In the summer on 2015, the famed and beloved Salt River wild horses in the Tonto National Forest near Mesa, Arizona were in immediate threat of total eradication thanks to a U.S. Forest Service plan to begin rounding them up and removing them. These special horses have been present on the lands in and around the Salt River for over a century, but the Forest Service claimed that they are “estray livestock” and intended to “impound” all “unauthorized” horses in just a few short days.
Why Was This Allowed
The Salt River horses lack federal protection due to the Forest Service’s failure to designate a protected Wild Horse Territory for them after the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971. At the same time, the Forest Service admits that the horses have been present in the National Forest since the 1930s, and historic articles documents their presence on those lands since the late 1800s. The legal upshot of the Forest Service’s failure to protect the Salt River horses is that they can be rounded up and sold at auction, where kill buyers could purchase them for slaughter.
Thanks to the tremendous support from the local Arizona community and from advocates all around the word, these horses would not meet this terrible fate.
In February of 2015, the Arizona House of Representatives approved bill HB 2340 amended by Representative Kelly Townsend. The bill recognizes and stipulates that the Salt River wild horses are not livestock, defines the scope of the herd and clarifies that horses that are part of the Salt River Wild Horse Herd are not stray animals.
Additionally, the amended bill establishes clear jurisdiction and provides a process to resolve any incident that requires interaction with the herd in order to protect the health and safety of the horses and the public. The bill also criminalizes harassing, shooting or killing Salt River wild horses and affirms their importance to the state.
After passing in the Senate (27-2) and Arizona legislature (53-3), HB2340 landed on the desk of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and on May 11, 2016 he signed it into law.
“May 11, 2016 was a historic day for horse advocates, the Salt River wild horses and for the public, which would not stand for the removal and disposal of this herd that is so historically and economically significant to the State of Arizona,” said Simone Netherlands, president of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) who has worked tirelessly on the ground to ensure this HB2340’s passage.
The latest rescue of a Salt River wild horse foal on Sunday night by the SRWHMG field team is a great example of humane, community-based wild horse management in action. The foal, Pacman, had injured legs (possibly caused by barbed wire) and subsequently developed a severe infection. He is currently receiving intensive treatment at an area veterinary hospital. Another orphaned Salt River foal, rescued in March is thriving and has been “adopted” by a mare whose own foal died just days before Roscoe was rescued. Help with the rescue of these adorable foals by clicking here.
For more information on how you can help the Salt River wild horses and others like them, visit the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.