Horse News

Federal officials, horse advocates disagree over wild status for Heber herd

Source: Multiple

“That’s an animal that’s part of Arizona history,”

Heber Horses ~ photo by Tom Tingle

Heber Horses ~ photo by Tom Tingle

HEBER, Arizona — Residents in the eastern Arizona town of Heber are in disagreement with federal officials over whether free-roaming horses that have become part of the local landscape deserve to remain free.

The U.S Forest Service believes most of the horses trotting around on the public land are actually lost or abandoned. But supporters, including an Arizona congressman, say the horses were born in the wild and should be allowed to stay there as federally protected symbols of the West.

Federal officials said in an email statement earlier this month that the agency is developing a management plan that would not be completed until 2016, the Arizona Republic reported ( ).

Horse advocates and residents in the surrounding Navajo County communities on the Mogollon Rim say they still fear a roundup could happen at any time.

The “Heber horses” are considered part of the Heber Wild Horse Territory, which consists of 20,000 acres in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. The territory came about after the passing in 1971 of the federal Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burro Act. The measure was designed to protect animals from sale and slaughter by hunters and ranchers. According to Forest Service officials, it’s unlikely that the original herd still exists. The protection would only be for those original wild horses and their descendants — not strays, officials said.

Horses that are not legally “wild” could be “subject to impoundment,” the Forest Service said in a statement. In 2005, the agency tried to round up 120 horses but activists initiated action in court. A 2007 settlement called for a management plan with public input for the Heber territory.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva has been an advocate for preserving the horses. He said they should be considered a public asset and he plans to monitor management plans.

It’s unclear the affect so many horses have on the land. But many residents think there is no harm in loosening the reins when there appears to be more than enough open space.

“It’s like taking a drop of water out of a 5-gallon bucket,” said Robert Hutchison, who has lived in nearby Overgaard for nearly 25 years.

Donna Doss, who lives in Overgaard and runs an outdoors shop, said she remembers seeing horses in Heber and the surrounding area when she went on hunting trips as a kid.

“That’s an animal that’s part of Arizona history,” said Doss, 70. “I go out once a week to see them and the beauty of the freedom of them.”

15 replies »

  1. Why does the USFS want to get rid of these wild horses ? Are cattle there like they are in many of our national forests as well as mining, fracking etc. all of which are very destructive..


  2. In southern Colorado the Dept of Defense has made a request of the BLM to use much of our public land there for international ‘training’ purposes. And they are trying to enlarge the current Pinon Canyon Manuever Site by 418,000 acres. Most of the SE corner of Colo. would be in use by them. Could this possibly be what they are trying to do in other areas? There have been so many underhanded and subversive things done to attain their goal that it makes me wonder if they could be involved in this national plot to get rid of our wild Ones. Just a thought, we all know there is a reason…Question is WHY. Why in every part of this country are the wild horses under attack? There has to be a common purpose behind it all.


  3. No! Why are the residents AFRIAD of their government! The corruption and lies have GOT to stop. Demand the employees working on this so-called management plan be removed. If the threat is made through careless wording, lack of effective commiunication – there is no reason to put up with it. I am fed up to HERE with the smoozing and back office dealings, causing fear and uncertainty. So-called advocates are a part of this problem also. Fundraising to “fightl the mysterious government go on constantly doing nothing effectve but taking your dollar and riding high. Get smart.


  4. How do they know they are not descendants of the original herd? Did they take DNA tests of the horses back in the 50’s? Ignorant reasoning on the part of the forest service.


  5. Kudos to these people. They need to tell the forest service to take a hike. I’m glad to see that something good may be in the making….especially that they recognize the horses as an asset unlike the welfare ranchers……


  6. I would like to know how the Forest Service “knows” that these horses are not the original wild ones! Obviously, they, just like the BLM, don’t do the scientific thing, and actually test the DNA – nor did they do that back in the 50s! Back then, it was round them up & sell them for dog food. I do hope the wild horse advocates can get a better outcome for these horses. There are so many that have been taken and never seen again.


  7. Is the USFS interpreting the 1971 Congressional WH&B law to mean that ONLY the original wild horses alive on that date were to be protected? If so then was our country founded for ONLY the Americans that were alive in 1776?




  9. I do not have the link committed to memory, but a recent article on scientists studying DNA comparing ancient and modern DNA of Equus caballus discovered that unlike dogs horses have undergone domestication at least 18 different times and places. Although the politicalization of the origin or the horse makes it almost impossible for scientists to study this in N. America, it is possible that early domestication for agricultural purposes may have occurred here in the early Holocene.

    In translational medicine where the horse genome and human genome are studied–compared and contrasted for the purpose of improving the health of both, Przewalski’s horse is listed as a member of E. caballus. Przewalski’s horse shares the same 100,000 species specific traits that all members of the species do. I would think that geneticists might have a little more information on hand to use than the Forest Service—the same USDA that used a link to Massey University in New Zealand for its listing of the horse as an invasive species (but the listing at Massey says it is for New Zealand only) while the USDA page does not. This is the site that the link was broken on for over a year.

    FS, WS, APHIS, FWS, NPS, BLM have tried very hard to make this FWS, IUCN, TNC policy funded with millions of international dollars appear to be science, but this is not science, and the effort that has gone into trying to deceive the people is referred to as fraud. They do not have a source. The burden should be on the forest service to prove that the horses were turned loose, not the citizens who want the horses to remain there. Our federal agencies have proven that we cannot trust them. We cannot trust their science. We cannot trust their intent to follow the laws that Congress passed, and worst of all, we cannot trust the policy makers that claim to use science or call themselves experts because they have been falsifying information since 1973. I hope that Rep. G. has the wisdom and the courage to do what needs to be done. He fights a precedent a former elected and appointed official from Arizona helped to get put into policy when he appointed members of 30 non-governmental citizen advisory council to the National Invasive Species Council in 1999–although their work did not get finished until 2001.


    • Correct! This here is a masterpiece, hoofhugs. And I thank you.

      A recent request for clarification of documentation on a recent nuisance capture produced two emails from 2010-2011, one from 2007, plus a from 2010 reporting a horse by the road. That was the proof of nuisance in late 2014


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