Open letter to Rep Kelly Townsend
At a hearing before the Land & Agriculture Committee you committed to amend your bill, HB 2858, to address the concerns that it would prohibit necessary, life-saving management activities for the Salt River wild horses.
On March 9, you posted a press release informing the public that you were putting your bill on hold (while also publicly libeling /slandering the president of SRWHMG at the same time).
You are aware that here is huge opposition from the public to your bill. Then, after the Coronavirus crisis struck, you decided to advance the bill without amendment and put it on the Rules Committee agenda for today.
We are in a national crisis and this is not the appropriate time to advance controversial bills. The public should be staying safely at home, NOT forced to come to the Capitol to defend wild horses. Yet we are here! We are practicing responsible social distancing while being here together.
Your continued groundless attacks on our accredited non-profit organization are hurting our hard working volunteers and our good reputation and interfering with our ability to perform under our state contract for management of the Salt River horses . We are shocked to see that you go as far as accusing us of hoarding and insinuating that we have something to do with the death of a wild horse who died of natural causes.
There are many things you could put into a bill if you wanted to protect wild horses. For example you could make requirements for cattle guards in Arizona less deadly to wild horses and wildlife ( smaller openings that hooves cannot fall through) or impose stronger penalties for littering on and around the Salt River, the horses’ habitat. You could even define their habitat so that it cannot be reduced any more than it already has been, and you could protect the horses from removals.
But instead, you choose to attack a non-profit organization and government contractor in good standing with the State of Arizona and our many hard working volunteers. And you, strangely, post a picture of a lot of horses taking a nap together as if this is unusual. But it is common, as that is what wild horses do, particularly during foaling season, because they find safety in numbers. You also falsely state that the horses are being fed currently for the purpose of keeping them in the area, when the horses are not being fed and in fact, migrate throughout thousands of acres in the Forest.
It’s troubling that you falsely state that non-profit organizations cannot lobby for bills, when IRS regulations make it clear that we can. It’s hard to view this as anything besides an intimidation tactic on your part.
We have all fought very hard for the preservation of these horses and they are facing real challenges. It’s disappointing to see you shift your focus from protecting the horses to denigrating the volunteers who are working hard to help them.
If you have concerns, please try to work with us as we have offered. We are down on the river with the horses every day, and would welcome the chance to provide our expertise in a constructive way to resolve any issues you may have. You can also speak to the Arizona Department of Agriculture, which authorizes every management action that we take.
Your bill will just make things worse for the horses. We all share the goal of maintaining the “wild nature” of the horses, but unfortunately, that’s not reality. The horses are fenced in to a reduced habitat in a forest that 8 million people a year visit. Humane management is sometimes necessary to alleviate suffering, and your bill, as currently written, could hinder rescue of horses with life-threatening injuries or orphaned foals; emergency supplemental feeding that saved the herd from starvation during the drought; and humane fertility control, which will reduce population size humanely over time, and is critical to the horses’ continued freedom.
We urge you to take your misguided, ambiguous bill off the agenda. We hope that as an elected official that you will show leadership at this trying time.
“It is a time to hunker down as a nation, stop fighting, and come together, all while staying apart.” Copyright.