Horse News

AZ Congressman requests transparency regarding Heber Wild Horse shootings

by Kim Powell as published on

An Arizona lawmaker met with the U.S. Forest Service and sent them a letter requesting an extensive investigation and transparency with the public regarding the investigation into the shooting deaths of wild horses in Heber.

Last week, 15 horses were found dead in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. At least 12 of them died from gunshot wounds. Last year, at least 11 horses were shot to death in the same area and no arrests were ever made.

“If people are frustrated they should try to find solutions to it other than taking actions like that, it’s inhumane,” said Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran.

O’Halleran said he believes some people are frustrated with the wild horses because they use the water tanks or use resources that other animals in the area also need.

“In the long run it’s still the same– I mean you’re trying to address something from your own perspective and that’s, you know, we have ways of doing this. Just call us up and we’ll say, ‘What’s the issue and how can we help ya?'” said O’Halleran.

O’Halleran said his staff met with the Forest Service about what can be done in the investigation going forward to arrest the offender(s).

“The Forest Service has come up with some other concept and ideas as far as being able to have the authority to conduct forensic analysis of relevant items and evidence,” O’Halleran said. “We can find the bullets and find out which weapons they come from and potentially, in the long run, identify the offender. They’re going to engage law enforcement at a regional level with increased coordination with Navajo and Coconino County. They’re going to increase patrols in the area. They’ve issued a $5,000 reward.”

The congressman also wrote a letter to the Forest Supervisor of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, asking for transparency with the public.

“We need to do more. We need to identify and use science. We need to have much more transparency and cooperation with the local public on either side of this issue,” O’Halleran said.

O’Halleran noted that the shootings seem to be localized to this area of Heber-Overgaard and hopes that someone comes forward with information.

“Whoever’s out there doing this, give me a call and let’s talk. My information is on the web page and, you know, that’s part of why I’m here, to talk to people about what their issues are.”

There will be a community action meeting regarding the horse shootings at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Heber-Overgaard Fire Station.

16 replies »

  1. This is Horrible!!! and for it to keep happening, like there is no one caring or doing anything about it. These Beautiful and wonderful animals are an attraction to Arizona and they are dying at the hand of MAN!!!! Who could it be, certainly there is talk, who likes the horses and who doesn’t. Go From There!!! If it is the BLM let us know. they are doing it all over the country, they mean nothing to them. These animals belong to the people of this country, they are our HISTORY!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • USFS here, not the BLM, though the patterns are the same, in that nobody is ever prosecuted. Even the reward here is far too small, it comes to just under $200 for each of the (known) 26 killed. I doubt anyone would take a risk turning someone in for such small change, especially when whoever is doing this is obviously well armed, and practicing. Anyone who would kill defenseless innocent animals like this is a threat to people, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very very sad state. I will bet my life NO one will ever be found! People like the BLM, the Forest Service, some locals who perceive the Wild Horses and BURROS as pests and those interested in destroying the environment want to see them gone!NO one goes to Arizona or Nevada to see thousands of head of cattle and livestock. When I was in Nevada I wanted to see Wild Horses and BURROS! These people killing them are very sick! You need an active community out reach! Surveillance around the clock! I don’t care how much they offer NO ONE is going to come forward! They.are cowards and poachers doing someone elses us bidding. What is happening to our country? We have an Administration that supports this action. They promote.taking things into their own hands! Good luck because unless they are protected all over the West it.will continue to happen. Maybe it’s time WE, the Advocates, start taking things in our hands because nothing else sure has helped! Very sad because so many of us love them. And yet we.still can’t keep them safe from so many totally sick human beings!

