National Geographic : 1987 Jan
erosion. The thinking behind their removal, however, is somewhat fuzzy. There are many exotic species in the California Desert - English house sparrows, tumbleweeds, mosquitofish, wild horses-but the boom has been lowered only on the burro. Gene Nunn, a BLM cowboy in his late 40s with sparkling blue eyes, has been in charge of the burro roundup in Death Valley for several years. "If the moon fell out of the sky," he told me, "and burros were around, they'd be blamed." The burro, reason Nunn and others, is probably not responsible for every one of the adverse environmental CaliforniaDesert, A Worldly Wilderness An accidental sea, the Salton (above left) beganforming in 1905 when the ColoradoRiver spilled over its banks and flooded a low-lying area.Agricultural runoff has extended the original shoreline, inundating seaside structures. Introductionof variousfish species spawned an active sportfishing industry, but their edibility remains questionablebecause of pollutionfrom pesticides and sewage. Completed in 1940, the All American Canal slips under Interstate8 (above) on its 80-mile journey from the Colorado to the ImperialValley.