HEBER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The United States Forest Service is planning on reducing the number of wild horses around Heber, and time is running out for people to weigh in.
"We're seeing some issues with overuse out on the range, and some horses that are going well outside the wild horse territory," said Anthony Madrid, Apache Sitgreaves National Forest acting forest supervisor.
The Heber Wild Horse Territory was established back in 1974 and spans around 19,700 acres for the wild horses to roam around on. Based on the latest survey, which took place a few years ago, the National Forest Service says there are between 270 and 420 wild horses in the territory. They say that's just too many.
"More horses means (sic) more grazing. So that just impacts the range condition," Madrid said.
Concerns about the horses' impact on the land have lead the Forest Service to develop the "Heber Wild Horse Territory Management Plan." It would include sterilizing some horses and removing others, getting the population down to around 100 horses or less. The plan doesn't call for any horses to be killed. The plan has been developed alongside different groups, including wild horse advocates. But for Mary Hauser, who says she sat in on many of the meetings, the plan to reduce the herd size is a bad one.
"That's when you start to have inbreeding starting and things like that. And so that will cause a huge problem," Hauser said.
The Forest Service says they'd introduce new animals to provide genetic diversity. Still, Hauser says taking away so many horses will be a loss for Heber.
"One of my favorite things is to see them run. Because that represents freedom to me," Hauser said.
So she says she'll fight the plan to reduce the number of horses, and is urging others to weigh-in on the plan before the March 16 deadline.
"If you don't do it now, it's not a do-over," Hauser said.
You can read the Forest Service's full plan here.
Here is where you can provide a comment by visiting this website.