Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (Ariz.) seeks public comment on Heber Wild Horse Territory plan

/ In The News, News
Wild horses in Heber Wild Horse Territory (Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests). USFS photo.

The Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests (Arizona) recently released its Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for public comment. 

This EA establishes an Appropriate Management Level for the Heber WHT of 50-104 horses.  In 2017, the estimated number of horses was 270-420 horses.  

The management plan calls for removal of horses to AML, primarily via bait-trapping, and application of fertility control (most likely vaccines, with potential, in the future, for other modalities).  The EA states that, because of public comments during the scoping period, surgical sterilization of mares will NOT be considered or utilized.

This plan also discusses how the USFS will use monitoring and adaptive management strategies to be better able to flex to conditions on the range as they change. This is very positive as it means a more dynamic management, shifting as ecosystems do, responding to stressors, and making decisions based on the environment and the land.

Public participation in natural resource management issues is far from perfect, but it is important to engage respectfully and with relevance to a planning document.  Opinions matter, but not in public commenting!  We encourage you to carefully read through all of the documents, including appendices, on the Forest Service commenting website, and use the online form to comment BY APRIL 22, as you see fit:


Comments should address specific portions of a planning document; with updated information or expertise you have about a point in the EA, or a suggestion about missed or inappropriate analysis within the EA.  These are the comments that are considered.  (For example:  while it would be great to have a higher AML, it is outside of the scope of comments relevant to this EA.  That comment would be relevant to a Land Use Management process.)    

Some things Return to Freedom will comment about:

  • AML ranges are determined so that there is sufficient time between gathers to allow for the population to grow to the gather trigger point (high end of AML).  Since these are typically determined based on gather-removal only scenarios, but this FS will implement fertility control, the low AML can be adapted upwards because of a slowed population growth rate.
  • We appreciate a plan which is centered around proven, safe and humane fertility control vaccines, especially, and a general focus on non-permanent population control methods. These are the modalities that garner the most public support. Because of the longer term research and use behind PZP and PZP-22, it is in the Forest Service’s best interest to use these well-proven immuno-contraceptive vaccines as often as possible.