The 1971 Act
In the early 1950's Velma Johnston, better known as “Wild Horse Annie,” began a campaign to protect wild horses from slaughter because of the cruelty she witnessed first hand. Her work culminated in the passage of The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act [16 USCS §§ 1331 et seq.] of 1971, that stated in part, “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.” To read or obtain a copy of this Act, go to www.animal law.org/whba/whba.htm.
Wild horses are our western heritage and a valued natural resource. Visitors from all over the United States, and the world, come to see them. This means tourism, and much-needed income for the State of Nevada. Tourists do not want to see wild horses confined only in fenced-in areas. They want to see them in their natural state, THE WILD, and they will come here to do it. Unfortunately, they are some of the most persecuted animals in this country. Once numbering in the millions in the American West, now only a few thousand remain.
Wild horses play an important role in the North American ecosystem by dispersing the intact seeds of many native plant species in their manure. Unlike rudimentary animals, they are much more capable of processing dry and coarse grasses and other vegetation without overtaxing their metabolism.
When allowed to roam, wild horses do not linger at watering sites, but continue to graze over a much more extensive area than do domestic animals. Due to their great mobility, they may be absent from their main watering source for several days.
The wholesale removal of wild horses allows dry fuel buildup and increases the chance of major fires. Wild horses are valued for both their beauty and for consuming dry cheatgrass and other dry, fire prone vegetation whose combustion creates disastrous wild fires.
The Wild Horse Preservation League is in favor of these programs when governmental agencies deem it necessary to remove wild horses off the range. These horses have not been mishandled by man and many become part of adoption training programs.
Wild horses on open range usually move in separate bands and have their own self-enforced breeding methods to prevent inbreeding. When a filly or stallion reaches the approximate age of two, the lead stallion will force them out. The fillies will wander until they are allowed to join other bands. The younger stallions will eventually steal a mare or two to start their own band.
The strongest will survive to continue producing equally strong, healthy and beautiful offspring. This is why it is essential to keep viable numbers of breeding-age horses on our public lands. If there are too few horse bands in the Herd Management Area (HMA), it will be extremely difficult for healthy crossbreeding between bands to happen. Hence, inbreeding will occur, weakening this incredible animal.
Ancestors of modern horses inhabited ancient plains and primeval forests of North America, beginning within Epoch, 57 million years ago. Equidae, the family of horses, comprises some of the oldest mammals known on earth.
Horse evolution took place in North America, not in a smooth, gradual, or straight-line fashion, as had been previously thought, but through a complex, branching process. Almost all side branches of the horse family became extinct, but one branch survived and kept growing, changing into the genus Equus, which includes modern horses, zebras, and assess. It is the only surviving genus in a once diverse family of horses. Since modern Equus caballus evolved on the North American continent, horses are an indigenous wildlife species.
The Wild Horse Dilemma
As early as the 1900's, two million horses roamed wild in North America. But that time exists only in the pages of history. Progress has reduced the wild horses’ range today, replacing grassland with farms, ranches, roads/highways, and cities. Many remaining wild horses now run through publicly-owned lands, and on private sanctuaries set-aside for them – small corners of the range they once reigned. Since 1980, well over four million American horses have been slaughtered in the U.S., and Canada, with their meat exported for human consumption.
The Wild Horse Preservation League, is a non-profit 501(c)3 Organization dedicated to preserving these magnificent creatures. Charitable contributions are accepted and are tax deductible. Wild horses have been declared a National Heritage who represent to us, and to the rest of the United States, the spirit of freedom and independence we so cherish. We can – and will – make a difference by: