Cross-posted from The Arizona Republic at azcentral.com »
The Salt River horses, now free to roam after the threat of a federal roundup was lifted, won’t live unfettered forever.
The U.S. Forest Service officially withdrew its plans to round up and remove the horses from the Tonto National Forest Friday, much to the delight of horse-lovers who contended the roughly 100 animals should be left on the land.
Supporters’ relief about their fate was coupled with the reality that rival interests would have to weigh in on how to manage the wild horses as they continue to graze near the river’s edge.
The horses have enjoyed an outpouring of public support over the past four months, including eight members of the state’s congressional delegation calling for a delay or halt to any roundup.
What should the management plan look like? That depends on who you ask.
The Forest Service has met and will continue to meet with stakeholders to determine the course of action. The Forest Service’s jurisdiction over the horses is tricky because the animals are not listed as a wild herd under federal law and therefore are viewed as stray livestock.
Forest Service spokeswoman Carrie Templin said the agency is trying to determine if it has the authority to manage the horses.
The details of a long-term management plan could take years to finalize, but local and national groups are already lining up to offer suggestions.
The Maricopa Audubon Society is hoping for a hard-line management approach. President Mark Larson said the main concern of his group is the preservation of the Salt River ecosystem. The horses’ grazing patterns are harming the riparian area, which in turn affects the bald eagles and the endangered Southwestern willow flycatchers, he said.
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I doubt very much Mark Larson, President of the Maricopa Audubon Society, is a stupid man so feel the only position available to take on his stance on the Salt River wild horses is that he either hates them or is acting on behalf of special interest groups who do.
There are numerous examples that totally contradict his opinion where wild horses have been re-introduced to replenish the land with amazing success that lead to the re-establishment of other wildlife, even in a place as desolate as the Chernobyl neutral zone. —Ed.
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