Heber Wild Horse Territory


Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Continues to Investigate Horse Incidents

Springerville, AZ - Feb 11, 2019 - Over the past months, several deceased horses have been discovered in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (ASNFs). Forest Service law enforcement and equine experts continue ongoing investigations into the deaths of these horses.

Since Oct, 2018, 16 deceased horses have been located on the ASNFs Black Mesa Ranger District. Of the 16 deceased horses, 12 were located outside of the Heber Wild Horse Territory (HWHT) near Forest Roads 144, 146, and 50. On Feb 7, 4 additional deceased horses were discovered inside of the HWHT near 300 RD.

There are a variety of factors that may lead to horse deaths, which can include accidents, natural causes, predation, and shootings. When it is determined that a horse’s death was due to a gunshot wound, the investigation can be complex, as the burden of proof must be rock solid for potential use in court. Our law enforcement officers strive to reach that burden of proof, and that is why these investigations are often lengthy and complex. At this time, our investigations appear to indicate that 10 of the deceased horses have evidence of gunshot wounds, 5 were severely decomposed and the cause of death remains undetermined, and 1 died of blunt force trauma usually associated with a motor vehicle collision.

Forest Service law enforcement is employing additional resources to help with these ongoing investigations. This includes working with both the Navajo County and Coconino County Sheriff’s Offices, deploying an additional team to conduct necropsies, utilizing drones to monitor the large area, increasing the amount of law enforcement officers in the area, and encouraging local and statewide media outlets to provide accurate information and an avenue for the public to submit any tips. We ask the public to pass along all tips to the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office tip line, 1-800-78CRIME.

The Forest Service has been in contact with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in order to quickly bring any potential perpetrators to justice. We are continuing our faceted investigation and encourage the public to provide any tips or additional information.

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September 28, 2018

Update on the Heber Wild Horse Territory (HWHT) planning process


It’s already been a year since the collaborative group began the important work to provide recommendations that the forest and cooperating agencies will take into consideration in the development of the Heber Wild Horse Territory (HWHT) management plan. The group started by setting goals, and defining roles and expectations. Shortly afterwards they, along with subject matter experts, took a field trip to learn more about the territory.  They also developed a communications plan, drafted press releases, and contributed to the creation of a project website. The group identified desired conditions for the HWHT, developed proposed management actions and a host of adaptive management practices.  To tackle key issues and develop specific recommendations, the collaborative group divided into two subgroups with one group looking at forage and ecosystem health, and the other group looking at horse population health, genetics, and herd management.


The collaborative group was guided by Arizona State University, the convener, and a facilitation team, Southwest Decision Resources.  Members of the working group are composed of a variety of voluntary participants such as interested citizens, representatives of non-governmental organizations, academics, cattle growers, scientists, a Veterinarian, and horse advocates. Participating agencies joining the collaborative effort include the Arizona Game & Fish Department and the Arizona Department of Agriculture.


The collaborative working group is in the final stages of completing their deliberations and providing recommendations to the Forest Service and cooperating agencies.


I would like to take a moment to thank Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability, Southwest Decision Resources, and the collaborative group members for all of their hard work and dedication over the past year. The work that was accomplished was a real testament to their commitment to the future of the Heber Wild Horse Territory, and could only have been achieved through open dialogue.


Now that the collaborative phase is nearing completion, it is time to begin the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. The Forest has assembled an interdisciplinary team of resource specialists that will provide their expertise and analysis to aide in the development of the proposed action for the management plan, and draft an Environmental Impact Statement. Throughout the NEPA process there will be opportunities for the public to provide written comments. Public meetings will provide a means for further engagement during the planning process. The NEPA process is expected to be completed by 2020.


The key to the continued success of this process will be our unwavering commitment to the future of the Heber Horses. The HWHT is considered a special area by the Forest Service, and we are committed to developing a management strategy that maintains the horses in a thriving natural ecological balance and a multiple-use relationship on the territory.

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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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