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Arizona wild horse battle intensifies

Arizona Daily LIfe
Posted at 10:38 PM, Aug 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 11:39:14-04

Born free, but now captured and locked in the back of a trailer, a young horse will soon see his new home for the first time.

Only a few months old, he is one of 18 horses rounded up on the Apache Forest near Alpine recently.

Some 400 wild horses live on the forest in far Northeastern Arizona.

The Forest Service considers all the horses living free on the Apache Forest "unauthorized livestock," and is committed to getting them off public lands in that area.

"They are causing damage and the Apache Sitgreaves is working on removing all unauthorized livestock," says Apache Sitgreaves National Forest deputy supervisor Ericka Luna.

Many conservationists agree with the decision to remove the horses, citing damage to the endangered jumping mouse habitat on the forest.

Some advocates for the horses accuse the Forest Service of playing favorites; allowing deer, elk, and cattle to continue to grace public land, but rounding up the horses under the guise of protecting sensitive areas of the forest.

"It's not fair that under the pretense or crocodile tears of the environment, the horses are scapegoated, but the cattle get to stay. That is not right," says horse advocate Simone Netherlands.

Her organization has worked with the Forest Service before to help protect wild horses in other parts of Arizona. Netherlands says her organization offered to build fencing to keep the horses out of sensitive areas and use birth control to control the population, but all their offers were turned down.

"There's hunting there that makes someone money. There's cattle grazing there that makes somebody money, and unfortunately, the wild horses aren't putting money in anyone's pocket," says Netherlands.