4CBCH annual wild horse count

30 05 2014

On May 17, members of the Four Corners Back Country Horsemen came to Spring Creek Basin for their annual wild horse count. This was their 14th year!

This is an important, ongoing partnership between 4CBCH and BLM. In addition to counting mustangs in Spring Creek Basin and getting an idea of the makeup of bands, members traditionally complete a work project during the weekend. Previous projects have included fence maintenance, packing out old wire and weed surveys. The last couple of years, the Forest Service has sent a weed-spraying crew to the basin to spray some of the locations we’ve surveyed.

In years past, horseless members of the group would drive to the base of Round Top and hike to the summit, then use binoculars and spotting scopes to search for mustangs. Radio communication between horseback groups and the hikers would help with locations and identifications. Now, we have horseback folks and folks who take “horseless carriages” around the loop road in the basin to look for horses, completing projects on the way.

Again this year, we surveyed ponds for the presence of knapweed and musk thistle. Fortunately, we found little of either type of weed at all the locations we checked.

Between the riders and the drivers, we saw almost all the horses! And a few of the bands put on a show by being in close proximity to each other, which was great for everyone to see so many of our mustangs!

Pat (president of 4CBCH) and Frank Amthor were the weekend’s leaders, as usual, and as always, they hosted a wonderful event full of horses, stories of past mustang sightings and terrific food. A highlight this year was meeting a Spring Creek Basin mustang, Tipi (spelling?), adopted in 2005. He reminded me completely of Bruiser – minus the spots!

Lisa Cribbs, Travis, Cathy Roberts, Cindy, Adrian and Mikayla

Lisa and her son, Travis, lead the way into the basin from the campsite off the Disappointment Road. Travis has attended most counts since he was 6 years old!

Travis, Cathy Roberts, Mikayla, Adrian, Kat Wilder

Eva Duvillard and Tipi

Eva and her Spring Creek Basin mustang, Tipi. (Yes, the gnats are out!)

Adrian and mustang Reno

Eva’s husband, Adrian, also rode a mustang, Reno. They recently adopted a third mustang. These are true mustang supporters!

Cathy Roberts and Shenoah (sp?)

Cathy is 4CBCH’s vice president; this was her first count. Her lovely mom, Millie, came from California and joined us to see mustangs from the vehicles.

Cindy

This also was the first count for Cindy and her daughter.

Mikayla and Saphira

Daughter Mikayla (sp?) and her little mare Sapphira made a great pair.

Lisa Cribbs on Bullseye

Lisa is a past 4CBCH president, and she has attended numerous counts – and has lots of great stories about the mustangs they’ve encountered!

Travis, Lisa Cribbs, Cathy Roberts and Mikayla

As noted, Travis has been coming to Spring Creek Basin since he  was 6. He’s now 20!

Bob Volger on Buckley

Bob is another past 4CBCH president who has ridden in the basin several times. He also has packed old wire out using his horses.

Kat Wilder on Kua

Kat is one of our NMA/CO board members, and this was her first count. It probably won’t be her last!

Thank you to all involved for your camaraderie and super enthusiasm for our Spring Creek Basin mustangs! We’ll see you next spring!





Alternative spring break – 2014

26 03 2014

We had sunshine. We had short sleeves. We had the flush of sunburn on winter-white arms and faces. We had, uh, shale?

No beaches, but we had hard workers and fantastic attitudes. As usual, Mizzou sent some – 10 – excellent students to continue the fence-rebuilding project on Spring Creek Basin’s southeastern fence line as part of alternative spring break. Leader Chalen said the number of groups working this spring break is 52 – up from 38 last year. If all you’ve heard about the next generation is a not-so-hearty endorsement, these students made myth of such statements.

They ranged from freshmen to seniors, from undecided majors to finance, to animal science/pre-vet to fisheries and wildlife, to journalism.

