Heber Wild Horses Management Plan  - buckskin herd

A small band of Heber Wild Horses stands in an area of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests. The Forest Service has not yet released the Heber Wild Horses Management Plan for public review and comment, and the investigation into shooting deaths of numerous wild horses is ongoing.

SPRINGERVILLE — Ongoing investigations into 19 documented cases of deceased horses from October 2018 through this April in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests are still being conducted by the Law Enforcement and Investigations (LEI) division of the Forest Service.

No new information regarding the Forest Services’ investigation has been provided since the federal agency’s April 16 and April 26 press releases confirming the discovery of two deceased horses found on different dates in different areas of the forest.

In early May, ASNF Supervisor Steve Best submitted a letter to the editor which published in the May 10 edition of the Independent. The letter was in response to escalating public concerns over the horse deaths, some of which were confirmed to be the result of gunshot wounds.

Best’s letter detailed the investigative process that was followed by Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigation (LEI) Officers following reports of deceased horses.

“When LEI officers were advised of these criminal incidents they responded to the scene, and when it was determined that horses had died due to a cause other than natural causes, their investigative process began immediately,” wrote Best.

“Each scene was thoroughly investigated, any witnesses were interviewed, evidence was collected and reports were generated and brought to the attention of the Assistant U.S. Attorney who represents the prosecution in federal court proceedings,” he further explained.

“To protect the integrity of the investigation we cannot comment at this time,” assured Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests Information Officer Steve Johnson in a recent email to the Independent.

Meanwhile, the Heber Wild Horse Territory (HWHT) Management Plan is still being finalized, after which time there will be a public comment periods.

There is also a corresponding Environmental Impact Statement which will also be released for public comment.

“The internal review process has not been completed yet so we do not have a firm date scheduled for the draft proposed action,” informed Johnson in a recent email.

Completion of the plan is expected sometime in 2021.

To view the Heber Wild Horse Territory Collaborative Working Group Final Report, DRAFT 1, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/asnf/HWHT. See the “Updates” tab in the drop down list.

Reach the reporter at lsingleton@wmicentral.com

Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

(2) comments

Louie C

Heber Wild Horses https://www.facebook.com/HeberWildHorses/

Louie C

From Heber Wild Horses facebook Reader Comment Heber Wild Horses Facebook Reader comment: Sadly, the cameras that were installed by volunteers have been either vandalized or stolen. SOMEBODY KNOWS!!! This is a massive cover-up in my opinion. Deputies are also looking the other way, which tells a lot. Not saying they are shooting, but they are in cahoots with the ranchers and they hate us volunteers, especially after last year’s effort to keep these animals alive during the drought. Our effort put us on the radar, we are being called all sorts of colorful names, lives have been threatened also. Clearly, these horses were not murdered by hunters, because hunters take the body home and feed their families…. These murders are cold hearted unconscionable acts. Some day, someone will spill the beans. I still say signs about a reward might trigger something. Not sure where the reward amount stands and whether those monies are only promised for a conviction… https://www.facebook.com/HeberWildHorses/?__tn__=kC-R&eid=ARC7vdD_Q6Te9xnHyx0UIt9OnD0pfxZCn6rBHFyIRN9wpxJtF1IyMtFj_5l76cpdjLKoHJX-M2knjvci&hc_ref=ARRaZ2By_WH_ZDd8iRO9R3kOT6NPMrJqsHhY9EJf3LIK_9_F_RewroOFODCXWDrS3zw&fref=nf

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