Please send in your comments before June, 20, 2011

From the BLM website:

The Bureau of Land Management Rock Springs Field Office launches a 30-day public comment period on an Environmental Assessment to gather excess wild horses from the Great Divide Basin Herd Management Area (HMA).

After the current foaling season, the population estimate will be nearly 1,700 wild horses roaming the Great Divide Basin HMA. The Great Divide Basin Appropriate Management Level (AML) is between 415-600 wild horses. AML is the point at which the herd’s population is consistent with the land’s capacity to support wild horses in balance with other public rangeland uses and resources. The gather is necessary to maintain the wild horse herds within the established AMLs in compliance with the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act and the 2003 Wyoming Consent Decree. The AML for the Great Divide Basin was established through an agreement with private land owners and wild horse advocacy groups, and confirmed in the 1997 Green River Resource Management Plan. The proposed gather is anticipated to begin Fall 2011 to remove approximately 1,225 excess wild horses, may include using fertility control, as well as adjusting sex ratios. The Great Divide Basin HMA was last gathered August 2007. More information is available online at: http://www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/rsfo/divide_basin.html.

Public comments are most helpful if they cite specific actions or impacts, and offer supporting information. Comments are requested by June 20, and can be mailed, hand-delivered during regular business hours (7:45 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.), or emailed only to the following address:

Great Divide Basin Scoping Comments
BLM Rock Springs Field Office
280 Highway 191 North
Rock Springs, WY 82901
DivideBasin_HMA_WY@blm.gov (Please list “Divide Basin EA Comments” in the subject line.)

Here is a link to a previous Blog post about a group of Great Divide Basin bachelor stallions: https://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/divide-basin-bachelors/

Divide Basin stallion

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Photos are for viewing purposes only. Images are copyright protected and owned solely by Pam Nickoles Photography. No reproduction or downloading permitted. Feel free to share the story/link, but please respect my copyright.

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www.NickolesPhotography.com

Duck Creek Bachelor Stallions

November 14, 2010

We were driving along Duck Creek in the Piceance Creek HMA when I caught a glimpse of what looked like a horse down in the creek bed. We stopped and I got out to take a look.

Yup, you can barely see his hind end, but that’s a horse. Tom parked the Jeep a ways up the road and I hiked down into the creek bed. As I was headed down the slope, I saw two horses (and several cows).

The vegetation is so tall, you can only see the backs of the cows.

I decided it might be best to situate myself ahead of the horses since I could see that they were moving in my direction. They hadn’t seen me, so I hoped to get a few shots before they realized I was there and took off. Just as I got the monopod set up, here came two very healthy bachelor stallions around the corner. I focused my camera and stood very still.

They both looked at me, but they didn’t seem alarmed. Maybe because I was already there and not moving? I wondered what they thought I was. HA! This was great. I wondered how much time the wild ones actually spent in a creek area (since they are often blamed for damage to these water sources). I was going to see for myself. I’ve watched them many times at waterholes, but never down in a creek bed like this.

I could barely hear them lifting their feet in and out of the marshy area but could see the splashes of water on their bodies. It was a hot day. This must’ve been heaven for them. The grass was tall and green and they were gathering as many mouthfuls of the good stuff as they could.

They would ocassionally look up in my direction, but really seemed unconcerned. Even the periodic click of my shutter didn’t distract them too much. The pictures are a bit deceiving as to their distance from me. They’re further away than they look.

I was surprised at just how quickly they browsed the area and moved on. They just kept moving. They would grab a bite and keep traveling forward. I was even able to capture this image of a dragonfly as they made their way. They weren’t disturbing much of anything.

Quite a mouthful boy

Hi handsome

They were pretty close to me now. Just as I was wondering how close they’d come, I saw them look up and over my head. Huh? Whatever was up there sent them up the creek bank in a hurry.

I headed up the bank myself to see what was so scary. Aha. Tom had climbed up a hill to get better cell reception (he’s good about checking in with his folks so they don’t worry about us). He didn’t know exactly where we were and felt bad about scaring the horses. Oh well. It’s hard to get mad at a guy who takes you out to see wild horses as often as he does!

The bay stud kept an eye on the “thing” up on the hill. You can barely see him in all that vegetation!

With the horses gone, I decided to go back down into the creek bed and follow the route the horses had taken as they worked their way towards me. I like to study the areas where I find horses.


The main water source

I hated to see the t-post sticking up out of the water. Was wire attached to it? How would a horse (or a cow for that matter) avoid it when they can’t even see it?

I continued to walk around and as I did, I got tripped up in this. I found lots of barbed wire just inches above the ground. That made me cringe. How many animals had the same experience?


I wished there was something I could do about the wire, but it was everywhere. I walked up another horse trail and found a dead horse. Of course, there’s no way of knowing what caused his/her demise, but the low-laying barbed wire was in the back of my mind. In any case, I hoped that the horse hadn’t suffered. I have found many dead horses on the ranges and it’s always disturbing, but at least there’s some comfort in knowing they got to die where they lived.

