‘Home on the Range’

4 06 2021

“Managing Wild Horses on Colorado’s Public Lands”

On the heels of this week’s feel-good good-news stories, here’s another one to end your week on a high: Through the end of the year, Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum (formerly called Anasazi Heritage Center) will host “Home on the Range: Managing Wild Horses on Colorado’s Public Lands,” an exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Images and information about Colorado’s three herd management areas (Spring Creek Basin, Sand Wash Basin and Piceance-East Douglas) and one wild horse range (Little Book Cliffs) are included in the exhibit, as well as an adopters corner, which highlights a few awesome adopters of some of Spring Creek Basin’s awesome mustangs with a poster and short video. (Thank you to Tif Rodriguez and Whisper, Keith Bean and Skipper, Alice Billings and Liberty, Steve and Teresa Irick and Breeze and Sage, and Olivia Winter Holm and Ellie!)

The exhibit is a collaboration between CANM (Bridget Ambler), our local Tres Rios Field Office (Mike Jensen and Connie Clementson) and Colorado BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program (Ben Smith and Eric Coulter). I can’t begin to describe how incredible it looks. I walked through the doors, stopped dead in my tracks and burst into happy tears! The poor CANM employee who showed me in waited ever-so-politely for me to regain my senses (it took a little while). It’s THAT beautiful!

The center/museum is located on Colorado Highway 184 above the town of Dolores and McPhee Reservoir. If you’re in Southwest Colorado this year, please stop by to view the exhibit and the rest of the museum for a glimpse of ancient life here on the Colorado Plateau!

Below is a selection of photos of the exhibit. Really, it’s best viewed in person!

If you know me, you know that I’m the biggest emotional softie when it comes to my mustangs. Therefore, it will surprise none of you to read that when I drove up the road to the parking area below the building and saw handsome Hollywood and his beautiful mares, that was the first burst-into-tears event of the visit. Notice also the vertical sign on the side of the building in the background – also Hollywood. (Really, this guy should have his own star on a walk of fame!)

This was the next – and biggest – burst-into-tears moment: when I first walked into the exhibit hall and saw all those beautiful mustang faces. At right: Sand Wash Basin mustangs. In the background: Little Book Cliffs mustangs. At farthest left: Spring Creek Basin mustangs (the pic they used on the outside banner). Piceance-East Douglas mustang fans, don’t worry; your ponies are around the Sand Wash Basin wall. And the little section out of frame to the far left is the rest of the Spring Creek Basin area.

Right around the corner from the doors into the exhibit hall, the adopters are featured. Belatedly, I realized the mistake about Steve’s and Teresa’s mustangs: They’re both geldings. But I love the photos and quotes from everyone! These people all recognize the beauty and value of America’s mustangs (particularly our Spring Creek Basin mustangs), and I’m so glad BLM wanted to highlight their horses and parts of their stories. (The mustangs were adopted in 2005, 2007 and 2011.)

The exhibit also pays tribute to Colorado’s mustang advocacy groups – at least one for each herd in the state! Our mustangs are blessed to have people involved in every aspect of their observation and management (of course, we advocates know that WE are the blessed ones!).

No exhibit of mustang management in Colorado would be complete without a display of some of the tools of our fertility-control trade (on the wall across from this is an info-graphic panel about fertility control). We use CO2-powered darting rifles in Sand Wash Basin and in Spring Creek Basin, and they use .22-type rifles to dart in Little Book Cliffs. At upper left is a teeny branding tool for foals. Hopefully coming soon is a darting program in Piceance-East Douglas; all the pieces are being put in place.

Let’s see some pix of the pix (they are beautifully printed on canvas; each of them will go to the respective offices (Tres Rios, Grand Junction, White River and Little Snake) when the exhibit closes at the end of the year):

One of the walls of Piceance-East Douglas beauties.

A cozy corner of Little Book Cliffs mustangs with some of the astounding scenery shown. Part of Little Book Cliffs also is a wilderness study area (like McKenna Peak in Spring Creek Basin).

Some lovelies of Sand Wash Basin.

And of course, my most-beloved Spring Creek Basin wildies.

Deep, heartfelt gratitude to Bridget and Mike and everyone who conceived of and then brought this exhibit to reality. It didn’t open in January as planned because, you know, Covid, but it’s been open since mid-April and will be open the rest of the year (check the link at top of the page for visitor center/museum hours). (As of this writing, they’re following safety protocols with limited capacity in the building and social distancing.)

