The Salt River wild horses are the beloved and majestic horses roaming the lower Salt River in the Tonto National Forest, AZ. They are the pride of the community, a favorite subject of photographers and the icon of the wild, free spirit of the American West. These wild horses were brought into the limelight when they were slated for roundup and removal in July of 2015.
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group coordinates it’s volunteers every day to monitor the wild horses and record birth rates, death rates, herd dynamics and migrating patterns. We keep records for each individual wild horse and we care deeply about their well being. We have written and submitted a 48 page proposal for the humane and responsible management of the Salt River wild horses.
Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected and in July of 2015, the impound and removal notice for the herd was posted in the Capitol times by the Forest Service. The round-up was reportedly planned with riders and helicopters and the horses would be sold at public auction and most likely end up in slaughter houses. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group had exactly seven days before the notice would take effect and a roundup could begin.
Immediately, we 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 rallies and we lobbied our legislators. Our attorneys and coalition partner, the American Wild Horse Campaign, helped us negotiate 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 AZ State 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 and was signed by Governor Doug Ducey, who had been very supportive from the beginning. We really appreciate our Governor for his crucial support and we have named the first colt of 2017 “Ducey” in his honor. The below video, taken by SRWHMG volunteers Keith and Kari, while monitoring that he was doing ok, shows Ducey getting up for the very first time.
However we need to warn the public that the horses are not completely out of the woods yet. There has not been headway made in the MOU’s for their humane management. The legislation was created with the intent to protect them, but there are still loopholes and both the Forest Service and the State still hold their fate in their hands. After many years of advocating for humane fertility control, but not being authorized to use it, we are afraid that the Agriculture Department may announce that there is only space for a certain number of wild horses on the river. We will need the public’s continued support in opposition to any wrong decision that the State or the Feds can still make. Dartable humane fertility control (PZP) is the only way towards solutions that will be a win win for everyone, the public, the authorities and most of all the horses, who will then get to stay where they have lived for centuries.
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 daily and buckets of nails and many pounds of old down barbed wire. We work hard towards improved public safety and horse safety through fixing many miles of fencing along Bush Highway.
To us, this fight is about keeping 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.
If YOU would like to become their guardian and make a difference please click here. If you would like to sign up for email alerts please click here.
We want you to know that YOUR voice makes 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 our education campaigns, help us fund humane management, and pay for the rescue of suffering wild horses when needed.
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) is a non-profit organization 501(c)3, dedicated to monitor, study and protect the Salt River wild horses in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona. We use all of our resources and connections to prevent harm from coming to the Salt River wild horses and ensure that they will be here for future generations to enjoy.
Trailer to America’s Wild Horses, the Documentary.
This documentary was in the process of being made when the notice for impound and removal was posted by the Forest Service. We are in the process of updating it with all the latest that has happened since! The last year has been a wild ride for all of us at the SRWHMG!