Dear Eastern Rio Blanco Community and Friends,
The ERBM Recreation and Park District board of directors would like to thank the extraordinary residents of the district who have supported the new Meeker Recreation Center during its first few months of life. We believe that having a place for everyone in our community to exercise, play, learn and visit together has added value for all of us in many different ways. We hope that you continue to enjoy and support the district and the center in the years to come as we and future boards work to ensure that your needs for recreation and leisure activities are met in a fiscally responsible and responsive manner.
Our organization has undergone many changes over the past decade. One of our staff members who contributed greatly to those positive changes is moving on to her next challenge as a stay-at-home working mother. We wish Beth Willey all the success and satisfaction that she deserves and thank her for her 11-1/2 years of service in recreation programming to the residents of our district.
At this time we are also saying goodbye to Executive Director Heidi Hoffman Ham who helped our community rally together and build the Recreation Center while expanding programming and special events. Her five years at the helm of the organization have prepared her well for her next challenge working as the executive director of the Downtown Authority of Grand Junction, and we wish her well.
Please be assured that the board has already begun the search for new qualified people to serve these functions in the district, and your level of service will not be adversely affected. Change is what keeps our district moving forward. We are proud of what we have accomplished together, and we promise many more years of high-quality service and support to our unique and wonderful community.
There are some mornings when I ignore the fact that public officials lie to us about what they are doing. Today is not one of them. The “Special to the Herald Times” article entitled “Public to review horse herd removal” released by the Bureau of Land Management is a lie.
The message that it leaves the public with is that there is an efficient, informed agency working in this resource area that is committed to managing wild horse herds responsibly and professionally and that adoptive homes are readily waiting for those that are removed. The reality is that BLM/WRFO has obsessively pursued the removal of that “small herd of horses,” the West Douglas herd for well over 20 years, through multiple field managers and multiple and expensive legal battles, claiming that it lacks resources to support the herd, that the herd is not really a herd because it crossed a fence and road and separated from the East Douglas herd and so on and so forth.
BLM employees have publicly maligned the herd as a bunch of “jugheads,” despite the fact that the geneticist who reviewed the herd said that these little guys had adapted pretty well to their hard scrabble environment and probably could benefit from the introduction of a few new mares every so often. Without their knowledge, this little herd of horses has caught the attention of National Public Radio and the Washington Post. The American Mustang and Burro Association (AMBA) has been advocating for them since 1989. After years of litigation, it appears that BLM/WRFO has finally won. Now, they want a blanket authorization to gather in all kinds of nonspecific conditions over the next several years. This proposed plan deserves your attention, and I encourage and plead with you to read and comment on the EA extensively.
BLM/ WRFO is asking the public to review an environmental assessment for the West Douglas horse gather that covers an area that includes 123,387 acres of federal land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), White River Field Office (WRFO), and 4,754 acres of private land “which may involve multiple gathers over a period of years” from July through February.
There are a number of problems with this proposed plan, many of which I am sure that I will only begin to touch on in this letter. First is the wholesale nature of the request, developed in light of the fact that the first attempt to gather West Douglas horses before a lawsuit brought BLM/WRFO’s gather to an abrupt end was a dismal failure. Several horses died in the attempt, slamming into and stomping on one another and running into panels, and BLM/WRFO realized that despite the culmination of its obsession to eliminate the West Douglas Herd that it just might lack the expertise to do so in the rocky, hard scrabble terrain. Helicopter contractors had minimal success. Once again the BLM/WRFO is asking for thousands of dollars for a helicopter gather which the public can observe and then unlimited access to gather for several more years. If the success ratio of the past with helicopter gathers is repeated, rather than gathering the bulk of the West Douglas herd by helicopter as the BLM claims they will do in the EA, most horses will be gathered without the opportunity for public observation, accountability, and input in the process.
BLM/WRFO claims humanitarian and scientific high ground in the EA: “The gather methods described in the standard operating procedures reflect many years of BLM experience with conducting wild horse gathers in the most humane manner possible.” What the BLM/WRFO doesn’t tell you is that they haven’t had a wild horse specialist who is a scientist or professional in many years. For the past several years, the individual who has acted as the wild horse specialist at the BLM/WRFO hasn’t fulfilled the requirements for the job.
The Resource Management Plan Amendment and the West Douglas Gather EA has been developed by a range technician, operating without the requisite professional credentials for a wild horse specialist position and is easily influenced by political pressure to just “git’r done,” despite the consequences. Despite the BLM/WRFO management claims to scientific legitimacy and modern management, wild horses in this resource area don’t even merit consideration, study and observation by a specialist with the credentials to perform this job.
