An Open Letter to Congress

August 12, 2015

Dear Senators Flake and McCain; Congressmen Franks, Gallego, Gosar, Grijalva, Salmon and Schweikert; and Congresswomen Kirkpatrick, McSally and Sinema:

For 90 years, Arizona Highways has celebrated the beauty of our state, and so much of that coverage has been from our wild places — the forests, rivers, lakes, deserts and canyons that cut across our landscape and provide the geographical and biological diversity that makes Arizona one of the most incredible states in the country.

But we're afraid.

With greater and greater frequency, we see threats to our public lands and wild spaces — the proposed development of the Grand Canyon, the mining of sacred spaces and, with the U.S. Forest Service’s recent announcement about roundup plans for the wild horses of the Salt River, the removal of wild, free, peaceful animals from their rightful range.

There are more threats, epidemic threats.

Just as so many of Arizona’s citizens have in the past week, Arizona Highways implores the Forest Service and you, our representatives, to be the stewards of the land that you are charged by duty to be. That means being stewards of the wild horses that roam the Tonto National Forest along the Salt River. Please hear the voices of the people who have joined the movement to protect these iconic Arizona animals and work with experts to devise a comprehensive, humane management plan for the Salt River horses.

You have a chance to halt the epidemic. Protect Arizona’s wild spaces by protecting the wild things in them.

Please listen to the people of Arizona so they and generations after them will have something left — a wild space where their own wild hearts, minds and spirits can go to run.


The editorial staff of Arizona Highways magazine


These horses mean freedom to me. They are a representation of my Arizona, wild and free. Please save these beautiful animals. Put your heart in front of your wallet. I am an Arizona resident, living in Gold Canyon.

I have been a professional fine art photographer for some time and Byrd for my horse photographs. The noble horse is one of God's most wonderful and beautiful animals and wild horses should forever be allowed to live protected and in freedom for the world to see, to watch and to photograph. I emplore our congressmen and women, Govenor and all elected officials to draft legislation to roam forever, protect and save our Salt River horses for all to observe and photograph. Susan Q Byrd SusanQuinPhotographArt Phoenix, Arizona USA

To Whom It May Concern: I am a 64 year old woman, raised in Arizona. I knew Arizona in the open-range and dirt road days. I watched roads be paved, livestock run over, and subdivisions built. Arizona is precious country. The old way of life in Arizona is something to cherish and preserve. The horses and National Forest are a peace of that. Please, preserve this for a legacy to future Arizona's. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely, Jenniffer Wells

To Whom It May Concern: I am a 64 year old woman, raised in Arizona. I knew Arizona in the open-range and dirt road days. I watched roads be paved, livestock run over, and subdivisions built. Arizona is precious country. The old way of life in Arizona is something to cherish and preserve. The horses and National Forest are a peace of that. Please, preserve this for a legacy to future Arizona's. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely, Jenniffer Wells

Reside in Oregon, formerly 20 year Arizona resident, UA Grad, eventual snowbird to AZ. Entire family still resides in Tucson. Dear Sirs: Please, do what's right. It's all about FREEDOM, that huge thing we Americans fight for each and every day! Senator McCain, you know more than most Americans will ever know how important freedom truly is to all of the living beings who walk across American soil. To unwind and breathe, this city gal needs to see and feel wild space, Mother Nature untainted by humans, and most importantly, I need to see wild animals in their natural habitat, living freely. Leave only footprints and please, leave the natural environment and circle of life alone. Thanks so much for listening.

These horses deserve to be protected with a home range of their own. They have fought hard to survive and have done a great job with no interference from humans or the federal government.

My name is Krysta Behm. I've been an Arizona resident for 17 years. I live in Prescott Valley, AZ. Please let these peaceful, Arizona horses be. Let them be. They are so very precious to us. We need not cause unnecessary distress to these animals. It so reflects the spirit of human nature. We need not be cruel. Please hear our voices. Thank you.

There is not one thing I can think of that represents what our State of AZ is all about than these majestic beautiful horses. They are amazing surviors and have been for many years. So many beautiful areas have been destroyed, this area needs to remain with this diverse herd of wild horses. Instead of "politics" lets look after our heritage. I love this state, been here all my life and will forever. It is just a bit of the "wild west".

