The Salt River wild horses are the beloved and majestic horses roaming the lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona. They are the pride of the community, a favorite subject of photographers and the icon of the wild, free spirit of the American West. Last year, these wild horses were brought into the limelight as they were slated for roundup and removal.
On July 31st of 2015, the impound and removal notice for the whole herd was posted by the US Forest Service in the Capitol times. The round-up was reportedly planned with riders and helicopters and horses would end up at public auction and most likely slaughter houses. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group has monitored and recorded the Salt River wild horses for two decades, has a record on each wild horse and had exactly seven days before the notice would take effect.
In response to the removal notice , the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) filed a lawsuit and alerted the press and the public to the imminent annihilation of the cherished herd. We made connections with over 6000 media outlets, we held big rallies and we lobbied our legislators. We negotiated with the Forest Service- it made the local news daily.
What happened next was nothing short of an unprecedented public outrage – the people of Arizona and its politicians gave these iconic wild horses their voice. Thousands of calls, letters and emails streamed into the Forest Service office. More than 100 news pieces can be found when you search “Salt River Wild Horse Management Group” , including pieces on CNN, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Times and our very supportive local stations ABC15, FOX10, CBS5/3tv and 12News.
During our negotiations, the Forest Service committed to a 120-day temporary delay of the roundup after which we dropped our lawsuit (without prejudice) in order to further negotiate. Then just before Christmas of 2015, under continued pressure, the Forest Service agreed to completely rescind the impound notice. We are very grateful that the Forest Service heard and took note of the the public outcry, and that they listened.
Then through continued work with legislators a bill was born and amended, HB2340. The bill establishes that the horses are not stray livestock, makes harassing them illegal and requires a codifying of their humane management between the Forest Service, the State Ag Department and a private party. After 5 months of contacting every legislator in Arizona, the bill passed the house, then the senate almost unanimously and then the house again and was signed by Governor Doug Ducey, who had been very supportive from the beginning. We really appreciate our Governor for his crucial support.
However we need to warn the public that they are not out of the woods yet. There has not been any headway made in the MOU’s for their humane management. We know that the legislation was made with the intent to protect them, but there are many loopholes and both the Forest Service and the State still hold their fate in their hands. We will need your continued support in opposition to any wrong decision that the State or the Feds can still make.
It is our goal to work for the good of the Tonto National Forest, its inhabitants and its visitors every day and we will work with anyone who shares those same goals. Our volunteers pick up bags of garbage from the riverbanks, buckets of nails and many pounds of old down barbed wire daily. We work for improved public and horse safety and are fixing many miles of fencing on Bush Highway. To us, this is about keeping just a small piece of wild for future generations to come, but it is also about more than that. It is about who we are as Americans, and what we stand for – and what we don’t.
We had amazing turnouts for all of our events, protests and rallies and we want you to know that YOUR voice made a difference. We are not funded by anyone but you, the public. Your tax-deductable donation helps the Salt River wild horses directly as no one in the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group gets paid; not even our president. With your support we can purchase fencing materials to keep horses off the roads, fund education campaigns, help us achieve humane management through dartible birth control, and pay for the rescue of suffering wild horses.
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A hiker called the SRWHMG emergency number. Our field team went out and found little Pacman allone and terribly injured. We rescued him and got him to the equine hospital. A donation of any size will help Pacman! Thank you!