Wild Horses: Tonto National Forest’s Roundup Plan Angers Lovers of These American Icons

LBN’s Bob Donley reports that a symbolic part of the American West has become the subject of a controversial government effort. The Tonto National Forest has announced plans to stage a roundup of the herd of wild horses roaming free in the area near the Salt River in Arizona, about 75 miles northeast of Phoenix.

Federal officials have said that the horses are a public hazard and should be rounded for the safety of the public, especially campers along the Salt River valley. The U.S. Forest Service has said that the animals should be moved to a “safe place.” Not everyone agrees, Donley points out. Lori Murphy, a manager at Wildhorse Ranch Rescue in Gilbert, Arizona, says that the horses are no more dangerous than any other wild animal allowed to roam free. “Yet no one,” says Donley, “is out to stage a rattlesnake roundup”

The Forest Service says that several horses have been hit and had to be destroyed. Donley notes that there is no mention of injuries to any motorists. Animal activists have pointed out that a massive roundup involving helicopters could result in injury or death to some of the horses.

Donley says that the big bone of contention in this controversy is what happens to the horses after they are rounded up. If the horses were given to the Arizona Department of Agriculture, they might end up being sold at auction; the same outcome would be likely if the federal government disposed of the horses. Donley points out that a slaughterhouse could buy these horses and turn them into meat.

Both of Arizona’s senators have asked the federal government to reconsider its decision, and the roundup has been delayed for at least a month. The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group has filed for a federal injunction to stop the roundup. Donley notes that Arizona has long been part of “the wild, wild West.” But no one ever wrote effective laws to protect these iconic animals.

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