‘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!





Little things … that become ginormous

2 05 2020

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

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

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

Do you feel the magic?

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

It’s kinda huge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, thank you and thank you.

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





He’s bold, he’s red

31 01 2020

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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.”





40th anniversary

15 12 2011

In honor of a woman, Velma Johnston – aka Wild Horse Annie – and the wild horses and burros she ought to protect …

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 is an Act of Congress (Pub.L. 92-195) signed into law President Richard M. Nixon on Dec. 15, 1971. The Act made it a crime for anyone to harass or kill feral horses or feral burros on federal land, required the departments of the Interior and Agriculture to protect the animals, required studies of the animals’ habits and habitats, and permitted public land to be set aside for their use. In addition, the act required that mustangs be protected as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” and that management plans must “maintain a thriving natural ecological balance among wild horse populations, wildlife, livestock, and vegetation and to protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation.” Although feral horse ranges were principally for the protection of the horses, the land was required to be maintained for multiple use. The BLM was also permitted to close public land to livestock grazing to protect feral horse and burro habitat. – Wikipedia

Although in many places – and for Spring Creek Basin until the last year – it seems like not a lot has changed, I am thankful that we have good people in the Tres Rios Field Office who recognize the horses as important to the ecological fabric of the land and are willing to make them the priority on that range. NMA/CO and Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners are working through partnership and education to accomplish our goals for this herd.

To the outside world, it may seem like not much has changed here, with the helicopter-driven roundup this year. But an annual fertility control program has been implemented, and we’re on track to move to bait trapping. Our goal – and that of our BLM partners – is sustainable management with as little disruption to the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin as possible.

Everything we do is built on everything that came before – nationally and specifically. Their light is shining.