Burrowing to the Truth in Arizona

By CHARLOTTE ROE as published on The Desert Independent

Burros first arrived in the Americas centuries before the USA was born…”

BLM Prisoner, photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM Prisoner, photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Burros have long endured lack of respect from humans, but lately the barbs have become mean as well as misguided. Mojave County Supervisor called for shooting wild burros, later explaining he simply wanted to pressure the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to take action. Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake called for a Congressional hearing, saying burros’ “out of control” population growth burdens taxpayers. Arizona Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) Chair Kurt Davis proclaimed they do untold harm to “native wildlife and communities” and that AGFC should round up these trespassing “invasives.”

The facts beg to differ.

Burros first arrived in the Americas centuries before the USA was born. They packed along southwestern trails beginning in the late 1700s. They transported goods and firewood, and helped open new, previously inaccessible towns. They hauled prospectors’ equipment to remote mines. Some became blinded from working underground. Eventually, they were turned loose to fend for themselves.

These wily, sure-footed animals adapted to the stark landscape. They became one with the desert and canyons, their mournful cries echoing at night through the wilds. They graze on lower quality forage, and dig deep water holes that benefit bighorn sheep, mule deer and other species. Although cattle and other livestock vastly outnumber wild burros on public lands, the long-eared equines are scapegoated for range degradation. Not one validated study has demonstrated that wild burros destroy fragile habitat. The myth persists, because it suits a certain political narrative.

Under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act ensures, wild burros and mustangs are to be protected on the lands where they roamed as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” that “contribute to the diversity of life forms…and enrich the lives of the American people.” The BLM’s first count in 1974 showed an estimated 15,000 burros in the West. Today, less than 11,000 remain in government-managed herd management areas (HMAs). 1,314 captured burros are incarcerated in dismal, costly government holding corrals.

The Black Mountain HMA, Arizona’s largest, contains over one million acres. In 2013 the BLM stated there were 700 wild burros in this herd area. Today, the Agency claims there are over 1500. And they want that number reduced to a population target (appropriate management level or AML) of 478, or one burro per 2000 acres. At this reported growth rate, the Black Mountain burros would be miraculously fertile. Yet the BLM has never conducted an accurate, credible census. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) urged the BLM to revise all its AMLs based on rigorous, up-to-date population statistics and genetic testing to assure viability of the herds.

This was not done.

The BLM is not the main culprit. Livestock ranchers, trophy hunters, oil and mining company owners often view public lands as their private domain. Many commercial interests fight reform and pressure the Agency to get wild equines out of the way. In contrast, local communities and tourists appreciate the burros. It’s time for stakeholders to defend the public interest and preserve these long-eared equines that are living legends of the West. There’s a better way to coexist:

  • Conduct an accurate population count of HMAs based on scientific census techniques, not random flyovers.
  • Halt the roundups. BLM helicopter “gathers” harm burros and waste taxpayer money. Post-roundup, foalings increase sharply in a biological response called “compensatory reproduction.” Keeping a burro in the wild costs nothing. Roundups cost $600 per equine, and keeping a burro in permanent holding costs $50,000.
  • Prevent road accidents by reducing speed limits in areas where burros cross the highway; use signage and night lighting similar to that provided for species such as elk.
  • Designate a Black Mountain Wild Burro Range, a call recently made by The Cloud Foundation. Retiring livestock from this range and allowing the return of predators would enable natural controls on herd size. It would promote wildlife diversity and restore these desert rangelands for generations to come.

http://www.thedesertinde.com/Articles-2016/Burrowing-to-the-Truth-in-Arizona–0602.html

12 comments on “Burrowing to the Truth in Arizona

  1. The recent National Academy of Science (NAS) institute report lent credence to accusations that the bureau [BLM] has been ignoring science and GROSSLY MISMANAGING THE WILD EQUINES, and that it pursued policies that favored corporate livestock grazing interests over the interests of the wild horses and burros. That, it said, was in direct contradiction to the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971.

    This National Academy of Science [NAS] report reviews the science that underpins the Bureau of Land Management’s oversight of free-ranging horses and burros on federal public lands in the western United States and the report goes on to say, “The Wild Horse and Burro Program has not used scientifically rigorous methods to estimate the population sizes of horses and burros, to model the effects of management actions on the animals, or to assess the availability and use of forage on rangelands.”

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  2. They just quietly disappeared and hardly anyone noticed…that is all but a few dedicated Souls who tried to help them.

