The burros have never had it easy with our government agencies. The fox is guarding the hen house when it comes to protections for this nation’s icons of our pioneering past. They are symbols of our culture and living natural icons of our pioneering history. Yet, our own governmental agency which is tasked with protecting our wild burros and horses, because of this important connection to our past, is cavalierly managing them to extinction without remorse.
photo by Marjorie Farabee of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
The Black Mountain HMA is presently 1.1 million acres, but if developers of wind, gas, and agriculture have their way this HMA will soon be reduced and all the wildlife living on it will suffer. In the BLM count of 2013 the burro population came to just over 700 animals, yet they would have us believe that the population has grown to a whopping 1600-1800 burros in one short year and a half. This means even the jacks are having twins and they are all immortal.
Recently, Simone Netherlands, representing Respect4Horses (R4H), and myself, representing Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF), joined up to attend both scoping meetings being held by the BLM in Kingman and Bullhead City, AZ. The BLM’s presentation of damage caused by wild burros was lacking in scientific data or actual observation from reputable studies. They simply showed a photo zeroed in on a small area that would have some plants which were grazed or damaged. This was their “proof” that wild burros were damaging the desert. When the HMA was set up in 1974 there were over 2000 burros living easily on this land. Now, the number allowed has been reduced to a mere 478 burros for this vast HMA. Meanwhile cattle are grazed with well over 5000 acknowledged as grazing on the land. At the scoping meetings held by the BLM at both Bullhead City and Kingman the public was told the entire HMA was degraded by burros. Of course, no cattle were mentioned as being detrimental. In fact, I had to pry an acknowledgement that cattle were even present on the HMA out of the BLM representative. Roger Oyler then answered questions I had about the mapping. He confirmed that the ruling in WY concerning wild horses on checkerboard land gave them the right to remove the checker boarded areas from the Black Mountain HMA. He further explained the yellow area west of Kingman, called Golden Valley, will also be taken from the HMA. Neither he nor Chad Benson would give us the targeted number of burros in their sites for removal from the Black Mountain HMA.
At these meetings the public was not allowed to ask questions in an open forum. We were asked to walk up to individual representatives of the BLM and ask our questions privately thus denying the attending public access to the concerns raised by the question, or the answers provided. The public would have been saddened to learn that the BLM is planning to not only reduce the number of wild burros by an unspecified amount, they are planning to reduce the size of the HMA as well. Another issue brought up was the burros crossing 95 in Bullhead City. The area where they are crossing is still legally a part of the Black Mountain HA and provides direct access to the Colorado River which is an important water source for the burros and all other wildlife in the area. (That 10-mile strip is STILL legally designated (by 1971 Congress) for wild horses and burro. It is still HA (Herd Area) land. “Wild horses and burros are supposed to be treated as “components of the public lands”. 16 U.S.C. § 1333(a) The law is clear that “wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death” and entitled to roam free on public lands where they were living at the time the Act was passed in 1971. 16 U.S.C. § 1331 These legally protected areas are known as “herd areas,” and are defined as “the geographic area identified as having been used by a herd as its habitat in 1971.” 43 C.F.R. § 4700.0-5(d).” – Animal Law Coalition (available online) Rather than provide passage over or under the HWY they have decided to zero out the burros in the area. These provisions could have been made when the roadways were under construction. Now, resulting collisions with burros are providing an excuse for their removal from the area. Moreover,“There is no authority for BLM’s “herd management areas” under WFRHBA.The BLM has authorized itself to divide herd areas into “herd management areas“, something not authorized by WFRHBA. 43 CFR 4710.3-1. In this way, with no statutory authority at all, BLM has limited wild horses and burros’ access to thousands of acres that were historically their herd areas. This is done without thought about the horses’ seasonal migration patterns or available resources. The BLM then removes wild horses and burros from the artificially created “herd management areas” on the basis there is insufficient forage, water or habitat! BLM also targets them for removal if they cross the artificial boundaries into their original herd areas.”- Animal Law Coalition (available online)
As we delve deeper into the reasons for the inflated new burro numbers and safety accusations toward the burros we are finding reports about wind development with several projects in the works and others moving through the approval process. Other contributors are proposed agricultural development which along with wind development will further deplete already depleted water resources. It is important to note, that the Black Mountain HMA boasts the largest population of bighorn sheep in the nation. In fact, it is well documented that the hunting clubs have long wanted burros removed from habitat where bighorn sheep reside, citing resource conflicts as their reason for wanting them removed. http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/wildlife/feral-animals
As we traveled hundreds of miles through the Black Mountain HMA exploring, what we saw was a beautiful desert full of life and forage. Burros were scarce, but friends in the area will continue to dig into the fitness of the range for me while WHFF continues its investigation into the real reason large sections of the HMA are about to be stripped away from these mountain canaries. What a lovely song I heard as I stayed during the night listening to the burros call each other through the mountains. Each voice was different and ethereal as the sound echoed through the mountain. It was magical. It saddens me to know that their song may soon be quiet and never heard again if special interests get their way. My history and culture are worth fighting for, and these burros deserve to be considered as a part of these lands now and forever more. They earned it.
IN THE HANDS OF KILL BUYERS! When horses are purchased at auction by buyers intending to kill them, they're hauled away in double- decker tractor trailers where they are beaten and often blinded with baseball bats to mollify them. After crossing the border into Mexico, the animals are stabbed on each side-an act to tenderize their meat-and immobilized. Workers, then saw the horses legs off, at the knee and hang them to bleed out-all while the horses are ALIVE! (This is an excerpt, from an article written by Missy Diaz, crediting Victoria Mc Cullough and Sen. Joe Abruzzo for bringing awareness of horse slaughter, to Florida. In 2010 Florida Legislation unanimously passed the Horse Protection Bill, making it a felony to slaughter horses for personal or commercial use.)