Roaming Wild: New Mustang Movie Brings Issue into 21st Century

Sylvia Johnson’s movie, Roaming Wild, screened at the Crystal Theatre in Carbondale, Colorado Wednesday, March 19th, to an SRO crowd. The first-time feature film director worked on the project for several years and has put together a refreshing look at the wild horse management scenario in the American West. Featuring three people who represent three important issues facing the mustangs and the BLM, Johnson approaches ranching/grazing, the specter of slaughter, and one man’s tireless efforts to use fertility-control drugs to protect a New Mexico herd. The film also takes a look at a little known Utah herd, whose ancestors were Pony Express horses. It’s a must-see for mustang fans and those unfamiliar with the issue.

Johnson joined From Western Colorado ‘s Amy Hadden Marsh on KDNK Community Radio’s Valley Voices for a conversation about the film.

NOTE: The file below took a few seconds to download so please wait for it.


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BLM Sells Wild Horses to Colorado Dealer with Links to Slaughter

ProPublica repoter Dave Phillips has written an article about the BLM selling wild horses to a Colorado livestock hauler who has ties with slaughterhouses.  And, Democracy Now featured a segment about it on today’s newscast. From Western Colorado says check it out.

Stay tuned…

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Fall Colors At Their Peak in Colorado Mountains

Photo by Amy Hadden Marsh
all rights reserved

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Rain Rescues West Douglas Wild Horses


The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that the White River Field office is suspending the emergency round-up of the West Douglas herd on and around Texas Mountain, south of Rangely,CO. The round-up, also known as a gather by the BLM, began on July 15th after Judge Rosemary Collyer in DC District Court gave the go-ahead to gather no more than 50 horses within 30 days.  In other words, after 30 days, regardless of how many horses had been removed, the round-up had to stop. Or, if BLM captured 50 horses before the 30-day limit, operations ended there.

According to the BLM’s tally, which was posted on the White River Field Office’s webpage throughout the round-up, 19 horses were shipped to the Canon City facility early last week.  And, BLM spokesperson Chris Joyner said one foal whose dam could not be found was put in foster care.

After that, BLM took a day or so to observe the horses around the trap sites.  I should add here that the round-up did not involve typical helicopter drive-trapping. Instead, BLM used a water- and possibly bait-trapping technique in hopes that the horses, whom BLM believed were suffering due to the drought, would come into the trap to get a drink.

Apparently, that stopped working late last week. No horses were gathered all week despite a few days of attempts.  So, either the horses got wise to the traps or the rain doused drought conditions, which made the emergency situation moot. BLM says:

The resource conditions that warranted an emergency gather do not presently exist. The area has received rain on and off for the last 10 days. The horses have dispersed themselves throughout the HA and are no longer coming to the water trap.

BLM has placed a Suspend Work Order on gather activities “for the next 30 days” but says this is conditional:

However, these present conditions are likely to change quickly and we could be right back in an emergency situation…Should the drought problem return to West Douglas HA we will resume work to remove the affected wild horses through the stipulation outlined in the gather EA.

The current unknown is whether the 30-day Suspend Work Order starts today or if it’s good only until the end of the original time period for this particular gather. If it means 30 days from today (July 30th), simple arithmetic shows that somehow the BLM could have added on 2 weeks to the original order. In other words, the original order was set to expire 30 days from July 15th, which was when the gather began. Now, with the new 30-day Suspend Work Order, gather operations appear to have basically been extended for 2 weeks, even though BLM will simply be observing conditions on the ground.

To the agency’s credit, it has been more accessible this time and has posted videos and photos of the horses on the White River Field Office’s webpage, which is something new. Chris Joyner was friendly, helpful, and well-versed about wild horses. But, you know, this is what proper mustang management is all about. Too bad it hasn’t happened before now on the West Douglas Herd Area.

Stay tuned…and thanks for listening.

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Colorado’s Endangered Crystal River: Guest Post by Brent Gardner-Smith and More

The Crystal River is one of two remaining free-flowing rivers in Colorado. But, water augmentation projects that have been on the books for over a century threaten to dam the river and one of its main tributaries.  In November 2011, local citizens groups called on American Rivers to consider the Crystal for its Top Ten Endangered Rivers list for 2012. And, last month, they got their wish.

From Western Colorado is proud to present a guest post from Brent Gardner-Smith, director of Aspen Journalism, who has been covering the issue for over a year. (The article was originally published on May 17, 2012 in collaboration with the Aspen Daily News and is reprinted here with permission.) 

In late May, From Western Colorado’s Amy Hadden Marsh interviewed Gardner-Smith for KDNK Community Radio  about the issue. Click here to listen.  Marsh also produced a feature story for KDNK about the impacts of the American Rivers listing on rivers across the West. Click here for the story. 