If you’re coming to or through Southwest Colorado in 2021, please, please, pretty-pretty please make a stop at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum and take time to walk through, and/or sit, and very most definitely enjoy this exhibit of some of the mustangs that call Colorado home. We are SO proud of our mustangs!





Celebration in Piceance-East Douglas

11 05 2017

Last weekend, BLM folks from the White River Field Office in Meeker hosted a “celebration” of the mustangs in the Piceance (“pee-antz”)-East Douglas Herd Management Area. An unofficial count of around 40 people made the trip to talk to each other and BLM range specialists and managers, and take tours of this amazing – 190,000-plus acres! – range in northwestern Colorado.

The wildlife in this area of the state is abundant and varied. It also – until recently – had a widespread oil-and-gas presence (still there, just not as widespread). Interestingly, friends say that those workers are among the friendliest they encounter while looking for mustangs, and they’re always happy to point out the locations of horses for my friends to find and photograph. Cattle and sheep ranching also is abundant in the area, and my friends pass on information about livestock and fences to the ranchers via BLM.

During this celebration, three tours were offered throughout the day, and we had the opportunity to speak with people from all backgrounds: oil-and-gas workers, ranchers, mustang advocates, local and not-so-local BLM employees, and others. We all have a stake in preserving Colorado’s public lands and wild places, and the wildlife those lands shelter, so it was a good coming together of people and ideas and planning to see how those interests can merge and move forward for the benefit of all involved.

This wasn’t my first visit to Piceance-East Douglas, and it certainly won’t be the last. BLM does want to conduct a roundup and removal of horses here (population estimate is 400-plus horses). But it also wants to start a PZP program, which would mean that – at that point – all of Colorado’s mustang herds would be managed with scientifically-sound fertility control, enabling more horses to live wild and free on their home ranges.

My friends Tom and Pam Nickoles have been visiting the area since 2006, learning about the mustangs, learning about the area … learning all the intricacies. They work closely with the BLM range specialist and herd manager, Melissa Kindall, as well as a local woman who has been documenting the mustangs for many years, Dona Hilkey. Friends of the Mustangs, the advocacy group that helps BLM with the Little Book Cliffs herd near Grand Junction, also had members present, and they might be able to provide human power and some funding to help establish a local advocacy group for the Piceance-East Douglas mustangs.

Good things are going on in Piceance-East Douglas and all around Colorado!

Not too many photos from this last visit, as I was more interested in looking wide-eyed at everything, but here are a few of the gorgeous mustangs that call Piceance-East Douglas home:

050617baystallion1

This handsome guy was with a young grey stallion and an older sorrel mare. This was the only photo I came away with that shows some of the long views available from this herd management area.

050617younggreystallion1

This is the young grey friend of the above stallion, showing the *short* sagebrush. Most of the sage in this region is TALL – as in, jungle-tall. Sometimes it’s hard to see any more of horses (or cows) than their ears. No pix of the mare because – ironically – she was too close for my lens. Most of the Piceance-East Douglas mustangs are extremely wild and wary, which is awesome! But challenging for photos. 🙂

050617herculesband1

Case in point: This handsome family was pretty OK to watch us from a distance while we stood at the Jeep, photographing from the road. But when I took a few steps away from the vehicle, to get a better view across/over the sage and other vegetation, that was enough of a trigger for them to bid us farewell.

Young grey stallion by himself in Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.

This hunky young guy was all alone. We walked out into the sage a short distance (also mindful of ticks!), and he came to investigate …

Young grey stallion by himself in Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area.

… then high-tailed it away from the two clicky ladies. 🙂 Isn’t he magnificent?

Some take-away facts from Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area:

  • The mustangs are gorgeous with a capital G.
  • The region is large. Huge. Ginormous. There are a lot of roads. The roads are in relatively good condition (probably in large part because of the oil-and-gas access), but, as everywhere, beware wet conditions.
  • The scenery is large. Huge. Ginormous. Especially as seen from Cathedral Bluffs – and other places. 🙂
  • The sage is tall and thick, and sometimes it’s hard to see even a few feet beyond the road.
  • What an amazing place to explore!