    Burros: They Also Served – So long, Mojave burros
    http://www.wildburrorescue.org/index.php/why-we-need-to-help
    By Deanne Stillman, Courtesy of LA Weekly, Jan. 31, 2006 issue

    To the park service, burros were not free-roaming but non-native, which meant that they had to go. In 1979, the extirpation began – with Brighty’s descendants. Because getting them out of the Grand Canyon would be difficult, all 577 of them were to be shot. The late writer and animal defender Cleveland Amory intervened, along with his organization, the Fund for Animals, putting together a daring and complicated rescue in which the burros were airlifted from the canyon and taken to his Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, which he founded for this occasion.

    That was the beginning of the end for the burro in national parks and preserves, which the park service oversees. Since then, NPS has continued its policy of “direct reduction,” and thousands of burros have either been shot by contract hunters or harried to their doom or into overcrowded government adoption pipelines in cruel airborne roundups. From 1987 to 1994, the park service shot 400 burros in Death Valley alone – just one of various burro sites all over the desert West. When Death Valley went from monument to park status in ’94, the park service amped up its plans to remove burros – and Death Valley’s remaining wild horses.

    For the park service that runs the Mojave National Preserve has now turned its sights on the last remaining burros in that part of the desert, including the Clark Mountain herds, whose home turf is the highest peak in the Mojave Desert at 7,929 feet.

    Last fall, another herd was taken off the preserve , and — according to the desert grapevine — two burros may have been shot in the process. There are photos of one burro with a bullet to the head circulating in the ether. The rumor is that he died a very slow and painful death as the contractors stood by. Not surprising if true; I have heard and seen evidence of a staggering amount of tax-subsidized government abuse before, during and after roundups of wild horses and burros.

    Two years ago in Nevada, six mustangs, presumably rounded up to keep them from dying of thirst during a drought, died of thirst in a BLM corral after a worker forgot to turn on a spigot and then left for several days; a couple of months ago in Colorado, six more died after eating a poison weed in a corral where they should not have had access to toxic plants; and since October 2005, 46 wild horses at the BLM corral in Susanville, California, have died of strangles, an upper-respiratory infection that can kick in after a horse is stressed – or after, for instance, being run too hard during a helicopter roundup.

    Moreover, the non-native argument is disingenuous, given that NPS violates this rule when it feels like it. On the Cape Cod National Seashore, for instance, it releases non-native pheasants for sport shooting.

    “They are destroying our Western heritage,” says Jennifer Foster, a 23-year resident of Hesperia, near the preserve. Jennifer is one of a small group of high-desert locals who are planning a legal action to stop this impending and most final act. “The Clark Mountain burros are special,” she says. “They’re the last of their kind.” Any sort of lawsuit, however, could take months, if not years, and meanwhile, burro sanctuaries around the region are counting on new arrivals in 2006 as the NPS gets ready to wipe Brighty’s descendants off the map.

    As Diana Chontos says, burros have much to tell us. In 2000, she rescued a burro from Death Valley and called him Yaqui. “He was respected by all of the younger jacks — the male burros — and they didn’t chase him from food or water. He loved to be brushed and hugged. But one day he began to grow weak and could no longer get up from his naps without being helped, and toward the end we rigged a blanket for shade and called a ‘vet’ to ease his passing. One by one, all 32 jacks came by and touched him some place on his body, then went back to their hay. Shortly after the last jack paid his respects, Yaqui took a deep breath and died.” He was 50 years old, the vet said, the oldest equine he had ever seen. Had he helped a miner named Pegleg Pete find water? Maybe he had once led a lost pilgrim back to the trail. Or maybe he just lived in the Mojave Desert — for a long time, until he had to go.

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  3. They just quietly disappeared and the Public never noticed

    Burros: They Also Served – So long, Mojave burros
    http://www.wildburrorescue.org/index.php/why-we-need-to-help
    By Deanne Stillman, Courtesy of LA Weekly, Jan. 31, 2006 issue

    To the park service, burros were not free-roaming but non-native, which meant that they had to go. In 1979, the extirpation began — with Brighty’s descendants. Because getting them out of the Grand Canyon would be difficult, all 577 of them were to be shot. The late writer and animal defender Cleveland Amory intervened, along with his organization, the Fund for Animals, putting together a daring and complicated rescue in which the burros were airlifted from the canyon and taken to his Black Beauty Ranch in Texas, which he founded for this occasion.