Humans and horses have lived together for millennia. Long before humans found mechanical means to fly like birds, they joined with horses to run like the wind. Horses carried us and our burdens. Without horses, humans might never have invented the wheel, for it was horses who pulled the carts, the wagons, the coaches and carriages. But before all that, they were free and beautiful and we envied them. It's now time for us to pay back to them for all they've given us. We must protect their freedom, for it is a mirror of our own.

I am a resident of Phoenix, Arizona and a frequent visitor to the Tonto National Forest. The Salt River Wild Horses are an important part of our Arizona Heritage and a National Treasure. Please act to insure their continued survival along the lower Salt River. It is vitally important the future generations have the opportunity to experience the beauty of free-roaming horses in the Western United States.

My husband and I often take our three young boys to explore nature around this beautiful state. This is their heritage, their home. This is what I want their Arizona to be. Last month, we took our youngest son on his first float down the Salt River, and he got to see the horses for the first time. It was a special moment for our family, and we have many such memories at other wild locations around the state. Please help us, the citizens of this state, to have continued access to these magical, wild, uplifting and wonderful places. Please be stewards on our behalf. -Michelle Schwartz, Litchfield Park, AZ

My name is Colleen Wollenberg and I live in Rio Verde Foothills, AZ. I am an Arizona native and recall when my parents took me to see them back in the 1960's. I have enjoyed these beautiful animals my whole life and want my future generations to be able to do the same. Please act accordingly to take action to protect them.

I live in Chandler, AZ. I go out to Bush Highway on a very regular basis. I love seeing the horses in the water, or anywhere I might happen upon them. I like to hike around away from the rec areas and am in awe every time I see them. On November 13, 2010, my daughter Maria, her fiancee Tim, and I came across a pony stuck down in a huge hole. It looked fine other than being scared silly. We managed to contact the rangers, and one came out and helped us rescue it, along with some horseback riders. It was amazing to see the pony up and walking around, out of the hole.

Rounding up and auctioning off the horses to clear the land for livestock grazing is against the majority of taxpayer wishes. If the only reason is safety concerns or eventual overpopulating then there are alternatives and plenty of resources to manage the herds. I believe an injustice was about to be done and that has now been brought to light. We are living in a time with mass communication and social media where concerned citizens will no longer allow animals especially horses to be treated this way.

The letter above explains my feelings exactly! Please help in preserving this wild legacy.

The Salt River Horses need to be preserved as a part of our culture and history here in Arizona. Do we want to stand on the wrong side of history when it comes to something so iconic as our own wild horses, symbolizing everything about the South West and all of America? We have an opportunity to use this time as lesson in fortitude to not give into the whims of those in charge against the cry of public! Use this time to draw attention to what makes us great and let's embrace those who will come from all over the nation to stand in awe at these majestic horses.

Please, please let our wild horses be. Treat them with respect. These animals are so beautiful and intelligent and should continue to be allowed their freedom! Fix the fences to keep them off the roads and do what is necessary to protect one of Arizona's historical landmarks. I would like to think that Arizona's Representatives can find compassion in their beings and do what is necessary to protect it's culture and wild spaces and ALL that make Arizona their home.

The wild horses of the lower Salt River valley and the Heber wild horses represent to me the ability to set our differences to the side and do what's right for the freedom of these horses. They truly represent the Wild West spirit to me. They deserve freedom to run! Surprise Az resident.. 40+ yrs in Arizona.

I have watched as development after development takes the last piece of land and creates more vacant homes and retail space all in the name of Progress and for big Money developers. Stop the Madness. Now the Wild Horses of the Salt and Verde Rivers are at risk. Please remember what we elected you for. It was not to decimate what we love it was to protect it!

Please continue your support of allowing these horses to remain in their home in the Salt River area. They are an important part of Arizona's history and present and need to be protected. They live independently without support from the national park services. Perhaps the speed limit on Bush Hwy needs to be reduced to accommodate cars and horses.

You are the stewards of our great State. And that carries the responsibility of preserving all that makes this State the unique ecosystem it is. It does NOT give you the right to hinder, remove, take away. North Carolina celebrates their wild horse on The Outer Banks. Humans and horses co-exist there. Our Wild horse co-exist on our land. Be the Guardian of THAT, celebrate THAT, and stop with this foolishness!!

I am sorry to correct you but this is Not our land, it belongs to the wildlife that reside there. Most of whom were there long before man started taking from them.

