Guest article compiled by: “Heber Wild Horses”
“A very interesting and positive sidebar to the release of Wild Horse Freedom Federation‘s informative and timely White Paper coupled with WHFF’s FOIA based “The Truth” series is the information that has flooded in from other volunteer advocates doing their personal parts in attempting to help/aid America’s wild horses and burros. Today’s installment showcases the fact the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does not hold a monopoly on the abuse and mismanagement of our National Icons. Many thanks to the Heber Wild Horse advocate who forwarded this article to us for sharing. If any of our readers have similar stories that they would like to share, please feel free to forward to my attention and we will review for publication. Keep up the great work and continue to endeavor in getting the White Paper and Exhibits before your legislators. Keep the faith my friends.” ~ R.T.
When I first found out a few years ago that Arizona’s Heber Wild Horse Herd was under the U.S. Forest Service I was relieved. I thought, hey, much better than the BLM. Forest Service = Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl … they have to be FOR animals. I could not have been more wrong! My disillusionment with an agency I had always felt a fondness for soon turned into fear for the wild horses my family and I had been observing for a decade. As it turned out, I had a legitimate right to my fear that these beautiful creatures would be rounded up and sent to auction for sale to the highest bidder without limitation. While digging into the history of these wild horses through vast research and filing of FOIA requests my fear was joined by anger. My anger was at the corruption of a federal agency which is mandated to protect these horses according to the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, but was actually behind the illegal captures and removals of the horses.
Part of my discovery included agreements between the Forest Service and public lands ranchers. The agreement (below) is dated 1989. It names the Gentry Allotment which covers nearly half of the dedicated Heber Wild Horse Territory. So obviously the FS was making agreements for ranchers to literally take protected wild horses off of their Territory to be as FS often puts it, “disposed of” and it clearly states they are to be taken to auction by the ranchers! Let it sink in… the Forest Service, in violation of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, paid public lands ranchers to remove protected horses and those horses went to auction.
As was reported in The Pioneer newspaper, “the horses were sold to the slaughterhouse for pennies a pound, much of the horse-meat ending up in restaurants in Europe and Asia” … and they got away with it!
However, the absurdity does not stop there. On the ‘Heber Wild Horse Territory: Frequently Asked Questions’ information page, the Forest Service has the audacity to claim: “Over the next 20 years (after the 1973 establishment of the Heber Wild Horse Territory) the herd size remained very small. The last census of the Territory taken in 1993 found two mares.” This falsely implies the herd died off of natural causes. They conveniently neglect to state that they had been paying ranchers for YEARS to remove wild horses. For the record, the Heber wild horse herd never died off in spite of the efforts of the Forest Service and the public lands ranchers to eliminate them from our public forest land. Not surprisingly, to this day, the FS still maintains that all the wild horses died off and the horses currently in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests are feral trespass.
Regardless of what the Forest Service says…there were wild horses on the land now designated as the Heber Wild Horse Territory and the surrounding forest land when the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRHBA) was passed… and every day since then. Those descendants do come under the protection law today.
Passage of the current draft of the Interior appropriations bill, which includes the Wild Horse and Burro Program, will severely and adversely affect ALL of America’s wild horses in holding or in the wild whether they are under the agency of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). At this time, the Forest Service is in the planning stage of a Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan. The Heber Wild Horse Herd is very much in danger of having a mass reduction leaving a non-viable number of horses with the likelihood of the legally protected Heber Territory wild horses that are removed going to auction and slaughter.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/HeberWildHorses/