Heber Wild Horse Management Plan will be drafted by people who have no interest in providing management for the health or protection of the wild horses. The only real advocate for the horses was just fired. Fired from a working group??
They fired her through a voicemail…how cowardly is that?!?!
Click here to listen
This comes just days after Mary Hauser, with the help of her organization had submitted her thoughts on the recommendations for the first Heber wild horse management plan in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
The working group has been a very hostile environment for Mary. And the meetings have been held illegally behind closed doors, no public allowed, no minutes kept, not even a recording of these meetings. They have been held over the phone when Mary was at work and Mary was not allowed a substitute if she could not be there. Another member of our Arizona branch (the Heber Wild Horses Freedom Preservation Alliance – HWHFPA) and Val Cecama-Hogsett from CAES tried to substitute for Mary and even asked to be allowed just to listen as members of the public, we were not allowed.
Mary issued a public response to her voicemail firing from the working group which we are sharing here:
“The Deck is Stacked Against the Heber Wild Horses
The Heber Wild Horse Territory Collaborative Working Group Terminated Me Via Voicemail.
My Public Response by Mary Hauser
The reason I am writing a public response following my termination by the Heber Wild Horse Territory Collaboration Working Group is not to defend myself in the public’s eye. It is because I have seen the inside workings of this group and I am terrified as to what is being planned for the Heber Wild Horse Herd and I think the public has a right to know.
In Mike Schoon’s voicemail, he said, “In our opinion, you have not been working in the spirit of the Collaboration.” He never said what that “spirit” was, so I’m left to draw my own opinion. My opinion is because I would not conform to what I believe to have been their preset agenda for their ultimate management plan which will decimate the herd and send more than 3/4 of the Heber herd to a fate unknown.
As excited as I was to join the Collaborative Group and represent the Heber Wild Horses and their Territory, I am just as disappointed to see how it was orchestrated and carried out over the last twelve months. Arizona State University along with Southwest Decision Resources was contracted and paid to administrate the working group. The initial problem I had was for a meeting of this magnitude where in attendance we had the Forest Service, BLM, and Arizona Game and Fish officials as well as, cattle grazing permittees, and other interested parties involved and yet no official minutes were ever taken at any of these meetings.
I repeatedly asked for minutes to be taken during the first three meetings so that meetings could be reviewed. This would have been a nice paper trail for someone who would have wanted to know who made comments and who is in favor and who is not. There are very important decisions being made during these meetings and people should be held accountable for their decisions. I was told they were not taking minutes because they were not necessary. ASU answers…Someone would take Notes.
Originally I felt my contributions to the group would be to support and protect the herd with my long-term observations and studies of the herd, individual workings of the bands, and my knowledge of the forest. However, I realized I was being forced out of my role as a contributor and into the role of a quiet observer of a well-orchestrated screenplay of a management plan for the Heber Wild Horse Territory. I believe this was a plan which appeared to have already been devised and laid out prior to the first meeting of the Collaborative Group.
The reason this became so obvious is that members of the Collaborative Group openly admitted to me at the onset of these meetings that they did not have much if any knowledge of the Sitgreaves National Forest. Many, including some of the Forest Service personnel, had never even been out into the forest until a field trip with this group.
The next startling obvious change occurred when people who had never owned a horse or had very limited to no experience with the Heber Wild Horses were suddenly full of knowledge. Those same people now were full of suggestions about the logistics of gathering, monitoring, tagging, placing tracking collars, and darting birth control. They also took active roles in decisions on how many horses would be left on the land without education or concern of genetics or viable herd numbers.
Their sudden knowledge gave me the impression that they had been hired as actors (without pay) and apparently given scripts to drive the direction of these meetings that were already planned out. The meetings moved swiftly to follow the path of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recommendations and the activities that BLM currently engages across our nation.
It also became obvious within the first three meetings that there was no education of the day to day life of the Heber wild horses. When I attempted to educate, defend or make a point in support of the Heber Wild Horses it was ignored. Sometimes I would receive a follow-up phone call from one of the ASU members, Michael Schoon, to ‘correct’ me and advise me on what I could, should or should not say during the meetings. Meanwhile, it appeared others had freedom of speech.
