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 nations 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.
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.
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 500 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, photographs showing small sections of chopped grass were shown. The public was told the entire HMA was degraded by burros. Of course, no cattle were mentioned as being detrimental. I had to pry an acknowledgement that cattle were even present on the HMA out of them. Roger Oyler then answered questions I had about the mapping. He then 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.
It was also distressing to learn of the loss of a 10 mile long, 3 mile wide section of the HMA that runs parallel to the Colorado River and Bullhead City. The only way the burros have to get to this important water source is to cross Hwy 95. No provisions were made for crossing points over or under even though the area was slated as being a part of the original HMA and 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. 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/
As I traveled hundreds of miles exploring, what I saw was a beautiful desert full of life and forage. Burros were scarce, but to be fair, one week is never enough time to investigate an area. And so, friends in the area, who acted as guides on this trip, 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.