Background; On July 31 of 2015, a day we will always remember, the impound and removal notice for the Salt River wild horses was posted in the Capitol times by the US 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. After monitoring and watching these horses be born and grow up in the wild, the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group had seven days before the notice would take effect and a roundup could begin.
Without delay or sleeping a wink, we 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, we lobbied our legislators and we filed a lawsuit. Our attorneys as well as our coalition partner, the American Wild Horse Campaign, were with us as 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. It wasn’t until then, that we could breath again. We are very grateful that the Forest Service heard and took note of the the public outcry, and that they listened.
But the fight was and is still not over, 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 “out of the woods” yet. They are still not protected and no headway has been made so far in the MOU’s for their humane management. The legislation was created with the intent to protect them, but both the Forest Service and the State still hold their fate in their hands.
After many years of advocating for humane fertility control, we have yet to be authorized to use this comon sense method to reduce population growth and prevent future roundups. Our data over many years shows that the herd is growing approximately at 12% per year. That is not as much as is claimed by the BLM for most herds, but it is still a positive growth rate and the Salt River wild horses only have a limited habitat and are fenced in by civilization on all sides.
An Environmental Assessment ordered by the US Ag Department is underway and a census by air was conducted. At a certain point in time we suspect that a government agency might announce that there is only room for a small amount of horses on the river. We will need the public’s continued support in opposition to anything that is not in the horses’ best interest. 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.
This fight is about keeping a small piece of wild for future generations to come, and managing it humanely and responsibly, 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.