    Liked by 1 person


    Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance
    December 29, 2018

    I would also like to add that there was only one wild horse advocate on the Heber Wild Horse Territory working group who actually had knowledge of the Heber wild horses and the forest where they live. She was our group’s representative, Mary Hauser. She was terminated from the working group via phone message by Convener: AZ State University Michael Schoon, Assistant Professor. He said it was their opinion that she had “not been working in the spirit of the Collaboration”. It is our belief that she was fired for not going along with much of what was being recommended by the working group, including their recommendation to cull the herd.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Did she ever come forward and tell why she was fired? This makes me sick, the Wild Horses all over our country are being killed by they don’t know whom, BLM MUST be Investigated before they are all gone, They are being murdered, attacked, and in Az it is not for the land to the ranchers to graze on so someone wants them gone because they are pests. Shame!!!!


    The Deck is Stacked Against the Heber Wild Horses

    The Heber Wild Horse Territory Collaborative Working Group Terminated Me Via Voicemail.

    My Public Response by Mary Hauser

    The reason I am writing a public response following my termination by the Heber Wild Horse Territory Collaboration Working Group is not to defend myself in the public’s eye. It is because I have seen the inside workings of this group and I am terrified as to what is being planned for the Heber Wild Horse Herd and I think the public has a right to know.
    In Mike Schoon’s voicemail he said, “In our opinion you have not been working in the spirit of the Collaboration.” He never said what that “spirit” was, so I’m left to draw my own opinion. My opinion is because I would not conform to what I believe to have been their preset agenda for their ultimate management plan which will decimate the herd and send more than 3/4 of the Heber herd to a fate unknown.

    As excited as I was to join the Collaborative Group and represent the Heber Wild Horses and their Territory, I am just as disappointed to see how it was orchestrated and carried out over the last twelve months. Arizona State University along with Southwest Decision Resources was contracted and paid to administrate the working group. The initial problem I had was for a meeting of this magnitude where in attendance we had the Forest Service, BLM, and Arizona Game and Fish officials as well as, cattle grazing permittees, and other interested parties involved and yet no official minutes were ever taken at any of these meetings.

    I repeatedly asked for minutes to be taken during the first three meetings so that meetings could be reviewed. This would have been a nice paper trail for someone who would have wanted to know who made comments and who is in favor and who is not. There are very important decisions being made during these meetings and people should be held accountable for their decisions. I was told they were not taking minutes because they were not necessary. ASU answers…Someone would take Notes.

    Originally I felt my contributions to the group would be to support and protect the herd with my long term observations and studies of the herd, individual workings of the bands, and my knowledge of the forest. However, I realized I was being forced out of my role as a contributor and into the role of a quiet observer of a well orchestrated screenplay of a management plan for the Heber Wild Horse Territory. I believe this was plan which appeared to have already been devised and laid out prior to the first meeting of the Collaborative Group.
    The reason this became so obvious is that members of the Collaborative Group openly admitted to me at the onset of these meetings that they did not have much, if any knowledge of the Sitgreaves National Forest. Many, including some of the Forest Service personnel, had never even been out into the forest until a field trip with this group.

    The next startling obvious change occurred when people who had never owned a horse or had very limited to no experience with the Heber Wild Horses were suddenly full of knowledge. Those same people now were full of suggestions about the logistics of gathering, monitoring, tagging, placing tracking collars, and darting birth control. They also took active roles in decisions on how many horses would be left on the land without education or concern of genetics or viable herd numbers.

    Their sudden knowledge gave me the impression that they had been hired as actors (without pay) and apparently given scripts to drive the direction of these meetings that were already planned out. The meetings moved swiftly to follow the path of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recommendations and the activities that BLM currently engages across our nation.
    It also became obvious within the first three meetings that there was no education of the day to day life of the Heber wild horses. When I attempted to educate, defend or make a point in support of the Heber Wild Horses it was ignored. Sometimes I would receive a follow-up phone call from one of the ASU members, Michael Schoon, to ‘correct’ me and advise me on what I could, should or should not say during the meetings. Meanwhile it appeared others had freedom of speech.

    Early on the BLM took the lead of this Collaborative Group even though these horses are not on BLM land. The BLM agent controlled the direction of how things were going to be carried out. The Forest Service employees to this point made very few comments even though they are charged with the management of these horses. Per the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 the Forest Service has the responsibility to designate Wild Horse Territories and implement management plans for those Territories. Through the years the Forest Service had failed to devise a plan to manage the Heber Wild Horse Territory, so it’s not surprising that they have passed their responsibility off to the BLM which has had years of experience stripping the American West of wild horses.

