In a move to protect motorists and horses, Wild Horse Warriors move forward with fencing along Highway 318
Wild Horse Warriors raised $83,000 through donations and an auction to fund the project
Two years after initially starting the push for a stretch of fencing along Highway 318 in Sand Wash Basin to protect motorists and the wild horses, Aletha Dove and Cindy Wright of Wild Horse Warriors have accomplished their goal, raising more than $80,000 for the project, which received approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation in mid-October.
Previously, WHW raised more than $30,000 to put towards the fence with hopes of paying a third for the $90,000 bid in 2018, along with Bureau of Land Management and CDOT.
When that initial project sputtered, WHW continued to push but could never really find any footing with the project when it came to working with CDOT and BLM.
That all changed in early October of last year when famous wild horse Van Gogh was struck and killed along Highway 318, which led to another push from wild horse advocates to have CDOT put up fencing along the highway to protect not only the horses, but travelers in the area.
Following an Oct. 9 Zoom meeting, Wild Horse Warriors received the go-ahead to push forward on the project and raise funds. Quickly, WHW saw donations pour in, leading to the advocacy organization raising $83,000 out of an $80,000 goal. The money raised comes from sales of t-shirts and hoodies, an auction of photos, jewelry, quilt blocks, and a variety of other things donated.
Additionally, Craig’s Walmart donated $2,300 to the cause, according to Wright and Dove.
Currently, WHW has purchased $25,000 worth of fencing materials for the project and is currently awaiting the finalization of the construction bid process to hire a local contractor.
The key to the go-ahead from CDOT and BLM was changing the goal of the relationship from a working against each other to one of a partnership pushing towards the same common goal.
“We – Aletha and I – were raised that if you’re told no, you revisit it and relook at it, find out why you were told no and approach it in a different way,” Wright said. “A ’no’ doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it, just look at it again from a different angle. From the beginning, we felt the relationship needed to be a partnership between Wild Horse Warriors, CDOT and BLM, not one against the other. Hopefully that’s what we’re developing.
The fencing project would run seven miles along the north side of Highway 318, protecting the wild horses from the roadway without restricting access to food and water.
Highway 318 actually runs through the Herd Management Area.
According to Dove, the fencing will match Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommendations, with the fence standing 3.5 feet tall and will have a clearance off the ground of a foot and a half, allowing room for smaller animals to pass underneath.
Knowing that the project is nearing fruition, Wright says that she and her sister (Dove) are thrilled to see this project through to completion.
“It’s hard to put it in words, it’s amazing,” Wright said. “We’re just thrilled that we’ve been able to develop a relationship with BLM and CDOT that’s allowing us to build this fence. This project is something others have talked about, but they’ve never formed that relationship, they’ve never followed through to get to this point.”
“The danger of a life being lost is lessened considerably knowing this fencing will go up,” Dove added. “Other families wouldn’t have to go through losing a loved one in that manner. Horses are wild animals and are going to die one way or another, but when its negligent from ranchers, farmers, or officials – BLM, CDOT, advocates – that’s not acceptable.”
The fencing project is projected to be completed by the end of the summer, according to Wright. Dove added that CDOT has already cleared a path for the fence to run along on Highway 318.
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Interstate 70 is more than 60 miles south of Craig across rugged terrain.