Horse News

March deadline for public comment on the fate of Heber Wild Horses

Source: ABC15.com

March 16 is the deadline for public comment on the fate of the Heber Wild Horses

Last week, the Forest Service released its proposed management plan for the Heber Wild Horse Territory.

Heber Horses ~ photo by Tom Tingle

It includes plans to limit the horses’ range to 21 square miles. The surrounding Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest covers more than 43 thousand square miles of public land.

Horse advocates say existing fencing prevents many of the horses from even accessing the designated territory. The Forest Service also intends to remove most of the horses from the area. They estimate there are currently between 292 and 471 horses.

The goal of the Forest Service is to limit the number of horses to 50 to 104. Critics say that would not allow for enough genetic diversity in the bands, or families, ultimately leading to the loss of all wild horses in that area.

The agency also maintains the horses are feral animals that came from nearby tribal land following the Rodeo Chediski Fire in 2002. Advocates for the horses say the herd dates back to the battles between Native Americans and early settlers.

The forest service has been fighting to have the horses removed since 2005, but has been under a court order prohibiting that until a management plan was completed.

That plan was released to the public February 14, 2020. By law, the agency must accept public comment until March 16, 2020.

The complete report and the public comment form can be found on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest website.

20 replies »

  1. SCOPING is very important. Federal agencies are required to go through a public SCOPING process in order to determine the scope of issues that should be addressed in the upcoming environmental Assessment (EA).
    It’s up to you and me to tell the agencies what we want included – and why. Topics left out of the scope of review won’t be studied, so include everything that you want to see covered in the EA. Be specific by stating the impacts you want studied. For example: “Please study the impacts of …” or “I require the EA include detailed information about …”
    Discuss the alternatives you want the EA to consider, including (a) no action alternative (b) the proposal with mitigation, and (c) other reasonable courses of action.
    REMEMBER: You don’t have to do the analysis for the agency. At the scoping stage, you just need to identify the issues and potential impacts that must be analyzed. You should also submit any research or supporting documentation that is relevant to assessing the significance of the project’s potential impacts. The agency is obligated to consider this material when drafting the EA.

    Click to access HOW_TO_WRITE_SCOPING_COMMENTS.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

    • One thought that should be addressed is the concentration of wild horses into such a small area will also thereby concentrate all the tourist traffic from those who want to see them. What kind of public access will be available, and in what seasons? If hundreds of people drive out to see these horses, where do they park, are there restrooms, where can they camp, what are the search and rescue services available, and would there be any fee to access this small wild horse area — and is that any different level of public accountability than already exists.

      There will of course be numerous impact and access questions which must be addressed in the scoping process.

      Liked by 1 person

      • This territory is not new and is a small piece of a gigantic Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. These wild horses have always come under the 1971 ACT but the USFS never had a written plan as is required before actions/removals can proceed. Instead, history shows us that these wild horses were often shot (historically and currently). This scoping is the beginning of a written plan with an EA to follow. For more information please go to the Heber Wild Horse facebook page.

        Like

      • GG, I understood this proposed action to be reducing the area to 21 square miles, rather than the wider area they now inhabit. My comment just pointed out that this concentration will also concentrate the actions of those who wish to see them, so this should be a factor in the scoping process.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This claim that the horses dispersed into the area from the reservation doesn’t mean they aren’t wild horses or that they aren’t native species. Reservation horses are possibly domesticated, some at least, but native americans have rounded up wild horses since before Europeons invaded America.
    The Forest Service and locals in the area like to refer to these horses as feral. This definitely doesn’t exclude them from being protected under the 1971 wild and free roaming horses and burros act.
    We all know that each year there are foals born within the HMA. They are wild horses that belong to the HMA, irregardless of whether or not their herd originated from a boundary outside the lines drawn by the BLM or Forest Service. These are unbranded Arizona wild horses that should be preserved, protected and left to thrive.

