Wild Horse Education

50 Years (a volunteer ponders the law)

50 Years, Already?

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed, unanimously, through Congress. On December 15, 1971 the Act was published in the federal register as law. It was signed by former President Nixon in a public ceremony on December 17, 1971.

Public Law 92-195, established federal jurisdiction. After jostling among land management agencies to avoid compliance the National Parks Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service were omitted. Wild horses and burros were to be managed within designated territories on both Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

This law was part of a wave of environmental laws, rules and regulations that began in the 1970’s. Many of these laws were statements of intention, belief, commitment that our natural world held a value to our nation and that things like clean air and water were not only important, but a right as a citizen of what was seen as a “great nation.”

Tour being given to Velma Johnston, Wild Horse Annie, of the first capture of wild horses by the BLM

The WFRH&B Act, is a federal law that was initially established as a framework in which to maintain a healthy continuity of our wild horses and burros and to also ensure their humane treatment. The Wild Horses (as they are described as wild in the WFRH&B Act) are a more challenging and complex subject to protect than federally protected, designated wildlife; wild horses and burros are not protected by what they are, but by the land they stand on. Legally and procedurally, they have remained at the bottom of the Department of Interiors totem pole, with minimal enforcement and a lack of science and accountability. The political and profit driven, intricate complexities of OUR Public Lands continue to threaten their lives.

“People think the Act protects wild horses and burros, but they have been misled and fail to recognize that the Act really only established jurisdiction and an intention. Taking the law into land management, integral to the system, has never happened.” ~ Laura Leigh, Wild Horse Education.

Well, we all know where the road to good intentions leads; and the fate of our wild ones is no exception. The act has been relentlessly weakened with the additions of damaging amendments, and has progressed from a meager, but well-intentioned hint of preservation to a near remand of any intention. Mix in an additional amendment, or two, a meager budget and lack of science in comparison to other programs, and the law will disappear into the abyss of bygones with an unforgivable “price tag”. The loss of their habitat, and the opportunity to remain genetically viable for future generations.

Industry is bombarding our wild places, and not so wild places. Massive earth moving equipment speeding down old highways and off into new mine sites; you will pay the clean-up arsenic and more left in waterways as legislation to reform mining laws from 1872 have tragically stalled. New fence lines within OUR demolished Public Lands add to the old barbed wire, as we increase the appeasement of private livestock permittees and approve new projects on public lands that will increase the devastation.

Today, the Anniversary of the Act, please renew your commitment to set aside fear and fight. In 2022 it will take all your courage to avoid the pitfalls of the outright blackmail the opposition has always used “we will kill all the horses” if you do not bend. If you bend? The wild horses are headed for death either through outright sales to kill or on range as they lose the resources they need to survive.

If we protected the “land they now stand” there would be no immediate issue to address, no need for mass removal, massive holding costs, etc. We can do mapping and slow, or increase, reproduction as a protected range allows without cruelty of sterilization, mass removals and abuse.

It’s a dream. One worth fighting for. WHE will continue to run with and for the Wilds. On the Anniversary of the Act we honor the intention of the law and all those that fought for it. Join us as we promise to keep fighting for the dream. WHE need a collection of voices and actions that are louder, and larger than all the hurdles that rise up to threaten their survival.

Happy Anniversary.


There are still a handful of spots open for our event at 5pm Pacific, 8pm Eastern. You can register HERE.

At 6pm Pacific, 9pm Eastern, we will move live onto Facebook to light a “birthday” candle and join in a moment of silence to honor those no longer with us and renew our commitment to continue the fight.

click image to visit the exhibit portal

For those of you that can not make either event, earlier this year we created an online exhibit honoring the Act. We had wanted to hold an in-person event at the Historical Society, but due to health and safety concerns made an online exhibit to mark this important day.


In honor of the “week of the horse” WHE was just offered a match challenge by a generous supporter! Contributions will be matched up to $2K through Friday.

You can help us continue our innovative work and double your impact today. With your support we can continue the fight. 

Categories: Wild Horse Education