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Forest Service scraps roundup of wild Salt River horses in Arizona

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PHOENIX — After a public outcry, the U.S. Forest Service has decided to reconsider its plan to roundup wild horses along Arizona’s Salt River.

“We’ve decided to take another look at the proposed gathering of stray horses on the Tonto National Forest,” Neil Bosworth with the Tonto National Forest said.

The Forest Service’s plan to remove the horses was met with stiff opposition from both the public and elected officials. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake and three members of Congress sent letters Wednesday urging Forest Service officials to halt the roundup.

Some claimed the Forest Service planned to slaughter the horses, though the agency denied it.

“Horses are going to be slaughtered? Nothing could be further from the truth,” Clay Templin with the Forest Service said. “The horses will be inspected. People will have the opportunity to purchase the animals at auction.”

Simone Netherlands, head of the Salt River Wild Horses Management Group, told 12 News removing the horses is a poor idea.

“There is no reason why the Forest Service should want to rob Arizona of this historically, economically and ecologically significant herd,” she said in a statement. “If the horses are rounded up, the Forest Service is making an historical mistake that cannot be reversed.”

The Forest Service said the roundup was designed to both protect the public and the animals.

“It’s just a matter of time before one of these animals goes through a windshield and kills a family or a small child will be trampled or kicked,” Templin said.

KTAR’s Jim Cross and Austen Browne contributed to this report.

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