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What Is Happening To The Wild Horses In Salt River AZ?

Updated on August 5, 2015

The Salt River Horses Are A Popular National Forest Attraction

Photo by Becky Standridge
Photo by Becky Standridge | Source

Today's Wild Horses Are Integral To The Ecosystem

Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs
Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs

Horses have been present in North America for millenia. The horses that arrived with the Spaniards were simply returning home. Horses were present in the land that is now America some 50,000,000 years ago. For this reason, the horses that now roam wild ARE native and should remain wild and free.


The Forest Service Rushes To Remove Popular Horses Without Public Input

The Forest Service (FS) plans to remove the Salt River horses and is apparently oblivious to public opinion. This herd is incredibly popular worldwide and is a major tourist attraction for the area. Additionally, they are the subject of scientific and behavioral study by various groups. A public notice [1] was posted on July 30, 2015 saying that the FS might begin rounding up these horses on August 7. The FS claims that the horses are “unauthorized livestock” and say that this affront is an attempt to reunite them with their "rightful owners". This is pure nonsense.

Horses that are not "claimed" will be auctioned off, and that is an almost certain ticket to shipment to slaughter in Canada or Mexico. In addition to this threat, at the end of the public notice is a line stating that horses that are not purchased at auction will be "sold at private sale or condemned and destroyed, or otherwise disposed of.”

Are The Horses Wild?

The original Salt River Horses were brought to the area in the 17th Century by a Spanish Missionary named Father Eusebio Kino. News articles dating from 1890 through 1927 document a thriving population of wild horses during that period. There is no question that the horses have an historic right to the territory they have inhabited for some 400 years.

A century ago, there were more than half-a-million wild horses in the state of Arizona. Today there are fewer than 500. FS documents (the renewal of the Sunflower Allotment Grazing Permit, circa 1930) verify that there was a thriving wild horse population in the area long before the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 was passed. This act was put in place for the protection of wild horses and donkeys on public lands. The Salt River Horses should have been granted protection at that time; however, the FS did not designate the Salt River as these horses’ territory. The agency’s failure to perform its duties correctly should not be a death sentence for these horses.

What Is The Wild Free Horse & Burro Act of 1971?

The Wild Free Horse & Burro Act of 1971 is one of the most popular pieces of legislation every passed. It provides for protection of wild horses and burros on public lands. It called upon the FS to establish territories for existing wild horse and burro herds. The Salt River Herd was in existence at that time according to eyewitnesses and to FS documentation dating as far back as 1930; however, the agency did not establish territory for the horses as they should have done.

What Is Being Done To Save The Horses?

Arizona's Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) is a registered nonprofit organization. Its purpose is the scientific study and monitoring of the Salt River Wild Horses. They maintain immaculate records of each horse including bloodlines, date of birth and names. These records cover the past two decades. The goal of SRWHMG is to preserve this historic herd for the enjoyment and enrichment of future generations. Be that as it may, if the FS pushes through with its egregious plans, the group is willing to provide sanctuary for the horses on their property in Prescott AZ. Although this would save the horses from slaughter, it would be a sad end to their freedom and a tremendous loss for the people of Arizona, the USA and the world.

The hastily assembled group called "Save the Salt River Horses" (SSRH) believes that the FS failure to establish territory for the Salt River horses was a violation of federal law. The group points out that to remove these horses would be to destroy heritage and steal an economic benefit from the state of Arizona. Furthermore, the group asserts that the horses are an important part of the established ecosystem. The group has set up a petition [3] and also provides information and media materials.

Why Is This Happening?

SSRH poses the question "Why is the FS in such a hurry and why are they not including public input? In fact, why are they sidestepping public process altogether?"

That is a good question and one that could aptly be applied to the ongoing war on horses all over our nation. Wild horses are being rounded up and warehoused in holding pens for years at taxpayer expense when they could be happily living on OUR public lands according the to will of an overwhelming majority of the people. What is the reason for this?

At base, the reason is greed. Helicopter roundups, holding pens, transportation and hay are all bought from private contractors. The theft of our wild horses from our public lands is an excuse to pour our tax dollars into private pockets. It is a theft of a natural resource that belongs to the people of the United States, and it is happening against our will.

Fully 85% of American citizens oppose horse roundups and horse slaughter and want our wild horses to stay wild and free on our public lands. This is such an emotionally charged issue that it easily distracts our attention from the ultimate goal of corporate powers that are behind the roundups. That goal is the privatization of our public lands.

The roundups began based on a fraudulent report generated by the fracking industry [4] stating that wild horses were "overpopulated" and "ill". This is patently untrue, but it is easy to see why the fracking industry (and the oil industry, mining industry and water privatizers) would want to get their hands on our public lands and our public waterways. The water in the Salt River area is of tremendous value to the fracking industry and to water privatizers. There is a strong, ongoing push from Republicans in congress to privatize public lands, and indeed, they have already handed over large parcels to corporate interests [5].

Simone Netherlands, who is president of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group says that the FS would be making a terrible and irreversible mistake and putting itself on the wrong side of history by rounding up these national treasures. They would also be dealing a blow to the economy of the area and reducing the popularity of the National Forest, a move that would play right into the hands of privatizing advocates.

©Suzanne Bennett:August 5, 2015

Please do not reproduce or share without proper attribution.

Plea For Salt River And All Of America's Wild Horses


[1] Public Notice Of Intent

[2] What’s Going On With the Salt River Horses?

[3] Sign the petition:

Save the Salt River Horses Community FB

[4] BLM and Gas Fracking may be the Death of the Wild horses soon:
Posted by admin on July 2, 2013

BLM’s Oil & Gas Lease Corruption Exposed

[5] The Land Grab Out West


Submit a Comment
  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Texas

    Indeed! It's not just happening in AZ. They are rounding up our wild horses from our public lands and warehousing them at our expense and against our wishes all over the nation. It's just another way of pouring our tax dollars into private pockets on the way to privatizing our public lands and exploiting and plundering our national heritage.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    4 years ago from Oakley, CA

    This is abominable! I don't live in AZ, but that does not matter. This kind of thing makes my blood boil!

    The greedy corporate interests and their Republican puppets are going to be the downfall of this nation! They care for nothing but their bank accounts. Their greedy shortsightedness even hurts their own progeny, and they don't see that or care.

    It is the utmost evil. While they are busy pointing fingers at multiple groups of people and labeling them as "sinners," they are doing far worse.

    I sincerely hope that this can be stopped in its tracks and the horses left alone. Return to "rightful owners," my a$$! What part of "wild" do they fail to grasp? I sometimes wish for the superpowers of fictional characters to be able to take all of these clowns at one fell swoop, and put THEM in pens!

  • justmesuzanne profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from Texas

    Thank you! Yes, they should have been protected ages ago; although, that is not making much of a difference for many of our wild horses on our public lands. The BLM is just rounding them up and warehousing them at our expense and calling it "management".

  • the rawspirit profile image

    Robert Morgan 

    4 years ago from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ

    When I was younger I spent many a weekend on the Salt and Verde Rivers, both of which had indigenous wild horses. We would spend hours floating and fishing on these rivers, enjoy the sight of the horses feeding and watering along the shorelines. They should be protected and left alone. Thanks for the great article voted it up, and I look forward to reading more of your writings. Blessings, Bobby


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