The wild horses of the Spring Creek Basin herd are contently grazing through a thin layer of snowpack on their 22,000-acre management area northeast of Dove Creek.
To better define and support their continued health, the Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office is seeking public comment on a proposed revision to the 1994 herd management plan.
The plan will evaluate the area’s soil and water quality, plant and animal numbers, and overall landscape productivity relative to the Colorado Public Health Standards.
“The BLM periodically reviews ecological conditions and appropriate management levels for wild horse numbers within herd management areas,” stated Tres Rios Field Manager Connie Clementson. “This plan revision keeps our herd management plan aligned with the condition of the vegetation, soil, and water sources and to ensure a healthy horse herd.”
Officials will evaluate the appropriate management level of 35-65 wild mustangs, fertility control techniques, herd genetics, future gather techniques, and new water developments. The herd management area in Disappointment Valley is currently at full capacity at about 65 adult wild horses.
The next step in the process includes completion of an environmental assessment that will be available for public comment.
Based on recent analysis, the Spring Basin herd is healthy and their grazing range has maintained good ecological conditions, said Tres Rios BLM range conservationist Mike Jensen.
A proposal within the plan revision is to add two more water catchment areas within the designated management area, he said. A specially designed catchment would divert natural precipitation into a tank, then to a trough for the horses. Estimated total ground disturbance is 1 acre.
The purpose of the additional waters sources is to help distribute the horses so they graze throughout their range, and spread out the grazing impact.
By nature, horses tends to graze closer to water sources, and less in areas without reliable water.
“The proposed water catchments would help the horses utilize the range more effectively and forage in areas that may be underutilized,” Jensen said.
Fertility controls on the Spring Creek Basin herd have been effective, he said, and have kept the herd population within required limits. Limiting reproduction to an ideal level has prevented horse gathers, which can occur if the herd population goes beyond management targets.
Current management plans that call for a preferred method of bait trapping if a horse gather is required will be included in the plan revision. The last gather at the Spring Creek Basin herd was in 2011.
“By controlling herd growth, we can extend the period between gathers and that means less horses going to long-term holding facilities,” Jensen said.
The plan revision will re-evaluate the herd size based on land health assessment.
Managing for genetic diversity is also a part of the goal for the wild horse herds. Occasionally, a carefully vetted wild horse rounded up from another management area is added to the Spring Creek Basin population to pass on its genetic traits.
The Spring Creek Basin wild horse herd is one 177 herd management areas the BLM oversees under the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.
Comments on the revised Spring Creek Basin herd management plan must be received or postmarked by Feb. 19, 2020. The associated documents and scoping letter are available on the BLM ePlanning website: https://go.usa.gov/xpJKn. Please send written comments to the BLM Tres Rios Field Office, Attn: Michael Jensen, 29211 Colorado Highway 184, Dolores, CO 81323, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.