Amazing feet on the wild ones.

It’s pretty hard to question your own personal research and experiences. Mine over the years has convinced me that the wild horses aren’t the ones largely responsible for damage done to water sources and riparian areas. They just don’t stick around long enough. They get a drink, sometimes play then move on. At the same water sources where I’ve seen the wild horses drink briefly, I’ve watched the cows linger at for days…

(Click on the image for a larger/sharper view)

(Photos are for viewing purposes only. Images are copyright protected and owned solely by Pam Nickoles Photography. No reproduction or downloading permitted. Feel free to share the link, not the images. To share, click on the blog entry title. The permanent link will be displayed in your browser’s address bar. Copy this address to share.)

Wild Horse Journal Entry

August 17, 2010

I belong to Equine Photographer’s Network, a membership of equine photographers from all over the world. For the last couple of years, EPNet has featured a very worthy (and difficult) project entitled, “Horses in Need.” Last year I contributed “Rescuing An American Icon,” the story of El Mariachi and Hope and the horrific ordeal they managed to survive at the 3-Strikes Ranch. This year, I’ve been so wrapped up in getting out to the ranges to see our wild horses before all the roundups, I just didn’t think I had any time for this project. However, with a little nudging from one of the founders of the group, I realized that I needed to make time. The wild horses need as much attention as we can possibly give them.

So, this little piece is what I managed to put together in a few hours to meet an important deadline. It’s brief, but heartfelt.

These are just some thoughts I wonder/ponder about when I’m out with the wild horses…

Click on the link below to view the story:
Wild Horse Journal Entry

I didn’t know quite what to expect when we decided to go out to this HMA. A year or so ago, I was advised (by a BLM employee) that this area was extremely rough and remote and I’d better be very well prepared to spend a night or two in the event of a vehicle breakdown or rain (roads would be impassable) as it wasn’t a well travelled area. Well, that pretty much discouraged us from planning an immediate trip until I heard that these horses were to be rounded up this Fall. I hated the thought that these horses would disappear and few would know that they had even been a beautiful part of the environment since certainly the ruggedness would be a factor in how many people would have actually seen them.

So imagine my surprise when we arrived to find wide, graded roads within a lush, expansive landscape shared by all kinds of animals with abundant water sources and lots of forage. It was incredible and I felt cheated that I wouldn’t know these horses longer and better through what I can only interpret as misinformation designed to keep me from doing just that. Grrr.

Click on the images for larger/sharper views.

Some of the abundant wildlife we saw.

Antelope families were everywhere

We observed many raptors such as this Golden Eagle

Sage Grouse

While I was absolutley elated by the conditions of the range and the animals, there was a disturbing aspect as well. These signs were posted throughout and they made me cringe – they were in several locations where we stopped to photograph horses.

Though the area is rarely visited (sarcasm), we stopped one of the natural gas guys on the road and asked him about the signs. He explained that everything was shut down at the moment since the processing plant didn’t have the capability of separating natural gas from the H2S (hydrogen sulfide). This is also known as “sour gas.” I asked what would happen in the event of a leak and was told that most of the gas would just dissipate into the atmosphere. And if someone or something was standing close by? It’s only a problem if you’re in a direct stream was the response. Though I wanted to continue, I quit asking questions at that point since the answer had created some obvious uneasiness. I decided I’d Google it when I got home. (This HMA is utilized by oil and gas developers as well as livestock interests. It is also checkerboarded with private land.) To break the tension, I mentioned that we were there looking for wild horses. I could tell he was relieved by my new line of questioning and he was more than happy to tell us where we could find some.

In this post, I’m going to highlight just one area of horses that we came across. I call them the big meadow horses (just as a reference to their location).

Following a horse trail along a water source

And there's a lot of water

A little killdeer watches me closely

And then decides I'm too close!

Turning a corner into another large meadow

Horses!

They’re a ways off so I decide to find a place to cross and make my way to them. As I jump a shallow area, I notice something scurry off to my right. I’m a bit uncomfortable now (Tom is back at the Jeep) as I recognize the slinking, wave-like movement – it belongs to the very aggressive badger. I saw at least two. Didn’t like my odds much, but decided to give them a wide berth in hopes they’d let me pass without feeling threatened.

These guys are not to be messed with!

Take a look at those claws!!

Maybe they think I’m just a very strange looking horse. In any case, I’m allowed to go by without incident and I’m grateful. I’ve heard stories about the damage an angry badger can inflict. No personal experience required!

I continue to work my way towards the horses when suddenly the band stallion pushes his mares in my direction. They kind of scatter out in front of me in confusion (which I share).

The band stallion pushes his mares forward

Birds fly everywhere as well

They finally veer off, but I still wonder what prompted the stallion's actions

Slowing down and giving me a look over

Ah - the girls are curious and turn to face me. Hi lovely ladies.