Dear Trusted Representatives, Please hear the outcry of the citizens of Arizona. In a time where there is so much cruelty to animals by mankind, everything from maiming them purposely just to torture, to killing them just for trophies, out of false pride and ego, please find it in your hearts to hear us pleading to spare these beautiful free spirited creatures the torture of being rounded up and taken into captivity, only to be shipped to an unknown place, possibly to live out their lives as prisoners in corrals or stalls. Horses are meant to live free to run. Our fair state is one of the few who still have wild horses living free, as they have done for years. Please help them stay in their natural habitat. We, the people of Arizona, love and respect them.

Please leave the horses be! Not only are the great for tourism they're great for the ecology of our river. They eat the grasses that grow in the river, what other way to keep our river running clean and clear. They are magnificent to watch and can be a great tool in teaching kids about wildlife also. The historic and iconic value of this herd can not be desputed. Please respect the wishes of the people and the horses so future generations can be an awe of them as much as we have been allowed to. Thank you

The grass is the reason why the water is clear. The horses are increasing turbidity by stirring up dirt, defecating, and removing the riparian plants that are necessary to maintain a pristine riverine ecosystem. Horses are not native to the USA and definitely do not belong in the desert.

You sir, are terribly misinformed. It has been proven, in many different ways, but most importantly by fossil records, that horses ARE native to North America. They originated and evolved on this continent. The Salt River horses improve their habitat. You must be confusing them with non-native cattle.

I think the human element is more of a problem to the river. How many people tube that river on a given day and they are definitely peeing in the water and God only knows how many take a dump there. The cattle are the worst also and who know what chemicals have spilled into the river from the lakes. Everytime there is a forest fire (usually human caused), the debris that goes into the lake and then into the river must count for something. Get on the reality wagon, horses belong more that people.

Please Please Save the Beautiful Horses! They too are part of Arizona's History! They have blood running through their veins also! "We the People" want to keep them safe! Relocate them! Do NOT destroy part of Az history of the wild range! They deserve to live too!

Having these horses removed and with all probability ending up going to slaughter would be a travesty. They are not only beautiful and inspiring, they are a part of Arizona history. Must we destroy everything in nature?!

I was Born at Luke Air Force Base over 60 years ago & Raised in Phoenix. So much of our Natural Arizona has been destroyed, these Beautiful Wild Horses have been a part of the Original Glory of our great state since before our Ancestors stole so much of this land from the original Native Americans. Please Protect and Save these Magnificent Animals, We All Need to Strive to Do No More Harm to this Majestic Culture & Land! I beg of you to stand up and be counted! God Bless the USA!

The beautiful wild horses desrve their freedom and the right to roam where they have lived for nearly a century. I personally like to head out to the Salt River so I can see them as do many others. They resonate a calmness and a spirit that draws you in to share it with them. Please protect these beautiful creatures and their land.

I am old now and I have childhood memories of a different time when horses played a large part of our lives having grown up in the Palouse Country of Eastern Washington. Times have changed so much since then and these wild Horses are a small part of that time. We need to keep these horses as a memory for our future generations to enjoy their beauty and freedom and to have a living memory of the past. Thank you for your time Colletta

These horses have been a part of our American History for decades. They are icons and should be allowed to roam free in their lands. There is enough bad in our country, with political parties divided over oil and gas exploration across the mid west , to closing our boarders to illegals, to using the land for cattle grazing only, to fighting ISIS and protecting our country from foreign terrorism, to healthcare, to environmental protection, etc.... These horses have brought a common bond to Americans across the country and it is because as Americans in a free country, we have few common interests in today's busy political agendas. These horses are a symbol of freedom, of the freedom we all once shared, before the west became a union. Let us NOT forget who was here before us and what they represent in this country full of laws and bilaws that we still consider "land of the free"! Protect all wild horses across the mid and southwest, it is our duty as Americans to see to it that that one piece of American History NOT be destroyed or changed by hidden political agendas that only benefits man. "A country is measured by the way it treats it's animals". We have failed to protect other wildlife because of big interest groups having money to change laws, please do not allow America's wild horses to be captured..... Let freedom ring and may all wild horses run free for decades to come! Stand strong and be our voice to protect these wild horses, I humbly ask of thee. Julia Pricella Armendariz Pasadena, Texas

The horses of the Salt River have become my passion. My boyfriend and I spend many hours walking the trails and none trails of the Tonto National Forest in the hope of seeing these horses. It is always such a blessing when do find them. (they aren't always in the campground) We thank our greater power and Mother Nature each time. The horses are Wild and they are not trespassers. They are part of American History and they are part of the eco-system. Please support the Wild Horse Management Group. There is enough land to share.

