Volunteers begin hauling water to wild horses in drought-stricken herd management area | AspenTimes.com

Volunteers begin hauling water to wild horses in drought-stricken herd management area

Sasha Nelson
Craig Daily Press
The first load of water is delivered by volunteers Michele and Justin Schaffner to help provide water for wild horses and other animals in drought-stricken Sand Wash Basin.
Aletha Dove/Wild Horse Warriors

CRAIG — Water is flowing again in the southwestern end of the drought-stricken Sand Wash Basin after volunteers received Bureau of Land Management approval to truck water to three stock tanks to aid wild horses and other animals.

“We have been watching the water all spring, because we know that the water ponds did not fill up in winter, and we knew if we didn’t get spring rain, the ponds would start drying out,” said Aletha Dove, one of the organizers for the Wild Horse Warriors for Sand Wash Basin, a nonprofit group hauling water under a memorandum of agreement with the BLM.

About 750 wild horses live in the Sand Wash Basin herd management area — a 160,000-acre area area about 45 miles west of Craig — under a federal designation that mandates the land be managed for wild horses and burros.

Wild Horse Warriors started mapping water resources in the basin last year and, in the spring, began working on water improvement projects under BLM guidance. But, by early June, they had grown increasingly concerned about drought conditions in the basin, as reported by the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

Though the horses roam free in herd management areas, a boundary fence encloses it, preventing the horses from accessing the Little Snake River to the east or Vermillion Creek to the west.

“We need about 8,000 gallons a day for all the horses in the basin,” said Cindy Wright, one of the WHW organizers.

About half that requirement is being met by natural sources, with the group planning to try to haul an additional 3,000 to 4,000 gallons per day.

The water is being purchased from two public sources in Maybell. Firefighters also use water from Maybell. If their efforts limit the availability of water for the horses, Wright said she would donate her own water while the group looked to purchase water from water rights holders.

Dove and Wright believe they have enough water and funding — more than $30,000 raised through a GoFundMe page and direct donations — for hauling to continue through August.

If rain comes early, the unused funds will be used for water project improvements or new water projects, Wright said.