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:
Neil Bosworth – Supervisor for the Tonto National Forest – 602-225-5200 – firstname.lastname@example.org 2324 E. McDowell Rd. – Phoenix, AZ 85006
Clay Templin – Forest Fire Chief/Fire Staff Officer – Region 3 Southwestern (AZ/NM) – 602-225-5220 – email@example.com 2324 E. McDowell Rd. – Phoenix, AZ 85006
Gary Hanna– District Ranger – Region 3 Southwestern (AZ/NM – 480-610-3301– firstname.lastname@example.org 5140 E. Ingram St. – Mesa, AZ – 85205
President Obama – 202-456-1111 @POTUS
Vice President Joe Biden – 202-456-1111 @JoeBiden
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