On June 21, 2021 the first fence post was installed. We are so excited to watch the progress of the construction of the Van Gogh Legacy Fence.
This week, 7-12-2021 we believe the cattle guard will be installed on County Road 67 at the entrance to Sand Wash Basin. By July 19, 2021 we have to have 4.5 miles completed.
Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin needs your help to raise funds to help save the lives of our wild horses and the motorists on highway 318.
CDOT has finally given WHW permission to install a fence on HWY 318. We cannot do with without your help.
Each year as the snow moves into Sand Wash Basin, the wild horses move south.
The southern border of the Herd Management Area is fenced on the south side of Highway 318, allowing easy access to Highway 318 for our Wild Horses.
A group of us monitored the movement of the wild horses on Highway 318 last winter, and on each visit to Sand Wash Basin, we saw wild horses on the highway. We were sad, but not surprised, when in early February one of our mares was hit and killed. Fortunately, it was only the wild horse that was killed.
Because of this accident, Aletha Dove started making phone calls to CDOT about protecting the passengers in the vehicles on 318. CDOT responded quickly and placed a solar powered flashing panel at each end of the 7 miles of unfenced highway on 318 that runs through the Herd Management Area.
In the months that have followed this accident, Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin have continued to ask for this area to be fenced. We have faced some obstacles. But each day we are one day closer to getting the fence built.
Last week, we attended a meeting of the BLM Resource Advisory Councils, (RAC), https://www.blm.gov/get-involved/resource-advisory-council/near-you/colorado/northwest-rac. Attending this meeting were several representatives of the BLM offices that make up our district, along with RAC Board members. We were asked to introduce ourselves during the comment section, and explain who and what we are. During the introduction, I explained that the driving factor to the creation of Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin was the need for the fence on 318. After the comment period, the RAC members discussed the need for the fence and ways that they could possibly support it. There were no decisions made, but the wild horses were put on their agenda for their next meeting. Other BLM offices also discussed the obstacles they had faced when they decided to fence areas on their county roads, and how they had overcome it in their districts. Those districts had felt it was necessary to put up a fence before there was the loss of a human life from a wild horse / vehicle accident.
Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin whole-heartily believes that this fence will be built. Wild Horse Warriors, BLM, and RAC, all agree that the fence is needed because of the risk to the families that travel Highway 318. We will continue to work with CDOT, the BLM, and any other agencies that can contribute to the building of this fence.
TOGETHER, WE CAN GET IT DONE.
To Whom It May Concern,
On Feb 10, 2017 One Spirit was hit by a large truck on Highway 318 within the boundaries of the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area. By the time I arrived at the scene her body had been moved and all that was left was a mass that was later determined to be her unborn foal.
Fortunately, the driver of the truck was unhurt. He was lucky. It was in the middle of the night on icy roads. Horses, unlike other wildlife, do not have a fight-or-flight response to vehicles. The Sand Wash Basin horses are very used to cars that slow down until the horse moves; they are not accustomed to the 65 plus mile an hour semi’s that travel Highway 318.
For the last several years Sand Wash Basin has lost at least one Wild Horse on Highway 318. We are lucky there has not been a serious injury or loss of life to a human, but the odds are not running in the favor of the passengers on Highway 318.
Last winter it was common for there to be between 30-50 Wild Horses on 318 or in the unfenced meadows that border 318.
After we lost One Spirit, and several phone calls to CDOT, they brought out the large solar-powered danger signs and left them till spring. During this time, we started conversations with both the BLM and CDOT about putting a fence along the north side of 318. At first CDOT told us that it was a good idea, but they could not afford it, but maybe they could pay half and the BLM could pay half. We were told that they would schedule a meeting and we could all sit down and see what might work to get the fence up. Since then we’ve been told by CDOT, that “no it is not going to happen”. This was decided without a meeting ever occurring.
What I have since learned is that CDOT leases the land from the BLM that Highway 318 is on. That lease also includes the normal easements on both sides of the road. The BLM believes it is CDOT’s responsibility to put the fence up. If the BLM puts the fence up they have lots of red tape including an archaeological study that must be done any time BLM land is being disturbed. There is a lot more red tape to get through if the BLM were to put the fence in, which could take more than a year just to complete the paperwork. The southern boundary of the Herd Management Area is on the south side of 318 where there is a pre-existing fence. This allows the Wild Horses to cross the road until they get to a fence line.
During the summer the southern area of the Herd Management Area is heavily used by off road vehicles and there are no water sources close to Highway 318 both of which keep the Wild Horses north of 318. It also allows the grasses to grow in the southern areas with very little foraging by the Wild Horses. Once we get our first snow in Sand Wash Basin the Wild Horses no longer depend on the ponds or the deeper washes in the Basin for their water. They can move to where the grass has grown undisturbed all summer, which for the southern bands of Wild Horses leads them to Highway 318.