Early on the BLM took the lead of this Collaborative Group even though these horses are not on BLM land. The BLM agent controlled the direction of how things were going to be carried out. The Forest Service employees to this point made very few comments even though they are charged with the management of these horses. Per the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the Forest Service has the responsibility to designate Wild Horse Territories and implement management plans for those Territories. Through the years the Forest Service had failed to devise a plan to manage the Heber Wild Horse Territory, so it’s not surprising that they have passed their responsibility off to the BLM which has had years of experience stripping the American West of wild horses.
We have to make it clear that there is nobody left on the working group panel who is truly an advocate for the horses. We know it by their own words…one of the so-called advocates suggested “euthanasia” as a way to cull the herd. We know it by their actions…the Forest Service illegally contracted with ranchers in the 1980s and 1990s to capture and remove free-roaming horses without ever having a management plan. Then again in 2005, they announced they were going to remove free-roaming horses until a court injunction prevented them from doing so. We know it by their inaction…a working group member turned her back on the wild horses for approximately three weeks in an area she was assigned by Forest Service to deliver water to during the drought.
Over the course of the meetings, their lack of professionalism was displayed as shown here in their final voicemail termination. This came as no surprise because they knew I would NEVER accept their plan to manage the Heber Wild Horse Herd into extinction.
To the Forest Service: This is notice to ensure that my name is NOT to appear on any documentation connected with the Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan.”
So the Forest Service has fired the only person in the group with historic and recent knowledge of the horses themselves. They fired the advocacy group that provided much-needed water to not only horses but all wildlife in the forest. They fired her because they found out during those water hauling efforts that she and the HWHFPA is a branch of CAES, and they knew the recommendations submitted recently, by Mary Hauser who is a board member of CAES, followed laws that they want nothing to do with because it doesn’t support the rest of the working groups wishes to get rid of the herd.
They plan to decrease the herd to numbers that are too low to survive genetically. They want to make sure they do not lose the grazing rights for one single cow on the forest, but the horses are ok to go! They insist the herd has grown and justified it by now counting horses that live off the territory. The territory boundaries that were never drawn up to include the historic location of the horses. The horses have never only lived in the 3 by 20-mile map the FS drew and decided was going to be their territory. In fact, very few live on the territory because the entire territory is fenced for cattle allotments.
They insist there has been a population boom, when in fact the population has been maintained for 13 years by predators and other natural contributions. This year, for example, the herd went from an estimated 230 horses to under 180 because of drought and predation on foals. This is a herd where the ecosystem is balanced, except for the cattle and fences!
We have also noticed the complaints by livestock owners that livestock is being preyed on by predators. This means if they reduce the herd to the 60 to 66 horses the working group wants to recommend then there will be more livestock lost to predators, then the ranchers will want the predators killed. That will, in turn, lead to a larger population of horses….etc…etc…etc.
Here are the recommendations and attachments submitted by Mary in regards to the working groups draft recommendations to the forest service:
DON’T LET FOREST SERVICE SCREW UP A BALANCED, WORKING, ECOSYSTEM.
This ecosystem in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest has several endangered species. One of them is the Mexican Gray Wolf. Although most predation on the wild horse population is due to lions, we know there are wolves in the herd territory, we saw them during water hauling efforts. We want them protected too and really feel this area of our world is so special, it is the only working ecosystem we know of where wild horses are being managed close to perfect because man has had very little impact.
In fact, the only impact other than the obvious fencing issues that impeded the free-roaming nature of the horses, and their ability to access their own territory in full, is the illegal gathering of horses that the FS paid ranchers to do periodically. This, of course, was before the working group and was brought to light when the FS tried to gather horses a few years back and was promptly sued for not having a management plan before the gather and removal of horses.
The current working group was commissioned by the FS as a result of that lawsuit, and the FS was to include the advocates involved in that lawsuit, of which Mary was one, and they were to include the public which they have never done, and that was brought to their attention many times over the past several months. AZ University representatives even went so far as to say they are above any open meetings or Sunshine Act laws.
