Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary, Group Excellence, Little Snake Field Office (Colorado)
The Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary (GEMS) and its on-the-range affiliate, Sand Wash Advocate Team (SWAT), play critical roles in assisting the Little Snake Field Office manage the Sand Wash Basin Wild Horse Herd Management Area in northwestern Colorado. These non-profit volunteer organizations have developed a successful working model of wild horse (mustang) advocates collaborating with the BLM to benefit wild horses and the public lands they roam.
In 2017 alone, 16 GEMS/SWAT volunteers contributed 7,637 hours of their time, including more than 800 hours spent darting 140 wild mares with the fertility control vaccine porcine zona pelucida, or PZP. Darting mares is extremely labor-intensive, requiring technical training with pneumatic dart guns and knowledge of individual horses as well. In 2017, the GEMS/SWAT played a key role in the first effort to remove excess horses from the HMA through winter bait trapping. GEMS/SWAT volunteers informed the BLM about individual horses and helped select horses for removal. Most importantly, under the supervision of BLM wild horse specialists, GEMS volunteers assisted in gentling and training many of the wild horses that had been removed, and ensured that all were subsequently adopted. They also provided support and education to new adopters as needed. GEMS/SWAT is a model for groups working with the BLM to benefit wild horses; helping to create a positive national narrative about BLM’s management of these living symbols of the West. The Colorado State Legislature has officially recognized GEMS/SWAT for its work.
Learn more about volunteering with the Bureau of Land Management here: blm.gov/get-involved/volunteers