By Pat Raia, The Horse
November 28, 2016
A bipartisan group from Arizona's U.S. House of Representatives delegation is calling on the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to establish a plan to manage the growth of the Salt River feral horse herd.
The feral horses in the Salt River herd, which resides in the Tonto National Forest, were are not protected by federal law until earlier this year. It was then that Arizona passed legislation protecting the horses and placing them under Maricopa County Sheriff's office and U.S. Forest Service jurisdiction.
In a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak, six Arizona house members called for Salt River mares to be immediately treated with porcine zona pellucida (PZP, an immunocontraceptive vaccine) to manage herd growth.
The groups sent the letter after the USFS denied a plan that would have allowed the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group (SRWHMG) and its national partner, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, to proceed with a plan to vaccinate the mares. Simone Netherlands, SRWHMG president, said the plan was rejected on grounds that USFS is not authorized to manage the herd and, therefore, cannot authorize others to conduct herd management practices.
Even so, the group opined in its letter, PZP application is necessary to stabilize the herd and ensure its health.
“(We) agree that humane fertility control is the right approach for managing the health and stability of the herd, which has a population growth rate of 8% to 10% annually,” the group said in the letter. “There is no cost to the federal government. Our constituents simply want permission to conduct a humane fertility control program on Forest Service land to protect the health of the Salt River horses.”
Netherlands believes the fertility control program is critical to protect the horses’ futures: “Using PZP now will keep the herd to a healthy size for its habitat and protect horses from being subject to roundups and removal.”
No one from USFS was available for comment on the letter.