Estimates are that at the turn of the twentieth century over two million wild horses roamed free in the western United States. However, having no protection from their primary predator, man, by the 1970’s there numbers had dwindled to less than thirty thousand. In 1971, after a massive public uproar, Congress by a unanimous vote enacted the “Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act” (Act) that characterizes wild horses and burros as national treasures and provides for their protection.
“Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”
The U.S. Department of Interior’s, Bureau of Land Management, (BLM) was appointed to carry out the Act and given the task of managing the herds of wild horses and burros. Consequently, BLM’s management of wild horse herds has been highly criticized by animal rights activists, horse advocates, news media, as well as members of Congress. There have been numerous lawsuits filed against BLM regarding their management practices and their appalling wild horse round-ups. However, unimpeded BLM continues with the controversial issue of wild horse round-ups, resulting in the death and injury of many wild horses and burros. The vast majority of these round-ups occur in Nevada, where an estimated sixty percent of the remaining wild horse herds reside. In order to prevent further degradation to wild horses, BLM’s conspicuously cruel wild horse management program should be immediately terminated.
The 1971, Wild Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act designated three hundred areas of publicly owned rangeland, comprising fifty-four million acres to be used primarily for wild horses. The Act forbids the horses and burros exploitation, harassment, and removal from over three hundred designated herd use areas. However, as result of BLM’s blatant disregard of the Act, and what congress intended, only a hundred and eighty herd use areas remain. As result Horse habitat areas have been reduced to less than thirty-five million of the original acres allocated. Consequently, over one hundred of the herds that existed in 1971 have been eradicated from horse habitat areas. Despite the laws prohibiting it, BLM has announced it plans further reductions of as many as sixty additional wild horse areas.
The Act, stipulates that wild horses "be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands." The Act defines "range" as “the amount...