The Opening Of A Closed Area

Wild in the Pryors
Jasper and Grijala, February 2014.  They were running along the fence connected to the pasture that has been now been open.

In February of 2013, I made a post in regards to some land, known as the Administrative Pastures.

Click on PASTURE, to read it.

Within the above post, there is also a link to a post that Matt Dillion from the Pryor Mountain Mustang Center did on this land back in 2009.  I encourage you to read both of these posts.

DSC_6047

And so, finally, part of the pasture is open to the horses.  While the forage is not great (it a sparse desert area ), it still adds more forage for the horses to use, especially in the winter months when every little piece of forage counts.  The remainder of the pasture will be open soon.  Thank you Jim Sparks  and all others involved for making this happen.  Here is the official information that I received from Jim Sparks, BLM Billings:

“Adding the admin pastures back into the herd management area was one
of the decisions in the 2015 Resource Management Plan. Although part
of the herd area, those pastures were not part of the herd management
area. They were used when we used to gather horses at Britton Springs
and for other extra reasons which I am not entirely sure of. At any
rate there was no reason to not include them in the HMA so we did.

Right now, the horses can only access the area from Britton Springs to
the northwest. After we ensure that nothing can get out on the
southeast side we will open the area from Britton Springs to the
southeast.

About 2 miles of fence has been removed, and that nwest of BS area is about a section (600 or so acres) that was opened up.  The southeast of BS area will open about 2000 acres up.

There is not much forage in the pastures, surely not enough to consider increasing herd size.

Ryan, Blair and Jerad Werning did most of the work from BLM, but had a lot of assistance from Montana Conservation Corps and our BLM veteran firefighting hand crew. The old materials were carried by hand to central spots that could be accessed by UTV.  It took a long time.”

 

Wild in the Pryors
Sunset on Burnt Timber Road, February 2014 
Wild in the Pryors
Grijala, February, 2014.   Near the Area that is now open.  This will give you an idea of what the forage is like.

This is great news for the horses, and also a great example of how those involved with the horses can make good things happen.  I am very grateful for the Billings, Montana Blm, and their willingness to work with all of us. Thank you again.

Sandy

BLM Releases RMP

Below is the press release about the RMP that I made a post about in February.  You can read that post by clicking on OPENING A CLOSED AREA.

This is our official opportunity to submit our comments regarding the re-opening of the Adminstrative Pastures.  So please follow the directions below in regards to where to submit your comments.  And remember that this RMP includes more than just the horse range, so please be specific about that in your comment (see below), so they know you are talking about the horse range.

Also, if you can, attend one of the meetings.  I know I will be.   You should be aware that these are “open house” type meetings.  There will only be a very short process-oriented presentation and introductions.   Other than that, the remainder of the meeting will be reserved to answer questions in an open house style format where individuals visit with various resource specialists.  You should come prepared with questions that you may need answered to help you formulate comments.

Here is another link telling more details: BLM RMP.  Please make sure you read the link pertaining to the Pryor Horse Range throughly before submitting your comments. You can click HORSE RANGE to go to those pages (this is a fact sheet).  Please go into the actual RMP (chapter 2) and look at sections on Wild Horses  and the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.  By Clicking CHAPTER 2.

Please remember that there are many other sections of the RMP that will have management prescriptions that apply to the horse range (for example the travel management sections, vegetation, noxious weeds, recreation, wildlife, wilderness, fire, etc).  So please read it carefully.

Sandy

Looking towards Bighorn Canyon from Sykes.
Looking towards Bighorn Canyon from Sykes.

Bureau of Land Management

Contact: Carolyn Sherve-Bybee (406-896-5234) or Kristen Lenhardt (406-896-5228)

For Immediate Release, March 29, 2013

BLM Releases Billings and Pompeys Pillar National Monument Draft Management Plan for Public Review

BILLINGS, MT – The Bureau of Land Management has released its Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (RMP/EIS) describing different alternatives for managing public lands within the Billings Field Office and Pompeys Pillar National Monument.  The draft plan also includes a range of conservation measures that address Greater Sage-Grouse for this area.  This action kicks off a 90-day public comment period for interested publics to submit comments to the BLM.

Compact disks of the document are being delivered to a number of businesses, organizations, individuals, elected officials, tribal governments and state and federal agencies for review.  A limited number of paper copies of the draft document are also be available from BLM’s Billings Field Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, or on the internet at http://blm.gov/4ykd

The Billings and Pompeys Pillar National Monument Draft RMP/EIS describes a range of alternatives (including a draft preferred alternative) for managing all of the BLM-administered surface (434,154 acres) and federal mineral estate (1,839,782 acres) managed by the Billings Field Office in Carbon, Golden Valley, Musselshell, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Wheatland, and Yellowstone counties in Montana as well as portions of Big Horn County, Montana and Big Horn County, Wyoming.

