HEBER, AZ — The forest service has released its draft plan for how to manage the wild horse herd in Arizona's White Mountains.
The 47-page management plan from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests proposes a large reduction in the size of the herd. Currently estimated at around 500 horses, forest officials are calling for a reduction to no more than 104 horses.
The remaining horses would also be confined to an area of 21 square miles, the same as the current boundary of the management area. To read the full plan from the forest service, click here.
"The proposed action is designed to foster a self-sustaining population of healthy animals within the designated territory, in a thriving natural ecological balance as part of a functioning ecosystem with other ecological values, land management uses, and within the productive capacity of their habitat," the forest service said in a statement announcing the opening of public comment on the plan.
The Heber herd has faced serious threats in the past several years. Dozens of horses have been found dead, including 12 that were determined to have been shot and killed in January alone. Since the killings began, no arrests have been made and investigators have not publicly identified any suspects.
Some animal advocates who focus on the Heber horses have questioned how hard the forest service and other agencies have worked to find the person or people responsible because forest service officials have been fighting in court to remove the herd entirely since 2005. That effort was blocked in federal court.
A final decision on the management strategy for the Heber herd and its habitat will come from the supervisor of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, the head of the same agency which tried to remove the horses.
Interested parties now have 30 days to submit comments to officials with the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests to be included in the public record. Those who would like to do so can submit their comments online here.