American Rivers Attempts to Influence Colorado River District

The Crystal River winding through Placita toward Redstone. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith

 By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism
Thursday, May 17, 2012

The listing of the Crystal River by American Rivers as one of the top-10 most endangered rivers in America this year is designed to influence the boards of two regional water districts: the Colorado River District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District.

“It is purely to influence the districts,” said Matt Rice, the director of conservation in Colorado for American Rivers. “Our interest is having them play a leadership role in the protection of this river and protection means no new dams. And success would be that the districts abandon all conditional water rights on the Crystal and the river continues to flow free and be without a dam.”

But Chris Treece, the external affairs director for the Colorado River District, said his organization and the West Divide District already have the river’s best interests at heart.

“The Crystal River goes dry just about every year and certainly will this year, in this drought year,” Treece said. “Having a little bit of storage where we pick up spring snowmelt and hang on to it for later-season release, principally for the health of the river, could be a huge benefit to the Crystal River. And I wish American Rivers recognized that.”

The lower Crystal often flows at barely a trickle in late August and into September, in large part because of significant irrigation diversions in the middle reach of the river.

But American Rivers says high spring flows are important for river health and that a dam at Placita would flood an expansive wetland that provides valuable habitat for wildlife.

The Crystal River at Placita, looking upstream. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith


The large diversion structure on the Crystal River between Redstone and Carbondale that takes water from the river and delivers it to the Crystal River Ranch. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith

The two water districts have asked a judge in regional water court to keep conditional water rights on the books that would someday allow them to build a dam and a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir on the Crystal between Redstone and Marble, and a dam and a 5,000-acre-foot reservoir on Yank Creek, a tributary of Thompson Creek which flows into the Crystal above Carbondale. (One acre-foot contains 325,851 gallons of water.)

Treece said he did not speak with anyone at American Rivers before it made its announcement on Tuesday about the Crystal River being placed on the most-endangered list.

He called American Rivers a “public relations machine” and downplayed the effect the listing would likely have on the Colorado River District, which levies taxes in 15 counties on Colorado’s Western Slope, including Pitkin County.

“I’d disappoint them if I didn’t tell them the listing was a headache, but it doesn’t change our mission, which is to provide water for the future benefit of the district,” Treece said.

Rice said American Rivers does not contact organizations it is attempting to influence prior to the unveiling of its annual list because they often send out press releases trying to pre-empt the announcement.

“Our intention is not to paint the Colorado River District in a bad light,” Rice said. “They’ve already abandoned a significant portion of these conditional water rights, and we commend them for that. Our interest is having them play a leadership role in the protection of this river and they are in a position to make a very popular decision and abandon these water rights.”

Calling the potential reservoir on the Crystal River a “pond,” Treece downplayed the size of the 4,000-acre-foot reservoir that the districts want to retain the right to build at Placita, an old mining site just below the turn to Marble off of Highway 133 below McClure Pass.

The reservoir would be about four times as big as Grizzly Reservoir on Lincoln Creek outside of Aspen, which can hold 987 acre-feet of water at peak level.

Looking at it another way, it would be about one-quarter the size of Paonia Reservoir on the other side of McClure Pass, which holds 15,459 acre-feet of water.

The potential Placita and Yank Creek reservoirs are part of the West Divide Project that dates back to the late 1950s. It was designed to take water from the Crystal River watershed and transport it in a series of long canals to the relatively dry mesas south of Silt and Rifle for irrigation, municipal, hydro and energy uses.

The water districts have asked the court to take the Osgood Reservoir, which would have put Redstone under a reservoir bigger than Ruedi Reservoir, off the books.

They’ve also asked the court to reduce the size of the potential Placita Reservoir from 62,009 acre-feet to 4,000 acre-feet and the potential Yank Creek Reservoir from 13,695 acre-feet to 5,000 acre-feet.

Other features of the filing include the right to divert 250 cubic feet per second (cfs) out of Avalanche Creek, a tributary of the Crystal, and the right to use 150 cfs of water from the Placita Reservoir for hydropower, which is three times the amount of water proposed to be used by the city of Aspen for a new hydro plant.

In the West Divide area itself, the districts also have filed to retain a variety of conditional water rights, including 45,000 acre-feet of storage in the Dry Hollow Reservoir; 15,450 acre-feet in the Kendig Reservoir, along with an enlargement right of 2,610 acre-feet; and 6,500 acre-feet in the West Mamm Creek Reservoir.

None of those reservoirs would receive water from the Crystal River as they would have under the original West Divide Project design.

Those reservoirs and related canals are likely one reason why Garfield County is supporting the two water districts in court.

But it is the two potential dams in the Crystal River watershed that have prompted American Rivers, Pitkin County, the Crystal River Caucus, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association and Trout Unlimited to oppose the districts.

