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AZGFD seeks information from BLM on burro management

7/15/2015

NORTH VALLEY – The Arizona Game and Fish Department has submitted a public records request to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to better assess the impact that the overpopulation of burros is having on the state and to learn the federal agency’s plans to address the issue.

By filing the request under the Freedom of Information Act, the department is seeking information on the BLM’s plans and strategies to bring the burro population back down to “appropriate management levels” as required under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. According to AZGFD, burros are damaging wildlife habitat, crowding out wildlife species, and costing state and federal taxpayers millions.

“The management of wild horses and burros in Arizona is an issue of significant public interest and controversy,” the department’s request states. “The disclosure of this information will increase the Government of Arizona’s and the public’s understanding of the Bureau of Land Management’s management operations and policies on this issue.”

Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act, Arizona should have no more than 1,316 burros within its borders. Surveys estimate the current burro population at 4,411 – more than 235 percent above appropriate management levels established by Congress and administered by the BLM.

The Big Sandy Herd Management Area (HMA) south of Wikieup currently holds 1,253 burros, more than 800 percent above the appropriate management level of 139 burros. The Alamo HMA currently has an estimated 653 burros – a 308 percent departure from appropriate levels – while the Cibola/Trigo HMA north of Yuma has 1,044 burros, more than 532 percent above AML.

While desert wildlife species consume only parts of plants, burros eat the bark and remove entire limbs from trees. Burros also consume native grasses down to the roots, preventing them from growing back, foul waterholes used by other wildlife and disturb sensitive nesting grounds.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department seeks enforcement of appropriate management levels because burros are negatively affecting habitat relied upon by bighorn sheep, mule deer, Gambel’s quail, sensitive migratory songbirds, and other wildlife species evolved to live in the desert. In some cases, where the habitat damage is severe and long term, wildlife is being displaced from their home territories.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department seeks a response from the BLM by Aug. 14.