Horse enthusiasts, it's time to celebrate!
The U.S. Forest Service announced today that it won't remove the Salt River Horses next week as planned, ending – at least for now – what has been a contentious months-long standoff between the government and members of the local community.
“This is the first step toward permanent protection and humane management of the horses,” Simone Netherlands of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group says. “We are so appreciative of the government actually listening to the voice of the people.”
The announcement by the Tonto National Forest Service comes days before a 120-day stay on the round-up was to expire and is therefore being touted as a major success by horse advocates.
"This is a big deal to us," Netherlands says, "That notice has been hanging like a cloud over our heads all this time.”
She's clear to explain that the announcement doesn't mean the horses are safe forever, “but if [the Forest Service] wants to round them up, it would have to go through a lengthy legal process first.”
That process would include an environmental impact statement and most importantly, a public-comment period, which doesn't seem to worry Netherlands, since according to her, “it's clear that the public wants them there.”
Ever since the Forest Service announced its intention to round up the approximately 100 horses, people have rallied against the plan. Numerous state politicians like Governor Doug Ducey, U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, and U.S. Congressional delegates Matt Salmon, Trent Franks, Martha McSally, Ann Kirkpatrick, Raul Grijalva, Kyrsten Sinema, Ruben Gallego, and David Schweikert have also chimed in and voice their support for keeping the horses, as Netherlands put it, “wild and free.”
The Forest Service considers these horses “feral,” and says they're presence is environmentally destructive, while Netherlands and her allies argue they are “wild,” have been there for centuries, and as such, should be properly managed.
The Forest Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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“The Forest Service simply needs to take responsibility for humanely managing them,” she says, adding that she's optimistic, since today's announcement means “they're open to looking at solutions.
“That's really all we wanted for now...It's the first step toward permanent protection and humane management.”
Read the Forest Service's Announcement: