Phoenix, AZ (March 8, 2016). . . . Today at 9 a.m., the Arizona State Senate Committee on Federalism, Mandates and Fiscal Responsibility will hear HB 2340, a bill to protect the famed Salt River Wild Horses in the Tonto National Forest near Mesa.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Kelly Townsend, passed the House on February 25. The Scottsdale-based Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and the national American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign are urging Arizona State Senators to pass this important bill.
The hearing comes one day after members of the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group held a sunrise to sundown vigil on horseback atop Coon Bluff above the Salt River wild horses’ habitat in the Tonto forest. Their American flags, Arizona flags, and a banner that stated, “Don’t Let Them Become History” could be seen for two miles from every direction, and generated much public support and attention.
“We built this great country on the backs of horses – including ancestors of the Salt River wild horses,” said Simone Netherlands, president of the SRWHMG. “This is about more than wild horses. It’s about who we are as Americans, what we stand for – and what we don’t. We urge the Senate to pass HB 2340 to protect the Salt River wild horses as an incredible and beloved natural resource in our state.”
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign originally opposed HB 2340 because it asserted state ownership of the horses and put the Arizona Agriculture Department in charge of their management. However, Rep. Townsend amended the bill after it received a fiscal note indicating $1 million in costs to the state, and gained support of wild horse advocates.
As currently written, the bill:
- Defines the horses as an economic, historic and recreational resource of the state, not stray animals.
- Criminalizes the harassment or killing of a Salt River wild horse;
- Defines their historic habitat on the lower Salt River;
- Provides a process to humanely manage the horses in a partnership with community groups and address the safety concerns for both the horses and the public.
- No longer presents a fiscal burden to the state because the bill does not assert state ownership of the horses, who reside on federal land.
“We commend Rep. Townsend for her dedication to protecting the Salt River wild horses and her willingness to amend her bill to accomplish that goal,” said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. “We hope that the Arizona Senate will listen to the strong will of Arizonans, who want the Salt River horses recognized and protected on the lands where they have roamed for well over a century.”
The Salt River Wild Horse Management Group is an Arizona non-profit organization established to protect, monitor and scientifically study the Salt River Wild Horses. The SRWHMG has been spearheading the effort to secure lasting protections for this iconic and beloved wild horse herd in the Tonto National Forest.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is dedicated to defending America’s wild horses and burros to protect their freedom, preserve their habitat, and promote humane standards of treatment. AWHPC’s mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations.
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