Lilt

2 12 2021

Maiku the mighty returns to his band after a little chat with a fellow lieutenant.

**********

If you’ve been to Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum this year to see the special exhibit dedicated to Colorado’s wild horses in this 50th anniversary year of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, you’ve seen this video. If you haven’t been and you’d like to watch the video, watch it at this link! (And if you haven’t been and are even somewhat local, what are you waiting for? It’s open just through this last month of the year. Next year, a new special yearlong exhibit celebrating some other wonderful resource of our Colorado Plateau region!)





*Special* special event

25 10 2021

As far as we know, Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum‘s special exhibit this year celebrating Colorado’s mustangs and highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is the only one of its kind in the country.

From the museum’s website:

*The BLM Canyons of the Ancients Museum and Visitor Center is proud to announce our new exhibit, “Home on the Range; Managing Wild Horses on Colorado Public Lands” opening to visitors in 2021. The exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the “Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act” of 1971 through captivating photographs and in-depth information about the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program. The exhibit features information about Colorado’s four BLM Herd Management Areas and stunning photographs by TJ Holmes. Visitors will learn about BLM’s work to manage wild horses, unique traits of different herds, and how the public can get involved in stewardship and adoption. The BLM will announce public programs in 2021 to engage visitors and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Act.*

While we are hyper aware of the enormous challenges surrounding the management of wild horses and burros on America’s public lands, we’re also very well aware of the positive management going on in our own backyard: Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area in Disappointment Valley. Humbly, it is the celebration of these positives and understanding of the challenges that has led us to what we consider to be one of the best managed herds in the country. Why *wouldn’t* we celebrate that? And why wouldn’t we celebrate America’s wild horses (and burros, though none of Colorado’s wild herds include burros), their beauty and diversity and strength and the way they bring us together? THAT is the real message of this very special exhibit of Colorado’s mustangs in a very special visitor center and museum in Southwest Colorado.

Thank you, particularly, to all the visitors who came yesterday, whether you came specifically to see the mustangs or whether your travels brought you at just the right time and day. We very much enjoyed meeting all of you and talking about our hearts’ dearest subjects: our mustangs.

Being the high-desert mustangs they are, Whisper (left, with Tif Rodriguez) and Skipper (right, with Keith Bean) walked willingly onto the cobbled walkway that leads from the parking area to the plaza, but those brick pavers caused the horses to take a bit of a pause. After much encouragement from Tif and more than a few glances at his pal to see what Skipper thought of the while thing, Whisper was the first to set hooves on the bricks. Skipper, however, was the first to follow Keith fully onto the brick plaza at the base of the museum building.

The plaza is hollow underneath to allow for heating elements that keep it clear of snow in the winter. The horses took a few tentative steps across it at first, but it must not have sounded too different from crossing a trail bridge over a mountain stream – which these guys are well used to from all their backcountry travel and trail work – and pretty soon, they were right at home. (And yes, the size difference between gentle-giant Whisper and super-pony Skipper really is that great!)

Museum curator Bridget Ambler (responsible for printing all the amazing images and information panels and designing the special exhibit), who has horses of her own, got to meet Skipper before the visitors arrived.

What he really wanted was to check out her mask. No mask-wearing qualms here!

For people unfamiliar with horses, as many of the visitors were, this sign listed basic etiquette to help keep mustangs and people safe.

Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson talks with Lyn Rowley and Tif Rodriguez, left, and Marianne Mate and Keith Bean. Interesting side note: Marianne was mayor of Dolores when I was editor of the Dolores Star.

Whisper was kind enough to pose with a poster of Hollywood on the outside wall of the visitor center and museum. Whisper is the son of Bounce (who passed away a few years ago) and Alegre, who is still wild in the basin – with Hollywood’s band!

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Manager Ray O’Neil, with Connie Clementson at left and the visitor center and museum’s Amala Posey-Monk at right, welcomed visitors and gave them a brief introduction to the exhibit and why we were all gathered: to celebrate mustangs!

A very large portion of my gratitude goes to Bridget Ambler, supervisory museum curator, for working so diligently to select images and work with me and Spring Creek Basin herd manager Mike Jensen (who unfortunately couldn’t attend the day’s event) for captions for each, and for designing the exhibit hall, which, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, stopped me in my tracks the moment I first walked through the doors and caused me to bawl my eyes out! Kat Wilder and one of Ray O’Neil’s daughters listen in the background.

Amala Posey-Monk, visitor services and recreation program manager at the visitor center and museum, did an excellent job keeping us on schedule and bringing new groups of people into the special exhibit hall where Kat and I extolled all the virtues of Colorado’s wild horses – and adopters! Here, she’s introducing Kat, who read a couple of excerpts from her book, “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West,” in the museum’s theater. (If you’re interesting in purchasing a copy of Kat’s book, contact her through her blog! She’ll even autograph it for you!)

I’m afraid I didn’t take a lot of photos (OK, any) of the tours of people inside the exhibit, but you can see some of it again on my original post from back in June: ‘Home on the Range.’

Mostly, I wanted to take pix of the visitors greeting the mustangs, Whisper and Skipper. 🙂

Skipper and Whisper listen attentively as Keith and Tif introduced themselves and their mustangs to the crowd of visitors.

Skipper wonders what the heck I’m DOING back there! 🙂

Visitors were equally attentive, soaking up all the information given by Tif and Keith about their mustangs.

Skipper particularly enjoyed meeting all the pretty girls. 🙂

And the kids. 🙂 I haven’t met a mustang yet that didn’t love kids.

Big boy Whisper had his share of fans.

