A plane possibly linked to protesters grounded a wild horse roundup Friday when the Cessna flew dangerously close to a helicopter.
The helicopter was rounding up wild horses in Disappointment Valley north of Dove Creek on Friday afternoon as part of a U.S. Bureau of Land Management effort to manage the herds population.
The Cessna flew close enough to the plane for officials to postpone the roundup until today. The incident occurred about 1:30 p.m.
With the plane flying over the helicopter, there were so many safety issues, Wayne Werkmeister, a BLM employee who formerly managed the Spring Creek herd, said Friday afternoon at the scene of the incident. Weve never before seen anything like this. It was truly a danger to the pilot, the horses and the public. It was completely inappropriate behavior.
The identity of the pilot or any possible passengers was not available at press time Friday.
Don Colcord, owner of the Apothecary Shoppe in Nucla, is the Cessnas registered owner. Colcord could not be reached for comment before press time Friday afternoon. An woman who answered the phone at the Apothecary Shoppe said Colcord was not flying the plane Friday. A message left for Colcord minutes before press time Friday was not immediately returned.
Fridays incident follows a lawsuit that wild horse advocates filed in federal court Wednesday seeking an injunction to halt the roundup.
Filed by Telluride-based attorney Diane Wolfson, the lawsuit names U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, BLM Director Robert Abbey, Dolores Public Lands Office Field Officer Connie Clementson, and BLM Colorado State Director Sally Wisely as defendants and asks the roundup be stopped based on allegedly illegal actions on the part of the BLM, including a failure to comply with public notice requirements and provide adequate evidence and justification for the removal of wild horses from federally protected lands.
The purpose of the lawsuit is to challenge everything about the roundup, from the inhumaneness of the helicopter and the trap pens used to separate horse bands, to the short-term and long-term holding pens, Wolfson said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.
The last-minute nature of the filing resulted after Wolfson saw a screening of the film Wild Horses and Renegades in Telluride a week and a half ago. The film specifically follows the herd in Disappointment Valley north of Dove Creek. Director James Anaquad-Kleinert, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, alleges in the film that the upcoming roundup threatens the herd with extinction, Wolfson said. Other plaintiffs are Spirit Riders Foundation of New Mexico, and David Glynn, a private citizen from Ophir, Colo.
The range has been systematically decreasing so the horses have less than half the area they started with, which is a violation of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act, Wolfson said. And right now the population of this herd is too small genetically to be viable.
All three plaintiffs in the lawsuit and about 20 protesters were on the ground at Fridays roundup in Disappointment Valley. Anaquad-Kleinert said at the scene that he doesnt know who was in the plane.
We all have concern for the horses and for their safety, Anaquad-Kleinert said. Obviously, it is great that the roundup has stopped and the horses arent being bothered by the helicopter.
The Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area is a 21,932-acre area managed for the horse herd. The current estimated population of the horses in the area is roughly 90. Management of the area dictates the herd stay between 35 and 65 wild horses. The BLM plans to gather roughly 60 horses this week. Twenty-five to 30 of the gathered horses will be offered for adoption at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Sept. 24.
Due to the last-minute suit, Wolfson acknowledged the roundup might not be stopped if the court does not respond before the roundup is complete. If that is the case, the suit seeks a court order requiring the horses not be removed from the Spring Creek area and be returned to the herd, prohibiting the scheduled adoption.