Sand Wash Basin adds new signs, hopes to add fencing in near future for wild horses
Last December, Wild Horses Warriors for Sand Wash Basin met with the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Department of Transportation to push for fencing along Highway 318 in hopes of keeping the horses off the highway where they’ve been struck by vehicles.
To date, no fencing has been put up, but WHW, BLM and CDOT have made significant progress towards a fence, starting with signage along the highway to warn travelers that wild horses are in the area and can be on the road.
“We’re thrilled CDOT has agreed to put the signs up, but people have to pay attention to the signs,” Cindy Wright of WHW said. “Anybody that travels that road drives faster than they should, and there’s minimal cell reception out there. If you hit a horse, you could be out there a long time.”
A few years back WHW started pushing for the fencing due to the number of horses that were being struck and killed in the area. In the fall and winter, the horses migrate to the south end of the basin to eat the vegetation at the southern end. With that, they get hit on the highway.
Aletha Dove, who works with WHW, started to push for the fencing dating all the way back to 2012. Dove, who has lost family members to crashes involving wildlife on the roads, said it was very concerning to her to see the number of horses hit in the area, the people at risk on the highway, and not do anything about it.
“I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t pursue this and a young family died because a horse crashed through the windshield,” Dove said. “We have to figure out how to get people to slow down and get the horses off the highway.”
For now, the signs are a step in the right direction. In late October, CDOT installed four portable, flashing LED signs that will be left in place unless they’re needed elsewhere. Shortly after, CDOT installed two permanent signs along Highway 318 warning travelers of wild horses in the area with another five signs on order.
In the last few years, Dove estimates at least 11-12 horses have been struck and killed by vehicles on Highway 318. In fact, there might be more since most go unreported.
Despite the losses and the slow progress, WHW hasn’t stopped pushing for fencing to keep the horses and travelers safe.
“We’re still pushing for the fences,” Dove said. “Last year we raised $30,000 to put towards the fence. We have a bid on the fence for $90k and one for $120K to put the fence in. Our goal is to pay a third of it, BLM pays a third of it and CDOT pays a third of it.
“We all met with Ray Beck and the commissioners and discussed the possibilities. They’re willing to work towards putting a fence up. But it is my understanding that certain things have to be done before CDOT can put the fence up.”
In the meantime, WHW and CDOT hopes the signs do their jobs and help travelers slow down and pay attention, resulting in few horse deaths along that stretch of Highway 318.