    We have to make it clear that there is nobody left on the working group panel who is truly an advocate for the horses. We know it by their own words…one of the so called advocates suggested “euthanasia” as a way to cull the herd. We know it by their actions…the Forest Service illegally contracted with ranchers in the 1980s and 1990s to capture and remove free-roaming horses without ever having a management plan. Then again in 2005 they announced they were going to remove free-roaming horses until a court injunction prevented them from doing so. We know it by their inaction…a working group member turned her back on the wild horses for approximately three weeks in an area she was assigned by Forest Service to deliver water to during the drought.

    Over the course of the meetings their lack of professionalism was displayed as shown here in their final voicemail termination. This came as no surprise because they knew I would NEVER accept their plan to manage the Heber Wild Horse Herd into extinction.

    To the Forest Service: This is notice to insure that my name is NOT to appear on any documentation connected with the Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan.

    Turn on your volume to hear the video (video posted on original article comment)…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Those horses and that forest belong to every American but some of the people up there think they are entitled to that land and everything that happens on it. Same stuff that is happening wherever there are still any wild horses and burros left. The Heber wild horses are on a protected wild horses territory. This is comparable to a BLM Herd Area and come under the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro congressional United States law and are to be PROTECTED.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Someone please post the names and contract info for everyone on this sham of a committee so we can burn up the phone lines as well as report this fiasco to Congress and Senate. These people need to be exposed ands held accountable!!!!


    • Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance
      December 29, 2018


      • Ole Alcumbrac – Veterinarian
      • Bryan Cook – Local government
      • Soleil Dolce – Equine Rescue
      • Ethan Ellsworth – Rancher
      • John Hall BLM – AZ Wild Horse and Burro Lead
      • Rodney Porter – Rancher
      • Barb Rassmussen – Wild horse advocate
      • George Ruyle – Academic
      • Bruce Sitko Citizen – unaffiliated
      • Vashti “Tice” Supplee – Wildlife management
      • Bob Vahle – Wildlife management
      • Walter “Chip” Wilson – Equestrian recreation

      USDA Forest Service observers
      • Stephen Best – Apache-Sitgreaves NFs
      • David Evans – Apache-Sitgreaves NFs
      • Tolani Francisco – USDA Forest Service – Region 3
      • Teresa Gallagher – Apache-Sitgreaves NFs
      • Wendy Jo Haskins – Apache-Sitgreaves NFs
      • Steven Johnson Apache – Sitgreaves NFs
      • Richard Madril Apache – Sitgreaves NFs
      • Nancy Walls Apache – Sitgreaves NFs

      Cooperating Agency observers
      • Bob Birkeland – AZ Game and Fish Department
      • Jacqueline Hughes – AZ Department of Agriculture
      • Chris McCormack – AZ Department of Agriculture
      • Leatta McLaughlin – AZ Department of Agriculture

      ASU/SDR convening and facilitation team
      • Julie Murphree – Arizona State University
      • Michael Schoon – Arizona State University
      • Carrie Eberly – Southwest Decision Resources
      • Larry Fisher – Southwest Decision Resources
      • Abby Fullem – Southwest Decision Resources
      • Andi Rogers – Southwest Decision Resources

      11 Note that this list represents only those participants who attended a majority of WG meetings and Task Group discussions. It is not all-inclusive, as some participants attended only a few of the meetings. This list should also not in any way be construed as indicating support for WG recommendations.

      It’s interesting that the USDA Forest Service people are referred to as “observers” when the US Forest Service is listed as a Project Partner.

      Heber Wild Horse Territory Resource Management Planning

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well they know who’s killing these poor horses they just don’t want to ruffle any feathers. They have video of a shooter from a photographer that almost got shot. There was visible license plate & all, but no one did a thing. No one is really investigating!

    Liked by 1 person

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