The “study" of the Heber Herd can save all wild horses by transforming the management of wild horses. IT MUST BE DONE!

There’s something important I want you to understand. If we don’t stop the Forest Service from rounding up the HEBER HERD in Northern Arizona, it is game over for all wild horses.

Why do I say this?

The Heber Herd is the ONLY remaining herd in the United States that has been left alone in its natural state for more than 15 years. They have not been gathered, darted for birth control, or operated on to prevent them from reproducing. They have been free to roam — and they prove that wild horses do NOT double in size every four years or increase at a 20% yearly rate, as the BLM and FS (Agencies) have long stated. In fact, the Heber Herd shows us that wild horses do indeed self-stabilize. The numbers below prove our point.

In 2005: 300-400 wild horses were counted in the Sitgreaves forest

In 2021: An aerial count showed 414 horses in the forest.

PROVING: Their growth rate is less than 1%. 

What is the next step?

Heber family band enjoying the tall grasses. Photo: Betty Nixon

ISPMB is asking that the Heber Herd be put into a study for the next 5-7 years by an independent group of scientists noted for understanding the behaviors of wild animals, especially equids. We believe it will transform how wild horses are managed on public lands.

ISPMB is the only organization that has studied wild herds under its control for over 20 years now. Here is what we learned about wild horses. In simplistic terms, stable band structures = stable growth. ISPMB’s herds had the best conditions as compared to wild herds on public lands, yet our herd growth was between 8% to 9% annual growth. With the best of feed conditions, growth still stabilized at the above rates, disputing the National Academy of Sciences’ recent report stating that herd populations would only stabilize or drop when it was too late because of lack of food from overgrazing. 

Not so! It is the stable band structures and their inherent wisdom that keep populations at minimal growth. Not a lack of food!

Heber buckskin stallion. Photo: Betty Nixon

The HEBER HERD in northern Arizona exhibits all the information that was gleaned from ISPMB’s herds. In 2005 ISPMB and our wonderful attorney, Anthony Merrill, now with Snell and Wilmer, filed in court and stopped the removal of the Heber wild horses in the Apache-Sitgreaves Forest. The Agency (FS) was required to create a Territory plan, which has taken them over 15 years, and this has allowed the Heber horse population to be in the forest without any roundups. 

The following is an amazing confirmation of ISPMB’s understanding of how population stability in the herds creates minimal growth. In 2005, there were between 300-400 wild horses in the Sitgreaves forest, and in an aerial count in 2021 there are only 414 horses. Because these horses are so monitored by wonderful advocates in the forest, we know there is very little mountain lion predation there, again proving our point that Stable Family Band Structures in the Herd make Stable Minimal Populations. Their growth rate is less than 1%. This herd must be put into a study for the next 5-7 years by an independent group of scientists noted for understanding the behaviors of wild animals, especially equids.

“…and these unique wild animals could be facing extinction.”

The Agencies refused to do a 5-7-year study on wild herds in 1980 that was recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. They were to understand these animals as “wildlife” species. This is their response in Congress in 1984, “The most pressing question concerning further research for the Agencies is whether the benefits of increased knowledge and efficiency will justify the costs.” The Agencies have never understood the true nature of wild horses and have since managed them as if they were domestic livestock – cattle – that do not live in families and work together for the good of the entire herd as wild horses do.

The Agencies’ current management is threatening the future well-being of wild horses and burros and these unique wild animals could be facing extinction – never to be free as they were in the past 500 years. 

And Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said “no” to the study of the Heber herd! Why? (read about it in our Earth Day post)

Please call Secretary Vilsack’s office — 202-720-3631 — and POLITELY ask that he makes this unique Heber wild horse herd, a “study” herd. This is the last “untouched” herd on public lands and will transform how wild horses are managed on public lands. We will not take NO for an answer.

We hope this Earth Day will be the change for America’s wild horses and burros yielding enlightenment in the management of the herds by the Agencies. 

Your support of ISPMB is critical to their future and our work. Please help us by giving generously.

Please pass this on to all of your friends!


(Please sign the above Heber petition if you haven’t done so)

Heber foal walks through the forest
Heber youngster enjoying freedom in the tall grass. Photo: Robert Hutchison

We can put any size donation to work!
Thank you for your generosity!

ISPMB is a 501 (c) 3 not-for profit organization. All donations are tax-deductible.



  1. Once again … and THIS has been going on for 40+ years … wild horse herds prove beyond all reasonable doubt that “they” know what they’re doing! And, this is NOT “news.” For long years, extensive studies of horses in the wild have been observed by specialists in this endeavor. ‘Theories’ derived have turned into solid facts. Yes, specific family units within wild horse herds, held together by band stallions and controlled by primary mares, once again have shown the world that “they” manage themselves, and that they are NOT kin to ‘human-managed’ domestic horses other than by species equus. No harm will be done through further study of the Heber Herd for all reasons stated by ISPMB.
    BLM has shown that they are purposely mis-managing wild herds into extinction. USFS has NOT done extensive study but just wants to rid themselves of what they consider to be a problem. Neither agency approach will support or benefit the original reasons for the original rule that first was signed into law in 1971, but which never was enforced. It’s way past time, and not too late, to amend for this error in judgement of many individuals within both federal agencies. — I am now 91 years old. I have been active; re: this subject, since the late 1960s back in NJ and NYS. Then, in those years, thousands of citizens were inspired … after several unique episodes … to move together with all-out fervor to form the bill that unanimously was accepted by Congress and signed by then-Pres. Nixon. THIS enactment always has been backed by PUBLIC opinion, supported with tax-payer dollars of the PUBLIC, yet has been denied constituent support. FYI: In the past, Sec. Vilsack was there. He knows ALL of this. … “Sir, you owe your participation and help for wild horses and burros! “
    Like NIKE says: “Just Do it!”

    Elaine Cummings??
    Tucson, AZ 85704

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