The Forest Service estimated there were 25-30 people including public lands ranchers and Heber herd advocates in attendance during the March 12, 2007 meeting. What was intended by the Forest Service to be an open house format with one on one interaction with the public turned into a sit down public meeting. Fourteen comments/issues and questions were recorded during the meeting. The questions and concerns covered various things such as what will be done with the horses that are removed, how will they be managed, will the Territory be fenced, and the Territory is too small. Other concerns and questions regarded costs to grazing permittees and concern over permittees losing their grazing pastures that are on the Territory.
The March 22, 2007 meeting drew a larger crowd of 50-55 people including public lands ranchers and Heber herd advocates. The Forest Service began by establishing the rules for the meeting procedures, a brief description of the process of NEPA and the background of the development of the Territory plan. Kendell Hughes recorded comments/issues and questions that had not been brought up during the previous meeting or were offered in a different context. Among them were concerns over the fencing between the Forest and the White Mountain Apache Reservation, the need for a balance between horse needs and that of livestock and wildlife, and the timeline for the completion of the NEPA process.
One of the Heber wild horse herd advocates gave his account of the second meeting in an article in a newspaper that is no longer in publication. He and his wife passed information to our group after they moved from the area. Here is part of what he said:
“The ink on the judge’s signature was hardly dry when Kate Klein, District Ranger on the Black Mesa District of the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, advised folks at a March 22nd Open House in Heber/Overgarrd, AZ, that she disavowed the plea agreement governing the wild free roaming horses currently on the Apache Sitgreaves Forest.” He said the Forest Service rejected the law and resorted to a regulation of the Forest Service which they claimed overruled the law. District Ranger Klein maintained her opinion that the horses were “feral” and not wild. Her opinion was without evidence. Klein had a history of wanting the free-roaming horses of the Sitgreaves removed from the forest and the Heber Wild Horse Territory dissolved.
Excerpt from Part 6 of our Chronicles:
On June 21, 1993 District Ranger Klein sent a memo to Forest Supervisor John Bedell with the subject line “Territory Withdrawal Recommendation”. In the memo Klein mentions the 1991 report and how it said the Heber Wild Horse Territory should “not be recognized at all”. Klein’s final sentence of this short memo was: “I recommend it [Heber Wild Horse Territory] be removed from the records as a territory and that the animals be removed by the State Livestock Sanitary Board.”
One of our current members of the Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance (HWHFPA), Robin Crawford also attended both meetings in March of 2007. She said at times things got a little intense between pro and anti wild horse attendees. She heard an eyebrow raising admission by one of the cowboys to the brand inspector who literally slid down in her seat from the embarrassment of having the disclosure made in a public meeting.
Another pro Heber herd advocate said she was completely disgusted with the way the meeting was handled. She said her comments as well as those of other pro Heber herd attendees were ignored. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the Court’s decision in the case were both disregarded as well. She said mismanagement of the meeting by the Forest Service only created more animosity between the pro-horse people and those against (cattle growers).
We have all the names of the people we referred to. For their privacy we elected not to use them.
A Heber wild mare looks curiously towards the camera. This photo was taken in 2007.