Land Management Plan for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests
In 2015 the Forest Service released their Record of Decision (ROD) for their Land Management Plan. The Land Management Plan is different from the Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan that is expected to be released and implemented in Oct 2023. The Land Management Plan is more broad and inclusive and it does affect the Heber wild horses as well as other facets of the forest.
Several appeals were filed by different groups and agencies against the ROD. One appeal was submitted by the attorney representing the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) and the TerraWind Ranch Eco-Action Group. The appeal consisted of a 23 page document and 27 exhibits.
The reasons for the appeal were:
1. THE LAND MANAGEMENT PLAN FAILS TO RECOGNIZE THE HISTORIC AND CONTEMPORARY PRESENCE OF THE WILD HORSES.
2. THE USFS VIOLATES THE WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS ACT OF 1971, A FEDERAL COURT ORDER, AND THE NATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ACT BY IGNORING ITS OBLIGATIONS UNDER EACH.
3. THE USFS’S CHARACTERIZATION OF THE WILD HORSES AS “FERAL” AND “INVASIVE” IS UNFOUNDED AND IGNORES EVIDENCE CONTRARY TO THOSE LABELS.
4. THE USFS FAILS TO CONSIDER – LET ALONE ANALYZE – HOW THE LAND MANAGEMENT PLAN WILL IMPACT THE WILD HORSES AND THE TERRITORY.
The following paragraph is an excerpt from the conclusion of the appeal:
“The Plan should be required to contain specific direction and objectives for the Territory. The brief section devoted to the Territory pales in comparison to other sections with significantly more developed guidance, such as that provided in the “Desired Conditions” and “Guidelines” sections of the Plan. The indifference to the wild horses and the Territory is further illustrated in the Plan by its ignorant characterization of the Territory as suitable for all uses – without analysis of the Territory itself. The Plan failed to carefully analyze the needs of the wild horses associated with the Territory and the impact that other uses would have on them both. The lack of attention to the Territory and the horses is dumbfounding in light of the fact that the Plan purports to include particular direction for special areas, naming the Heber Wild Horse Territory as one of those areas.”
The appeal called for a revision to include “distinctive and specialized objectives and safeguards for the Heber Wild Horse Territory”.
July 13, 2016 the ISPMB issued a press release regarding the Land Management Plan.
Excerpts from the press release:
“A settlement of appeals was agreed upon between the Forest Service of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest (ASNF) and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) and the TerraWind Ranch Eco-Action Group( TREAC) assuring the future protection of these unique wild horses.”
“The resolution harmonizes the plan with the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. It removes certain inflammatory language pertaining to the horses and finally it requires the FS to show how the plan will impact the wild horses.”
But as we know, the fight to keep the Heber wild horses free and free-roaming in the Sitgreaves National Forest continues.
Some of the faces of the Heber wild horse herd...