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  • Writer's pictureStaci-lee Sherwood

Forest Service plan for Arizona’s Heber wild horses could mean death in 2023

Updated: Jan 16, 2023

By Staci-lee Sherwood

A looming tragedy is about to take place in Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves forest. A a herd of about 400 wild horses, relatively untouched and unspoiled by humans, is facing a death sentence. Nearly all other areas where wild horses had roamed freely for centuries have been destroyed. Despite a landmark law in 1971 that granted wild horses and burros legal protection and freedom from human harassment while living on 50 million acres of public land, they have never been truly protected.

No sooner was the law signed than ranchers, developers and mining interests began to rip it to shreds. Over the years their land has been reduced by nearly half, their population has been drastically reduced and fragmented and the word ‘livestock’ is used to get the public into thinking they’re not native wildlife. Brutal and unnecessary roundups have taken place throughout the plains and western states.

In reality most horses and almost all burros are sold to kill buyers for slaughter, not adopted. All of this is known and actively supported by the Bureau of Land MISmanagement (BLM) despite the billions of taxpayer dollars given to them to insure the animals protection. The BLM’s entire wild horse and burro policy is contrary to US law but neither the Dept of Interior officials nor the Dept of Justice care to investigate.

Forest Service threat

The Heber wild horses in Arizona are managed by the Forest Service (FS), which oddly enough comes under the jurisdiction of the Dept of Agriculture. They have a massive $7,000,000,000 annual budget and their own so called ‘non-profit’ yet can’t manage to keep wildfires at bay or forests healthy and sustainable. Many of their policies run contrary to common sense. They should not be in the business of managing wild horses. Their version of managing mimics that of the BLM, brutal roundups, swift often private auctions for kill buyers then quickly move in the livestock to graze on once healthy land where horses lived.

The FS is part of the USDA, whose only approach to animals is two ways, dead now or dead later. They aren’t in the business of conservation but of slaughter so having any part of their department attempt to manage wild animals makes for a schizophrenic policy at best. USDA is home to Wildlife Services, that agency kills millions of native wild animals, many endangered, annually for the purpose of protecting private ranchers.

According to Christopher Kerin, USDA Wild Horse & Burro Coordinator We use a simultaneous double observer technique that the BLM uses to count horses seen from the air. We do not group horses. Most bands are in smaller groups.” The BLM has a long documented history of inflating population numbers to fit the ranchers overpopulation narrative. Overpopulation has never been independently proven but their lies have. The FS is no better when they copy the BLM. In a 2022 letter from AG Secretary Tom Vilsack the FS claims 700 horses live in the territory based on counts since 2014, click here to read letter

This FS Memorandum 2021 disputes their own claim of 700 horses. It states a count of 378. How can anyone believe anything these people say?

After stalling for years the FS is crafting their Heber Wild Horse Territory management plan, due January 2023. It’s anticipated to call for the removal of nearly all horses. The few remaining will be experimented on with PZP, by non-profits with hefty government contracts. For these groups the payoff is $ not saving horses.

Vultures in wind

The Heber herd has not had their genetic diversity destroyed by using PZP. Almost all the wild horse non-profits promote this misguided lie with wild claims it saves horses. It does not. Those groups get millions of tax dollars to slowly destroy wild horses and will not act in the interest of the Heber herd. Fertility methods of any kind for any excuse will not save them. Under US law the government was directed to protect wild horses not experiment on them. A study of them in the wild is what is needed to protect them. For those not sure who is trying to save wild horses and who only pretends to for donations and govt contracts here a good place to start

Moon deserves a life free of abuse & drugs don’t you agree?

False claims

For decades wild horses were blamed for over grazing and destroying the land. These claims come mostly from ranchers deflecting attention away from who is really doing the damage, their animals. Cows, as sweet as they can look, are not native and not designed to coexist on our land. Unlike wild horses that restore the balance and health of the ecosystem the cows and sheep over graze which; destroys topsoil, leads to/worsen droughts, increase green house gases with their belches, contaminate the water with their waste and crush endangered vegetation as they trample the land. Click here to learn about livestock damage

Making room for livestock is a big reason native, often endangered, wildlife are removed from habitat and killed. There is no legitimate argument for the public to subsidize this private industry. The federal grazing program costs taxpayers millions in a losing program. The insanity of paying to kill native animals in exchange for destructive non native animals shows the absurdity of government policies. It’s time we ended the waste and death that stems from that. Click here to learn the damage livestock grazing does (but wild horses get blamed for)

Both species granted legal protection. Eagles live free from human harassment but wild horses are abused and killed….by the same government.

How YOU can help

The Heber herd is the only herd left that has not been legally rounded up or shot with PZP. The best defense against either of those death sentences is for them to be declared a "Study Herd". See below recommended actions.

Please call the Secretary of Agriculture, TOM VILSACK, at 202-720-3631 and ask he declare the HEBER HERD of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona a “STUDY HERD” for the next 7-10 years as requested by NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES in 1980; (As ordered by Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA) and never carried out by the BLM and FS)

Call (best) or email your Senators and Representatives. ask they appropriate funds to make the Heber herd a “STUDY HERD” for the next 7-10 years.

Talking Points:

*Ask that NO horses be removed until study is completed; *Ask that NO fertility drugs (PZP/GONACON) be implemented on this herd. *As stated in Section 10 of Public Law 92-95 (1971 Act) “The Secretaries are authorized and directed to undertake those studies of the habits of wild free-roaming horses and burros that they may deem necessary in order to carry out the provision of the Act.” *Scientific studies of these horses will show that no disruption of the highly evolved family band structures within the herd allows for the herd to limit their own growth. *If managed as a wildlife species, very few roundups will be necessary in the future. Taxpayers save millions paid to private individuals to hold wild horses off range. Redistribution of those funds can be put back into managing/protecting habitat by removing livestock that destroys the land.

If you have questions please contact:

Robin Crawford or Michelle Anderson

Click here to watch a short video about the herd

Click here to listen to a podcast about them

The Heber herd belongs to ALL Americans!

Please be our voice we have no one else to save us

Also published on Heber wild horses October 14, 2022

Also published on All-creatures October 15, 2022

Also published on Straight from the horse's heart October 15, 2022

Also published on Emagazine October 18, 2022

Also published on The Good Men Project on November 6, 2022

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