Black Mountain Burros Get Short End of Stick

Refer to Section 1.1 of the EA for the Wild Burro Gather Plan.  Forage in the HMA has been degraded and two grazing allotments don’t meet standards for rangeland health.

The current number of burros exceeds the limit that achieves and maintains a thriving ecological balance vis-à-vis the multiple use and sustained yield mandates for the area.

OK, but what do the numbers tell you about the HMA, the way it’s being managed?

The management plan allows 478 wild burros on the HMA, which contains one million acres.  The aimed-at stocking rate is therefore 0.48 burros per thousand acres.

The forage allocation for the burros would be 2,868 AUMs per year, given that they’re on the range twelve months per year (478 × 12 ÷ 2).

The forage demand of burros is half of that for horses, so their impact on the land cannot be compared directly to livestock.  The forage requirements of horses are said to be equivalent to those of cow/calf pairs, so the comparison will be done on that basis.

The AUM budget won’t change but the AML and stocking rate will.  If the HMA was managed for wild horses, the AML would be 239 and the stocking rate allowed by plan would be 0.24 per thousand acres.

Table 7 in the EA provides data for livestock grazing on the HMA.  A BLM rep contacted by WHW confirmed that the grazing season is 12 months per year.

Six of the sixteen allotments are designated for intermittent use, when forage and other conditions are favorable.  They have been omitted from the calculations.

Note that the stocking rates for livestock (cow/calf densities) are considerably higher than the 0.24 allowed by plan for horses (who are proxy for the burros in this analysis).

Black Mountain Calcs-1

The land grazed continually corresponds to about 22% of the HMA.  The parcels grazed intermittently would bring the total to approximately 50%, as estimated in the original post (linked below).

The total estimated forage available to livestock inside the HMA is 7,333 AUMs per year, computed as the sum of the permitted AUMs for each allotment times the portion of each allotment inside the HMA.  For example, in Big Ranch A, 5,397 × .312 = 1684.

The estimated number of cow/calf pairs inside the HMA is 611, with an average grazing season of 12 months per year (7,333 ÷ 611).

The stocking rate for cow/calf pairs is 2.77 per thousand acres (611 ÷ 220,891 × 1,000).

Horses (burros, actually) receive 28% of the forage, compared to 72% for livestock.

These figures are compared in the following charts.

Black Mountain Charts-1

These indicators tell you that the HMA is managed primarily for livestock.

The thriving ecological balance—to be achieved by the roundup and maintained by one or more population controls—is not a balance at all.

The forage assigned to livestock would support an additional 1,222 burros (7,333 ÷ 12 × 2), for a new AML of 1,700 (478 + 1,222).

If the grazing allotments are fenced and livestock are present twelve months per year, can the burros access the resources on those parcels?

Has the most productive land in the HMA been given to the ranchers?

Would the loss of 72% of their forage explain their movement off the HMA?

If livestock are confined to the allotments by the same fences that keep the burros (and other wildlife) out, why attribute the substandard conditions to them?

Next time you see management actions justified by ‘multiple use’ and ‘sustained yield,’ know that they are code words for diverting most of the resources to privately owned cattle and sheep, minimizing the number of wild horses and burros, while giving the impression that the area is managed according to paragraph 1332(c) of the statute.

The term ‘Potemkin Village‘ comes to mind.

RELATED: Comments Invited on EA for Black Mountain Gather Plan.

PSA 12-07-19

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