Hundreds Rally to Save Arizona’s Salt River Wild Horses


by Elizabeth Stuart


Wild horses hovered nearby during a rally Tuesday protesting the federal government’s plans to round up and remove a well-loved herd from Tonto National Forest.  (photos by Elizabeth Stuart)

The sun is slipping down in the sky on a 112-degree day in Tonto National Forest, casting long shadows over a small herd of horses. A dappled gray, a bay, a dun, and a knock-kneed colt with a star on her forehead snuffle through the underbrush, enjoying dinner to the sounds of chirping birds, buzzing bees, and several hundred people shouting: “Let them be! Wild and Free! Let them be! Wild and Free!”

The crowd gathered Tuesday at a recreation area near the Salt River, where between 65 and 100 such horses roam free, to protest the government’s plan to round them up and remove them from federal lands. Horses that are not claimed by Friday, the Forest Service announced last week, will be impounded, put up for sale, or “condemned or destroyed.”

“We are outraged,” Simone Netherlands, president of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, told demonstrators. “A roundup is not needed. It is not wanted, and we will not stand for it.”


At the heart of the fight is the horses’ origin, which has been hotly contested for at least a decade.

The Forest Service claims the horses are the descendants of domesticated livestock that wandered from the nearby Salt River and Fort McDowell Indian Reservations.

But advocates argue that the wild beasts trace their lineage back to the 17th century, when Spanish missionary Eusebio Kino is believed to have brought the first horses to the area. As such, Netherlands said, they should be protected under the federal Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which declares wild horses “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West” and protects them from “capture, branding, harassment, or death.”

When the act was passed, the Bureau of Land Management conducted a survey of the nation’s free-roaming horse population and identified about 31 million acres of land as “herd management areas.” Now, the agency protects and controls about 47,329 horses residing in these fields, including about 300 in Arizona.


Thanks also to wild horse advocate Jill Irvin and ISPMB for posting the following information on ways you can help save the Salt River wild horses:

You Can Help Us Stop This Unnecessary Round-up!

 Reach out via email, twitter, mail or telephone to the below contacts and let them know:

  • The Salt River wild horses MUST to be protected under the 1971 Act.
  • The roundup MUST be stopped.
  • The Forest Service (FS) MUST develop a management plan.
  • Insist that the FS be accountable for the promise they made in 2012 to develop a formalized management plan. A plan they were to model based upon the success of the Salt River Pima Indian Community’s wild horse management program. See FS promise.
  • Remind them that since 1971, nearly half of all wild horses and burros in our country have been removed.
  • It time for America to take a stand against these ever growing and unwarranted round ups.

Neil Bosworth – Supervisor for the Tonto National Forest – 602-225-5200 – 2324 E. McDowell Rd. – Phoenix, AZ 85006

Clay Templin – Forest Fire Chief/Fire Staff Officer – Region 3 Southwestern (AZ/NM) –  2324 E. McDowell Rd. – Phoenix, AZ  85006

Gary Hanna– District Ranger – Region 3 Southwestern (AZ/NM –  5140 E. Ingram St. – Mesa, AZ – 85205

President Obama – 202-456-1111 @POTUS

Vice President Joe Biden – 202-456-1111 @JoeBiden

Follow Us On Facebook:

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For updates visit our website:


Take a stand for our Salt River wild horses.

Support Our Efforts


    • It could be that someone else was on the line at the time. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a lot of people calling them. You should try again several times.


  1. Thank you for sharing this! Just like our victory in Fish Creek, we can save the Mustangs of Salt Lake. Every time “We the People” stand up, the government has to listen. However, we must continue to stand together and have faith that these beautiful animals can be saved. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV).


  2. They have been there for years an yes they do have spanish bloodline. please leave them alone. herds can be controlled with zpz. What i want to know is why the Forrest service wants to have a reputation of killing .am saddened you won’t work with the puplic to save these beautiful horses.


  3. Thank you, RT!

    Calling those numbers is very important! The people taking the calls are very nice, so we need to be, too. Governor’s office said 99% of calls are for saving horses. The whole things is trending on Fb. Horsetalk in New Zealand just did a nice article for us. This thing is getting traction! (Who ever thought that we would all be trying to get wild horses INTO BLM’s hands!)

    I have created an archive file of all the articles, reports, etc on this issue so far. If anyone sees a new (after Aug 4) article or report, please do send it to me (Elaine Nash) at, and I’ll add it to the archive. May be very useful as we fight this battle. Thanks!


  4. Looking at the Forest Service’s own description of the forage & soil – they describe almost ALL of the areas as “very poor”, “poor”, or in a few cases “fair”. The cattle were pulled out of there in 2002 – because of drought??? In 2002? How about because the grazing had pretty much devastated the whole allotment! Hope this whole mess is nipped in the bud. Certainly doesn’t sound like the Pima-Maricopa Indian Community was fore-warned about this!


  5. It isn’t only the horses. The cattlemen want native species eliminated too. This is quite a snow job! I wonder how much the BIG BEEF lobbies paid to have this happen and how much the agencies are getting paid by the cattlemen. What a croc!


  6. I left a message for the gov to please be a hero and support saving our salt river horses and keep them where they are .,they are a major tourist attraction as well as local love for what they represent . I have enjoyed the sight of them for 40 yrs


  7. I am praying and have commented more than once regarding the plight of all of our wild horses in all states. These are OUR national treasurers and part of OUR heritage of our nation and particularly the nations of our Native Americans. They do NOT belong to the BLM or USFS. They belong to the PEOPLE, not the government or its agencies or employees thereof. And they do not belong to big oil or big ranchers who already are grazing cattle on lands that ALL OF US own. Not just them. And they pay little or no “rent” on those grasslands. This is coming from someone who was in the cattle business for many years and never once asked for government help or asked to graze public lands or asked that the wildlife be removed from my lands. Horses and cattle, as well as a few goats, survived well together and with the wildlife. And none competed with the others.

    There is absolutely no reason to remove any of the wild herds and the only reason this is happening is greed and evil people in high places. The ranges the wild horses survive on do not provide good forage for cattle. And even in the areas the ranges are a little better, the horses still do not compete as they will eat what cattle won’t. I have said often that the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave is no longer a motto of this nation. The horses epitomize and should remain on the Land of the Free as they are brave in their natural home. A home that they have utilized well for 500 years. And because they keep moving, they do not overgraze or compact the soil.

    Stop these illegal roundups and return those in holding pens back to their lands. They will take care of themselves as they have for many generations. These horses have adapted to less than desirable conditions. These horses are good minded horses. Have much better abilities than those that have been bred by man in this country. They have survived and should be allowed to survive through all time!


  8. For those of you that are in control of the Federal SERVICES that want to remove the wild horses at Salt River AZ, PLEASE reevaluate what you are doing these Wild horses along the Salt River need to remain there as they have all these years.
    There are no valid reasons to move them.
    It would be just as easy to move those horses to the Indian Reservation where they would be safe. Or place a fence where the tourists or locals and our children will be safe.
    The horses have survived there with water and food for thousands of years so please leave them to take care of their own.
    We have lost thousands and thousands of Wild horses and burros to you and the BLM.

    Thank you
    Julie Michael


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