(January 21, 2016) PHOENIX - The Arizona Game and Fish Commission approved two resolutions, including one to address an "extreme overpopulation of burros" impacting the state's wildlife, habitat and public safety, and another that bolsters the department's efforts to ensure public access to public lands. The Commission passed the resolutions at its January meeting.
The resolution on burro management states that "the Arizona Game and Fish Commission recognizes there is an extreme overpopulation of burros in Arizona that negatively impacts wildlife, wildlife habitat and public safety."
Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act of 1971, there should be no more than 1,676 burros within the state. The current population is estimated at 4,860, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which is legally required to maintain burros at established "appropriate management levels." The BLM is hampered by a lack of funding and support from the agency's administration at the national level.
The overpopulation of burros negatively affects habitat relied upon by bighorn sheep, mule deer, Gambel's quail, sensitive migratory songbirds and other wildlife species that have evolved to live in the desert. Burros consume native plants and grasses down to the roots, preventing them from growing back. They also muddy waterholes used by other wildlife and disturb sensitive nesting grounds.
In some cases, burros are displacing native wildlife from their home territories. In addition, burros wandering onto heavily travelled roadways have resulted in multiple burro-vehicle collisions.
"The Arizona Game and Fish Commission requests that the federal government immediately initiate all tools to control excessive populations of feral burros and formulate and implement a plan to reduce adverse impacts to wildlife habitat and public safety," the resolution states.
Also at the commission's meeting Friday, in response to proposals for more national monuments in Arizona, a separate resolution was approved that asks the federal government to consider the adverse impacts of special land use designations on both the proper management of wildlife and the public's access to public lands.
"The Arizona Game and Fish Commission supports public land use that provides Arizona's public and resources with net benefit," the resolution states. "Any proposed special land use designation must analyze the cumulative impacts of further loss of public lands that provide for multiple-use and wildlife-related recreational and economic opportunities..." and "must analyze the impact to the Arizona Game and Fish Department's ability to fulfill its trust responsibility to manage the state's wildlife resources."