Horse update: February 2010

This seems to be shaping up to be a light year for horses on the West Bench.  Unfortunately, a herd is now vandalizing Red Wing (thanks to Don Kelly for the photo below).  This is a problem because the horses are using Highway 97 to get there (witness the droppings along the highway). The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (contact info) has been notified about this serious highway hazard.  I am not sure what they will do about it.

 

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Back to the West Bench: I think there are at least two causes for the dramatic decrease in horse activity on the bench compared to the winter of 2008-09.  First, according to Chief Kruger, horse owners on the PIB removed upwards of 100 animals from the herd.  This is good news because, according to the range consultant who the RDOS hired to look at the PIB lands last year, more horses were grazing on PIB land than the range could sustain.  Second, the RDOS and PIB have been operating feeding stations on the flats above the West Hills Aggregates and Peter Bros. gravel pits since late December.  This is a photo I took on Christmas Eve.  The hay is gone and has been replaced with manure—a good sign that the feed stations are working.

 

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Here is a brief summary how the feeding stations are currently operating (thanks to Joe Fitzpatrick of the RDOS for setting this up):

  1. PIB staff can access the feeding sites using a road behind the PIB administration buildings.  Travis Kruger has been monitoring the site and calling for more hay as necessary.
  2. John van Horlick delivers hay to the feeding stations when called.  He saw thirty horses at the feeding area on one visit, so the site seems to be serving its purpose to distract some horses from settled areas. We estimate the annual cost of hay for this winter will be roughly $2,500.  This money is coming from Area F contingency funds.
  3. Access to water is a concern when feeding horses dry hay.  Fortunately, there have been cycles of snow and melting snow, which allow puddles to form and supply water much of the time.  Also, the horses seem capable of finding water elsewhere (e.g., Shingle Creek is relatively close to the feeding stations for a horse).  Band members, RDOS staff, and Mr. van Horlick have been monitoring the horses for signs of distress that might indicate colic.  So far, so good.

The fence plan is still working its way through the design stages.  I should have a detailed proposal soon (here are some back-of-the-envelope cost estimates).

Issues: 

Comments

I have read with interest the articles regarding the problems the horses are causing in the West Bench, Red Wing, and Sage Mesa.  I would like to point out that this problem is also of concern in the Faulder Area.  Our situation is slightly different regarding how we protect our property as we are basically completely surrounded by crown land and rangeland.  We must clearly deal with protecting our property on our own.  I have no problem with this but I do have two concerns. The most dangerous problem is that these horses not only graze on private property but along the roads and highways.  This can be an extremely dangerous situation especially during the winter, late fall and early spring .  The traffic volumes, combined with low light, and slippery road conditions, and speeds at which people travel along the Summerland Princeton Road leads me to believe that it will not be if, but when there will be a serious motor vehicle/horse accident in our area. Secondly  if the horses are fenced out of the West Bench area they will very likely just migrate in greater numbers to our area in Faulder and make the situation here worse.  I would like you to consider this in your decision making process

<p>Yes, this is an important issue that came up in the <a href="/cms/node/38" target="_blank">“Goals and Objectives” survey</a> we ran last year.&nbsp; The important thing to keep in mind here is that the RDOS cannot solve <em>The Horse Problem</em>.&nbsp; We can, however, solve <em>The Fence Problem</em>.</p><p>Recall Section 3 of the Trespass Act (see <a href="/cms/horses" target="_blank">http://areaf.rdos.bc.ca/cms/horses</a> for a link):</p><blockquote><p>Owners in rural area responsible for lawful fence<br>3&nbsp; (1) Unless otherwise agreed, the owners of adjoining land in a rural area must make, keep up and repair the lawful fence and any natural boundary between their respective land.<br>(2) Each of the owners is liable to the other for 1/2 of any cost reasonably incurred for the purposes of subsection (1).<br>(3) This section is not binding on the government.<br>(4) This section does not apply on treaty lands.</p></blockquote><p>Realistically, we can do little to change provincial acts or impose our will on the Penticton Indian Band (PIB).&nbsp; However, provincial law does give us the right (indeed the obligation) to build fences to separate our land from range land.&nbsp; Since the range land in this case is owned by governments (either Crown or First Nations), the cost-sharing provision in Section 3.2 seems not to apply.&nbsp; Instead, Sections 3.3 and 3.4 appear leave residents on the hook for the full cost of these fences.</p><p>So the question is the following: <strong>Does it make sense for each household adjacent to the PIB range to erect its own fence?</strong>&nbsp; In the case of the large rural holdings in and around Faulder, the answer is probably yes.&nbsp; As Sandy notes, the fences are there already in many cases.&nbsp; In West Bench, higher density makes the economics quite different: The RDOS can likely build a “community fence” much cheaper than 600 or so households can build individual fences around their yards.&nbsp; Indeed, the economies of scale are significant—I estimate a household’s share of a community fence around the West Bench neighborhoods to be about <a href="/cms/node/86" target="_blank">$60 per year</a>.&nbsp; I don’t know about you, but I already spend more than this each year on sprinkler and turf repair.&nbsp; In addition, the PIB has agreed to let us locate the community fence way back on PIB lands where it is less likely to be encountered and damaged by recreational users (<a href="/cms/node/67" target="_blank">map</a>).</p><p>Of course, as Sandy points out, a community fence around the west side of Penticton does not solve two related problems:</p><ol><li>It does not prevent the horses from moving north to rural Summerland.</li><li>It increases the risk of a horse being on a rural Summerland road (given that many rural Summerland properties are already fenced)</li></ol><p>The provincial Ministry of Transportation has so far shown little interest in the problem of horses on roads, even down on Highway 97 by Red Wing. They have erected some yellow signs with horses on them, but that is about it.&nbsp; Fair enough: they have other priorities.&nbsp; As a result, the only practical remedy I see to the rural Summerland problem is herd reduction.&nbsp; It is for this reason that our <a href="/cms/node/50" target="_blank">proposed horse control strategy</a> is two-pronged: The fence is only half the solution; the other half is range management (which, in this case, boils down to herd reduction).&nbsp; The Band has certainly recognized this and has already taken steps in 2009 to better match the size of the herd with the carrying capacity of its range land.&nbsp; We are encouraging the Federal Government to help the PIB develop a more formal range management plan and to reestablish traditional range management practices.&nbsp; You may want to <a href="http://www.stockwellday.com/EN/contact_me/" target="_blank">encourage Mr. Day</a> along these lines if you see him...<br><br></p>

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