In 1931 in the Sitgreaves National Forest in Navajo County, AZ the Forest Service had a policy of “ridding the range of wild horses” by having the FS Rangers shoot them. Back then, as is the case today, “ridding the range of wild horses” was all to benefit the public lands ranchers. However, a problem arose when domestic horses that were grazing the forest were also being shot. This resulted in a Federal Court Case which in the end sided with the Forest Service and allowed their policy of shooting of wild horses to continue as long as an effort was made to determine if the horses were wild or domestic.
The following is an excerpt of the Memorandum that was issued by Quincy Randles, Acting Regional Forester.
Wild Horses No. 20-G-3 Albuquerque, New Mexico
April 22, 1931
Memorandum for Forest Officers:
From the information in the decree and injunction, it is evident that in carrying out closing order procedure, the courts will insist that ample notice of the plans for disposing of the wild horses, including the period fixed by the Forest Supervisor for disposing of them, be given to the interested stockmen; also, that before shooting horses, Forest officers use reasonable diligence in determining whether the horses are wild or gentle. It is realized that where wild and gentle horses are mixed on the same range it is rather difficult to distinguish the gentle horses from the wild ones, consequently a gentle horse may be killed accidentally, in which case the Service would be criticized, but if reasonable diligence is used to determine whether the horse is wild or gentle and notice of the time set for shooting the wild horses is given to the local stockmen, it is felt that the closing order procedure will be supported by the Federal courts and by public sentiment.
/s/ Quincy Randles, Acting Regional Forester.
From the resulting Federal Court Order:
The Complainant, through its officers, is authorized to dispose of, by shooting if necessary, any wild horse of unknown ownership, as herein defined, whether branded or not, found in trespass on the National Forest running at large on the forest after said range has been closed by the Secretary of Agriculture to the grazing of wild horses of unknown ownership as herein defined and reasonable notice has been given thereof.
Hereof fail not, under penalty of the law thence ensuing. WITNESS, the Honorable F. C. Jacobs, Judge of the District Court of the United States for the District of Arizona and the seal of said Court hereunto affixed at Phoenix this 9th day of April, A.D. 1931.
The Memorandum and along with the Federal Court Order
As we watch the Heber wild horses living free it’s important to reflect back in history to their ancestors and the abuse they underwent. Today’s horses are still in the crosshairs of the Forest Service. We are currently watching the death of the Alpine wild horse herd at the hands of the Forest Service. They no longer shoot horses, though they do have a loophole for that option, they are using different weapons to eliminate the herds. After the initial culls the Heber herd will be kept in a nonviable state through the heavy use of birth control on the mares ensuring that man, not nature will select which mares breed. That is not the definition of wild.