In an ongoing helicopter roundup, the Bureau of Land Management has captured 230 of the 300 burros it plans to remove near Ridgecrest, Calif. No deaths have been reported since the roundup began on May 28.
It is the first roundup in a planned complete removal of burros from the area. Over a 10-year period, the BLM plans to capture and remove up to 939 wild burros from the Centennial, Panamint and Slate Herd Areas in California’s Inyo and Sen Bernardino Counties.
The removal would address land-use conflicts with other agencies and reduce the risk of burro-vehicle collisions, according to BLM’s planning documents.
Herd Areas (HAs) are areas in which wild horses and burros were found in 1971, at the time that the Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act became law. These are the ranges upon which the Bureau of Land Management may manage horses. Herd Management Area (HMAs) are areas within each HA found by BLM to have adequate food, water, cover and space to sustain healthy and diverse wild horse and burro populations.
In 1981, the Centennial and Slate Range HMAs were downgraded to HAs and the Appropriate Herd Management Level set to zero burros because of conflicts with the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. “Burros damaged remote tracking systems and instrumentation sites, wandered onto rocket sled railways, caused vehicle accidents, and created a high potential for aircraft accidents on runways,” according to planning documents.
In 1994, Death Valley National Monument was upgraded to a National Park. That included 48% of the Panamint HA. National Park Service Lands were excluded from the Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act. The 2002 general management plan for the park authorized the removal of burros to focus the unit of managing for desert species.
The three Herd Areas encompass 1.7 million acres. Of those, 1.09 million acres overlap with military land and 227,235 acres with Park Service land.