The Issue

The federal government uses costly and cruel practices to eliminate wild horses and burros from our public lands to clear the way for taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing.

A brief history.


President Richard Nixon signed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act into law on December 18, 1971. 

In 1971

Congress unanimously passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, a federal law to protect wild horses and burros from “capture, branding, harassment, and death.” Declared “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.” The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior, was charged with managing these animals on public lands.


Under pressure from special interests, the federal agency has turned the law on its head, committing the very atrocities Congress sought to protect mustangs against.

What happens to the mustangs.



Each year, the BLM uses low-flying helicopters to brutally stampede, capture, and remove wild horses and burros by the thousands from Western public lands.

Wild horses and burros who survive roundups are stockpiled in government holding facilities. Those who can’t be adopted or auctioned off are sentenced to a lifetime of being warehoused in long-term holding facilities. At worst, wild horses end up in the slaughter pipeline.

Approximately 80 million taxpayer dollars fund this mismanaged program, annually.

A fundamentally flawed system.

horses rounded up while cattle grazes

The BLM seeks to reduce wild horse and burro populations to the “fast disappearing” number that remained in the West when Congress protected them in 1971, at 27,000 animals. The number is based on the allocation of 80% of forage resources in designated wild horse and burro habitat to privately-owned cattle and sheep.

These population limits are deceptively referred to as “Appropriate Management Levels” or AMLs. In 2013, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the AMLs “not transparent to stakeholders, supported by scientific information, or amenable to adaptation with new information and environmental and social change.”

There is little to no evidence to show that the BLM management priorities were in fact, developed to protect wild horses and burros as Congress intended. On the contrary, the defining calculations used to establish population limits and the need for roundups are based on a deep-rooted prioritization of ranching and other commercial interests on public lands.

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By the numbers.

The Issue, by the numbers.


  • Ranchers are permitted to graze a total of 155 million acres of public land at a fraction of the going rate, subsidized with tax dollars, for their private livestock.
  • Wild horses and burros are authorized to roam on just 27 million acres of public land designated as their habitat, that they must share with livestock.
  • There are approximately 700,000 to 1 million cow/calf pairs authorized by the BLM to graze public lands today. BLM estimates there are 80,000+ wild horses and burros.
  • The BLM sets a population cap for wild horses and burros on public lands at no more than 16,000 - 27,000 total.

Problems must be addressed at the core.

The agency’s practices lack in science and transparency. Its wild horse management policies are inhumane, unsustainable, and counter-productive.

  • Unscientific population limits (AMLs) prioritize commercial livestock.
  • Cruel roundups are counter-productive for population management.
  • Predator elimination for the benefit of ranching.
  • Humane alternatives for population management are available but vastly underutilized.
  • Hundreds of millions of tax dollars are wasted to subsidize livestock grazing and remove wild horses and burros from Western public lands.

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Read up on the research.

Our work is supported by science, backed by research, and proven by extensive case study. We consult leading equine experts and ecologists across the country. We reference unbiased data in our pursuit to preserve wild horses and burros. 

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