Each year as the snow moves into Sand Wash Basin, the wild horses move south.
The southern border of the Herd Management Area is not fenced, 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.
Last winter after we lost One Spirit, and after 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.
It is in your power to help us prevent this.
Please contact CDOT and our Representatives and ask them to prevent the loss of a human life and install the fence on 318.
CC: Michael Lewis
Department of Transportation
4201 E. Arkansas Ave.
Denver, CO 80222
222 South 6th Street, #317
Grand Jct., CO 81501-2769
Michael F. Bennet (D-CO)
261 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
354 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510
Office of the Governor
136 State Capitol Bldg
Denver, CO 80203
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 could 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.
Everytime 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.