In the later part of 2017 and already this year, 2018, we have had numerous reports of Wild Horses on Highway 318. On Dec 30, 2017 I was in the Basin and received word that there was a Wild Horse that had died on the south side of 318, south of the fence on 318. After IDing the Wild Horse and contacting more people who commonly travel Highway 318, we learned that a large band of Wild Horses had been on 318 for several days and had been seen running parallel to the fence. There is one Wild Horse that has been on the south side of the fence since Oct. The people we talked to said that, the two stallions had been fighting across the fence. Although Kiowa, the stallion that died, was not hit by a car, what we do know is alarming. The band that Kiowa was normally with consists of 8 Wild Horses and there are normally two other bands that run with that band, each having another 3 or 4 Wild Horses. That brings the number of Wild Horses that had been on 318 to roughly 15-16 Wild Horses. A car or semi traveling at a high rate of speed on icy winter roads, at night, that comes upon this band of Wild Horses is in trouble! It’s only a matter of time until this does happen, and we lose a family member or an entire family.
Very early on the morning of Sept 1, 2018 a vehicle carrying a family hit and killed Tecate on 318.
A school bus driver found Merida along highway 318 early in December of 2018. There was no report of an accident so we assume a semi hit her. There is a lot of semi traffice and a smaller wild horse may not cause much damage to a semi.
There were skid marks close to where she was found.
During 2018 Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin contained to met with the BLM to talk about the fence on 318.
It took most of the year to find a date that the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Moffat County Commissioners and WHW to find a date that worked to meet.
We meet December 14, 2018. It was a good meeting .
CDOT and the BLM will be meeting again April 1, 2019 to discuss moving forward with the fence and what each agency needs to do.
There will be no decision made on if the fence will be allowed to go up, at this meeting.
Every time we went to the basin in the late fall and through the winter we found wild horses on 318.
Nakoma was found along the side of highway 318 in early Feb 2019. CDOT moved her body and she was not found until a few days later.
We have asked CDOT if they will notify our local BLM whenever they find a dead wild horse along highway 318.
Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin has continued to stay in touch with the BLM and CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation).
On August 12, 2019 we were informed by CDOT that the new sign mock up had been sent to the BLM for approval. As soon as a the BLM returned their OK the signs will be ordered. The plan is to have them installed before winter.
On 8-28-19 the BLM told us the signs had been approved and had been ordered.
CDOT also told us that as soon as the Chip and Seal was completed the preparation for the permanent signs would begin.
We should see work on the sites any times now.
This does not mean there will not be a fence installed. It is just a step in the process. The BLM and CDOT have said they need more data before they will install the fence.
Another step that is in the works in a counting strip. Hopefully early next spring they will install one of their counter that will count the number of vehicles on 318 in the area of Sand Wash Basin, and also one in the Basin to see how many of those vehicles visit the Basin.
The BLM has also designed signs that will be installed at the entrances to Sand Wash Basin. There will be signs on 67, 46, 75 and one along the north border. We believe those signs have also been ordered and the hope is to have them up this fall. We are sure of the exact wording, but the language is suppose to remind our visitors that the horses are WILD and to respect them and use our zooms and keep our distance from them.
We will share photos and the exact wording as soon as we get it or see the signs.
2020 was a busy year in Sand Wash Basin, and with Covid-19 we faced new challenges.
While Wild Horse Warriors worked on improvements in the Basin, we continued to talk to the BLM and CDOT about re-scheduling our 2020 meeting. The spring meeting had been canceled due to Covid-19 and we were hoping that the restrictions would be removed for in-person meetings and we could schedule our meeting.
On September 2, 2020 WHW again asked to schedule a meeting and on Sept 3, 2020 we received and email from CDOT saying that they were working on scheduling a meeting. It was later scheduled for Oct 9, 2020, it would be a Zoom meeting.
On Oct 2, 2020 Van Gogh was hit and killed along Highway 318.
At our meeting the BLM and CDOT agreed that they did not have the funds to build the fence, but if Wild Horse Warriors could raise the funds we could build the fence.
We were off and running and our followers have come through. As I write this, 1-26-2021, we are less than $10,000 from having all the funds that are needed to install the fence. A contractor has been chosen, CDOT has cleared the 50' easement and will pay for the Environmental and Archeological Studies that need to be done. CDOT has said they should be done for an early spring installation date.
Shortly before you reach the Sand Wash Basin Herd Management Area the BLM has installed a sign to alert you to the approaching turn.
The BLM has also added a sign at the Sand Wash Basin Entrance.
There are signs on the west and east side of the entrance.
On Oct 9, 2020, Wild Horse Warriors met with CDOT and the BLM. Due to Covid it was a zoom meeting. We had prepared lots of data and goggle earth maps showing the number of wild horses seen, and hit along Highway 318.
The meeting was a little over an hour long and it took some persuasion, but by the time we left the meeting we had permission to install the fence, at our expense.
We knew from the very beginning that getting CDOT or the BLM to pay for the fence was a long shot, but we tried.
The BLM also agreed to clear the 50" easement. Clearing this area was to help the motorist see the wild horses, and other wildlife sooner. It also removed any vegetation close to the road.
Before we announced on our pages that we had permission we exchanged emails with CDOT and the BLM to confirm that we had permission to install the fence at our expense.
CDOT has completed clearing the easement and has also agreed to do the Environmental Study and the Archelogy Study that needs to be done.
By January 12, 2021, we had bids back and had purchased the materials need to install the fence.
When we started fund raising for the fence we had roughly $30,000 in our fence account. We raised over $50,000 in just 3 short months! Considering the times we were in with the pandemic that is an amazing amount of money.
As of the middle of Jan 2021 we are on track to start installation of the new fence on Highway 318, the middle to end of March.