Every year, we’re grateful and excited to welcome them, and every year, a new group of students humbles us with their willingness to work on public lands very far from their Missouri campus.

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The sweatshirts didn’t last long. It was a gorgeous day in Disappointment Valley, and we were down to T-shirts in no time at all. Right to left: Grace, Sam, Chase, Sophia, Casey and Kyla.

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BLM range specialist and former herd manager Mike Jensen helps Mizzou student Jake set a cross piece into an H-brace at the start of the project.

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Students Chase, left, and Mark attach boards to a tree to protect it from wire fence strands biting into it. This is just up the line from the H-brace Mike and Jake are working on in the previous pic.

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Student leader Chalen – who also was last year’s group leader – drew the short straw in digging this post hole with Sam. See all that rock? See the tamp bar? The only other tool they used was a post-hole digger.

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Same post hole – post in! Sam, right, tamps it in while Chalen and fellow student Sophia admire the work.

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MK Thompson with San Juan Mountains Association carries out old wire strands that the students removed and rolled. A local Girl Scouts troop will pick up the old wire to recycle and earn some money! How about that for both recycling and partnership among local groups?

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Herd manager Damon Corley pounded his fair share of T-posts. Part of the fence line was relocated to a straighter route, so posts were lifted out and reused or replaced. The lower wire strand was left in place temporarily to help align the new posts.

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Sorry, Dustin! While he was hard at work with a shorty tamp bar, Kyla bombed his photo – but gave his hard work an enthusiastic thumbs-up! They and Casey (whose foot appears at bottom left)  – and Sophia helped, too – dug two holes for an H-brace at the bottom of this steep little arroyo toward the end of the day’s work project.

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Sophia, right, and Kyla set the cross piece into the notches of the posts they dug holes to place. Kathe Hayes, mastermind of the alternative spring break week for many, many years (did I hear 17 years, Kathe??), supervises.

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The Forest Service’s Tom Rice helps Dustin drill a hole for a spike to secure the soon-to-be-upright juniper post to the cross piece, as seen in the previous pic. Remember, in McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area, no mechanized tools are allowed.

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On this end of the brace, Dustin hammers home the spike while Casey steadies the cross piece.

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NMA/CO executive director and volunteer Tif attaches a clip to a T-post to secure a wire strand. Only the top strand to go! The top and bottom strands are smooth twisted wire, and the the middle strands are barbed.

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We’re using wildlife-friendly wire spacing on this entire line (I think that’s usual now for Forest Service and BLM fences). Jake holds one of the measuring sticks used by students to  attach the wires at the right spacing while Casey attaches a strand to the T-post with a metal clip.

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The students were so “on the ball” that hardly had a wire strand been tightened and tied off at the H-brace than they were attaching the strands to posts and staves to wire. Wow, they were fast! Some of the students have fence-building experience, but most don’t. Quick learners, these college students!

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This shot is a little out of order, but it’s a good contrast to the previous pic, which shows the nearly-finished fence. In this pic, taken from about halfway up the steep bank of the arroyo at the end of the day’s work section, you can see Kyla and Tom drilling a hole in one of the juniper H-brace posts while Dustin, Kathe, Casey and Sophia have set their post and are getting ready to tamp dirt in around it. When the H-brace is completed, wire will be strung – from the bottom wire up – clips will be placed, staves will be set, and we’ll call it a day well spent!

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One of the last things to do was to dig a hole and place this tall, stout juniper post (cut Saturday during work prep) about midway up that steep arroyo bank. Sophia, Grace and Damon carried it to its place, and they and other students dug the hole and placed it and tamped it steady before we hit the trail for the trucks …

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… where we took the obligatory group shot. Back row from left: Damon, Mike, Kyla, Sophia, Dustin, Casey, Chase, Grace, Chalen, Sam, Mark and Jake. Front row from left: Tom, Connie, Kathe, Tif and MK.

