Why It Matters: Wild horses (i.e., feral horses, unauthorized livestock etc.) and burros have long been a symbol of the American West, receiving protection from Congress in 1971 under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. Under this Act, wild horses and burros were to be maintained in a manner that produces a “thriving ecological balance.” Fast forward to today: there are currently around 90,000 wild horses and burros roaming the West. These numbers are 300% over the science-based Appropriate Management Level (AML) that is needed to sustain their populations and mitigate against negative ecological impact.
- Wild horses are ecologically disastrous when populations are allowed to grow above Appropriate Management Levels.
- Arizona SB 1057, if allowed to proceed, would create additional and unnecessary protections for the Alpine Horse Herd, causing a cascading effect on native wildlife, and hindering future management efforts.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted an opposition letter to SB 1057, urging both the Senate Government Committee and the Senate Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee to not permit the bill to proceed.
On February 3, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted testimony to both the Arizona Senate Government Committee and Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee urging the committees to oppose SB 1057 – Alpine Horse Herd, which aims to create unnecessary protections to the Alpine Horse Herd and would hinder future management.
There are currently around 90,000 wild horses and burros roaming the West. These numbers are 300% over the science-based Appropriate Management Level (AML) that is needed to sustain their populations and mitigate against negative ecological impact. This extreme overpopulation has caused severe damage to vegetation and riparian systems, which in turn has negatively impacted native wildlife, native fish populations, and has even imperiled the wild horses themselves. Existing water and vegetation resources cannot sustain the current wild horse population, and the increasing wild horse numbers continue to threaten all wildlife and fish species that depend on the same habitat for survival.
Following the 2011 Arizona Wallow Fire, boundary fencing keeping horses on the White Mountain Apache Tribal Lands were destroyed, allowing those horses to move onto the Apache National Forest. In the 11 years since then, there has been significant ecological damage, and the now wild populations have increased exponentially One does not need to look any further than the Salt River Wild Horse Management Area to see what the future holds for the Alpine Horse Herd, should SB 1057 be successful. The wild horses in the Salt River Wild Horse Management Area have decimated the natural habitat not only for themselves, but for Arizona’s native fish and wildlife, and now must be regularly fed by volunteers to fend off a massive mortality event.
For these reasons, CSF is strongly opposed to SB 1057 and asked that the bill not proceed out of the Senate Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee or the Senate Government Committee. At this point, SB 1057 has not been calendared for a hearing. CSF will continue to monitor the bill and engage as necessary to ensure protections for wild horses don’t come at the expense of Arizona’s native fish, wildlife, and their habitats.