Wild horses stir the imagination with their grace and freedom and untamed spirit. Residents of the Grand Valley of Colorado are fortunate to have a mustang herd in the nearby Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Area. The maintenance of this herd of approximately 140 horses and their 36,000-acre range is shared by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the local Friends of the Mustangs organization (FOM), a group of a hundred or so horse lovers who volunteer to work for the wild horses in various ways. For 30 years, this cooperative partnership has been a win-win situation for the BLM, the FOM, and especially for the wild horses.
What is the secret to FOM’s success? Simply this: Instead of adopting an adversarial stance, members from day one have collaborated with the BLM to do what’s best for the horses. Initiated in 1982 by a handful of local folks, the group soon won the trust of the BLM by their hard work and dedication to the mustangs on the Little Book Cliffs Range.
Consequently, the Friends of the Mustangs in Grand Junction, Colo., has become the national model for other groups seeking to work hand-in-hand with the BLM in the care and management of wild horse herds all over the country.
The group now racks up countless volunteer hours and saves the BLM (and taxpayers) many thousands of dollars each year by maintaining trails, clearing water holes of mud, routing natural springs into tanks, removing old wire and other debris that could endanger the horses, erecting signs to guide hikers and horseback riders on the range, and helping with the reseeding of the range when necessary. Members also assist with the gathers and adoptions that occur from time to time in an ongoing effort to maintain the Little Book Cliffs herd population at a level in balance with the available range. After a mustang is adopted, FOM members monitor those horses regularly to check for compliance of the rules by the new owners and to help with any problems they may encounter. In their thirty years assisting the BLM with these projects, the Friends of the Mustangs have accumulated 87,948.75 hours, which calculates to just short of two million dollars in volunteer labor for the horses of the Little Book Cliffs Range.
Certain FOM members volunteer to administer the PZP program and become certified by the BLM to carry out the procedure. The shots prevent mares from conceiving, and fewer foals are born, assuring that the herds won’t eat themselves out of house and home.
It has been extremely successful. Another benefit of the PZP program is the reduction of the need for gathers—they have become fewer and fewer as time goes on, alleviating stress on the wild herds as well as saving taxpayer money.
In an effort to educate and inform the public, FOM members “take their show on the road,” exhibiting at various events in the Grand Valley. They also give beautiful PowerPoint presentations at local elementary schools and civic organizations, showing the mustangs at home on the range in their family bands. The Friends of the Mustangs hope to perpetuate their passion for wild horses by inspiring the younger generation with a sense of appreciation and cooperation, assuring that mustangs will continue to grace the American West with their wild beauty.