The Forest Service has announced their updated management plan for the HEBER WILD HORSES in Arizona. The new plan is set to DECIMATE the population!
I have spent a great amount of time over the past years with these wild horses and recognize the value these horses have. They are invaluable to so many of us who love visiting with these horses but they can also be assigned a dollar value when it comes to the money so many visitors to the area spend.
The Forest Service plan seems to have been written with the preconceived notion that these horses are a burden to them. The report brings it down to estimated numbers of how much the average horse eats versus the assigned acreage. The horses are weighted against the average cow and calf, seeing that these bring direct revenue to the Forest Service. The horses are not a threat to other wildlife in the forest as there is plenty of food available on their winter and summer ranges. No mention is being given to the perceived and actual value these horses represent.
Additionally, I believe that the Forest Service report inaccurately depicts their habitat. In reality, these horses have a much greater territory which includes the neighboring Indian Reservation. As a result of the Forest Service indicating that the horse habitat is much smaller, they are using this to support the idea that the habitat is big enough to barely hold 50-104 animals, and since apparently the Forest Service expects the horses to have to compete with private rancher's cattle, the horses are drawing the short stick per the proposed plan.
Heber wild horses
So, they are proposing to remove the 'excess' horse population. The Forest Service is proposing to round up and remove most of the horses, barely leaving 50 horses out of the current estimated population of 250. This will not only decimate the population, it will also decimate any chances these horses have of sustaining a healthy, genetically diverse population since 50 is much too small because of the resulting inbreeding, as the report itself indicates. Although the Forest Service recognizes this dilemma in their report, their proposed solution is seemingly even more ridiculous: start transporting wild horses between areas so to promote a genetically diverse population.
How they on the one hand expect to severely limit the population to an unhealthy number (so they can make the public lands available to more cattle grazing), which includes expensive round ups and long-term storage fees for the removed horses, but on the other hand then expect to bring other wild horses to the area to promote a healthy, genetically diverse, population is beyond me. Isn't it easier to simply leave the current population in place!? They seem to manage just fine, without the negative 'management' the Forest Service is capable of.
What it all comes down to eventually however is this.
These are our public lands. A handful of ranchers should not be able to determine what happens to the horses, as currently seems to be the case. Look at the National Forest website and read the many protest comments that have already been sent regarding this plan ... If the majority wins, as it should in any democracy, the horses will stay.
When you take a trip to a National Forest, would you rather see a cow or a wild horse?
If we don't act, an image like this will soon be a thing of the past.
Heber wild horses
See the proposed plan here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/nepa/33054_FSPLT3_5599178.pdf
Submit your comments here by April 22, 2021: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?project=18916
NOTE: This will be the LAST designated opportunity for public comment for this project!
Heber wild horses