One of the Heber wild horse herd advocates spent much of her vacation time camping in the forest. Over the years she had always been on good terms with the Black Mesa Forest Service employees. They were very friendly and helpful. But in the early summer of 2014, before we knew the Forest Service had restarted work on the Heber Wild Horse Territory management plan, she noticed a change. We didn’t know it at the time but the Forest Service had requested the services of the Enterprise Program to help them with the management plan. That created a lot more activity than what had previously been seen in the forest.
Things got strange during the 4th of July weekend when she went up to camp. Saturday, July 5th a little after 10:00 PM there was a loud knock on the side of her living quarters trailer. She was unable to see a vehicle when she looked out the window but she saw a man in a Forest Service uniform. He demanded she open the door. He said she had overstayed the 14 day limit. But the fact was that it was only her second night there. She asked him to show her his ID but he just kept pointing to the name badge on his shirt. She was unable to read it because the whole time he was shining his bright flashlight in her eyes. She offered to show him her ID but he told her it wasn’t necessary because he knew exactly who she was. The conversation went on but was going nowhere. So she finally closed and locked her door and went to sleep.
The next evening she left her trailer and went to meet up with friends for dinner in Overgaard. Upon her return to her campsite at about 6:30 pm she saw both locks to the living quarters of her trailer had been drilled out. In fear of what might happen next she hooked up her trailer and drove to Bison Ranch. She called the Sheriff’s Dept and they advised her to go to the Forest Service office when they opened. She spent the night in her trailer in the Bison Ranch parking lot.
Monday morning, July 7 she went to the Black Mesa Forest Service office in Overgaard. She told the woman at the desk what had happened. She included the description of the man who went to her trailer the night of July 5th. At that point a Forest Service employee who was in his office and overheard the conversation came out. He told her it was their law enforcement officer and told her his name. He asked her into his office to discuss the situation. He told her that since it involved law enforcement she would need to report the incident to the Patrol Captain in Springerville. When she left the FS office she called the Patrol Captain and left a message. He returned her call later that day at which time she gave him a detailed report over the phone. He asked her what she would like to see happen. She told him that at the very least the officer who went to her trailer at 10:00 pm for no valid reason should have a psych evaluation because his behavior was not normal. The Captain told her to file a report. That day she sent in a very detailed report by email to the Captain. She never heard back.
In 2018 another advocate for the Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance sent in a FOIA request asking for any information on incidents that were reported in July 2014 involving Forest Service employees including law enforcement where a citizen(s) felt threatened or intimidated or falsely accused by such FS employees. The following response was received:
“Staff members searched in every place where a reasonably knowledgeable professional could expect to find records pertaining to your request. We did not locate any records responsive to your request for the Black Mesa Ranger District for the month of July 2014.
For your information, Congress excluded three discrete categories of law enforcement and national security records from the requirements of the FOIA. .See 5 U.S.C . 552(c) (2006 & Supp. IV 2010). This response is limited to those records that are subject to the requirements of the FOIA. This is a standard notification that is given to all our requesters and should not be taken as an indication that excluded records do, or do not, exist.”
Not caving in to intimidation, still standing up for what's right by speaking out for the Heber wild horse herd.