    That was the beginning of the end for the burro in national parks and preserves, which the park service oversees. Since then, NPS has continued its policy of “direct reduction,” and thousands of burros have either been shot by contract hunters or harried to their doom or into overcrowded government adoption pipelines in cruel airborne roundups. From 1987 to 1994, the park service shot 400 burros in Death Valley alone — just one of various burro sites all over the desert West. When Death Valley went from monument to park status in ’94, the park service amped up its plans to remove burros — and Death Valley’s remaining wild horses.

    For the park service that runs the Mojave National Preserve has now turned its sights on the last remaining burros in that part of the desert, including the Clark Mountain herds, whose home turf is the highest peak in the Mojave Desert at 7,929 feet.

    Last fall, another herd was taken off the preserve , and — according to the desert grapevine — two burros may have been shot in the process. There are photos of one burro with a bullet to the head circulating in the ether. The rumor is that he died a very slow and painful death as the contractors stood by. Not surprising if true; I have heard and seen evidence of a staggering amount of tax-subsidized government abuse before, during and after roundups of wild horses and burros. Two years ago in Nevada, six mustangs, presumably rounded up to keep them from dying of thirst during a drought, died of thirst in a BLM corral after a worker forgot to turn on a spigot and then left for several days; a couple of months ago in Colorado, six more died after eating a poison weed in a corral where they should not have had access to toxic plants; and since October 2005, 46 wild horses at the BLM corral in Susanville, California, have died of strangles, an upper-respiratory infection that can kick in after a horse is stressed — or after, for instance, being run too hard during a helicopter roundup.

    Moreover, the non-native argument is disingenuous, given that NPS violates this rule when it feels like it. On the Cape Cod National Seashore, for instance, it releases non-native pheasants for sport shooting.

    “They are destroying our Western heritage,” says Jennifer Foster, a 23-year resident of Hesperia, near the preserve. Jennifer is one of a small group of high-desert locals who are planning a legal action to stop this impending and most final act. “The Clark Mountain burros are special,” she says. “They’re the last of their kind.” Any sort of lawsuit, however, could take months, if not years, and meanwhile, burro sanctuaries around the region are counting on new arrivals in 2006 as the NPS gets ready to wipe Brighty’s descendants off the map.

    As Diana Chontos says, burros have much to tell us. In 2000, she rescued a burro from Death Valley and called him Yaqui. “He was respected by all of the younger jacks — the male burros — and they didn’t chase him from food or water. He loved to be brushed and hugged. But one day he began to grow weak and could no longer get up from his naps without being helped, and toward the end we rigged a blanket for shade and called a ‘vet’ to ease his passing. One by one, all 32 jacks came by and touched him some place on his body, then went back to their hay. Shortly after the last jack paid his respects, Yaqui took a deep breath and died.” He was 50 years old, the vet said, the oldest equine he had ever seen. Had he helped a miner named Pegleg Pete find water? Maybe he had once led a lost pilgrim back to the trail. Or maybe he just lived in the Mojave Desert — for a long time, until he had to go.

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  4. Please give me s break!! The BLM and their good ol’boy network want to kill everything that is not considered cattle or sheeo. When are the American people going rise up against this rogue and disgusting Dept of our government? They are the culprits which are preventing the Safe Food, Safe Horse Export Act from being released from the committee. Therefore, preventing the bill from going to both the House and the Senate floor. Fire all the BLM employees if they want to kill the Wild Horses and Burros. We cannot let this happen. Any attorneys out their willing to file charges against the states and the BLM? As an American tax payer.I’m ready!! Enough is enough!!

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  5. Burros dig and create water holes that are used for all the other wild life and cattle in the desert . Remove them and there will be more death in those populations

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  6. Please put your venting into action and defeat Congressmen/women who make bad wild horse/burro laws and support outlandish BLM budgets. Until we advocates are as strong politically as the cattlemen who sue the BLM for having fake AML numbers exceeded, and until people who love wild horses and burros bring that love to the voting booth, our four-legged friends will continue on the road to extinction.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s very strange that those senators don’t address the REAL problem.

    Here’s how Arizona residents are reacting to foreign water mining
    BymNathan Halverson
    May 16, 2016
    https://www.revealnews.org/blo

    First, they depleted their freshwater aquifers. Now, companies from the Middle East are pumping up limited water
    supplies in the Arizona desert and exporting it back to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the form of hay.

    “Camels Don’t Fly, Deserts Don’t Bloom,” a new documentary produced by seven graduate students at Arizona State University, tracks both the business of exporting water from the Southwest desert and the angry reaction of
    local residents, who are fast seeing their water disappear. They interviewed me for their 15-minute film that expands on revelations I first reported about Middle Eastern companies mining the limited water in Arizona after similarly depleting aquifers in Saudi Arabia

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