To all of the U.S. Forest Service employees, hot shot crews and each of the brave firefighters assigned to the Cactus Fire,
On behalf of 80 volunteers, the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group would like to express our deepest gratitude for your hard and brave work to fight the Catctus Fire.
We do not take lightly the commitment you have shown to our public lands and our community. By assigning the crews and resources – including the lifesaving “bambi bucket” helicopter — to contain a fire that could have threatened all of the Tonto National Forest and the critical habitat it provides for thousands of species, including the Salt River wild horses.
We greatly appreciate the open line of communication with the Forest Supervisor as well as with those fighting the fire – including the awesome helicopter crew who gave us fascinating insight into the fire’s progression and the efforts to contain it.
While the fire spread from 20 acres to 200 acres in a matter of hours, it was not threatening structures or people and was not the only wildfire burning in Arizona. Yet, you did not take any chances with the Tonto National Forest, and we are so grateful for that.
Hotshot firefighter crews battled until 1 a.m. on Tuesday night and on Wednesday, our people stationed at Goldfield cheered when we saw the green helicopter take off with the bambi bucket. Soon the black clouds turned to white and later to small puffs floating here and there. At that point, we could, quite literally, breathe again.
For you brave men, we are aware that every time you go into a fire, you face danger and unpredictability and are risking your lives. We know this all too well, as one of our volunteer members is Amanda Marsh. Amanda is the widow of Eric Marsh, the superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who so tragically perished in the Yarnell Fire in 2013. Amanda Marsh wants us to let you know that Eric would have been very proud of the work that you have done to protect the Tonto National Forest from the Cactus Fire.
Not only did you protect our people, but also you stopped the fire from killing countless wild animals, destroying their habitat and making survivors homeless. We are pleased to report that all Salt River wild horses have been located and are safe, including a very pregnant mare we were monitoring. She gave birth Wednesday morning less than a half a mile from where the fire was raging. We named the new colt “Cactus Fire.”
Despite facing many human-caused challenges, the Tonto National Forest remains one of the most bountiful and magnificent pieces of “wild” left in Arizona. We recognize how lucky we are to have this amazing natural resource in our backyard.
We conclude by expressing our deepest gratitude and respect to the following crews and individuals:
San Juan hot shots, Jay Godsen and crewmembers Carson hot shots, Tim Memmer and crew members. Tonto engine 1246 Tad Fagerud and crew members. Tonto engine 1249 Gabe Brooks and crew members Tonto engine 1267 Adam Giordano and crew members. Tonto engine 1235, John Hewitt and crewmembers. Tonto engine 1237 Rigo Flores and crew members. Tonto engine 1218 Ryan Barela and crew members. Tonto engine 1238 Josh Walk and crew members. Pima Fire module Alexandra Dayzie and crew members. Incident Commander Quentin Johnson. Incident Commander trainee Nick Castro. Information officer Gary Robert’s and Carrie Templin. Agency representative Micah Grondin. Mesa Ranger district fire management officer Rocky Gilbert . Planning section Michael Hill. Logistics chief George Cummings and last but not least Type 3 helicopter 0victor romeo Kevin Merrill and crew who doused the fire from the air. Thank you for saving the lower Salt River, Tonto National Forest!
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, in July of 2015, the impound and removal notice for the historic 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, 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. Dartible 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.
It is our goal to work for the good of the Tonto National Forest, its inhabitants and its visitors every day.
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 improving public safety and horse safety through fixing many miles of fencing along Bush Highway and installing new gates.
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.
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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!