Black Mountain Wild Burro Herd Management Area: Analysis of Bureau of Land Management Aerial Census
April and October 2014 Flights
Independent Study by Undisclosed Environmental Researchers
The following independent review of the Bureau of Land Management’s 2014 burro population census aerial flight was completed using information, photographs, and other documentation that was collected through a formal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the raw data of the BLM’s 2014 population census aerial flights. The aerial census data documentation over the nine days of flights fails to adequately document the BLM’s wild burro population count.
This report is an analysis of the data, pictures, and hand-written notes from the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Arizona – BLM Colorado River District – Kingman Field Office wild burro census completed in two segments, between April 25-30th and October 6-9th of 2014 in the Black Mountain Herd Management Area. Over the nine days in flight only 5% (rounded) of the wild burros that were allegedly counted were photographed. In fact, the majority of the photos taken during the flight were of big horn sheep and trophy buck deer and duplicate burro photos and landscape features rather than of wild burros counted. There were four persons in the helicopter in each flight – pilot and 3 observers – see flight data for observers’ names and government affiliation (BLM & AZGFD & NPS). The aerial census over the nine days fails to adequately document the BLM’s purported wild burro population count. It was also noted by examination of the photos that the majority of the photos were taken of the wild burros while being chased by the helicopter.
Summary of independent review of BLM aerial flight raw data:
Total Photos 54
Total Burros Counted in Photos 72
Total Photos of Burros (not counting duplicates) 20
Total Number Duplicate Photos (that were of duplicate burros groups) 15
Total Photos of “Other” 19
– landscape 10
– trophy deer 6
– big-horn sheep 3
BLM flight notes show they counted 1,378 wild burros (1,148 total adults and 230 total foals)
Nine days flying in 2014
Miles flown and time in air (see BLM notes)
All burros were reported as inside HMA except on flight day 4/27/2014 (27 adults and 4 foals) and on flight day 4/28/2014 (17 adults and 1 foal).
The majority of all flights reported at 0 – 30% vegetation concealment with occasional 70-80% in Juniper tree areas and “open” or “broken” visual field and rarely “treed” (see data)
Arizona – BLM Colorado River District – Kingman Field Office
Black Mountain Herd Management Area
Survey Method: Simultaneous Double-Count
Helicopter – Bell L1
Elevations flown: 2,000-3,000 feet (Elevation at nearby Kingman AZ is 3,336 feet)
April 25, 27, 28, 29 & 30 of 2014
Flight Hours 24.7
Miles Flown: 2061 (plus additional ferry miles)
Conditions: Ranged from good to very good – Winds ranged from light to high
October 6, 7, 8, & 9 of 2014
Flight Hours 27.2
Miles Flown: Not provided
Conditions: Very Good Overall; Ranging from Good to Excellent; Light Rain One Day; Light Winds
No date/time stamp on any photos. FOIA requester was told that date/time was not done and not required by BLM.
The aerial census included the pilot and three additional observers for each flight date. The observers included BLM employees, Arizona Game and Fish employees and National Park Service employees (see flight notes).
Planned Speed 55-60 knots (63-70 MPH)
See aerial flight maps provided via FOIA – no explanation was provided with them.
The Fort Collins Science Center who guides the BLM’s aerial population procedures states, “Because population estimates drive nearly all management decisions pertaining to wild horses and burros, accuracy is important.” https://www.fort.usgs.gov/WildHorsePopulations/AlternativeTech
“The accuracy and precision of current wild horse survey methods have not been rigorously tested.” https://www.fort.usgs.gov/WildHorsePopulations/Counting
The BLM Instruction Memorandum (IM) establishes program guidance and policy for inventorying and estimating wild horse population numbers to supply the managers and the public with scientifically supportable and defensible population estimates of wild horse and burro populations. More than ever before, Field Managers and WH&B specialists are challenged to base WH&B management decisions on accurate and credible population estimates. This was not accomplished with this survey and the true and accurate wild burro population was not sufficiently documented for the Black Mountain HMA and therefore is very much in question.
Complete data received via FOIA is available upon request. The aerial census documentation over the nine days fails to adequately document the BLM’s wild burro population count.