Love this

The horses move off and I start back for the Jeep. I have to trespass on badger turf again, but I’m not as worried. If you just leave things alone, they’ll generally do the same.

The badger resides by this platform. Not a great location – I don’t like its proximity to the water source…

We’re run out of the area by a very nasty storm that closes in on us quickly. Despite the approaching thunder and lightning, I can’t resist taking just a couple more shots as Tom turns the Jeep around.

More horses coming from the west and we’re forced to leave!

The roads are graded, but they’re still made up of clay and that stuff is miserable when it rains. We don’t know the area, but we know we need to head east…and fast. We just barely make it to a paved road when the downpour hits. It rained so hard, we just pulled over onto a side road and took a nap. Hey, we’re not old (well, not too). The hours are long – up early and out late – so some forced shut-eye can be welcome. Of course I couldn’t get the horses that we’d missed out of my mind.

The rain never really let up so we ended up driving back into Rock Springs for a snack and I jotted down notes in my wild horse journal. I still had hopes that we could get back to the HMA later that day – and we did.

It was still overcast, but I like that light and was excited about going back to where we’d seen the big meadow horses. The new horses had been coming from the west. What was over there? I just had to see.

I’m barely out of the vehicle when I take this picture.

Looking west

I don’t even realize until it’s too late, that there is a ridge and another valley below the one I can see. I startle some horses.

A stallion comes to check me out.

He's not taking any chances and he moves his herd away

Naturally curious, when they think they're at a safe distance, they stop to give me a better look

What a gorgeous line-up of wild horses!

And off they go

The horses stop and watch intently. Stallions coming from different directions are about to “discuss” boundaries.

I wish I was able to handle a still camera and a video camera simultaneously. There was so much activity and so many beautiful horses. It was big meadow magic. I wish I could’ve recorded it. What luck that we were able to make it back to this location.

A beautifully peaceful parting shot…

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(Photos are for viewing purposes only. Images are copyright protected and owned solely by Pam Nickoles Photography. No reproduction or downloading permitted. Feel free to share the link, not the images. To share, click on the blog entry title. The permanent link will be displayed in your browser’s address bar. Copy this address to share.)

Just a reminder that this is coming up this Monday, June 14th through Tuesday, June 15th. Please attend if you can. The schedule is printed below.

Related post: https://nickolesphotography.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/blm-public-workshop-in-denver/

BLM WILD HORSE AND BURRO ADVISORY BOARD MEETING and PUBLIC WORKSHOP – scheduled for June 14 & 15, 2010 in Denver, Colorado.

Please attend if you can, this is an important opportunity to speak out for the horses and burros. Please encourage the press to attend as well-this board has done little to represent the public for years but many people will be attending for the horses and burros and it is time to ask the Board to consider the public’s opinions and solutions.

If you are not able to attend please submit a written statement to the board. Comments may also be e-mailed to: Ramona_DeLorme@blm.gov. Those submitting comments electronically should include the identifier “WH&B Advisory Board Meeting Comments” in the subject of their message and their name and address in the body of the message.

The event will take place at the Magnolia Hotel in Denver, Colorado.

Schedule:

I. Advisory Board Public Workshop Monday, June 14, 2010 (8 a.m.–4 p.m.)
8 a.m.—Open Workshop & Introduce Board Members
8:15 a.m.—Meeting Format and Guidelines
8:30 a.m.—Introduction of Secretary’s Initiative
Break—(8:50 a.m.–9 a.m.)
9 a.m.—Treasured Herds
Break—(9:50 a.m.–10:10 a.m.)
10:10 a.m.—Preserves
Break—(9:50 a.m.–11:15 a.m.)
11:15 a.m.—Sustainable Herds
Lunch—(12:05 p.m.–1:30 p.m.)
1:30 p.m.—Adoptions
Break—(2:20 p.m.–2:45 p.m.)
2:45 p.m.—Animal Welfare
3:35 p.m.—Process-Related Feedback
4 p.m.—Adjourn

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 (8 a.m.–5 p.m.)
*sign up by noon to speak at 3pm, expect to have only 2 min to speak.
8 a.m.—Call to Order & Introductions
8:15 a.m.—Old Business, Approval of December 7, 2009, Response to Recommendations
9 a.m.—Program Updates: Gathers, Adoptions, Budget, Facility and Pipeline Reports
Break—(9:45 a.m.–10 a.m.)
10 a.m.—Program Updates (continued)
Lunch—(11:45 a.m.–1 p.m.)
1 p.m.—New Business
Break—(2:45 p.m.–3 p.m.)
3 p.m.—Public Comments
4 p.m.—Board Recommendations
4:45 p.m.—Recap/Summary/Next Meeting/Date/Site
5 p.m.—Adjourn

For the sake of our wild ones...

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