In the US we have less than 8000 wild burros on all of public lands today. These burros are the descendants of burros brought in to do the dirty work for mines and as pack animals. Horses have a deep fossil record in North America and are technically a reintroduced native. The fossil record for burros begins in Africa.
These extremely hardy animals brought with them their ability to survive in some of the harshest terrain on earth. Wild burros have a lower protein requirement than wild horses and can live on forage that a horse could not. They can go without water for long periods of time and replace as much as 30% of their body weight in a single drink. No wonder these animals were the preferred servant for miners in the rough and dry terrain on the southwest US!
The burros that escaped their servitude, or were abandoned, adapted to their surroundings. As the ranching industry expanded (to feed the miners and the towns that sprang up with the mines) burros were routinely killed, often with brutality.
As Velma Johnston, “Wild Horse Annie,” campaigned to create protection for wild horses, she was left with a dilemma: “How do we stop the brutal treatment of burros?” She could push forward a campaign to protect the native wild horses, but it would omit the burro whose status was tied solely to the history of the land. (we highly recommend the biography of Velma by Alan Kania)
The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act established federal jurisdiction over both wild horses and burros. The Act created a legal identity tied “to the land they now stand.” No longer could there be a free for all drive to capture and slaughter horses and burros through “mustanging” (a practice illustrated in the movie “The Misfits”).
Burro Habitat is Shrinking Fast
However, just as the agencies tasked with management have failed our wild horses, it has failed our burros.
Today burro habitat is shrinking rapidly. Expanding roads, and shrinking waters, are impacted even the hardy burro. Gold and lithium mining are rapidly expanding in burro habitat. Geothermal, solar, what we call “green” energy, is having a massive impact on the burro herds left in the US.
The roundup schedule targets 1250 burros for removal, just from June 1 through October 2020. (article on the schedule)
The budget debate is set to create the largest year of roundups, wild horses and burros, in US history. The bill has just left the House committee and is heading for a floor vote before moving to the Senate.
Temporary fertility control (to buy time) works on burros the same as it does in wild horses. The PZP vaccine has been used worldwide for over 35 years in elephants, water buffalo and more.
The lack of actual management planning (water improvements to disperse populations, protecting critical habitat, determining a actual stocking level that includes a genetic equation for preservation, etc.) has all been skipped for decades. The Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP) has simply been skipped and the BLM/FS will simply claim an assessment for a roundup (EA) is a management plan.
The bill will now head for a full vote in the House before going to the Senate. You can reference the bill as “Appropriations 2021” or “Interior spending for 2021.” You are calling about the 2021 funding of the Wild Horse and Burro program.
You can find your rep in the House here http://govtrack.us
You can ask that they propose an amendment to the (spending) bill to prohibit funding to be used for sterilization and inform them that BLM is skipping actual management planning for our herds as outlined in the handbook mandated by law. Congress needs to add that no funding should be spent on Herd Management Areas where BLM has no Herd Management Area Plan (HMAP).
This action requires you to find your rep in the House and pick up a phone. With the current health crisis? we suggest finding a phone number for their local office. Call and log your request. Ask for the email to send follow up information and begin to establish a relationship with your local office. This is an election year. Make your voice count.
More soon from the field.
Range Creek Roundup Report: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2020/07/03/range-creek-roundup/
More on the HMAP in “What Do You want,” : https://wildhorseeducation.org/2020/06/06/what-do-you-want-how-you-can-get-it/
Categories: Wild Horse Education