Advocates for the Salt River wild horses lauded state House leaders decision on Thursday to adopt a bill that will better protect the historic herd.
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign have worked tirelessly since the summer to assure preservation of about 100 of these wild horses that live on the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest.
"We are thrilled that the House of Representatives has recognized the importance of this historic herd and has upheld the public's interest in protecting them.
We urge the Senate to promptly join the House in passing this legislation so that the Salt River wild horses can be preserved for future generations of Arizonans to come," said Simone Netherlands of Prescott, president of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group.
Netherlands could not be reached this week for comment as her cell phone was not accepting any new calls.
The House bill as initially proposed was a concern to the horse advocates, but earlier in the week Netherlands released a statement that said they now were urging the House to accept the bill proposed by Rep. Kelly Townsend of Mesa.
The groups' opposition to the initial bill had to do with state jurisdiction over the horses, and treatment of them as livestock. Townsend's amendment instead recognizes the herd as wild horses, and are not considered stray animals. Under her revised proposal, the state would not be required to spend $1 million annually on managing these animals.
The adopted bill, HB 2340, codifies a cooperative approach for the humane management of the wild horses between the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, the U.S. Forest Service and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. It also criminalizes harassing, shooting, or killing of a salt river wild horse and affirms their importance to the state.
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group expresses its appreciation to Townsend for the "tremendous effort that she has expended on this issue and for her willingness to work with all parties on a solution that is in the best interest of the public and the horses."
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign have been working to secure lasting protections for this beloved herd since last summer when the US Forest Service announced the impound and removal of the beloved herd. The groups maintain that the Forest Service has the duty, responsibility and legal authority to manage all resources within the Tonto National Forest and that the Salt River wild horses are clearly an important and valued economic, historic and recreational resource within the forest. "We thank and commend Rep.Townsend for addressing our concerns and for working to craft legislation that will promote protection of this historic herd that is so loved and treasured by the people of Arizona," Netherlands said.
Staff writer Nanci Hutson contributed to this report.
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