2016 information event at Bison Ranch
In 2016 the Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance held an information event at the Bison Ranch gazebo in Overgaard. Originally scheduled for June 18 it was postponed to July 16 due to the Cedar fire burning south of Show Low. The fire ultimately consumed over 45,900 acres.
Local residents and people from the Phoenix area came to learn about the horses and to speak of their own experiences and hopes for the Heber wild horse herd. Drawings were held for prizes and Heber Wild Horses tee-shirts were given out to kids.
Members of our group gave a brief history of the herd and spoke of the importance of keeping the horses wild and free-roaming in the Sitgreaves National Forest. A number of people from the audience also took the microphone. Among the speakers was Bari Mears, President and Founder of Phoenix Animal Care Coalition 911 (PACC911). Another was a teacher who wanted to get her students involved in the history and preservation of the horses. A mom spoke about wanting to preserve the legacy of the wild horses for her own children and to teach them to observe and respect wildlife. Her family named some of the Heber wild horses and those names are still used to this day such as “Legend” and “Wanagi”. A photographer talked about visiting the forest to photograph the horses. There were others who spoke for keeping the Heber herd wild and free-roaming.
In opposition to keeping the herd in the forest was a local woman from a public lands ranching family. She took the typical side of the ranchers with her talking points. She compared the horses to feral dogs and cats and said the horses needed to be managed like other animals and did not want them treated as the wild horses they are. She had no evidence but claimed the horses came from the Indian Reservation. Although she came armed with stacks of papers, notebooks, and handouts she was unable to answer simple questions pertaining to cattle grazing in the forest that were posed by someone in the audience.
We had invited the Forest Service to come and speak. They declined but sent the following statement which was read to the audience by one of our members.
“We at the Apache-Sitgreaves appreciate the great work done to resolve the horse-related concerns and appeal points on the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest Plan and that we look forward to a continued working relationship for development of a Management Plan for the Heber Wild Horse Territory.
The Forest is actively working on developing a collaborative process that invites discussion from different perspectives. We also want to create an effective way for people to provide input into the planning process and stay informed throughout the process. While we were not able to join you in person today, we are very excited to move forward with the planning process for the Territory and are looking forward to meeting and working with you.”
Steve Best, Forest Supervisor