    This proposal is no different from others put out by the BLM and Forest Service. It talks about multiple uses,( there are 2 cattle grazing permits within the HMA, and the shooter still hasn’t been busted), there are blinders on when it comes to looking at ecology and damage caused by livestock. Within the proposal there are methods used to determine populations of wild horses. In 3 days flying over and counting they estimate and then double the count. From that, they assess how many should be removed to reach their proposed AML of 50-104 horses. How many are there? We know that in the last couple of years 26 (that we know of) have been shot! That’s the locals who call them feral because the Forest Service calls them feral, taking managment into their own hands. I wonder about the 2 grazing permit holders, what do they want to do with the horses?

    So we can’t trust the Forest Service to proceed without commenting. If you don’t comment by the March 16 deadline, you will be excluded from any later action. So follow the link, read the documents and comment. The Heber wild horses ARE Heber wild horses, no matter how the Forest Service spins it!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. FENCES ON PUBLIC LAND

    “We fenced them. They can’t roam three hundred miles to meet environmental challenges like drought, or bad winters. They’re trapped. I watched one half of the Pryor Mountain herd die in 1977 four hundred yards from where they could have survived. But, they couldn’t get there because of the fence.”
    Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick
    http://wyomingpublicmedia.org/post/groups-worry-about-blm-pryor-mountain-wild-horse-planF

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Remove the welfare ranchers and their livestock. Horses do not impact the environment in the ways cattle and sheep do. Mustangs are the symbol of the American West. The 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act was supposed to protect them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The Forest Service wants to cull the Heber herd down to a genetically non viable population. Please speak out for them!
    Some Talking Point suggestions for your Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan draft comments:

    It’s in the name… Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 – Require the FS to take a good hard look at all the internal cattle pasture fences and how the fences affect the ability of the horses to migrate for forage and water and to intermingle with each other. The internal fences give principle use to livestock when wild horses are to have principle use. Enlarging some gates and leaving them open at certain times does not allow for the free roaming of wild horses. The drought of 2018 is a perfect example of what can go wrong due to the fences having prevented bands of wild horses from accessing water.

    The FS states “Unmanaged horses increase in population rapidly”. Require the census numbers from 2005 to the present day that substantiates their claim that the Heber herd population has grown rapidly. Require factual herd population numbers and proof as in photos and other documentation since 2005 to the present day.

    Require the Forest Service to provide scientific data that shows there is an overpopulation of horses in the Heber herd. They have provided no scientific data only an arbitrary and capricious appropriate management level (AML) of 50-104 horses. Keep in mind that if they put forth this plan they will aim to cull way below their upper limit of 104 horses. Even 104 horses is well below genetic viability of a wild horse herd. Make no mistake, this is a plan for the extinction of the Heber herd.

    Require hard data that shows water and forage consumption of every grazing species in the forest both domestic and wild. Considering usage of only one species does not provide the scientific data to determine an appropriate population of any species in that area.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. See AUSTRALIA follows blindly anything the USA does… even our beloved Brumbies are the animals causing all the damage to the environment with their hard hooves and are not native to our country so they must be culled… Strange but not the thousands of cattle that roam the High Country on Mt Kosciusko National Park which are also not native and have hard hooves? Just bloody gut wrenching to read both these articles in my emails tonight.

    https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/thousands-feral-horses-be-removed-after-australian-wildfires?utm_source=Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=106eee8b96-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_FRI0221_2020&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fcbff2e256-106eee8b96-40120585

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s extremely reprehensible how these people are acting towards the wild horses of the Heber Territory! We must stop 🛑 this nefarious and outrageously unjust and narrow minded plan! I urge all of you to submit the very best protest that you can. We must stand up and fight for these wonderful presences and their rights to viably sized habitat and population numbers— and to natural unfenced freedom! God grant us the wisdom and the courage and the strength to overcome these nefarious plans

    Liked by 1 person

  8. All the abuse of our Wild Horses is on the shoulders of the cattlemen & ranchers! They are so $$ hungry and want to sell their cattle over seas for more profit they want our horses gone & they don’t care how. It is past time they were stopped! We need to STOP subsidizing them !! Then maybe they’ll think differently. We will refuse to treat them like a welfare group because they are NOT!! Our taxes can go to much better use some where else. They don’t need it that’s for sure. The Forest Service is never going to look to them for killing of our horses either! They will just let it continue.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I submitted my comment. See below. I’ve included some talking points from others as well.

