Drought Conditions Update

 Monsoon Storm Clouds

Photo: A summer storm approaches the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

After many months of persistent drought conditions, the annual monsoons have arrived in earnest and are delivering quenching rains to the lands of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. As a result, on July 16th, forest managers decided to lift all fire restrictions and rescind forest closures due to widespread precipitation, increased humidity levels and reduced fire danger.

The arrival of summer rains has replenished some natural water ways and earthen stock tanks, however, there remains a short-term need to supply water for wildlife, livestock and horses in areas of the Lakeside and Black Mesa Ranger Districts that have yet to receive adequate precipitation. The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests will continue to coordinate with the Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance, the Gila Herd Foundation, Equine WellBeing Rescue Inc., private individuals, and permittees to assess any water hauling needs going forward.  Based on additional moisture predictions it is anticipated the need will end very soon and all the supplied water tanks will be able to be removed.

Given the recent moisture, forage conditions are expected to improve as warm season perennial grasses begin to actively grow. Current forage conditions are better in the higher, cooler elevations along the rim.

Ed Collins, Lakeside District Ranger - “It was a pleasure to work with Torreon residents, Christine Griffin of Equine WellBeing Rescue, and White Mountain Water Hauling to provide water to relieve the suffering of animals in this extreme drought.  They did not care if the animals were wildlife, horses, or cows.  Their professionalism and enthusiasm was inspiring.”

Richard Madril, Black Mesa District Ranger - “It’s great to see our normal moisture regime return, and the decrease of stress on the ecosystem."

Questions or comments email: as_portal_comments@fs.fed.us or; hardcopy mail to: Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Public Affairs Office, P.O. Box 640, Springerville, AZ 85938


Heber Wild Horse Territory

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The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs) recently re-engaged in planning for the Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan.  Below is a letter from the Forest Supervisor, Stephen Best, which informs the public on the process moving forward.

February 15, 2018

Update on the Heber Wild Horse Territory (HWHT) collaborative working group


I would like to take a few minutes and update you on the status of the HWHT planning process.

As of February 2018, the facilitation-convener team of Southwest Decision Resources (SWDR) and Arizona State University’s (ASU) School of Sustainability has convened seven collaborative working group meetings. This process is driven by a working group that aims to foster engagement across a broad range of participants and perspectives, with the end result being the development of recommendations for the proposed action for the HWHT Management Plan. This collaborative process is expected to take about a year to complete. After that the NEPA process, which includes public involvement, usually takes 1-2 years to complete, and will start after the working group collaborative has completed their phase of the planning.

I would like to take a moment to thank SWDR, ASU, and the HWHT working group for all of the hard work and dedication they have put into the past few months. The HWHT working group is composed of a variety of voluntary participants, such as interested citizens, representatives of non-governmental organizations, academics, cattle growers, scientists, horse advocates, and participating agency representatives.

Together, the HWHT working group has raised its base understanding pertaining to the Heber Wild Horse Territory, toured of the territory, associated livestock pastures and local wildlife game management units, analyzed the adaptive management principles and the Forest Service’s initial assessment and parameters for developing recommendations, and are currently working on identifying core issues and developing recommendations that will inform components of the management plan. Currently the HWHT working group is focused on some key issues. To address two of the main issues and develop recommendations for a management strategy, the collaborative working group has divided into sub-groups, one looking at Forage Allocation and Ecosystem Health, and the other group assessing Horse Management and Population Control methods.

The key to the success of this process will be our unwavering commitment to the future of the Heber Wild Horse Territory, with an emphasis on moving the conversation forward and a singular focus on the task at hand. Our goal is to foster positive engagement across a broad range of participants and perspectives, to have open and honest discussions with each other and to be transparent about our limitations. 

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If you would like more information on the collaborative planning process, convened by Arizona State University, please visit the website at https://heberhorsecollaborative.asu.edu

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