The issue of wild horses is complicated, I understand. I have 5 horses at my home that I ride, I love, and I share my life with. I have a hard time even saying that I "own" them, because it is only a piece of paper. I am very blessed and lucky to be entrusted with their care. Part of the issue seems to be whether this herd is true "Wild" horses versus "Domesticated castaways" from the recession or "Strays." Horses represent so much to humans spiritually and emotionally...some without their even knowing it! They are mirrors of human emotion. The Salt River Herd has so much support because so many people that occasionally escape the grind of the metropolis of Phoenix to recreate and keep grounded and to feel their own freedom see themselves in the wild horses there. And who are we to say which of us humans are "Wild," which of us are "Domesticated" or which of us are "Castaways" or "Strays"? Every one of us is trying to survive. The horses deserve to be there and protected, and the people deserve the horses. We have a duty to each other to co-exist and a responsibility. We need our leaders and government to realize the importance of this. It is much, much deeper than it appears. They are not "nuisance animals"....they represent Us.

I believe these wild horses should remain free in the Salt River area and elsewhere. They have roamed free for so many years, now BLM and others want to take their freedom away. That is wrong.

These glorious wild things how I revel in their being. When I discovered them near Saguaro Lake I was just in awe of their beauty how much they belonged to their environment, how they have adjusted to such a harsh place with such dignity. They belong as much as the coyote, the javelina, the roadrunners, please let them be so future generations can enjoy.

I have been in Arizona for 9 years. Since living here, I have become a horseback rider, have become a horse owner and, never thought, have become a horse activist. I also started a magazine, promoting our area, the west, the wild horses, etc. to international visitors. Those visitors are fascinated by "our" wild horses. Call them wild, call them feral, call them whatever you want - they should be here to stay. Nowhere else do wild horses live so peacefully with the people than the Salt River Herd. Their beauty, their strength and their effect on people from far and near should not be destroyed by "removing" them. No tourist, no visitor will come to see cows destroying our land, our water, our river. Destroying our nature, our wildlife, our wild horses will never have a positive impact! Please let them be where they are and implement the necessary measures for their safety so that uneducated people and reckless drivers can't harm them. Thank you.

Supporting development and implementation of plan to manage and protect wild horses in AZ

Please follow through with plans to stop overpopulation of wild horses on the ranges of the Western United States. These horses are multiplying rapidly and are overgrazing range, destroying it ecologically and creating a situation leading to cruelty through starvation of these beautiful animals.Thank you!

Please stop with the Welfare Rancher propaganda. Cattle outnumber wild horses in the west 50 to 1, yet provide less than 3% of American consumer beef. The Salt River herd is obviously not starving and they eat river grass, so they're not "overgrazing range". That's the cattle's forte!

The Salt River Horses belong to Arizona, they have lived here for 100 yrs or more. This is an American story, it's a national symbol of all the freedom, beauty and grace our country has to offer, both for us as well as for all of our international visitors.

I've been lucky enough to be able to view wild horses in several locations in states other than Arizona. I am always moved by their grace, beauty and wildness. I implore you to allow the Salt River Wild Horses to continue to be wild and free. Those are two qualities not seen much today.

I agree wholeheartedly with the above letter. The horses need to stay and be protected. The mining on sacred land is not acceptable. This is for a foreign company? How do you justify that? If it is for cattle grazing that the horses are being moved that is also not acceptable. I feel like both of these are "follow the money" deals. Listen to the people of Arizona for a change.

These horses are a beautiful addition to the landscape of the salt river area. Please help protect and preserve their way of life. It would be such a tragedy to see them go.

I saw the heard the night my husband proposed to me. That was 21 years ago. I want them to be there forever. We thought of it as a lucky charm. Scottsdale AZ

Thank you Arizona Highways Magazine for supporting the public's efforts for keeping these beautiful Salt River wild horses. The wild horses are so much a part of Arizona history and they should be left alone to roam free.

A big thanks to Arizona Highways magazine for taking up the cause of the Salt River Wild Horses.

I'v signed every petition available, ,made phone calls and sent emails in order to stop the escalating, and brutal helicopter round ups across all the western states. It's been like watching a virtual holocaust against these magnificent horses, and all wildlife lately. There is room for these animals to remain in their natural habitat and the burden of their loss falls upon those who have the power to stop it and don't.

We need to preserve our heritage, and these horses are part of that.


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