We really can’t say “thank you” too many times. Mike, Tom and Connie won’t be joining us for the second day of work, but the students, Kathe, Tif and MK will return along with a couple of wildland firefighters Kathe conned encouraged to come.





Water for mustangs

30 06 2013

Not elephants. Although, as this drought continues, it’s beginning to look a lot like the sere plains of Africa out here.

I call this photo “La Sals, Imagination”:

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Whaddya mean you can’t see the mountains … through the smoke? Use your imagination. :) Although Grey/Traveler’s band seems to also be looking for the mountains, they were watching Chrome’s band walking toward them on their way to the water catchment.

Smoke from this fire – way, way, way east of here – apparently has drifted into New Mexico then blown back north and west into Colorado. But it’s not the only fire burning in the region.

Earlier, Grey/Traveler’s band had been drinking at the water catchment’s trough:

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Maia, clearly at her leisure, worried me; I thought the worst, that the storage tank had drained and the trough was empty, and she was waiting for someone to come fill it, darnit!

Not to fear.

Water trough at the catchment in Spring Creek Basin, looking toward the road.

The trough was full of water. Whew. (The big green tank is the storage tank that holds water from either rain or snow or direct-fill.)

Because of the drought, BLM has been checking to ensure that the horses have enough water sources, and we – National Mustang Association/Colorado – recently got the green light to deliver a load of water – 4,000 gallons – to the catchment tank. Donors and silent-auction-item buyers at the Pati Temple Memorial Benefit Bash, this is the first use of the money you helped us raise! Interestingly, the area of the catchment is used primarily by Chrome’s band and rarely by other bands. But some other bands have started to find the water – and the good forage in this area. Water is a good way to disperse the horses’ grazing and get them to use under-used areas.

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Chrome’s band at the catchment trough, drinking clean water. This is an important water source because it’s the only clean source of water in the basin. The others are high in alkalinity and salt because of the basin’s soils. The dusky, hazy color cast is because of the smoke.

The temperature hit 110 degrees Friday. On Thursday, the high was 108. Smoke, wind, heat, zero moisture = ugh.

Cecil Foster, owner of Foster’s Water, to the rescue.

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The storage tank is about 15 feet tall, so Cecil brings his ladder to access the hatch at the top. At right is the hose from his water truck.

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Seen here are his water truck, the hose to the tank and the water trough in the background at right.

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Thanks, Cecil! He also donated a load of water for the benefit’s silent auction. Cecil is a super nice man, and a friend of the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin.

Thank you, NMA/CO, for the delivery of water to the mustangs!





Pati Temple Memorial Benefit Bash

5 06 2013

Monday’s event to honor the National Mustang Association, Colorado chapter’s Pati Temple was a great success! A huge, heart-felt thank you to all the friends and family of Pati – and David – Temple who donated items to the silent auction and/or attended the bash. Your attendance and contributions go a long way toward helping us continue our advocacy on behalf of our Spring Creek Basin mustangs!

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Durango photographer Claude Steelman donated a print of his outstanding photo of our handsome Traveler (left) and two of his photography books, including Wildshots, pictured. Bayfield artist Sarah Rose donated a print of her beautiful painting of Spring Creek Basin’s Aspen, right.

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NMA/CO board member Karen Keene Day donated this stunning painting of Traveler. It’s based on a photo she took of him and his band in 2004.

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Susan Thomas and NMA/CO board member Nancy Schaufele (in purple) check out silent auction items.

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Nancy marks the final bids at the end of the silent auction. Kennebec Cafe, one of Pati’s favorite restaurants, provided a really beautiful setting for our event; many thanks for the great food and wonderful setup!

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Kathe Hayes with San Juan Mountains Association shows off Alice Billings’ donated painting of Temple, wild filly in Spring Creek Basin named in honor of Pati and David. Kathe was the high bidder on the painting!

In addition to Nancy and Karen, many thanks to NMA/CO board members Tif Rodriguez and Lynda Larsen – and, always, David Temple – as well as our event planner, Tina Roth, for making this such a memorable and successful event in Pati’s memory.