The release of the Draft RMP/EIS marks the beginning of a 90-day public review and comment period and as part of the review and comment process, public meetings are being scheduled throughout the area to answer questions and gather comments concerning the Draft.

Community Location Date Time
Bridger Bridger Senior Center/Golden Age Society118 C Street April 30, 2013 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Big Timber Carnegie Public Library – Community Room314 McLeod St. May 1, 2013 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Red Lodge Senior Center207 S Villard Ave. May 2, 2013 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Roundup Emergency Service Bldg. Ambulance Barn704 1st St. East May 6, 2013 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Lovell National Park Service Bighorn Canyon National Conservation AreaVisitor Center20 Highway 14A East May 7, 2013 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Billings Hampton Inn (Lewis Room)5110 Southgate Dr. May 8, 2013 7:00 – 9:00 PM
Others, if needed To be announced

These meetings are scheduled to run from 7 to 9 p.m. and will be held in an open house forum.  Each meeting will include introductions and a brief BLM presentation, but the purpose of the open house will be to offer an opportunity to talk individually with various BLM resource specialists one-on-one.  The BLM will not be able to accept or record verbal comments during the meetings, but comment forms will be provided for members of the public to submit written comments, which are considered in finalizing the document.

The public may submit written comments related to the Billings and Pompeys Pillar National Monument DRMP/EIS by any of the following methods:

Email: Billings_PompeysPillar_RMP@blm.gov

Fax:    (406) 896-5281

Mail: “Billings/PPNM RMP Comments,” Billings Field Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101.

Hand-deliver: Billings Field Office, 5001 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT.

Whenever possible, please reference the page or section in the DRMP/EIS to which the comment applies.  Specific comments addressing concerns that are within BLM’s legal responsibilities and can be resolved in the land-use planning process would be most helpful.  The Draft RMP/EIS was developed with assistance from local counties, the state, other federal agencies, tribal governments, BLM’s Eastern Montana Resource Advisory Council, and a variety of interest groups.

All letters and emails should include the first and last name of the individual commenting and a complete mailing address.  Before including your address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time.  While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

After the comment period ends on June 28, 2013, a proposed Final RMP/EIS will be issued.  Because these are combined planning efforts, separate Records of Decision (RODs) will be issued for the Billings Field Office and Pompeys Pillar NM.  Until the Final RMP/EIS ROD is signed, the Billings Field Office will continue to manage public land resources under the 1984 Billings RMP, as amended.

For more information, contact RMP Lead Carolyn Sherve-Bybee at (406) 896-5234.  For the latest BLM news and updates visit us on the web at: www.blm.gov/mt  and on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/BLMMontana.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land – the most of any Federal agency.  This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska.  The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation.  In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, recreational and other activities on BLM-managed land contributed more than $130 billion to the U.S. economy and supported more than 600,000 American jobs.  The Bureau is also one of a handful of agencies that collects more revenue than it spends.  In FY 2012, nearly $5.7 billion will be generated on lands managed by the BLM, which operates on a $1.1 billion budget.  The BLM’s multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.  The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.

A Day Hiking Lower Sykes

We were only able to go up Burnt Timber Road about a mile past the range entrance  in the ATV the day before , but I was hopeful that we would be able to at least drive to the big Red Hills on Lower Sykes before we had to start hiking.  It would not happen.

There were not vehicle tracks at the turn off to the Lower Sykes entrance.   I turned and drove the truck in and parked.  No tracks, human or animal.  We unloaded the ATV and I decided that we should go to the Bad Pass Spring area and see if we could see any horses over there before we tried to head up Sykes.

I was able to drive to the spring with little trouble.  We got off and hiked to the first big hill.  The wind was cold and the snow was blowing sideways.  Despite the strong wind, we climbed up the hill for a better view.

Sandy searching for Horses
Sandy searching for Horses
Bad Pass Springs area.
Bad Pass Springs area.
Bad Pass Springs Area
Bad Pass Springs Area

We did not see any horses or even hoof prints, so we returned to the ATV and tried to head up the road.

I had only gone about 20 feet when I realized the snow was too deep for even my high clearance ATV.  The wind had drifted the snow about 2 feet deep in places.

Snow depth at bottom of Sykes Ridge Road, 2-18-13
Snow depth at bottom of Sykes Ridge Road, 2-18-13 (taken in the late afternoon after our hike).

