Partnership Will Improve Water for Wild Horses, Wildlife

A new partnership among the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Cody Field Office, Marathon Oil Corporation and Friends of a Legacy (FOAL) made great strides in 2012 toward improving water sources for the benefit of wild horses, wildlife and livestock inside the McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area (HMA) east of Cody, Wyo.

For years, the McCullough Peaks wild horses, livestock operators and wildlife have been dependent on produced water from Marathon’s Oregon Basin oil field that flows into Dry Creek. However, to comply with a Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality permit, Marathon is reducing the amount of produced water it releases into Dry Creek.

“This partnership is a proactive step towards looking at alternative ways to provide additional sources of water to the Dry Creek drainage,” said BLM Cody Field Manager Mike Stewart. “I am so pleased that Marathon came forward with this idea to benefit wild horses, wildlife and livestock and comply with its permit at the same time.”

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed earlier in 2012 by the three parties. The purpose of the Dry Creek Water Augmentation MOU is to identify, evaluate, develop and enhance water resources along the Dry Creek drainage. The partners will employ a phased approach over the next few years.

The first phase, which includes the identification of water supply development (reservoir enhancement, groundwater wells, guzzlers, etc.) and implementation of plans to capture, contain or conserve the available surface water, is well underway. Possible sites to install shallow groundwater wells on FOAL and BLM property within the HMA were identified and groundwater of adequate quantity and quality was recently encountered at one of the sites that will be used future water supply development. In addition, several reservoirs have been cleaned-out in the HMA, which are critical for capturing spring snow melt.

Phase I also includes planning a salt cedar and Russian olive eradication effort along Dry Creek. By removing these water-loving, invasive plants, wild horses, wildlife and livestock will benefit from more water in the creek and the space created for native vegetation to flourish.

Marathon has operated in this area since 1917 and has partnered with the BLM on numerous resource improvement projects. To ensure the success of the Dry Creek Water Augmentation Project, Marathon has secured grants and provides funding to National Wild Turkey Federation and Wyoming Wildlife Heritage Trust to implement fieldwork and other project.

“We’re grateful for the partnerships we have with these groups,” said Environmental Professional Mike Williams with Marathon’s Senior Wyoming Asset Team. “We look forward to the work we can all accomplish together in the Dry Creek Drainage.”

FOAL, a non-profit wild horse advocacy organization located in Cody, is a key player in the new partnership. The BLM and FOAL signed a separate MOU in 2006 to coordinate and cooperate on opportunities for public education, to enhance habitat for all creatures living within the McCullough Peaks HMA and to assist the BLM in managing the McCullough Peaks wild horses.

A grant that FOAL received this year from the Park County Winter Recreation Coalition Fund, held by the Wyoming Community Foundation (WYCF), will contribute to the success of the Dry Creek Water Augmentation Project. The grant is to support the costs of water wells, signage and wild horse fertility control to benefit the McCullough Peaks wild horses. WYCF is a charitable organization that builds and preserves funds established by individuals, families, corporations, agencies and private foundations. WYCF uses the earnings from these funds to benefit community needs across the state of Wyoming.

"Water is a key ingredient for sustainable habitat in the McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area," said Marshall Dominick, a founding member of FOAL. "By developing reliable, life-giving water sources, our partnership will provide a win-win situation for all creatures that live there, as well as for us humans who benefit from the existence of those creatures and their habitat."

Subsequent phases of the Dry Creek Water Augmentation Project will include the design, permitting, and construction of wells, the delivery system and various points of use for the delivered water including guzzlers, reservoirs and wetlands. It is hoped the partnership will continue to grow with the addition of new participants and public involvement in future workdays.

Originally posted by the BLM, Cody Field Office