Pati was an exceptional woman who fought for the well-being of animals and people whenever she saw a wrong. We think she would have loved this party. The worst part of it was that she wasn’t there to enjoy it with us.





How does your donation to NMA/CO help the Spring Creek Basin mustangs?

28 05 2013

This question was asked recently, and answering it gives me another chance to let local folks know about the Pati Temple Memorial Benefit Bash we will hold next week, Monday, June 3, at the Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus, Colo. Follow that link for the details and to purchase tickets if you haven’t and plan to attend.

NMAPosterFinal3(100)

Now, on to an answer(s) to the question!

First, see this page, compiled last year by Pati, for a list of the National Mustang Association, Colorado chapter’s past accomplishments: http://www.nationalmustangassociationcolorado.org/nmaco-accomplishments.html

As it says, NMA/CO has spent nearly $100,000 to date on projects that directly benefit the mustangs of Spring Creek Basin! We rarely do fundraisers, relying mostly on memberships and donations. Administrative expenses are low, mostly what we put toward mailing newsletters. We had T-shirts and hats printed for the adoption in 2011, and we’ll soon have a link to purchase them through the website.

Fence repair and maintenance is ongoing through volunteer labor. As a result of their partnership with us as part of Disappointment Wild Bunch Partners, BLM received $25,000 last year through the Director’s Challenge grant, which purchased some materials to be used in a project on the basin’s southeastern boundary line (read about alternative spring break and University of Missouri students’ work here – http://springcreekwild.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/alternative-spring-break-day-1/ – and here – http://springcreekwild.wordpress.com/2013/03/27/12368/). I fix fences as needed while I’m in the basin doing documentation. Sometimes we use materials provided by BLM, other times by ourselves.

We also are continually encouraging BLM to look at water-enhancement projects. More than a decade ago, NMA/CO paid for a water catchment to be built in Spring Creek Basin, and it supplies the mustangs’ only clean source of water (all others being extremely alkaline, at least). We have a signed agreement from about 12 or 13 years ago with BLM to construct at least one more catchment, but it has never been built. I think the catchment cost about $10,000. Several years ago, we also started talking to BLM about water guzzlers (such as those installed on Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range) to add to the horses’ quality of water. Those are about $8,000-plus. NMA/CO also has purchased parts for the catchment’s troughs, which work on floats.

NMA/CO contributes funds to combat noxious/invasive weeds in Spring Creek Basin (knapweed, tamarisk, musk thistle, etc.).

A decade or more ago, NMA/CO was able to purchase the cattle AUMs from one of the two ranchers who held permits in Spring Creek Basin. With the help of the National Mustang Association, we were able to retire those AUMs permanently. In the process, BLM conducted a grazing EA (not sure the exact reference) and then drastically reduced the remaining AUMs and changed the timing to dormant-season grazing only – Dec. 1 through Feb. 28. For the last several years, NMA/CO has been trying to buy or trade for the permit in Spring Creek Basin to also retire those AUMs, with the goal of no cattle grazing in the basin. As BLM itself says, managing wild horses is easier when the mustangs are the priority. The permittee is willing, so we are trying to work with BLM to accomplish this goal.

NMA/CO also is asking BLM to consider the use of bait trapping in the basin, instead of helicopter-driven roundups to complement the use of fertility control. We submitted a proposal for a program using native PZP that was implemented at the 2011 roundup. To bait trap requires the use of a facility in which to hold horses as they are trapped. This facility requires a chute and pens. We recently purchase a chute ($18,000) with donated funds from the National Mustang Association (of which we are a chapter). Our primary goal in fundraising currently is to purchase the required infrastructure for this facility so BLM won’t have only the option of using a helicopter and won’t need to transport one or two horses at a time – as they’re trapped – to Canon City, which is full, as most/all of BLM’s facilities seem to be. NOTE: NO ROUNDUP CURRENTLY IS PLANNED FOR SPRING CREEK BASIN. We are planning this now to have the facility in place so a future EA can include it in the planning process. As BLM said in 2011, bait trapping was not considered because it wasn’t in the EA. It wasn’t in the EA because no facility was available. However, note that we started asking specifically for bait trapping in 2008.