I backed up the ATV and we unloaded are backpacks.  Our only option was to hike.  We considered going back to Burnt Timber, but that also involved a lot of hiking.  We wanted to try and locate some different horses, so we started up the road.

I was glad that three months ago, I had started running again.  Walking through 4 inches up to 2 feet of snow was hard work.  Then add the extra weight of the camera, backpack, boots, coveralls and heavy coat, it made for a really good work out.  Especially when you do it for 6 straight hours.  The only plus was that we were no longer cold, unless we stopped for more than 5 minutes. Next time I vowed I would remember my snow shoes.

Starting to hike up Sykes.
Starting to hike up Sykes.
Anh hiking on Lower Sykes.
Anh hiking on Lower Sykes.

There were no tracks ahead of us for a long while.  Finally we saw one set of horse prints.  It encouraged us to continue.

I would veer off the road and head up a hill every few hundred feet, just to make sure we were not missing horses.  If you have never been to the Lower Sykes area (or any area on the lower range) you need to realize that there are MANY dips in the land.  What looks like it a flat area from far away, turns out to be land where animals the size of draft horses could disappear in seconds, swallowed up by the terrain.

Lower Sykes1 Lower Sykes2 Lower Sykes Sandy 5

Red Hills 1 Red Hills2

Finally we arrived at the Red Hills, found some protection from the wind behind a bush and had lunch.  We had only seen the one set of tracks.

Red Hills 3

Our Lunch View
Our Lunch View

Lower Sykes View 2

After lunch we continued hiking.  I always felt if I just got beyond one more hill I would see horses.  So we continued.

Sandy heads up yet another hill to have a look.
Sandy heads up yet another hill to have a look.

We started to realize that this may be a day of no horses.  The wind was blowing strong and there were no horses or even tracks at this point.  The sun was starting to come out, so we stopped and had a little fun with the shadows on the snow!

Sandy Shadow

After a few minutes we continued.

Lower Sykes 6 Lower Sykes 7 Lower Sykes 8 Lower Sykes 9 Lower Sykes 10

We finally had to realize that we could not continue hiking any further, we needed to start back.  It was a discouraging feeling.

Desert Snow

Just as I was coming around a hill, something caught my eye.  I just don’t look for horses, but what I really do, is look for something that is out of place, something that breaks the pattern of the land.  It was more than a 1/4 mile  away, but I was positive I saw a horse.  I picked up my binoculars to confirm it.

Can you find the horses?
Can you find the horses?

It only took me a second looking through the binoculars to recognize Sitting Bull, Cecelia and their August born colt, Mojave (Mato).

Cecelia, Mojave and Sitting Bull.
Cecelia, Mojave and Sitting Bull.

AND it only took Sitting Bull a second to spot us.

They see us.
They see us.

I did not want to get too close to them.  On a good day, this band does not like people very much.  Oh sure, there may be the occasional lazy hot summer day when they don’t seem to care.  But for the most part, they would rather not have us around.

I felt we could get a little closer without disturbing them.  We had to go by this spot on on way out anyway, so we made our way to a set of bushes we thought would be far enough away from them to give them space, but closer enough that we could get a better look.  When we got to that spot, they were gone.  Well, it appeared that way, but I quickly realized that tricky range terrain had showed itself again.  I spoted just the top of Sitting Bulls head and a pair of ears.  It took me a few minutes to be able to show Anh exactly where they were.

Too much time for Sitting Bull however.  He must have thought us to be a pair of predators stalking them.  He stepped out from behind the bush.  We were still at least a 1,000 feet or more from them.  Sitting Bull made a run straight for us.  I instantly thought that I needed to let him know that I was human and hope that he would not continue toward us.  I raised my arms up in the air, waved them and shouted, “It is okay, it is just us”.  At least that is what I think I said, but I know I spoke words.  It worked and he stopped.

Sitting Bull, 2-18-13
Sitting Bull, 2-18-13

Then after a few seconds watching, he lowered his head and started grazing.  Still keeping an eye out for us.

We turned to leave.  I continued to worry that he might still think us a threat and wanted to him to see us retreating.

Sitting Bull 4 Sitting Bull 5

We got back on the road and continued walking.  Looking back, we had a very good view of this little band.

Cecelia
Cecelia
Mojave and Cecelia
Mojave and Cecelia
Sitting Bull and Mojave
Sitting Bull and Mojave

Just a little way up the road, I again spotted something out of place.  It was Bristol, alone way up on a hillside.

Bristol, 2-18-13
Bristol, 2-18-13
Bristol
Bristol

We continued heading down the way we had came, still searching for horses.

