They’re totally rock stars

12 08 2017

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Earlier this week, I visited the BLM state office in Denver (Lakewood). As we walked into the entry way … I was drawn to the photo of mustangs on the wall (naturally, right?!).

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Photos also were on the opposite wall, but the mustangs catch your eye (of course!). (Above: Already out the door is BLM’s Ben Smith, wild horse and burro specialist based in Grand Junction, and holding the door while yours truly geeked out taking photos of a mustang photo is Jim Hyrup, president of Friends of the Mustangs, which is the group that advocates for Little Book Cliffs mustangs near Grand Junction.)

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This is the view of the photo as we walked into the building. It’s the view EVERYONE has as they walk into BLM’s state office!

I stopped to look closer … and was about to ask if anyone recognized the horses … when *I* suddenly did.

I might have gotten a little loud. 🙂

Pictured are Hayden, Jif, Chrome, Two Boots and Rio (now named Legado, owned by an NMA/CO board member). The BLM people didn’t know who took the photo, but it had to have been taken in 2010.

Because our wild beautiful ponies are just that famous. 🙂

In other pretty awesome news, we were there to support friends who advocate and volunteer and partner and collaborate with BLM for the good management of our Colorado mustangs on Colorado’s herd management areas and wild horse range: Sand Wash Basin, Little Book Cliffs, Spring Creek Basin (specifically) and Piceance-East Douglas (coming soon, we hope!). BLM folks, including Laria Lovec (on-range management), Steve Leonard (off-range management) and Ben Smith (wild horse and burro specialist based in Grand Junction), were there to recognize folks including Michelle Sander and Aleta Wolf (with Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary and Sand Wash Advocate Team), and Jim Hyrup (president of Friends of the Mustangs).

FOM has been involved with Little Book Cliffs mustangs for more than 30 years and have been using PZP for more than a decade. SWAT and GEMS are about 5 years old, and advocates have been darting in Sand Wash Basin for at least the last three years. We are so happy and proud to support their efforts and call them friends and heroes/heroines for mustangs!

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Left to right: Steve Leonard, Laria Lovec, moi, Michelle Sander, Aleta Wolf, Jim Hyrup and Ben Smith.

Many of our valued volunteers couldn’t attend the meeting, but Stella Trueblood and Connie Wagner (SWAT), Marty Felix and Billie Hutchings (FOM), and Pat and Frank Amthor and Kat Wilder (Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners) are standout folks who spend hours working for our mustangs – and have done so for years and years. Marty earns the longevity award for more than FORTY years with Little Book Cliffs’ mustangs! Pat and Frank Amthor have logged TWENTY years supporting Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs!

In the “coming soon” category, Dona Hilkey and Pam and Tom Nickoles have been visiting, photographing and documenting Piceance-East Douglas’ mustangs for at least 12 years. They’ve been working closely with BLM, and folks are close to forming an advocacy group for that herd (and perhaps casting an umbrella over West Douglas as well). When that happens, it will mean every mustang herd in Colorado will have the support of volunteer advocates!

THANK YOU to every one of our dedicated volunteers!

And THANK YOU to BLM for recognizing and appreciating their work for our Colorado mustangs!

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To arms

28 05 2017

Spirit

By now, you all must have heard about the explosion of disbelief and outrage about the 2018 budget proposal. No one seems to be happy … and wild horse and burro advocates are no exception.

My friend Pam Nickoles has a succinct post with pertinent links on her blog.

More information is available on all the major advocacy sites, and news sites are covering the issue as well.

Surely we can work together for better treatment and management for our wildlife.





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:

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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

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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.





Some gold

30 07 2016

Chromesrainbow

A few days ago, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign alerted wild horse and burro advocates to some good news: BLM Colorado doing good things for our wild horses.

“Please sign the petition below to THANK BLM Colorado for leading the way in humane management that Keeps Wild Horses Wild! Your signatures will be hand delivered by our friends and wonderful wild horse advocates TJ Holmes and Kat Wilder, along with a thank-you card to the BLM. 

“Let’s give credit where credit is due and support the BLM when it takes important steps in the right direction! Hopefully, the ongoing success of the humane management programs in Colorado will encourage other BLM districts across the West to implement similar programs.”

Also:

“On Aug. 4, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Colorado will hold its annual public hearing on the use of motorized vehicles in wild horse management. While we are usually critical of the BLM’s wild horse policies, this hearing provides a rare opportunity for us to SUPPORT the progress that the BLM in Colorado has made toward implementing humane management of wild horses in that state.”

Please consider signing the petition – click here to go to AWHPC’s site – to let BLM Colorado know that you’re aware of the good things happening with mustang management in our state, and that you’d like to see these good things continue – and spread to other states and other herd management areas. At that meeting, Kat Wilder and I will present BLM with the thank-you card that honors all that BLM has done and all that BLM is doing to support our wild horses staying wild on their home ranges.

We have come a long way with BLM managers who are willing and committed to working with volunteers to ensure “thriving natural ecological balance” on the rangelands our Colorado mustangs call home. We will always work to ensure the best management for our wild ones.





Down goes the pony

3 05 2016

Kwana

Here’s a chuckle for your morning commute.

The appeal of the soft-silt dry bed of a pond (still carrying some water in the deepest part) was too alluring for Kwana to worry about a crazy ol’ human, so he laid down and rolled – right in front of me! Then he performed a quick equine yoga move before he got back to his feet to continue playing with his pals.

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In serious good news (and our mustangs need every bit they can get these days), the second “Mustang Tales” column by Kat Wilder went up on the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign website yesterday. This one is called “Happy Trails,” and its chief message is an incredible and heartfelt tribute to Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick.