The Salt River Wild Horses became famous on the internet in 2012, after a video of Champ, a wild stallion, rescuing a filly from drowning went viral. (Video below).
Now, the US Forest Department wants to remove and possibly auction off up to 100 wild horses from the Tonto National Forest near Phoenix, Arizona. Champ is one of these wild horses. So is the filly he saved.
The US Forest Department deems them “unauthorized livestock,” and plans a year-long removal process.
Those that can’t be auctioned will be “otherwise disposed of.”
“It just boils down to a safety concern for the Forest Service. We have horses out there on Forest Service land and we have no authority to manage horses and this is how they’re proceeding to remedy the safety issue,” explained Chandler Mundy, a spokesperson with the Tonto National Forest.
It should be noted that there is a Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which was created “to require the protection, management, and control of wild free-romaing horses and burros on public lands.” (www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov)
Within the act, it defines these stunning creatures as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.”
But a vast majority of the community, including state officials, disagree. There is also a group, Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, an Arizona-based non-profit organization set up to protect and preserve the Salt River Wild Horses.
One commenter on the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group’s site said:
“The fact that the park will be taken over by cows, native species eliminated, and recreational areas eliminated show a bigger issue. This is publically owned forest. The taxpayers pay for it and yet have no say in what the future of it will be. There were no public forums regarding the plans. Also, cattle were kicked out in 2002 due to the damage they caused so why are they being allowed back[?]”
The advocacy group gave the Forest Service a 50-page humane management proposal for the horses, which was rejected.
“The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group has submitted a 50 page proposal to the Forest Service setting forth a humane and sustainable management protocol for the iconic wild horses which includes humane birth control, but are shocked to find out that it has apparently been ignored and roundups will start immediately. While we used to have over half a million wild horses in Arizona a hundred years ago, we now have less than 500 left and that includes the BLM Herd Management Area’s and the Heber Territory that the FS is also planning to zero out.” (www.change.org)
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey also sides with the community. He wrote a clear message on his Facebook Page yesterday:
The federal government should leave our free roaming and #wildhorses alone. But if they don’t, #Arizona will do…
Time is Bought
Originally the wild horse round-up was to commence tomorrow, August 7, thanks to a fast-acting lawyer, William A. Miller, whose firm was hired to file a lawsuit against the US Forest Service and block them from removing the horses, protestors and advocacy groups now have much needed time.
“From C.S. Lewis to Gandhi it has been said, you can judge a nation by how it treats its animals. May God help us if the politicians are so beholden to special interests that we decimate these beautiful creatures.” (www.williamamillerpllc.com/)
The filing has stayed the round-up until at least early September, when Congress comes back into session.
“They’re willing to look at other options and wait in the meantime and look at the different ways we can deal with any issues that they might be having without going to that last resort of just auctioning them off,” Arizona State Rep. Kelly Townsend told Fox 10 Pheonix.
What Can YOU Do?
What to help save these wild horses? You can sign the petition, which currently has 100,000 signatures. Also, follow The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Salt River Wild Horse Management Group on Facebook for breaking news on this story.
If your state has wild horses, be sure to find out which groups are protecting them and ask how you can get involved to ensure the wild horses in your state are being protected.
And, if you haven’t seen a band of wild horses – go. Go Now. There is nothing more beautiful.
Watch as Champ valiantly saves a young filly’s life.