Legal appeal cites failure to consider new research documenting key role that wild burros play in desert ecosystems
Riverside, CA (June 23, 2021) — This week, the American Wild Horse Campaign, the nation’s leading wild horse protection organization, filed a legal challenge to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plan to eradicate federally protected wild burros from three Herd Areas in the Mojave Desert in California. In an appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), AWHC challenged the legal basis for the eradication plan and said that the agency violated federal law by failing to consider new science documenting the critical role that wild burros play in the desert ecosystems where they live.
“Wild burros are icons of the West and protected under federal law. They are also important ecosystem engineers whose removal from other desert areas has led to species extinction,” said Brieanah Schwartz, AWHC’s Director of Policy and Litigation. “We are appealing to the Interior Department Board of Land Appeals to overturn the decision to exterminate wild burros from the Centennial, Slate, and Panamint Herd Areas because it is inhumane, unscientific, and violates several federal laws.”
The BLM’s decision to set the Appropriate Management Levels (AMLs) to zero wild burros in the Centennial, Slate, and Panamint Herd Areas was implemented in the 1980s and has not been re-evaluated in the decades since. Now new research on the benefits of wild burros to the desert ecosystem, published in Science, illuminates the need for re-evaluation, the AWHC’s appeal alleges. The research shows how wild burros are boosting the availability of water in desert landscapes across the American West and how the removal of burros from similar ecosystems has caused the extinction of rare fish species.
AWHC’s appeal alleges that by not considering the new research, the BLM is violating the agency’s obligations, under federal law, to periodically review land use planning documents and meaningfully analyze all new information instead of using the environmental review process to support a foregone conclusion to eradicate the burros.
The BLM plan calls for removing all of the approximately 1,000 wild burros living in this one million+ acre public lands area over ten years. The first in a series of helicopter roundups aimed at removing the burros was conducted earlier this month, with 290 burros, including 39 foals, captured so far. The captured burros were sent to the BLM’s Ridgecrest holding pens where they will be sold or adopted through the BLM’s Adoption Incentive Program, which the New York Times exposed as a pipeline to slaughter for hundreds of wild horses and burros.
AWHC is asking the IBLA to vacate the BLM’s decision record and direct the agency to instead meaningfully analyze the Herd Areas for redesignation as actively managed habitat for a permanent population of wild burros.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is the nation's leading wild horse protection organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America's wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno.