August 3, 2007

Petition supports burros in Beatty

Pahrump Valley Times

Many Beatty residents are passionate about burros.

Flyers were posted around town calling for people to attend the July 25 Town Advisory Board meeting in support of the animals. Around 20 or so residents did attend, many of them taking a turn at the microphone to oppose removal of the burros from the town.

Burro supporters delivered a petition to Craig Drake, the interim field manager for the Bureau of Land Management's Tonopah field office. Deleting duplicate names, but allowing those that were illegible, it bore approximately 256 signatures of Beatty residents (including some children and teens) and 49 of non-residents.

The petition read, "We, the undersigned, are concerned about the current efforts to persuade BLM to remove a substantial percentage of burros from the town of Beatty. We acknowledge concerns of some residents, we believe these issues can be addressed through creative problem solving, and do not require removal of the burros. We feel that the burros are an asset to the community of Beatty, and an important part of the town's character and identity. We therefore oppose removal or relocation of the burros."

Burro advocates have flooded Drake's office with letters and e-mails. One letter, from resident Mike French, asserted that the burros "pose less of a community threat than the Beatty Town Board," and said "these 'citizens' of Beatty deserve nurturing guidance to become partners in the community."

Drake acknowledged that correspondence has been running 60-40 or 65-35 in favor of the burros. However, he said the BLM is legally obligated to act on complaints received from the Beatty Town Advisory Board, the Beatty General Improvement District and Nye County School District.

He said the short-term solution would be to attempt a passive capture of as many of the burros as possible. This would involve trapping the animals in a baited corral.

"What our success will be I cannot say," Drake added; "they are highly intelligent."

He said drought conditions make it inadvisable to relocate the animals within the same herd management area, and the captured animals would be taken to a holding facility in Richfield, Calif., and offered for adoption.

There was a lot of disagreement over whether the burros pose a risk to public safety.

Ryan Tweney compared the risk of vehicular collisions involving burros to that of accidents involving deer in Michigan. He wanted to know if there were any actual statistics on burros as a public safety hazard.

Some anecdotal accounts were given of burro-related accidents in the Beatty area in the past, and Brad Hunt spoke of some he had responded to recently on the highway. He said that a burro, being a larger animal, does more damage to a vehicle than a deer.

According to Hunt, who is the chairman of the Beatty General Improvement District board, the problem is not with having burros in town in general.

He said the particular group that is causing problems has been in town for five or six years, and the animals have lost their natural fear of humans, making them more bold.

Hunt said that "one old mare" in particular, has learned to open the butterfly latches on the gates at the town park and is teaching others to do it.

Tweney countered that they needed to replace the latches.

The school installed a special zigzag entrance at the football field to keep the burros out, but they still manage to get onto the field.

Joannie Jarvis and some other board members commented that burros have been rounded up in the area before, and others shortly took their place. Beatty has always had burros.

Drake said that the burro issue could be included in Beatty's master plan. He said that the BLM would work with the town to develop a long-term solution.

Two other BLM employees came to the meeting to give informational reports on other issues.

Realty specialist Wendy Seley announced that the auction of the 40-acre North Avenue parcel will be held in the Beatty Community Center Aug. 22, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. and the auction beginning at 10 a.m.

Historical archeologist Sue Rigby talked about historical sites that have been identified in the area. She said that, because BLM archeological work is undertaken in response to particular projects, most of the work done so far has been around Rhyolite.

Rigby said that the board might want to take mining districts in the area into account when including historical sites in the master plan. She also noted that their office had provided the board with large maps to be used in the planning process.