🙂


Because people are watching to see how we have made Spring Creek Basin’s mustang-management style a model. It takes hard work, but it IS possible to work in partnership for our mustangs – and we’re proving it – and our horses are worth every bit of that effort.


This work was hard to illustrate. The “boot” had to be sealed to the apron liner so water will go through the filter to the pipe, not leak out around the edges where the pipe comes through the apron. Justin is using a tool that directs heat (it’s plugged into a portable generator), and Frank is using a little roller to press the heated boot plastic to the apron plastic. As if it weren’t hot enough (did anyone actually look? the air temp may have been in the upper 90s, but on that black plastic, it probably was at least 115 degrees), they’re applying *more* heat. All in the name of gettin’ ’er done for our mustangs.


Ahh! Thanks, Kat! Pat brought the umbrella … and no, we were not expecting rain.


This angle shows a little better what’s going on with that plastic boot and the heat gun.


Meanwhile, work on the trench had progressed to the point that allowed Ken and Tyler to start carrying lengths of pipe up the hill to glue together and place in the trench. In this view, you can see the water-storage tank. Also hard to illustrate is just how steep is this part of the hill. Barely in view down the hill at left are the pipes Ken and Tyler carried on their *other* shoulders to that point from the pile in front of the trucks farther downhill.


Ken and Tyler get right to work gluing pipe together for the long run to the tank.


And David and Mike continue digging the trench down the hill to the tank.


And Tyler and Ken glue more pipe.


Using the technique perfected by Justin and Frank, Mike helps Justin attach another section of apron to the main apron in order to have more surface to bury over the berm in the trench. Because our site isn’t rectangular, we trimmed plastic in a couple of areas and added those pieces to a couple of areas for mo’ bettah coverage in places where needed.


My oh mustang my! Doesn’t that look like it will catch and carry a lotta water for our wild ponies??


It hasn’t yet been mentioned how HOT it was (! OK, it miiiiiight have been mentioned) during this weekend work project. It hadn’t rained in weeks (possibly close to two months), and it was as hot and dry as Southwest Colorado can be (and given our location as high-elevation desert, it can be pretty toasty with temps into the 100s, which we’ve seen already). Fortunately, it was generally breezy enough to keep the gnats at bay. Here, awesome lady advocates Pat and Kat are using ice packs to stay cool under the shade of a handy juniper at the work site.


Mike also thought that was a pretty terrific idea.


David was glad to get off of his bucking Bobcat and start putting together valve parts in the shade of the water tank. The pipe-filled trench gets to the tank immediately to the right of where he’s sitting.


Of course, he had to get right back on that pony – err, Bobcat – and finish the job to end the ride on a positive note: filling the trench and covering the new pipeline, which is worth its (considerable) weight in gold.

Camera-holding and other hands were needed to wrestle the final pipe sections into place to get in line with the tank’s existing steel fitting, so the photos end here. David did quite a bit more work around the apron and installed some water-erosion ditches on the access road this day and the next (third) day, and we also removed the tractor tire (which had served as a trough with a bentonite-and-soil bottom) to put in place a new water trough provided by BLM. As it turned out (after we got our first little rain showers to test – yahoo!), the steel fitting that was at the tank had cracked and was leaking a bit (Colorado’s freeze-and-thaw action at work), so we’ll replace that as well.

After the holiday, BLM folks and volunteers will return to the site of our big achievement to replace that steel fitting, scatter seeds of native grasses around the apron and along the covered pipeline (disturbed areas), and install the new trough to the existing pipeline downhill from the tank.

And once again, it’s imperative that we thank all the people who provided all the hands and funds and supportive efforts that made this water project happen for our Spring Creek Basin mustangs: BLM range staff, Wild Bunch members, unaffiliated advocates and family members (including the ones who allowed us weekend time with their husbands and daddies). Specifically, for your labor and engineering and exemplary work ethic, thank you to Mike Jensen, Justin Hunt, Garth Nelson, David Temple, Pat and Frank Amthor, Kat Wilder, Ken Lausten and Tyler Lausten. For your organization and funding and support behind the scenes, thank you to Connie Clementson, Tif Rodriguez, Lyn Rowley, Lynda Larsen, Sandie Simons, Nancy Schaufele, Karen Keene Day, David and Nancy Holmes, and the Serengeti Foundation.

In spirit, always, thank you, Pati Temple, for our cherished memories of your mustang advocacy and for continuing to watch over and guide us in this work. (I’m pretty sure you had a hand in the recent, blessed rains we have received!)

Everyone, we appreciate your planning, your work, your funding, your organization and your love for our most beloved Spring Creek Basin mustangs.

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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!


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


Libby and Nina carry staves up the big hill.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


NMA/CO to show ‘Unbranded’

16 10 2015


The Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association will feature a showing of “Unbranded” at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26, at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez, Colo. See the above for more information. If you’re local, we’d love to see you there!

Visit NMA/CO’s website to purchase tickets online.

“Unbranded” is the story of four Texas Aggies and their 16 mustangs on a journey across some of America’s most stunning public lands, from Mexico to Canada. It’s a must-see testament to the mustangs that represent the freedom and pioneering spirit on which America was built.

NMA/CO fundraiser

13 07 2015

The Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association held a fundraiser Friday night to benefit wild horses in Southwest Colorado. Held at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez, the event featured a silent auction and the film “Roaming Wild,” after which, people could ask questions about PZP, bait trapping and other wild-horse-and-burro issues.

The place was packed. On behalf of Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs and other wild horses, on behalf of the NMA/CO board, who did an enormous amount of work for this event (in particular, executive director Tif Rodriguez), thank you to all of our wonderful donors and ticket buyers! You made our night a huge success, and you made our work for the horses easier.

NMA/CO fundraiser

NMA/CO executive director Tif Rodriguez and president David Temple welcomed people to the fundraiser event.

NMA/CO fundraiser

People started to fill the theater even before 5:30 p.m. This was a great time to catch up with old friends and make new ones. We are so thankful to everyone who attended to support our mustangs!

NMA/CO fundraiser

Many locals donated items for the silent auction. The donations were excellent, and we thank all the donors for their generosity!

Kathe Hayes arranges food at the NMA/CO fundraiser at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez.

Kathe Hayes was in charge of food and did a fantastic job. She made some and picked some up from local eateries. She didn’t seem to have much to pack up at the end of the night!

Again, thank you so much. Our mustangs thank you! 🙂