As the White River Field Office removes an entire herd and develops the Resource Management Plan that will guide the preservation of resources in this area for many years to come, we could at least give wild horses the benefit of a trained specialist who knows range and who knows wild horses.
Running horses, either up or down hill, up to five miles by helicopter in snow at or greater than a depth of 1 foot with rock terrain underfoot is not a good plan and likely to result in some serious mishap. Running bands of potentially pregnant mares with a stallion by helicopter in up to ten below weather in snow of up to a foot deep up, or downhill in February when foaling season begins in March is an especially bad idea. All of this area is icy and rocky and either down or uphill for most of January and February and therefore not real good territory to be running horses in. (The least of our problems in this scenario is sweaty horses.)
BLM/WRFO maintains that this project “will have no significant impact on the human environment. Therefore, an environmental impact statement is not necessary to further analyze the environmental effects of the proposed action.” However, the National Environmental Policy Act requires BLM/WRFO to consider the impact that this action will have on the region’s visual resources. Removal of the West Douglas Herd will have profoundly impacton the visual resources on Douglas Creek. (We have all become accustomed to seeing mustangs on the range in this area.) Nowhere does this EA discuss the impoverishment of visual resources that elimination of the West Douglas herd will entail. The range of alternatives analyzed in the existing NEPA document is not adequate, given current environmental concerns and interests.
BLM/WRFO has squandered hundreds and thousands (perhaps a million; they’ll never tell) of our tax dollars to eliminate a herd of 147 of gnarly, hard core rock climbing horses. Tacitly, the understanding within the BLM was that the only way to get allottees to reduce grazing AUMs on overgrazed land was to remove wild horses first.
At a time when the symbol of the New West in Northwestern Colorado is the welding truck and the wage standard is $500 a day for men and $10 an hour, if that, for women, wild horses, if for no other reason than their stubborn persistence in seemingly uninhabitable places, remind us of a different West, perhaps a more womanized West, in which say-what-you-think and stand by-your-principles characters like Velma Johnston, derisively named “Wild Horse Annie” stepped up to the plate to tell Congress that mustangs matter.
Please step forward to tell the BLM/WRFO that how they gather the West Douglas herd matters. Comment on this environmental assessment.
We would like to thank everyone for their flowers, cards, donations and thoughtfulness you all have given us. Thank you Robin, Lacey and Rayola for being there with us and being there in Grand Junction when Missy went into labor. All your love is so appreciated, and I thank the good Lord above for the love you have for us all. Our families in Utah, Wyoming, Eagle, Grand Junction and Rifle for being with us; we love you all. Thank you Meeker Fairfield Center for the donation and for all the ladies and men who donated food and served it to everyone. Thanks to Si, Mike Joos and Ran for going to check on Rhonda for us. Alida, thank you for taking all my calls I made to you. I really appreciate you. Thank you everyone again. You all mean a lot to us!
We will miss Rhonda’s love and the smiles she had for everyone.
The Rhonda Gilbert family,
Teresa, Rick, Casey, Roy, Missy, Miranda and Rhonda Taelynn
We would like to thank all of our friends in Rangely for the support they have shown us in the loss of our mother Irene Thronburg. Even though Irene lived here for only two years she made a lot of friends and that showed at her memorial service here. We are thankful that you made here feel welcome in Rangely.
Thank you to the staff at Eagle Crest Assisted Living, the nurses at Rangely District Hospital and Dr. Cameron, Dr. Dubrick and Dr.Udall for the wonderful care given.
A special thank you to Ran Cochran for handling the arrangements here and in Thermopolis.
Craig and Joann Thronburg
I am the president of the Colorado Canyon Crawlers Off Road club. We are located in Grand Junction.
I just wanted to say thank you to the Town of Rangely. This last weekend, myself and another club member traveled to Rangely to play in your rock crawling park.
We had a great time and your town and people were wonderful and super nice to us. I would hope that when any of you travel to Grand Junction that we treat you with the same respect and hospitality. Special thanks to the chamber for getting us in touch with the Williams family, they are spectacular.
Please thank them (Tammy, Kevin and Family, the girls and the son-in-law) also Eddie in the blue Bronco. Thank you so much for taking the time to show us a great time.
Also thanks to Rowdy the dog for a great game of fetch!
As president of my club, I was ecstatic to report back to my club members about how wonderful the experience was and how family friendly it was.
Thanks to the owners of Buck ‘N’ Bull for their place and hot showers.
We do hope to return soon and bring our families. Though I hope the next time we come the Drive Inn will be open. What you have going on as a community and you are a great one in every since of the word. The off-road park was an excellent idea and I hope you keep supporting it as it grows.
The park attendance will grow and should bring great revenue to your town. Good luck and please fill free to let us know what we can do to help.
Thank you again for everything.