Enhancing water sources, retiring the remaining cattle AUMs, establishing a fertility control program and making bait trapping the priority for roundups all were Pati Temple’s goals for the Spring Creek Basin herd. In addition to the accomplishments made for the mustangs during Pati’s lifetime, we plan to accomplish these goals in her honor.





NMA/CO is on the Web

20 04 2013

NMACOhomepage2

The National Mustang Association, Colorado chapter, is on the World Wide Web. Many thanks to NMA/CO secretary/treasurer Tif Rodriguez for bringing us into the modern age. :)

People will be able to sign up for and renew memberships online, as well as make donations. Be sure to check out our “Accomplishments” page. I think I had an abbreviated version of it on the blog awhile back. It’s an impressive list. Pati and David Temple, of course, are responsible for much of it.

Our current fundraising efforts are directed toward infrastructure to enable BLM to pursue bait trapping instead of helicopter roundups in the future.

Check us out: http://www.nationalmustangassociationcolorado.org/index.html

Also note the link under the “blogroll” on the right side of this blog.

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Locals who plan to attend the Pati Temple Memorial Benefit Bash on June 3 at Kennebec Cafe in Hesperus, Colo., can buy tickets in advance at this page.

The cafe will provide food and beverages for the ticket price. A silent auction will feature items such as a painting by NMA/CO’s Karen Keene Day, a print by Durango wild horse photographer Claude Steelman and a copy of his book Colorado’s Wild Horses, 40 bales of premium hay from David Temple, a print from Veryl Goodnight and more. Proceeds will directly benefit the wild horses of Spring Creek Basin through the advocacy efforts of NMA/CO.

Tickets will be available around the region (see the flier on the website for locations) and on the website at the above link.

Lovers of mustangs and friends of Pati are encouraged to bring their generosity and memories of our dearly missed mustang angel.





Boundary fence – aka the fruit of the students’ labor!

28 03 2013

When the students finished work on the fence Tuesday, I was so excited, I forgot to take pix of said finished fence! So yesterday, on a near-perfect spring day in Disappointment Valley, I straddled my mountain bike for the first day this year and pedaled up to the boundary. I haven’t figured out a decent way to carry my camera while biking (it’s not little), so I apologize in advance for the crappy quality of these cell-phone images. But I believe they show the excellent quality of our new, student-built fence!

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I say, isn’t that a rockin’ mountain bike! Oh, wait, I mean, isn’t that a *tight* H-brace! This is at the road (the cattle guard  is immediately to the left), and the brace was loose. Despite the poor image quality, I think you can see the shiny new wire. The sign says something about no motorized vehicle access (because it’s McKenna Peak Wilderness Study Area).

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This was shot from in front of my bike looking up the fence line. Does it rock or what?!

Compare the above shot – brand-new fence – with the one below, the original fence, photo taken the previous weekend when the crew cleared the greasewood and other brush from the fence line so the students could build:

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This is from the other (west) side of the fence, looking back toward the road, but it’s the same section of fence.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!

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The shadows don’t allow for much detail in this shot, but this is the first H-brace the students built, using the tree as the anchor. Notice the extra “padding” around the tree.

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Here’s a closer view. The staves protect the tree from wire biting into the bark – thank you (again), Tom Kelly, Forest Service fence-builder extraordinaire!

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This is the brace just to the left of the tree and shows – I hope – the somewhat intricate weaving of the wrap, which holds it all together.

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And here’s the fence continuing on up the hill.

Kudos again to the students for building this wildlife-friendly, mustang-protecting fence!








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