By Jesus Walton, Telegraph Times
After months of public pressure and political backlash, the Tonto National Forest will permanently drop all plans to round up and remove almost 100 free-roaming horses near the Salt River.
Ever since the Forest Service announced its intention to round up the approximately 100 horses, hundreds and hundreds of people have rallied against the plan. Tonto National Forest Spokeswoman Carrie Templin says removal would have started December 18, but the Forest Service officially withdrew its impound notice Friday.
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group posted the news to social media Thursday night. Knowing the horses are no longer in imminent danger, those conversations will continue, she said. She's clear to explain that the announcement doesn't mean the horses are safe forever, "but if [the Forest Service] wants to round them up, it would have to go through a lengthy legal process first".
Last week, almost all members of Arizona's U.S. House delegation sent a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking why the U.S. Forest Service had not yet worked with Arizona residents to determine a management plan for the horses. Some wilderness and wildlife experts pushed for the roundup on the belief that the non-native animals destroy river habitat and harm native plants, birds and fish.
"While much work remains to be done and many details to work out, this is a very positive step toward protecting these horses, who are clearly valued by the public", said Suzanne Roy, Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.
SRWHMG previously filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the Forest Service from rounding up the horses.