The wild horses in Colorado have it good. They have great support from committed volunteer groups, SWAT being one of them. I went to their annual workday and barbeque last month, camped out on the herd management area with Tim Benson, my Assistant and Ranch Boss.
A great group of people gathered in service to the wild horses. It was a time of reconnecting with friends, such as TJ Holmes, who documents the Spring Creek Basin Wild Horse Herd located near Montrose, Colorado. I have traveled down to the Spring Creek Basin to photo-journal about the wild horse herd there several times, going all the way back to 2008!
I had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Bruce Rittenhouse, the BLM, (Bureau of Land Management,) Branch Chief in charge of the Natural Resources for the Colorado State Office. We had a great conversation regarding the complexities and challenges of managing our wild horse herds.
This event was hosted and facilitated by Michelle Sander, founder of the Sand Wash Wild Horse Advocate Team, an on the range support program of the Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary (GEMS). Michelle founded GEMS in honor of her father’s dream to create a sanctuary for wild horses. Michelle and her supporters are devoted to collaborating and working together with the Bureau of Land Management to effectively and expeditiously manage the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horses.
It was a heartening experience to volunteer with Michelle and Aleta Wolf, SWAT Program Director, alongside several BLM officers and employees, which is a rare occasion.
I even won a photograph in a raffle of wild horses of the Sand Wash Basin taken by Shawn Stoehr!
The BLM will be conducting a gather of some of the younger wild horses from this herd of 600+ wild horses out on the Sand Wash Basin this month, November 2016. The Appropriate Management Level of this herd is 362. The BLM will be using “Bait Trapping” rather than using helicopters, which is much less traumatic, and more selective, removing horses based on genetics, health and age. The plan is to treat the mares with PZP, a birth control medication, and approximately 50 wild horses will go to GEMS – The Great Escape Wild Mustang Sanctuary where some of them will be gentled through the TIP Training program and available for adoption.
As many of you know, the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board has sent out a recommendation that all of the 47,000 wild horses in holding facilities be euthanized. This is a poignant declaration that highlights the magnitude of the dilemma we currently face in the management of our wild horses. There are no easy answers, only difficult decisions to be made. This is a heartbreaking situation, and one that direly needs the support and collaboration of many people.
Times have changed. We have way too many wild horses and not enough land that is designated for them. Since the horses are on multi-use land, the range has to be managed; not only do horses depend on the forage, but also cattle, sheep, elk, deer, and antelope. This is a very controversial topic; there are many special interest groups that are competing for the use of the land.