July 30, 2010 – North Boundary Fence, Part 1

The reconstruction of the north boundary fence has received a lot of attention lately. I’ve had some really good questions from people lately, and so I have decided to put some more detailed information out on this topic. To better understand this topic, I’d first invite you to read an older post I did on the boundaries of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. This can be read by clicking here.

In my post today, there are a few questions I’ll be answering:

  • Where is the north boundary fence?
  • Why is the north boundary fence being rebuilt?

With that, let’s first start by orienting ourselves and figuring out where exactly the fence is. On the map below, you can see the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range boundary in red. At the very top of the Range, the boundary line comes to a point. Up near that point, you can see that there are two white lines over the red Range boundary line. These white lines are the north boundary fence. (Please click on the image for a larger version of it.)

Location of North Boundary Fence

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at this area in thinking about the north boundary fence. On this next map, I have made the fenced areas orange lines and the areas with natural boundaries lime green lines. Thus, the orange lines are where the north boundary fence is. The fence actually has two parts. There is the main stretch that runs northeast and then turns to go straight north. Southwest of this fence line is a small fence that blocks access at a location where the cliffs of Lost Water Canyon can be bypassed.

North Boundaries of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range

The fence acts as a barrier between natural boundaries, which make up much of the Range’s boundaries. The fence runs north until it gets to the escarpment of East Pryor Mountain.

North end of North Boundary Fence

This north face of the mountain is a virtually impassable series of cliffs and talus slopes; this is what makes up the northeastern Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range boundary.

Escarpment of East Pryor Mountain

South of the fence, the cliffs of Lost Water Canyon get tall enough to form the northwestern boundary of the Range.

Looking southwest down Lost Water Canyon

Going back to the above map, notice the red X’s that are on the orange (fence) line. These red X’s mark holes in the north boundary fence that I recently mapped. As you can see, there are many red X’s there! Because of this, the fence is obviously a very ineffective barrier. There are a number of possible reasons why the fence is in such terrible shape. It is likely that the horses have done some damage to the fence. It is also known that the fence was built in areas that have heavy snow drifting in the winter, and these drifts likely have done damage. Lastly, it is believed that people have done damage to the fence over the years. All of this, combined with years of disrepair, has left much of the fence in ruins. Following are some photos I took this week of the fence to show what it is like.

Damage along the North Boundary Fence

A hole through the North Boundary Fence

An intact stretch of the North Boundary Fence

Because of the location of the fence, between Lost Water Canyon and the Pryor escarpment, this is an area that the wild horses will naturally get funneled through as they move around the area. It is not uncommon to see wild horses off of the Range this time of year. It is not uncommon to see much of the herd move back and forth across this fence during a single day.

Members of Coronado's harem crossing through fence

Wild horses on both sides of North Boundary Fence

As the wild horses leave the Range, there are conflicts that arise. These conflicts, and the sources of them, will be a topic for a future post. Further, it is against policy and law for the wild horses to leave the Range; this will definitely be something for us to touch on. Lastly, I will be going into more detail on location and structure of the proposed fence. This is definitely a complex topic, and so I would be more than happy to compile any further information that anyone would like to further expand this series.

Published in: on July 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Looking forward to the future posts. As I mentioned in the other post (Kindra, etc) comments, I’m interested in an approximate number of horses still roaming the Forest Service lands, the proposed timeline involved in this project (if there is one at this time), and if the stray horses could just be herded to where they belong as the last of the new fence would be finished. It shouldn’t cost anymore (seems like LESS) than having a gather, an adoption, etc.

    And will you be writing about where the water guzzlers will be located in relation to where the horses go for water now? Being [only somewhat] aware of the immenseness of the area, and the difficulty of the terrain, I do realize that his has been a very difficult and time consuming project you’ve been working on. Kudos to you all, once again! And I don’t expect answers in a hurry.

    Take care.

  2. I know this is off topic, but the last photo seems to show concentric rings in the earth, circular furrows under the grass. ARe my eyes deceiving me?
    On topic, one of the things all wild horse advocates are asking for right now is that more land is opened up to the horses,and the forest service land where the pryor horses are already used to migrating for feed would seem to be an ideal target. What are the forest service objections to having these wild horses on their section of our lands? Have they ever said?

    • Betty, Matt can explain this issue in more detail, but I’ll share my understanding of it until he gets time to do that. “In a nutshell”, the wild horses who get through that “fence” (using the term loosely), are competing with “permitted livestock” for forage on the FS lands. Ranchers pay a small “per head” fee to let their cattle graze on the FS lands, and don’t want the horses eating any of their grass. A good reason (in my opinion)to eat more turkey, chicken, pork, dairy products, vegetables and fruit—and less beef.

      One good thing, tho, is that cattle can only be DRIVEN thru the Wild Horse Range to get from one point to another, not allowed to graze at will there.

      There is an interesting and educational 14-page document on the forest service website under Custer National Park, talking about the current issues and actions. Go to http://www.us forest service.gov, type in (or select) Montana and Custer National Forest and then go to Pryor Mt. Wild Horse Herd Area Management Plan, then to Forest Service Notice FONSI. Lots of interesting info to consider til you hear from Matt.

      Hope this helps.

      • ERROR correction: NOT Custer National PARK anywhere—Custer National FOREST. Sorry. Haste makes waste.

    • Betty,
      Those are some circles on the earth in there! Those are terraces left from a long time ago when livestock overgrazing caused extensive damage. This damage was so great that these terraces were built to prevent further erosion to the soil. There was once a lot of grazing on what is now the northern part of the PMWHR. That is why there the ponds up there; these were for the old livestock.

      As to why the range hasn’t been expanded to include those Forest Service lands, that is a bit more complicated. I’ll actually be devoting a post to that.

  3. I find it interesting that, in the document I mention in my reply to Betty’s question about why the horses on the FS land is a problem, the current Custer Forest Supervisor, Mary C. Erickson, talks about past actions, and inactions[by government agencies involved with the horses] being responsible for the horses even being inclined to be there in the first place. At least, that’s my understanding of what’s in that document. I respect that they are transparent enough to include that kind of information in the document that is available for public scrutiny.

    • Linda,
      Thanks for your great comments and information in here. I would agree that the document you described talks about how agency decisions led to the current situation that they are trying to resolve. This isn’t a new situation; it is just new that there is this level of effort being made to resolve it.
      Thanks again!

  4. It IS EXCITING that some things may actually get taken care of up there—like deteriorated fencing and guzzlers. I can’t help but believe that the Center’s involvement and also the level of concern expressed by non-local mustang supporters are contributing in no small way to that.

    Communications technology has made the world a much smaller place, and altho problems have also arisen from the advances being misused, it may be helping in things like this.

    Looking forward to more info.

  5. […] July 30, 2010 – North Boundary Fence, Part 1 and August 9, 2010 – North Boundary Fence, Part 2 from Matt Dillon, Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center […]

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