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. πŸ™‚ We so appreciate your support.





He’s bold, he’s red

31 01 2020

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He’s Master Hayden.

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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

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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. πŸ™‚

All of the things we have done and are doing – and the fact that our current one is 26 years oldΒ  – 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 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).

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Now some suggestions.

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

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, it’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 herd’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 Basin’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 – 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.

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

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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Drinking, calm

13 09 2018

Comanche drinking at the corral catchment.

After Comanche was sure the interloper meant no harm to his girls, he returned to the trough for a lonnnnnnnnnnnnggggggg drink of water. πŸ™‚

I sat uphill from the trough to stay out of the way and had to get the camera low to see any of his eye (the eyes make the photos, they say, but even so, only part of his eye is visble) below the evaporation cover. That’s why there’s a soft layer of unfocused vegetation in the lower foreground.

The black square-looking thing in the center of the trough is actually a long rectangle made of steel mesh on a steel frame. It’s a critter ladder that provides a perch for birds and little beasts to get a drink without drowning. The stacked wood outside the trough slightly to the right is where the pipe from the tank comes out of the ground and into the trough. It’s filled with dirt to insulate it in the winter (when the water is turned off).





Attentive

12 09 2018

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Piedra and Kestrel pause during drinking to focus their full attention on the pronghorn visitor on the hill.





Prongs on the hill

11 09 2018

Pronghorn buck on corral hill.

Our mustangs aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the basin’s water catchments. This handsome fellow waited on the hill for Comanche’s band to drink at the corral catchment (built just two years ago). The horses were VERY interested in him.





Best. Water. Man. Ever.

4 06 2018

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Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs are fortunate to have Steve Heath – Heath Water Service – in their corner when it comes to delivering water in this time of terrible drought. This isn’t the first time we’ve relied on Steve (and Cecil Foster before him) to deliver water to the basin’s catchment so the horses have a consistent source of water in that trough seen in the background of this photo. It’s one of only two clean sources of water in the basin, the others being silty, salty and fairly low quantity. Two ponds still have water, and there are some other small sources, but they’re shrinking rapidly.

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Steve on top of the storage tank putting the hose into the hatch to pump water.

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Best. Water. Man. Ever. πŸ™‚

We are so grateful for his dedication and willingness to deliver water to our mustangs!

The Colorado chapter of the National Mustang Association is helping BLM pay for water deliveries to the mustangs during this drought.

Horse Park Fire update: Inciweb lists the fire still at 1,221 acres and 90 percent contained, but by the lack of activity – and smoke – the last couple of days I think they have it pretty much nailed. πŸ™‚ And big news: The area got about 0.15 inch of rain yesterday! For us, that’s huge. It doesn’t ease the drought, but it gave us a little relief.





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!





Doing good work

19 01 2018

A couple of days ago, we met up with our fabulous BLM guys to install the evaporation cover over the new trough – connected to the new water catchment apron – that we installed in 2016.

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BLM rangeland management specialist Garth Nelson, left, figures out which drill bit to use to drill holes through the metal of the evaporation cover to attach it to the supports BLM range tech Justin Hunt is welding to the vertical posts. The post at right already has a piece welded to it.

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See the metal thing inside the trough in front of Garth? That’s the critter ladder the guys built. It allows birds to get to the water or an animal that falls into the water to get out. Garth drilled a couple of holes and wired it to the edge of the trough.

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Once everything was in place, Justin attached small square plates to the tops of the three vertical posts and welded them into place, then used the grinder to smooth the square edges. At the near corner, you can see the “trap door” the guys built into the cover so the float below it is accessible for any work or replacement that needs to be done. In the background, range specialist and herd manager Mike Jensen, right, talks with Garth while visiting with Bow, one of Kat Wilder’s dogs.

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Sparks fly as Justin grinds the edges of the post caps to smooth roundness.

These guys thought of everything!

The cover will help preserve the water in the trough from evaporating so quickly. And with its installation, the new water-catchment project is officially complete. In warm weather, this will provide a second source of clean water for the horses.

Snow is in Saturday’s forecast. Please send good thoughts. This dry weather has to end.





Partnering for mustangs

18 10 2016

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Yep, once again, volunteers showed up to support Spring Creek Basin’s mustangs! This is the apron project to provide a second source of clean water for our mustangs – now fenced to protect the apron from the horses walking on it. They’ve sure enough found the water in the trough below the tank, which is below this apron.

This crew has a lot to smile about because in just a few short hours, these awesome folks built a four-strand smooth-twisted-wire fence around the apron! Our BLM guys snuck out of the office last week and dug holes for almost all the heavy wooden posts – which serve as H-braces and the nifty new gate – and that was most of the hard work.

In the photo above, left to right: Laura and Bob Volger (Four Corners Back Country Horsemen), Kat Wilder, yours truly giving the thumbs’-up, Frank Amthor (4CBCH), Mike Jensen and Garth Nelson (range specialists; Mike is the herd manager), and Kat’s son Ken Lausten, fence-builder extraordinaire. Always-present Pat Amthor relieved me of my camera to take this pic of our hard-working crew. πŸ™‚

Some more pix below before I got caught up in the efficient assembly line of pounding posts, wire stringing and stretching, and clipping wire strands to posts:

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Garth (left) and Frank work together to set the horizontal braces in the, you know, H-braces. Luckily for us, Garth and Mike Jensen already had done most of the hard work, digging holes and setting most of the wooden posts during a jail break, err, an escape from the office last week. In the background, Mike (left) and Bob Volger are digging a hole for another post to complete that H-brace.

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Here’s a closer look at Mike and Bob setting their post.

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As soon as Garth and Frank had finished this H-brace, Ken and Kat got right to work stringing wire. Mike’s running a T-post through the wire to unroll the next strand down to the next brace.

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Comin’ through! (The apron is to the left.)

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Ken stretches the end of the lower strand of wire, helped by his mom, Kat. At a diagonal, you can see the wire already tensioned into place by Mike and Garth. (That’s probably not really a word, but the diagonally-wrapped wire holds tension on the two vertical posts, so the one posts helps the other hold the horizontal wires stretched between H-braces.)

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And this is a good view of the apron, which we laid out in June – the object that we’re protecting from sharp mustang hooves. Why yes, it IS already working to funnel what little rainwater we’ve received down the newly laid pipe to the catchment tank AND to the trough, which is up-to-the brim full of water for the mustangs (held level by a float ball). πŸ™‚

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Garth pounds a T-post between H-braces while (in the background) Bob and Frank dig a hole for another post to serve as an anchor in a slight depression between H-braces so it will hold the wire tight without pulling the T-posts out of the ground.

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Laura Volger (4CBCH) helps Mike hold a wire strand in place so he can staple it to the post. We set our wires at consistent heights all the way around.

And things continued in just such a manner until the apron was all fenced in and protected.

This was another fabulous project in Spring Creek Basin with BLM employees and volunteers, all working together for the benefit of our beloved mustangs!

Just in case you thought it was all work and no good food, Pat Amthor brought homemade apple cake made with home-grown (Durango area) apples. You better believe we all polished that off and sent Pat home with an empty cake pan! (Sorry – no pix. It went from pan to bellies too fast!)

Thank you, thank you, once again to our committed BLM range specialists and our dedicated volunteers. With your help, our Spring Creek Basin mustangs continue to thrive on their home range!