Sand Wash Basin advocates get ’er done

20 09 2016

091816swbgreystallionmoon1

This handsome hunky stallion is Star, and he lives with his family in Sand Wash Basin, in northwestern Colorado. He posed extremely considerately Sunday morning with the setting full moon.

This past weekend, Michelle Sander, Aleta Wolf, Stella Trueblood and others with Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and Sand Wash Advocate Team, along with Gina Robison with BLM’s Little Snake Field Office in Craig, hosted about 50 people who came from near and far (including Texas, Missouri and Toronto, Canada) to help with work projects that directly and indirectly benefit those gorgeous mustangs.

SWAT members are directly responsible for the successful PZP program in Sand Wash Basin. In place for just about three years now, it’s having a direct impact on slowing the population growth of this popular herd. BLM plans a bait-trapping operation there later this fall, with which SWAT and GEMS will be intimately involved. BLM plans to remove 50 horses. They’ll go to Cañon City for “processing” (brands, vaccinations, gelding, etc.), then to GEMS, in northeastern Colorado, to be gentled and offered for adoption through GEMS’ partnership with BLM as a TIP storefront.

Read more about the great weekend of camaraderie, work projects and MUSTANGS in this Craig Daily Press article.

SWAT and GEMS and all the folks associated with these groups are doing phenomenal work for this beautiful herd. Any chance you get, please send out your thanks to these ladies and gents. They are compassionate and passionate, considerate, caring and vastly knowledgeable.

In short: They rock. 🙂





Black is beauty

17 08 2016

Raven

Pretty Raven in the secret forest.

Many readers know that Raven was born and raised in Sand Wash Basin and came here in 2008 with Mona and Kootenai to help boost our genetics. Because Spring Creek Basin’s appropriate management level currently is just 35 to 65 adult horses, BLM periodically introduces horses in order to help keep our herd’s genetics viable, per a recommendation by equine geneticist Dr. Gus Cothran (at my alma mater, Texas A&M University).

An EA has recently been released for a bait-trapping operation in Sand Wash Basin. Information about where to send your comments by the Sept. 4 deadline may be found here, in a news brief in the Craig Daily Press.

“The BLM seeks comment on the Environmental Assessment of this gather plan, available at the Little Snake Field Office at 455 Emerson St., Craig, CO 81625 and online at: 1.usa.gov/23gjg6w. Public comments will be most helpful to the BLM if received by Sept. 4. Written comments can be mailed to the Little Snake Field Office or submitted via email to blm_co_sandwash_hma@blm.gov.”

(Note that the website indicated in the press release leads to an error page.)

Of note in the very positive category, Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and Sand Wash Advocate Team are specifically mentioned for their partnership with BLM in managing this herd: “Our partnership with SWAT and GEMS has been vital to meeting our goal of maintaining the health of the Sand Wash wild horses and the lands they depend upon,” BLM Northwest District Manager Joe Meyer said in a news release.

Also: “While confined in a corral, BLM employees and Sand Wash Advocacy Team members would identify mares, that would be treated with a contraceptive called PZP, which delays fertilization, before being released back to the range. Up to 50 young wild horses would be removed for placement in the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary training and adoption program.”

Please take a look at the EA and send comments. SWAT volunteers are currently using fertility control in Sand Wash Basin, and they need support in order to continue their efforts to manage this herd well.





Congratulations!

2 12 2012

The Tres Rios Field Office in Dolores, Colo., has honored Pati and David Temple with an award that recognizes their dedication during the last 15 years to the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin.

In 1997, Pati and David joined the board of the newly formed Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association. They have served continuously on the board since then.

Some major projects have been completed in Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area at Pati and David’s urging:

* The water catchment in the basin was funded by NMA/CO – about $18,000. Although there are several ponds and seeps/springs, the catchment provides the horses with the only clean water source in Spring Creek Basin (the others being, at the least, very salty because of the alkaline soil).

* About a decade ago, NMA/CO raised $40,000 to buy cattle AUMs from a rancher who held grazing rights in the basin and, after a five-year struggle, succeeded in retiring those AUMs. Not only that, a grazing EA was prompted, which reduced the remaining AUMs and changed the grazing season to dormant-season grazing only (Dec. 1 until Feb. 28). The National Mustang Association, based in Utah, was instrumental in finally accomplishing this goal.

* Because of Pati and David, magazine subscriptions, horsemanship training videos and countless pairs of boots have been donated by NMA/CO to the inmate training program at the Canon City prison facility, where BLM has a short-term holding facility.

