Wild Horses in Tonto National Forest May be Doomed
The United States Forest Service plans on removing wild horses that have roamed the Tonto National Forest for decades. It might not be that easy though. The notice that was posted online is referring to the horses in question as "unauthorized livestock" and will begin removing the animals starting Friday, August 7 unless owners come forward to claim them with the proper paperwork.
These horses have been running free around the Salt River Northeast of Phoenix, Arizona for at least a hundred years and many feel are part of Arizona history. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group offered a 50-page proposal on how to humanely deal with the issue but was rejected by the U.S. Forest Service on Tuesday, August 4.
One of the biggest issues is that the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group says the Forest Service and BLM have never been held accountable for not setting aside a "territory' to protect these animals saying,
In 1971 the Forest Service was mandated by the Wild Free Horse and Burro Act to establish wild horse territories where wild horses and burros existed at that time. The Forest Service admits that the Salt River Wild Horses were present in and around the Salt River at that time and many eyewitnesses and articles prove that fact, yet they did not create a territory for the herd, the reason for this has never been answered by the Forest Service. We believe that the Forest Service violated a federal law by refusing to assign a Wild Horse Territory where they themselves have records of wild horses roaming as far back as 1930, according to their Environmental Assessment of the Sunflower grazing allotment.
The U.S. Forest Service says the animals are a "public safety" issue and are not protected animals and will treated as "stray livestock." Any horses not claimed by Friday, August 7 will be put up for sale in public auction. Those that don't sell will be put up for a private auction and/or condemned, destroyed or otherwise disposed of.
The Salt River Wild Horse Management group though says it will never allow that to happen and in the worst case scenario, they will purchase the animals and move them to their facility outside Prescott, Arizona.
If you would like to sign the petition, which already has close to 50,000 signatures, just click here.