On the road. Again.

WHOA, Nellie!

Rumor has it that pro-horse folks are busily herding, transporting, and relocating dozens of feral horses around the Placitas area in a shell game designed to keep them from being legally impounded by the BLM or private landowners (the BLM issued a notice this summer that they would be impounding horses on the Placitas BLM tract). Since apparently none of these relocation activities have been reported to the NM Livestock Board, as required, the horse advocates once again show their disdain for the law.

After several months of having relatively horse-free roads and subdivisions, several readers report there are suddenly a lot of horses wandering around. Is this coincidence, or are horses gathered from the BLM tract being released into Placitas subdivisions because PAR corrals and hay are in short supply? Perhaps these are just hungry horses that can’t find enough forage in the severely overgrazed hills. This video was shot this morning on my way to work. In the few minutes I watched, this horse was almost hit by three vehicles as it looked for grass along the roadside. Until the situation is resolved, be careful on the roads—horse-vehicle collisions can be deadly for both horse and driver.

Nature slowly recovers on the Placitas Open Space

 

I was going to post something after our hike in the Placitas Open Space today, but my wife’s email to some friends says it better than I could. Here it is along with a short video.

We took a long walk on the open space today. We hiked down from the NE gate, northwest along the creek basin, then south over the ridge and down to the relatively shady Coyote Canyon (former “horse central”) tucked under the pipeline hill. Then back to the ridgetop and east, emerging above the cliff where the great horned owls used to nest. We dropped down to the creek and looped back along the northeast bank, where much horse damage remains.Bluet (Hedyotis rubra)

It was beautiful out there today. Carpets of green along much of the creek basin and a profusion of blooming desert marigold and blue trumpet, along with paintbrush, bluets, bladderpod, desert zinnia, spiny dogweed, wooly milk vetch, blackfoot daisy, plains flax, white milkwort, white-tufted evening primrose, purple carpet verbena, and blue grama, ring muhly and feather grasses.

We counted say’s phoebe, house finch, lark sparrow, turkey vulture, scrub jay, Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, and mockingbird. On the flats above the owl nest, in one of the LPA nest boxes, were four fluffy young house finches napping. In a second box by the creek, no birds, but an elaborate nest, built mostly of reddish brown horse hair, soft as a pillow. A few plump cottontails, no horses.

We took photos and video of the heavily trampled horse hang-outs that are only starting to recover, a steep horse trail coming down off the ridge with clearly-linked erosion below, some cryptobiotic soil crusts that have managed to remain untrampled, and lots of green vegetation and wildflowers. It’s really peaceful on the POS right now and worth a visit while it’s so lush with wildflowers.

Amphibian nocturne

 

This post comes to us from Lynn Montgomery, Chair of the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District. Lynn has lived and worked the land in Placitas since the 1970s. He has been a tireless advocate for the environment and the area’s acequia systems. He is the mayordomo for the Acequia la Rosa de Castilla.

Lynn’s post refers to a 1999 Boston Globe story that you can link to here: Hill Toads Coaxed to Sing Again. Lynn recorded the toad lullaby last night.

This problem has been developing for decades. My former neighbor and good friend Kathy Roberts knew what to do with horses that showed up on the land. This is what should have happened early on. We can’t go back and make it right. It shouldn’t have been. So, we have a royal mess with very messy solutions. We must trek through them as best we can. When we achieve a balance on our lands, then the most important thing is to maintain that. So, we must have an aware and involved public who can do it ongoing. Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District hopes to help establish local organizations to make sure our land stays healthy and productive for future generations.

Some of us, some former foes, have come together simply because we love this exquisite high sonoran desert place where everything is so delicate and precious. Kathy Roberts is my hero. She knew the land better and knew what to do. And did it. I love the toads. They symbolize our ever delightful ecologies that are before us, only if we observe.

It rained yesterday. The toads were singing in the puddle in my driveway all through the night. There aren’t many such puddles where pollywogs can complete to maturity. We need more folks like Kathy Roberts so the toad songs can lull us to sleep, our reward for taking care of the land.

POS fence cut again

 

A Placitas Open Space (POS) certified trail volunteer discovered a section of cut fence on July 19, 2014. He estimated that it had been cut within 24 hours. This is the second time that section of fence has been vandalized.

The Open Space Trail Volunteer notified the City of Albuquerque Open Space and the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office. The City dispatched a work crew to repair the fence within a couple days. While working on the fence the city crew was confronted by a neighbor. The encounter was so contentious that the crew foreman requested APD backup from the City of Albuquerque dispatch.

Mike Neas, Open Space Trail Volunteer, tells us how it went down.

Truth trumps tall tales

Susan Blumenthal is a long-time resident of Placitas, living on land owned by her family since 1956. It’s set on a beautiful stretch of Las Huertas Creek where Susan has nurtured the stream for years with the help of her youngest son. They have learned about stream remediation and spent hundreds of hours building erosion control structures and weeding invasive plant species. Susan generously granted the Archeological Conservancy an easement in 2004, ensuring that her land will never be disturbed by residential or commercial development.

Susan cares for the land and honors the intricate web of life  she inhabits on Las Huertas. Understandably, she was concerned a few years ago when feral horses started showing up in increasing numbers. They damaged the stream banks, destroyed property, and stripped the area of native grasses and shrubs. After all her years of careful stewardship, Susan was overwhelmed by this new invasive species. Instead of a prickly kochia, she was faced with thousand-pound animals that didn’t want to move.

Susan turned to the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB) who advised her that they would remove the unclaimed feral horses if she gathered them in a corral. She set up a corral with the help of some friends and soon a number of feral horses wandered in and were secured. Susan advised the NMLB and they sent a crew to pick up the horses. The NMLB contacted the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office who sent out deputies to monitor the situation because of prior protests at lawful horse gathers. In the meantime a group of WHOA and PAR supporters set up camp at the gate to Susan’s property.

The transfer of the horses from the corral to the NMLB trailer went smoothly. The wranglers from the NMLB exercised great caution and care loading the animals. They put themselves at risk a number of times to calm the horses and direct them safely into the trailer. The protest group on the road did not have a full view of the action, but claimed to see evidence of abuse. This video, put together by Susan, corrects that assertion.

An interesting side note. The NMLB and Gary Miles from Placitas Animal Rescue (PAR) worked out a custody arrangement as a result of this impoundment. From Susan’s property the horses were transported about 1/2 mile down the road to a corral designated by Gary Miles. No actual problems with the horses at either end.