    This claim that the horses dispersed into the area from the reservation doesn’t mean they aren’t wild horses or that they aren’t native species. Reservation horses are possibly domesticated, some at least, but native americans have rounded up wild horses since before Europeons invaded America.
    The Forest Service and locals in the area like to refer to these horses as feral. This definitely doesn’t exclude them from being protected under the 1971 wild and free roaming horses and burros act.
    We all know that each year there are foals born within the HMA. They are wild horses that belong to the HMA, irregardless of whether or not their herd originated from a boundary outside the lines drawn by the BLM or Forest Service. These are unbranded Arizona wild horses that should be preserved, protected and left to thrive.

    This proposal is no different from others put out by the BLM and Forest Service. It talks about multiple uses,( there are 2 cattle grazing permits within the HMA, and the shooter still hasn’t been busted), there are blinders on when it comes to looking at ecology and damage caused by livestock. Within the proposal there are methods used to determine populations of wild horses. In 3 days flying over and counting they estimate and then double the count. From that, they assess how many should be removed to reach their proposed AML of 50-104 horses. How many are there? We know that in the last couple of years 26 (that we know of) have been shot! That’s the locals who call them feral because the Forest Service calls them feral, taking managment into their own hands. I wonder about the 2 grazing permit holders, what do they want to do with the horses?

    The Heber wild horses ARE Heber wild horses, no matter how the Forest Service spins it!
    It’s in the name… Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 – Require the FS to take a good hard look at all the internal cattle pasture fences and how the fences affect the ability of the horses to migrate for forage and water and to intermingle with each other. The internal fences give principle use to livestock when wild horses are to have principle use. Enlarging some gates and leaving them open at certain times does not allow for the free roaming of wild horses. The drought of 2018 is a perfect example of what can go wrong due to the fences having prevented bands of wild horses from accessing water.

    The FS states “Unmanaged horses increase in population rapidly”. Require the census numbers from 2005 to the present day that substantiates their claim that the Heber herd population has grown rapidly. Require factual herd population numbers and proof as in photos and other documentation since 2005 to the present day.

    Require the Forest Service to provide scientific data that shows there is an overpopulation of horses in the Heber herd. They have provided no scientific data only an arbitrary and capricious appropriate management level (AML) of 50-104 horses. Keep in mind that if they put forth this plan they will aim to cull way below their upper limit of 104 horses. Even 104 horses is well below genetic viability of a wild horse herd. Make no mistake, this is a plan for the extinction of the Heber herd.

    Require hard data that shows water and forage consumption of every grazing species in the forest both domestic and wild. Considering usage of only one species does not provide the scientific data to determine an appropriate population of any species in that area.

    I have no doubt about why the Forest Service is planning on removing these horses. I am adamantly opposed to this plan. I specified what should be done at a minimum. Wild horses in the United States belong to the people, not the locals, the other users of the land and not the Forest Service or BLM. The Forest Service and BLM are tasked to protect them and they do not fall into the least important slot on the priority list. I suggest you do the right thing and removal and reduction of the area they are allowed is not right!

    We all know that cattle and sheep do more damage, eat more and drink more. Removing the wild horses will do absolutely nothing to fix the problem.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. ome Heber History

    2015

    Re: Notice of Appeal: Land Management Plan for the Apache-Sitgreaves
    National Forests

