Animal advocates are celebrating a major victory for a beloved herd of wild horses in Arizona’s Tonto National Forest, who are now officially protected from being removed and slaughtered.

The herd, known as the Salt River wild horses, became the center of a major controversy in 2015, when the Forest Service announced plans to remove them and auction them off. The agency argued they were stray livestock and not entitled to protection under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, and it was therefore not responsible for managing them.

That legislation was passed to protect wild horses from “capture, branding, harassment, or death,” but the agencies responsible for protecting wild horses, including the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service, have continued to fail them, and thousands continue to be rounded up and removed from their rightful place on the landscape.

Fortunately, these horses were not without advocates, and news of the Forest Service’s plans sparked fierce public outrage. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG), which has been stewarding these horses in the wild for years, filed an injunction to stop the roundup and thousands of people from around the world made calls to protect them so loud officials and lawmakers couldn’t ignore them– a Care2 petition asking the Forest Service to leave them be in the wild gathered more than 220,000 signatures.

As a result of public outcry over their potential removal and slaughter, the Salt River Wild Horse Act was passed to protect them. Now, the SRWHMG, its partner the American Wild Horse Campaign and the public are celebrating an agreement that was reached to ensure their long-term protection and the enactment of that legislation, which finally went into effect on January 1.

“Two years ago, the Salt River wild horses were almost removed and slaughtered. Today is a great day. The Salt River wild horses are protected from harassment and slaughter. We are deeply grateful to Governor Doug Ducey for his compassion and dedication to protecting these cherished wild horses, to State Rep. Kelly Townsend for introducing the bill that made this agreement to protect the horses possible, and to the Forest Service for recognizing the public’s strong interest in protecting this historic and popular horse herd, ” said Simone Netherlands, President of the SRWHMG.

The new law requires the Salt River wild horses be protected from harm, harassment and slaughter, and are humanely managed in the wild through partnerships between federal, state and local authorities, and a non-profit, such as the SRWHMG, which stands ready to help.

“The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, with our 100 volunteers and daily presence on the Salt River, is ready to roll up our sleeves and enter into an agreement with the state to continue our management of this wild horse herd that people from all over the world travel to see,” added Netherlands. “We are grateful for the enormous public support for our work, which has included the rescue and treatment of seriously injured Salt River wild horses, fixing miles of fencing to keep horses out of roadways and education/outreach activities to keep the public and the horses safe.”

Hopefully the Salt River wild horses will be around for generations to come and the awareness that was raised by their plight will encourage people to continue to speak up for thousands of other wild horses and burros living on public lands whose future in the wild remains in question.

The agencies responsible for managing wild horses should be protecting them, not subjecting them to brutal roundups or sending them to slaughter to benefit special interests who want to see them gone.

Responses to "Beloved Wild Horses in Arizona Are Officially Protected"

  1. Unknown says:

    Many thanks to all the people that worked tirelessly to save and protect these beautiful horses!

  2. Unknown says:

    I am amazed and so happy that these horses will now be protected. Let this be a lesson to other states...It can be done. Save our wild horses. Well done!

  3. Unknown says:

    yeah Arizona's wild horse policies to protect them.We need that out west here in Ca, Nevada, Oregon ect.

  4. Unknown says:

    They canvdo this in AZ. Why can't they do that everywhere??? Tbe round ups are horrible, with many horses and goals murdered. They also are slaughtered for their meat for Euroups dinner plate. Ranchers everywhere don't want them competing for grazing. Cattle ruin the land. Wild horses are valuable to the ecosystem. Please help our Wild Horses in the USA.

  5. Unknown says:

    So grateful for this wonderful news!

  6. Nice to have such a skewed accounting. Friends of Animals filed and followed their lawsuit to stop that roundup in 2015. The successful arguments they, and they alone, presented - forced the national forest to settle - NO roundup. In the meantime, congresswoman contacted numerous advocates (including me, who does not support the SRWHMG). But what's good for the horses is our aim. Just speak justly of those who REALLY worked to protect the horses. SRWHMG spent a lot of time prancing in and out of the courthouise with her dog, but had no legal standing.

  7. Wonderful news. Now why can't we do the same for mustangs and burros?

  8. Sue S says:

    Congratulations to all who played a role in the successful outcome for these wild horses to remain in their habitat, protected as they should be. Thank you.

  9. Unknown says:

    Thank You for those Advocates of the last wild frontier... our wild horses. Scott Lanson

  10. Unknown says:

    Been following this for years...and am so happy for everyone who fought for them and for the horses. I have the pleasure of having a mustang from NV and will take care of him forever. I don't like that he was rounded up and should be running free but since he cannot be I will honor his life.

  11. Lavonia says:

    Bless you both governor and rep! You are representing. Even Florida !

  12. Unknown says:

    I also did 2 ecological reports on the Salt River wild horses that helped and shared this with everyone including Simone and Sen. Townsend. First was for Netherland's group and second was for Friends of Animals. You can find my reports and also a YouTube I hosted on my website Happy 2020 new year new dedade and we really need to restore the unhindered naturally living horses and burros to so many places as they are very beneficial to ecosystems and to the general ethos of the life community.

  13. Unknown says:

    Such a beautiful sight to see this wild horses, from a Canadian friend spending winters in Arizona thank you .

  14. Anonymous says:

    before 1492 there weren't horses in Arizona, the Spanish brought their horses , some escaped and the herds grew. So they were and invasive species. sheep and goats had seeds in their wool and hair. more invasive species. I like horses.The best day of my young life was my 14 th birthday when I got a colt that was a cross of a quarter horse mare and the world champion Appaloosa stallion. The herds of wild horses needs to be controlled so there will be enough feed year after year and some in reserve for drought years.

  15. iMors says:

    So grateful for your dedication !

  16. Anonymous says:

    This makes me very happy! NOW we need to save the rest of the horse from harm done by our government.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Another unmanaged use of an already over utilized national forest. I hate to see the degradation these animals are causing to our natural resources.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Too small to read.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Fantastic article. I've recently met this group and feel grateful - who knew our tax dollars paid to protect them would be so sinister? Now for our Alpine Babies and sea to shining sea. Amen.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Great. Now put the ones already taken off, back in their homes.

  21. Anonymous says:


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