* Pati and David have assisted with the removal of old fences and wire from within the basin as well as construction of new boundary fences and the repair and maintenance of fences.

* For close to a decade, San Juan Mountains Association has hosted University of Missouri students during alternative spring break, which has included projects in the basin. David is an arborist, and NMA/CO regularly has funded chemical spray (Garlon) for tamarisk removal. David (pictured below at right) also has volunteered his time and expertise to help with eradication efforts.

0323asb-group

* Because of Pati’s single-minded determination and her refusal to give up on him, when Grey/Traveler was sent to Canon City at the end of the 2007 roundup, we got him back. Pati and David hosted him at their ranch for three weeks (quarantine) until he could be returned to Spring Creek Basin (pictured below). Long-time readers of this blog will know that he not only rebuilt a band, he has the largest band in the basin at the tender age of “aged,” as aged at the last (2011) roundup.

0919greygone

* Pati and David represent NMA/CO in our coalition advocacy group Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners. They bring to Wild Bunch – and BLM – all their historical knowledge of BLM management of Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area, as well as modern visions that fit with our advocacy goals, which they use to encourage new projects to benefit the horses. With the previous herd manager, one project Pati and David suggested and we convinced BLM to undertake was digging out ponds to increase storage capacity. Some hadn’t been dug out since the 1980s. In 2009, two ponds were dug out. In 2010, three ponds were dug out. In 2012, three ponds were dug out. All but two ponds in the basin have been dug out, and at least one of those still is on the priority list to BE dug out. Currently, in a desperately dry year, all but three ponds have water. To further illustrate how impressive this is – how visionary – ranchers throughout the region are hauling water to their cattle because water sources on their grazing allotments are dry.

112112doublepond

* Also as members of Wild Bunch, Pati and David are an integral part of the partnership with BLM that resulted in the Tres Rios Field Office being awarded $25,000 as part of the Director’s Challenge this year.

* NMA/CO always has championed the use of fertility control. In 2007, NMA/CO paid for five doses of PZP-22 to be administered to the released mares. In 2010, NMA/CO signed on to the proposal submitted to BLM for the implementation of a program to use native PZP in Spring Creek Basin to slow population growth and reduce the need for frequent roundups. Also in 2010, NMA/CO paid for my PZP training at the Science and Conservation Center in Billings, Mont. Then they paid for the darting rifle. When fertility control using native PZP was approved for the Spring Creek Basin herd ahead of the 2011 roundup, we were ready to volunteer.

* Pati and David have adopted several mustangs over many years (including those they’re riding in the photo of the plaque above). In 2011, they adopted yearling Rio (Grey/Traveler or Twister x Two Boots) and renamed him Sherwood, in honor of one of the founding members of NMA/CO. Pati is a genius at groundwork, and at 2 years old, Sherwood loads readily into a trailer and accepts a cinched saddle, among other things.

sherwood2

* In 2012, Hollywood and Piedra had a filly. She was named Temple in honor of Pati and David.

Temple, foreground; Madison, background.

Pati and David are true mustang angels in every sense of the words. Their passion about and commitment to mustangs, particularly Spring Creek Basin mustangs, is legendary in our part of the world. Personally, I am grateful to Pati and David a million-fold for their support and friendship. Their work has laid the foundation for the excellent health of the herd today and into the future. This list hits just the highlights, but I hope it conveys how inspiring they are and should be to mustang advocates everywhere. In addition, they are two of the nicest, most generous people you’ll ever know.

The plaque reads: Presented to David and Pati Temple. Thank you for your many years of unselfish commitment and dedication to the Spring Creek Basin Wild Horses and the Herd Management Area. The support that you have provided to the BLM has been invaluable to the long-term goal of a sustainable and healthy herd area in Disappointment Valley. Without your devotion to the horses, advocacy, hard work and persistence, many maintenance, enhancement and fertility control projects would not have been accomplished. November 2012. Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office.

The photo on the plaque, taken by Durango photographer Claude Steelman and featured in his book Colorado’s Wild Horses, shows Pati on Bandolier and David on Concho, their Sulphur Springs mustangs.

With appreciation beyond words and always grateful for you both, thank you, Pati and David, for your generosity, commitment and passion. It is contagious and has infected us all! And thank you, Tres Rios, for honoring Pati and David for all they have done for our mustangs.