    REASONS FOR THE APPEAL 1. THE LAND MANAGEMENT PLAN FAILS TO RECOGNIZE THE HISTORIC AND CONTEMPORARY PRESENCE OF THE WILD HORSES.
    Acknowledged historians for the Heber Wild Horse Territory (the “Territory”) trace the history of the wild horses directly back to the journeys of the Jesuit Priest, Father Eusebio Kino, in his explorations of the area for new mission sites during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. See Jinx Pyle, Narrative of History of Wild Horses on the Mogollon Rim (Aug. 2005), attached hereto as Exhibit 5. Books on the area, including the famous account of the Hashknife Ranch by Stella Hughes, verify the continued existence of the horses on the Rim and of their great value to the ranchers who often caught a few and made them prized ranch horses. See Stella Hughes, Hashknife Cowboy: Recollections of Mack Hughes (1996), attached hereto as Exhibit 6; see also Joan Baeza, Horses of Arizona, 2 Arizona Highways 65 (Feb. 1988), attached hereto as Exhibit 7; Bob Thomas, The Astonishing Double Life of Frontier Rancher Cecil Creswell, 71 Arizona Highways 10 (Oct. 1995), attached hereto as Exhibit 8; The Holbrook Argus, Vol. XII No. 26 (Oct. 1, 1907), attached hereto as Exhibit 9; Will C. Barnes, University of Arizona Bulletin, Vol., VI, No. 1, General Bulletin No. 2 Arizona Place Names (Jan. 1, 1935) (excerpt) (“Bronco Mountain”), (“Dry Lake”), (“Wild Horse Lake”), attached hereto as Exhibit 10. Spanish horse experts, who have visited the area, verify the remarkable resemblance of many of the herds to the Andalusian, the Spanish Barb, and the Spanish Colonial horse, ridden by Spanish soldiers who visited the area with Jesuit priests, explorers and settlers. See Jinx Pyle, Narrative of History of Wild Horses on the Mogollon Rim (Aug. 2005), Exhibit 5. The Plan sets out the roles and contributions of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. In that section of the Plan, the USFS provides an overview of distinct characteristics of the National Forests and the diverse ecosystem within it. It pays respect to various wildlife species ranging from the Springerville pocket mouse to the Mexican gray wolf, yet gives no deference to the wild horses as symbols of the West. See Plan at pp. 11-12. This is a foreshadowing of the minimization throughout the Plan of the Territory and of the wild horses. The USFS has historically concocted reasons to diminish the existence and importance of the wild horses and the Territory. For one, it has made an (erroneous) assumption that the wild horses present in the Territory before the Rodeo-Chediski Fire originated from the Fort Apache Indian Reservation or were abandoned. This assumption is contradicted by local accounts

    Click to access fseprd487591.pdf

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Heber History

    Local families remember wild horses in the area from the 1930s to the present. See Letter to Zieroth, dated August 25, 2005, attached hereto as Exhibit 11; see also Affidavits of various Heber area residents (conclusively demonstrating the historic presence of the unbranded, unclaimed (wild) horses on public lands associated with the Apache-Sitgreaves Forests for well over 30 years prior to the Rodeo-Chediski fire), attached hereto as Exhibit 12; see also Photographs of horses in the area taken in the fall of 2006 (conclusively showing the lack of any branding), attached hereto as Exhibit 13. Additionally, wild horse behavior expert Mary Ann Simonds has opined that the horses have inhabited the Mogollon Rim where the Territory is located since at least the early 1900s and most likely since 1699. See Mary Ann Simonds, Determination of Whether Horses Inhabiting the USFS Heber Wild Horse Territory are “Wild Free-Roaming Horses”, dated March 5, 2007, at 8, attached hereto as Exhibit 14. Simonds concluded, among other things, that:  At least two or more distinct bands of wild horses exist in the Territory.  One group, with a dominant buckskin stallion, numbered from 15-30 horses.  Another group, with a dominant black/bay stallion, numbered approximately 15- 30 horses.  Field observations from October 2006 support these findings, as fresh manure and hoof prints were observed throughout the area and especially near water sources.

    Simonds recommended that investigations into the behavioral ecology of the wild horses be conducted to develop baseline data and determine the best management practices in order to preserve the wild horses that represent the “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”

    Click to access fseprd487591.pdf

    Liked by 2 people

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