Most of all, he loves his mama Tif! 🙂

Skipper was having too much fun being admired to leave Keith’s side. This image of the crowd of visitors was taken as introductions were being made at the beginning of the event. I’d love to know the total count of people who came to see the mustangs and the exhibit; we guessed at least 60?! Pretty good crowd for a crisp autumn day in Southwest Colorado!

These two were among our favorite visitors! Whether you’re new to the blog or go way back, you’ll recognize Sue Story’s name as an everyday commenter on the posts. 🙂 She and her husband, Dennis, are local to Southwest Colorado, and they came by in the afternoon to meet the mustangs and see the exhibit. Most recently, we’d met almost head-on (! no, no, we were all going pretty slowly 🙂 ) on a quiet and golden forest road while out looking at the glorious autumn aspen!

Karen Keene Day (left) had the quick thought to ask Amala to capture us and Alice Billings (right) in the exhibit hall for a photo in front of one of photos (Hollywood and his band). I’m so glad these ladies joined us from Ridgway!

A couple of key people had left for the day by the time we quit yakking and took a group pic in front of the banner below Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum. From left: Skipper, Keith Bean, Alice Billings, yours truly, Lyn Rowley, Amala Posey-Monk, Kat Wilder, Karen Keene Day, Tif Rodriguez and Whisper.

We want to extend our sincere, grateful and enthusiastic gratitude, respect and love for everyone who made this special exhibit and special event, well, SPECIAL.

Thank you, thank you and more thank yous!
It takes a herd, and we have the best herd in the country. 🙂





The *special* in special exhibit

24 10 2021

Yesterday, Saturday, we were so privileged to have the opportunity to talk about Colorado’s wild horses – and Spring Creek Basin’s, in particular – at a special event tied to the yearlong special exhibit at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum.

Several of our longtime advocates and adopters were at the event to talk to visitors about adoption, management, fertility control, helicopters vs. bait trapping roundups, wild vs. feral, responsibilities of management, documentation, the rainbow of mustang (equine!) colors, etc. Tif Rodriguez brought Whisper and Keith Bean brought Skipper – both rounded up in 2011 – to meet-n-greet visitors, and they were the undisputed stars of the show! They arrived around 9 a.m. and were there until at least 3 p.m. (the event was officially from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), standing on the paved plaza of the museum and allowing many hands to reach out and touch their fuzzy faces, necks, shoulders. I cannot give enough enormous praise to these boys (both 12 years old), who were so good, so calm, so accepting of it all. How many domestic horses could have been so patient?! Tif’s mom, Lyn Rowley, helped with the horses and talking to visitors.

Kathryn Wilder also was there to do a couple of readings from her book, “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West,” in the museum’s theater. Her family (two sons, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren from Dolores and sister from Oregon) was in attendance as well. 🙂 She also talked to many people about a variety of topics mustang-related.

Artist and advocate Karen Keene Day came with artist, advocate and mustang adopter (Spring Creek Basin’s Liberty among several others) Alice Billings to greet visitors and talk about adoptions and visiting mustangs on the range.

Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson welcomed visitors and introduced folks to the visitor center, followed by Canyons of the Ancients National Monument Manager Ray O’Neil, museum curator Bridget Ambler (who was so instrumental in all the organizational aspects of getting the images printed and info panels created and designing the exhibit), and visitor services and recreation program manager Amala Posey-Monk. For all their contributions to the partnerships we so enjoy here in Southwest Colorado, we thank them hugely!

And with that, I’m going to share some teaser photos … because it’s late, and it was a long and wonderful day, and we were around more people than I see in a double handful of months (! all masked and observing Covid protocols). So you’ll have to wait another day for more pix of a couple of gorgeous Spring Creek Basin mustangs welcoming all those many people into the world of mustang lovers.

Because … how could people NOT fall in love with them? Because … that’s part of their magic. Because … mustangs. 🙂

Connie Clementson (brown vest) welcomes visitors to Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum. Amala Posey-Monk is behind her; Ray O’Neil is in the blue jacket; Bridget Ambler is in the white shirt beyond Whisper’s forehead; Tif Rodriguez and Whisper are at left, and Keith Bean and Skipper are at right.

Kat Wilder reads from “Desert Chrome” in the museum’s theater to a crowd of early attendees while a slideshow of Spring Creek Basin mustangs runs on the screen above her.

Skipper greets Ray O’Neil’s daughters and wife at the event. Is this guy a schmoozer or what?! 🙂

More to come!





Our home range

17 10 2021

If you’re local – or even if you’re not local but will be in the area – please join us from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, at Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum, a couple of miles outside Dolores, Colorado, for an event to celebrate the yearlong exhibit of Colorado’s mustangs and the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. (Click on that “flyer-final” link above to see the PDF of the announcement.)

If you go: Tres Rios Field Office Manager Connie Clementson will give an introductory presentation and be there to answer questions. You’ll get to meet adopted Spring Creek Basin mustangs Whisper and Skipper (also featured in the exhibit on the panel of adopters and in the short film) with their humans, Tif Rodriguez and Keith Bean. In addition to providing the opportunity to meet these stellar ambassadors of Spring Creek Basin, Tif and Keith will talk about their adoption experiences and give tips about how to adopt a mustang. Kathryn Wilder will read excerpts from her book “Desert Chrome: Water, a Woman, and Wild Horses in the West.” Books won’t be available for sale at the event, but her tantalizing readings will leave you wanting information on how to purchase “Desert Chrome,” which she will happily provide. Visitors also can sign up to go through the exhibit in the museum with me and learn more about Colorado’s wild horses.

Hope to see a lot of mustang folks there!





‘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

041320Ravenbird1

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?

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

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.

041920Voncolt2

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

122119Hayden1

He’s Master Hayden.

**********

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.