BLM seeks comments on Piceance-East Douglas Roundup EA

19 07 2011

Thanks to photographer Pam Nickoles for this heads-up about the environmental assessment now out for comment about the upcoming Piceance-East Douglas roundup scheduled for Sept. 20-30 (just after the one here in Spring Creek Basin, which is set for Sept. 15-18). She has been visiting this herd and has some awesome photos of these beautiful mustangs.

From the BLM website:

July 7, 2011

Contact: Tom Alvarez, public affairs specialist, (970) 244-3097

Environmental Assessment for Piceance-East Douglas Wild Horse Gather Available for Public Comment

Meeker, Colo. — The Bureau of Land Management, Northwest District, White River Field Office (WRFO) is releasing a preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area Wild Horse Gather Plan for public review and comment. The gather is needed to help balance wild horse populations with other resources, restrict wild horses from areas where they were not “presently found” at the passage of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and to manage wild horses within the area designated for long-term wild horse management.

The WRFO manages wild horses within the 190,130 acre Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area (HMA), located in Rio Blanco County, Colorado. The Appropriate Management Level (AML) in the HMA is 135-235 wild horses. The Proposed Action analyzes the impacts of gathering the current estimated population of 382 wild horses from inside and 78 wild horses from outside the HMA; to implement fertility control, sex ratio adjustments, and a selective removal of excess wild horses. If the Proposed Action is fully successful, the HMA will consist of approximately 135 wild horses; the lower range of the appropriate management level of 135 to 235 wild horses. The BLM would select the 135 wild horses to maintain a diverse age structure, herd character, body type (conformation) and implement a sex ratio adjustment of 60 percent studs to 40 percent mares. All mares, over two years of age, released back to the HMA would be treated with Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) immunocontraception (fertility) drugs. In addition, the BLM has fully analyzed three additional alternatives to the Proposed Action to address issues and concerns brought forward during the initial scoping process.

“The Bureau of Land Management is tasked with managing our rangelands for a variety of uses. Providing management for a healthy wild horse herd within the HMA so the thriving natural ecological balance is maintained for all plant and animal species on that range, in conjunction with all other resource uses, it is one of our most important responsibilities to the American public and public land users. The public’s participation in this analysis process is vital to the decision making process,” said Kent Walter, field manager for the White River Field Office.

The gather EA can be found on the BLM WRFO website at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/wrfo/piceance_-_east_douglas.html, and selecting Preliminary Environmental Assessment DOI-BLM-CO-110-2011-0058-EA. All comments must be submitted in writing and received by the WRFO by the close of business on Aug. 8, 2011. Comments may be sent via email to mkindall@blm.gov with “Wild Horse Removal Plan” in the subject line of the email. Comments can also be sent by regular mail to the Bureau of Land Management, White River Field Office: attention Melissa Kindall, 220 E. Market St., Meeker, CO 81641. For more information, call James Roberts at (970) 878-3873 or Melissa Kindall at (970) 878-3842.

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

I went looking for information about the specific fertility control to be used … “two-year PZP contraceptive vaccine,” according to the EA, but the language seems to mean native PZP and/or PZP-22 interchangeably. (Page 94 of the PDF; Page 85 of the EA document.)

It seems odd that BLM would continue to use PZP-22 given the known timing problems from the HSUS studies in Sand Wash Basin and Cedar Mountains – and the EA acknowledges that it is best given between November and February (though I’ve also heard between December and March, and I think the Spring Creek Basin preliminary roundup EA pegs it at between December and February). This roundup is scheduled immediately after the Spring Creek Basin roundup.

PZP-22 is not “fairly inexpensive”; PZP-22 was about $200 a dose when it was allegedly administered to the Spring Creek Basin mares in 2007. Native PZP, however, is quite inexpensive – less than $30 per dose. Also, PZP-22 can be given “in the field” if that means at the roundup … but not (yet, that I know of) without a roundup – like native PZP can be given. The efficacy percentages are attributed to Dr. Kirkpatrick, who works with native PZP (and percentages are low for native PZP, which has at least an average 90 percent efficacy rate – also, native PZP is effective for one year, so the rest of that would seem to be moot)). Dr. Turner, attributed elsewhere, works with PZP-22.

Just some “hmms” I had when reading that part of the EA. I am not familiar with this herd at all and plan to seek more information from people who know those horses and that area.