A trial in water court has been set for August 2013 over the diligence filings. In the meantime, the battle over the Crystal River will likely be waged in the court of public opinion.


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Poll: Fire Rush Limbaugh?

The wires are all abuzz with radio personality Rush Limbaugh’s splenetic rant directed at Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke and her testimony to Congress about birth control. He called her a slut and a prostitute, and demanded she post sex videos online. He also offered to supply her with aspirin, presumably his idea of birth control, to place between her legs.

I’ve heard that one before. It only works if the woman’s legs hold the little round aspirin pill in place.

According to reports, at least three companies have pulled ads from his nationally syndicated show. Women’s rights activists have condemned his vitriol. And, Limbaugh has apologized. But is that enough?

Three years ago, both NBC and CBS Radio dropped Don Imus –  and his syndicated Imus in the Morning radio show – for slinging slurs about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.  What’s the difference between this and Limbaugh’s biliousness? 

From Western Colorado wants to know what you think. Is it time for Rush to move on?

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Adventures in Letter-Writing: 8 Easy Steps to Success

While perusing one of those ubiquitous job-search websites, I came upon a post about writing thank-you letters after being given one of those now-coveted job interviews.  The author suggested hand-writing the note and then sending it via the US Postal Service to boost your hiring chances. 

I realize this is a slight departure from my usual posts and it’s not the thank-you note idea that drew my attention. It was one of the comments to the post that astounded me: 

“How do I do this thru snail mail?” queried the commentor.

Huh? Double-take, did I. Can this person be serious? Who doesn’t know how to mail a letter at the Post Office?  Obviously, someone doesn’t.  Maybe they do all their communicating via email, Android, Facebook, and Twittr. Maybe they pay bills and handle banking transactions online. Maybe they don’t have bills or a bank account.  Even so, I thought, how can they not know how to do something as basic to human existence as mail an actual envelope-and-stamp letter?

So, I thought I’d offer some instruction here to help out all of those who are letter-illiterate.

1. Find a piece of paper. Something plain, white, or maybe a soft cream or vanilla color. Avoid hot pink or lime green even if it matches your wardrobe.

2. Find a good pen. Not a pencil, a pen. This is a stick of plastic or metal with ink inside that you click (something the Android/Twittr generation can get behind) or uncap. By clicking or uncapping, you allow the ink to flow when you place the pen in your hand and then press it against the paper to write.

3. Write something. Start with placing the date at the top left of your letter.  Then, skip a line and add the name and address (street, city, state, zipcode) under the date. Skip another line and write a greeting. Like, “Dear Ms. Smith” or whomever it was that interviewed you. Don’t write “Hey Ms. Smith” or “Hi” or start the letter as if you were entering into a conversation that is already in progress.  After that, write what you want to say. This is called the body of the letter. Do nt wrt w/out vwls.  Then, skip a few lines and write “sincerely”.  Don’t put  “Ciao” or “Later” or, worse, “Cheers“.  Kindly write  “sincerely” (with a capital “S”) and below that, sign your name.

4. Create a signature. If you can’t read your signature, try printing your name and then signing it at a jaunty angle. The recipient needs to know who it’s from or this will have been an exercise in futility.  How will they know it’s you if they can’t read your signature? 

5. Fold the letter (unless it’s one of those pre-folded notes) and place it in an envelope.  Legibly write the recipient’s name (including a title, like, Ms. or Mr., preferably before the name).  Then, the address. (Again, street, city, state, zipcode.)  Seal the envelope.  Years ago, I used sealing wax.  Sealing wax?  Look it up.

6. Add a return address to the top left corner of the front of the envelope or the center of the back of the envelope. And, yes, this means you must have an address, someplace where you might actually get mail. I remember standing in line once at my local Post Office and hearing a guy tell the clerk, “Gee, I don’t know what my address is.”  Figure it out. Then, put it on the envelope. If you don’t, the letter tends to look like maybe there’s Anthrax in it.

7. Now, here’s where things can get a little challenging. This is when you have to actually go to the Post Office.  You have to put a stamp on the envelope in order to mail it and the Post Office is the best place to purchase stamps. They come in all sorts of styles – famous people with brief bios on the back, scenics, holiday, famous buildings, space exploration, old airplanes or cars, TV personalities of yore, etc.  You can also buy a plain flag or Liberty Bell (look it up).  Anyway, buy one for 44 cents, peel off the backing, and stick it in the upper right hand corner of your envelope.

8. Mail it. Give it to the clerk at the counter, stick it in the slot in the wall, maybe drop it in one of those rounded boxes on four legs that stand somewhere near your Post Office and…that’s it.  

And, no, you don’t have to re-open the chute to see if your letter actually went into the box.

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