Heading back

Anh had never made a snow angel, so we stopped and I showed her how.  We left them there to watch over the horses.

Snow Angel 1 Snow Angel 2 Snow Angel 3

We arrived back at the ATV and loaded it back unto the truck.

Anh
Anh

Next we would head up the Dryhead and not see one horse.  The next morning, we made one last trip to the Dryhead.  The ever faithful Greeters were along the road to say goodbye.  They looked good,  they seemed in much better condition then the horses I saw on Burnt Timber two days ago.

I remember my first winter trip to the Pryors last March.  I was so excited and happy to find the horses I had.  A total of about 30 that trip.  We were 31 this trip.  I had hoped for more, but happy to see who I had.  Someone asked me before I left who I hoped to see.  I wanted to find Jasmine.  I did that.  I wanted to see Moenkopi.  I did that.

I will be back next month to look again.

I did not hike the fence line of the closed Administrative Pasture(s).  I spent my days looking for horses instead.

But what really hit me was how much snow is down low this year.  I am worried for the horses.  Many of the mares looked thin, the stallions not much better.  This is only mid-February and there are still many months before spring comes to the Pryors.

I have been made to understand that this Administrative Pasture(s), which consists of over 3,500 acres of land, will most likely remained closed until the fall of 2014.  It has to be done “by the book” I am told so that when it is opened, it is opened  for good.

This will be addressed in the RMP which is according to Jim Sparks:  “The RMP is a comprehensive plan for ALL the land and uses managed by the Billings Field Office, not just the wild horse range (the 2009 HMAP is specific to the horse range). . We also manage a national monument, many developed recreation areas, wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern, and the natural resources and activities on about 400,000 surface acres and a million acres of mineral estate that are not associated with the PMWHR. The PMWHR comprises less than 10 percent of the lands we manage.”.

Also from Jim:  “The document is about 2000 pages long at this point, and there is actually very little in it regarding wild horses.  Most wild horse management stuff is in the HMAP.”

Let’s hope that because this is addressed in this very huge RMP and that there is very little regarding the wild horses, that it does not get over looked.  When the comment period comes out, we must all remember to make are feelings known.

I want to do it “by the book”.  But at what cost?  The death of more horses?  Can they wait until the fall of 2014?  I hope that Jared will keep a close eye on this situation, I know I will be.

Sandy

Sunset over the Pryors, 2-18-13
Sunset over the Pryors, 2-18-13

Opening A Closed Area On The Range

Sunrise and moon 8-1-12

Lately, I have been hearing about and also getting asked a lot about an area at the base of the range that has been fenced off.

This area is called ” The Administrative Pasture”.  I was not sure of its exact location, so I did some research and came up with several interesting discoveries about this area.  I plan to take a closer look at this area when I am there this week.

1.  There are different references to its size.  Some say 3,000 acres, some say 3,600 acres and another said 4,000 acres.  So we do know that it is over 3,000 acres.

2.  The location is: Southwestern area of the range.  The southern side is all fenced with the boundary defined by the county roads (Crooked Creek Road and Road 16).

3.  This pasture was closed off to the horses in the 1980’s.  It was used when the removals were done on horseback.  This pasture allowed the wranglers on horse back to push the wild horses into this area and then taken to Britton Springs.  This type of removal has not been done since 1994.

December 1, 2012

There are several people (and I am one of them), that would like to see this area reopened to the horses.  Matt, in his blog post dated October 27, 2009, stated in one of his comments:

“I honestly don’t think it would take the horses a lot of time to repopulate that area if it was totally opened. Sitting Bull’s harem are frequently near that area. Some of the other Dryhead horses, especially Bristol’s harem, drift nearby there, and it is common to see Burnt Timber and Sykes Ridge horses wintering in the area.”

This is a really good post and you can click October 2009 to read it.

Sitting Bull in the early morning light, August 2, 2012
Sitting Bull in the early morning light, August 2, 2012

I have contacted both Jim Sparks and Jared Bybee of the BLM, regarding this matter.  I hope to hear back soon from them.

I encourage everyone to take a minute and write a polite email, call them, or mail them a letter, asking them to consider reopening this pasture.  You can click BLM, to get the contact information for them.

With the drought of last year, I believe that the forage this winter is not as good as it should be.  By opening this pasture it would give the horses over 3,000 acres that have been closed off to them for more than 25 years.  I request that this be done as soon as possible for the benefit of the horses.

I would be happy to volunteer and work with Jared to help remove or repair any fence lines to make this possible.

Sandy