Misplaced outrage over burro killings?
By JIM MATTHEWS
Did you hear that the reward for catching the people involved in the killing of 46 burros along Interstate 15 between Baker and State Line has been increased to over $100,000?
Seems the outrage over this is a little misplaced, and that money could be better spent elsewhere.
It is absolutely wrong that someone has taken it upon themselves to go out and kill these animals. The killings were pretty systematic and selective, happening at water sources where the non-native burros have been causing great damage to this critical wildlife water. It almost looks as though some individual or group concerned with the welfare of our native wildlife – bighorn sheep, mule deer, and literally hundreds of other species that use desert water – did the grisly job.
A job the Bureau of Land Management has not been doing.
A reading of the management plan for this area suggests that no more than 44 burros (and their young of the year) are supposed to be in this area, call the Clark Mountain Herd Area. The only BLM population estimate for recent years was that approximately 150 burros currently live in the area. That is 100 animals over what the BLM scientists say the ground can comfortably support. When the burro population exceeds that maximum number, the BLM is supposed to remove animals.
Anyone familiar with the desert springs in this area can attest to the burro-caused damage. Burros also have a tendency to hang around the water sources, especially during hot periods, and keep other large wildlife away.
The BLM will blame its budget for not effectively managing this herd of burros. And that is no doubt at least partially true. The burro population has been steadily increasing across the West in spite of the best efforts of the BLM and other federal land use agencies to capture and adopt out the burros. It is a losing battle. In fact, it simply can’t be done under realistic budgets.
Lethal herd reductions are not popular, and the same groups that donated the $100,000-plus pledged to catch the burro shooter or shooters, would spend as much or money to file a lawsuit if the BLM announced it was going to “cull” burros.
Not supporting sound management through captures AND culling is declaring that you don’t care about the damage these non-native animals are causing to the desert.
Being outraged over the killings, but not outraged by the National Park Service and BLM’s recent efforts to stop repairing or remove hundreds of man-made desert water sources is just beyond logic. That act will kill thousands, hundreds of thousands, of animals gradually over time. Vast areas will become devoid of wildlife, unnoticed by most people. But because the dead animals are not stacked up next to roads where we can count them, no one cares.
The $100,000 reward money would be far better spent on removing more burros or building new water sources in the desert for all wildlife.
Fire restrictions elevated
In Los Padres, Angeles, and
San Bernardino forests
Fire danger in all of Southern California’s national forest lands have been elevated to “extreme” over the past week. This move bans all open campfires, smoking, and even the use of portable stoves and lanterns operated with liquefied gas. All recreational shooting is also banned, except at designated shooting ranges (not wildland shooting areas). Discharge of a firearm while hunting is still allowed.
The restrictions will remain in place through at least Dec. 1 in most areas, and the end of the year in others. High fire danger can extend the restrictions longer.
This is USFS second-highest fire level, labeled “extreme.” Under the highest level, “critical” most areas of the forest are closed to all public access, except on federal, state, or county designated routes and highways.
Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.