The Forest Service wanted to capture, auction off and dispose the wild horses on the Salt River. The removal of the horses was originally set to happen on Aug. 7 but due to public pressure, authorities have decided to take no action against the animals at least for now.

Officials from the Tonto National Forest postponed plans regarding the animals until mid-December with Neil Bosworth, the agency's supervisor, expressing his interest in working with Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and interested parties in order to come up with a collaborative solution on the issue of the Salt River horses.

"In addition, I am committing to provide the public and interested parties with at least 30 days' notice prior to the Forest Service taking any actions associated with the impound notice," Bosworth said.

The plans of the Forest Service were met by protests from advocacy groups and elected officials such as Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain as well as three members of the Congress, who urged Forest Service officials to stop the planned round up of about 100 free-roaming horses. A petition that calls to "stop the annihilation" of the wild horses also had over 154,000 supporters.

"There is no reason why the Forest Service should want to rob Arizona of this historically, economically and ecologically significant herd," said Simone Netherlands, from the Salt River Wild Horses Management Group. "If the horses are rounded up, the Forest Service is making an historical mistake that cannot be reversed."

The Forest Service said that the plan to remove the horses has something to do with concerns over public safety pointing out car collisions with the animals on the Bush and Beeline highways.

Some wilderness and wildlife experts, however, are not amenable with the new decision saying that the plan should be pushed through because the wild horses are destroying the habitat of the river as well as harming native plants, fish and birds.

The Maricopa Audubon Society claims that the horses are not native to the area and the grazing habits of these animals along the river have devastating ecological implications.

"They are feral horses, which are not a natural part of the ecosystem," said Maricopa Audubon Society president Mark Larson. "That is why they need to be rounded up and moved out of the precious riparian zone along the Salt River."

Photo: Rick Grybos | Flickr 

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