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.