Marking the 49th anniversary of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act

Photo taken at RTF’s Lompoc, Calif., headquarters sanctuary by Tony Stromberg.

“We need the tonic of wildness.” With that quote from Thoreau, President Richard Nixon began his signing statement for the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

This week marks the 49thanniversary of that landmark bipartisan legislation. It made it a crime to harass or kill unbranded, unclaimed wild horses and burros on public lands, tasked the departments of the Interior and Agriculture with their management and protection, and required studies of these iconic animals and their habitats so that land could be set aside for their use.

“In the past 70 years…, civilization and economics have brought them to 99 percent extinction–so that on the public lands today there remain only about 9,500 unbranded and unclaimed horses and 11,000 free-roaming burros…,” Nixon wrote, in part. “With the depletion continuing apace, immediate and effective measures are clearly needed to prevent the complete extermination of the wild breeds — and with it the death of part of the frontier spirit.”

Nixon gave special credit to a youth letter-writing campaign, spurred by Velma Johnston, better known as “Wild Horse Annie.”

Wrote Nixon, “Wild horses and burros merit man’s protection historically–for they are a living link with the days of the conquistadors, through the heroic times of the Western Indians and the pioneers, to our own day when the tonic of wildness seems all too scarce. More than that, they merit it as a matter of ecological right–as anyone knows who has ever stood awed at the indomitable spirit and sheer energy of a mustang running free.”

Though the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have long struggled with their legal mandates, the spirit and intent of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act continues to drive Return to Freedom toward a day when wild herds humanely managed and their presence on our public lands a fact for generations still to come. It is a promise that we intend to see kept.

RTF continues the fight to protect America’s wild horses and burros and end horse slaughter. 

Please consider giving a gift that supports wild horse conservation and sanctuary all year long:

–If you wish to support our advocacy work to end horse slaughter and to protect and preserve wild horses and burros on their rightful rangelands, consider making a donation in someone’s name to our Wild Horse Defense Fund.

Gifts can be made in honor or memory of a loved one, friend or colleague. A personalized email, postcard or card will be sent to the recipient acknowledging your thoughtful gift in their name.

–You can also sponsor one of the more than 500 wild horses and burros that live at our sanctuary locations.