Statement from the Arizona State University webpage on the working group:
“In 2007, the Forest Service entered into a Stipulation Agreement to develop a written Territory Management Strategy (Plan) in compliance with the Act and other relevant laws and regulations that govern Forest Service procedures. Creating a management plan for the HWHT will help provide for the sustainability of natural resources and horse populations connected to the territory. “
Arizona State University also makes the following claim on the website:
“As the collaboration moves forwards, ASU will provide regular updates on the working group’s deliberations. As input and recommendations develop for the Territory Management Plan, ASU and the working group will provide ways for the public to engage.”
Ironically, not only have they not provided any updates, but they have also not made meeting public, provided any minutes or recordings of the meetings and expressly voted to remove members of the public from a meeting of the working group. (The other wild horse advocate (in name only) voted with the Federal and State Employees, ranchers and others at the meeting to oust public, and also not to allow Mary a substitute when the meetings were scheduled during her known work hours.
Ultimately, responsibility for following the court-ordered agreement, to develop this working group, and involve certain people, including the public, falls upon the FS and thus far they have not attempted to meet the judges mandate in doing so to develop a wild horse management plan. In fact, Richard Madril, the District Ranger for the Heber Wild Horse Territory and surrounding area, specifically told CAES board members that they have no power over what the working group does.
Mr. Madril also told CAES that the Forest Service is not a law enforcement agency, even though they do have law enforcement personnel. This was during the same discussion but addressing recent incidences of harassment including roping and trapping of the Heber Wild Horse herd on the territory.
A bit of research on that statement from the District Ranger and we found this statement on the Forest Service website:
“Law enforcement is an integral part of the overall management of the National Forest System. Law enforcement personnel, line officers, and appropriate staff ensure that prevention, investigation, enforcement, and program management requirements are fully integrated into all National Forest System resource management programs. Law enforcement personnel operate as full partners within the Forest Service organization in carrying out the agency’s mission, especially in upholding Federal laws and regulations that protect natural resources, agency employees, and the public. Accomplishment of the Forest Service law enforcement mission is a product of trust, cooperation, and collaboration between law enforcement personnel and other agency employees.
National Forest lands are divided administratively into regions and each region has a Special Agent in Charge also known as a SAC who oversees the law enforcement program. Each region is divided into zones and special agents are stationed in each zone according to work load.
Uniformed Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) enforce Federal laws and regulations governing National Forest Lands and resources. As part of that mission LEOs carry firearms, defensive equipment, make arrests, execute search warrants, complete reports and testify in court.
Special Agents are criminal investigators who plan and conduct investigations concerning possible violations of criminal and administrative provisions of the Forest Service and other statues under the U.S. Code. Special agents are normally plain clothes officers who carry concealed firearms, and other defensive equipment, make arrests, carry out complex criminal investigations, present cases for prosecution to U.S. Attorneys, and prepare investigative reports.”
Mr. Madril went on to justify the lack of action taken on shootings, ropings and trapping of wild horses to be a problem of being understaffed. He said the first priority of their law enforcement ranger would be to people. So we asked how many problems they are seeing with people there? He said there are always accidents. One would think if there are ‘that’ many people issues in that area of the forest then perhaps the workload would be such that added law enforcement would be provided by the FS based on the above statement. However, when asked what the FS is doing about these incidents, Mr. Madril replied, “What would you like us to do?”
We explained what we would like the FS to do, and one member was able to calmly explain the duty the FS has to ‘do’ something. The other board member was not quite as calm and called Mr. Madril on his obvious sarcasm. However, the suggestions of cameras, increased presence and a press release with the position of the FS on incidents like these were suggested.
In the end, we also requested that as the agency that commissioned, and per the ASU is a partner in the working group, FS also reinstate Mary Hauser on the working group. If she is reinstated, we applaud her for her willingness to continue on in such a hostile environment. That truly shows her dedication to the Heber Wild Horse Herd.
The Hebers are a unique herd with old world, or primitive traits including leg bars, and the short thick neck and a short head with stout build. Like the ones pictured below. If the management plan comes out with the suggested Appropriate Management Level (AML) range that the working group is suggesting, it will mean the herd will have to be maintained genetically but introducing horses from outside herds from time to time. This has been done in other wild herds and CAES has always maintained that this is a way to water down these unique genetics so that no one herd has to be managed in a self-sustaining population that has enough horse to be genetically viable.
We thought we should leave you with some of the beauty since we shared the horror in the photos above this section.