|Back: Wild Horses 1800's -1970|
Tired of the cruelty and concerned about the possibility of wild horse extinction, Velma Johnson, aka "Wild Horse Annie" led a campaign of public awareness, and persuaded Congress to pass the Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act. Under the provisions of this law, wild horses and burros may not be captured for slaughter. Instead, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) is charged with protecting and managing the wild herds.
"In 1971, Congress introduced and passed The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA). President Richard M. Nixon signed the new Act into law (Public Law 92-195) on December 15, 1971. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act required the protection, management and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros. Local livestock operators now had to claim and permit their private horses and burros grazing on public lands or lose ownership of them. After a specified time period following passage of the Act, any remaining unbranded and unclaimed herds inhabiting BLM or Forest Service lands were declared "wild free-roaming horses and burros" and became the property of the federal government." (from "MUSTANG COUNTRY)
In 1978, the Public Rangelands Improvement Act (PRIA) amended the WFRHBA to stress the multiple use concept of public lands, and to authorize the removal of horses when necessary to maintain a "thriving ecological balance" and protect the range from deterioration associated with overpopulation of wild horses and burros. It removed the provision that required herd areas be managed “principally” for the benefit of the wild horses.
THE SAGEBRUSH REBELLION
As important as the 1971 Wild Horse & Burro Freedom Act is to wild horse & burro issues, it is also important to know about the Sagebrush Rebellion, as these two forces act as weights on opposite ends of a teeter-totter of policy-making.
The "Sagebrush Rebellion" in Nevada during the 1960's through late 1970's targeted wild horses as an expression of local people's contempt for increasing federal interevention in their lives and ways of doing business. Animosity toward wild horses from the ranching community continues to this day.
To understand wild horse politics, it is important to know about the Sagebrush Rebellion and the powerful effect it had in the region, and continues to have. Here are some links:
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Today's wild horse management issues are extremely complex - if you are looking for simplistic answers, you will not find them here. The best thing you can do is to continually educate yourself and make your own decisions. Talk to people. Talk to BLM personnel, ranchers, wild horse advocates, recreationists, hunters & fishermen, campers, bikers, field biologists, wild horse advocates. Go visit the range yourself if you can. See for yourself what it's like.
Imagine for yourself what a "thriving ecological balance" might look like...
Wild Horse & Burro Protection and Management efforts in recent times have collided headlong with a difficult mix of circumstances that include:
Climate change (longer and worse droughts, and more frequent, hotter wildfires in the Great basin area)
Increased pressures on public lands for human enterprises such as energy development, mineral extraction, recreation, hunting and fishing, RV-ing, ATV-ing, biking, and housing and industrial development.
A faltering national economy that makes horse ownership out of reach for many would-be adopters.
Loss of land available for any kind of equine use, (boarding stables, trails, affordable competition facilities, etc) which restricts people's ability to have or enjoy horses, which reduces interest in horses, etc - a downward spiral. Development of former "horse property" into housing developments, vineyards, etc, making it hard to find a place to keep a horse.
Changing national demographics: Wild horses are on fewer and fewer people's radar. Today huge blocks of the population have no experience, awareness or interest in horses of any kind. Fewer and fewer people dream of owning a horse. Even fewer have the skill-sets needed to be successful with even a domestic horse, let alone a wild one. The adoption market for wild horses is shrinking. Fewer people have a love of horses, and are more likely to resent tax-payer money being used to benefit them.
Changing demographics, Part 2: Many people who "love horses" and wish to actively contribute to their well-being, have no real experience with them, and thus their values and exp[ectations may collide with necessary realities.
Today BLM-managed wild horse herds are found in California, Eastern Oregon, Idaho, one small area of Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Wild horses and burros exist elsewhere, too, throughout the country, but are not managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Wild horses and burros can be found on private, County, Indian Reservation, State Park and even one or two National Park lands. There are a few herds on the Eastern Seaboard islands, as well as a few pockets here and there in the Dakotas and the South. Many of these horses have no legal protection and no well-developed management. The area around Reno and Carson City, Nevada, are mostly not managed by BLM and have no legal protections,., but are prime wild hrose country.
Today’s wild horses are a true American Melting Pot of horses, and with the help of Natural Selection, they are intelligent, sound-minded, sure-footed, and strong. Mustangs normally have excellent feet that often do not require shoes, and strong, hardy constitutions. Having had the benefit of life within a functional natural social unit, they are well-socialized and savvy.