skip to main content

S. 1116 (92nd): An Act to require the protection, management, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands


The text of the bill below is as of Dec 15, 1971 (Passed Congress).

Summary of this bill

Source: Wikipedia

The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRHBA), is an Act of Congress (Pub.L. 92–195), signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 18, 1971. The act covered the management, protection and study of "unbranded and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands in the United States."

By the 1900s, feral horse populations were in decline, and there was concern that the horses were destroying land and resources wanted by ranching and hunting interests. Pressure on federal agencies from the 1930s on led to a series of policies which severely reduced herd numbers. By the 1950s, modern practices for capturing horses came to ...


85 STAT. ]      PUBLIC LAW 92-195-DEC. 15, 1971                                                   649

Public Law 92-195
                                  AN ACT                                         December 15, 1971
To require the protection, management, and control of wild free-roaming horses       ^^' m ^ l
                           and burros on public lands.

  Be it enacted hy the Senate and House of Representatives of the
                                                                                   Wild horses and
United States of America in Congress assembled., That Congress finds             burro s«
and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living sym-              Protection.
bols 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 dis-
appearing from the American scene. I t 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.
   SEC. 2. As used in this Act—                                                    Definitions.
        (a) "Secretary" means the Secretary of the Interior when used
     in connection with public lands administered by him through the
     Bureau of Land Management and the Secretary of Agriculture
     in connection with public lands administered by him through the
     Forest Service;
        (b) "wild free-roaming horses and burros" means all unbranded
     and unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United
     States;
        (c) "range" means the amount of land necessary to sustain an
     existing herd or herds of Avild free-roaming horses and burros,
     which does not exceed their known territorial limits, and which is
     devoted principally but not necessarily exclusively to their wel-
     fare in keeping with the multiple-use management concept for the
     public lands;
        (d) "herd" means one or more stallions and his mares; and
        (e) "public lands" means any lands administered by the Secre-
     tary of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management or
     by the Secretary of Agriculture through the Forest Service.
   SEC. 3. (a) All wild free-roaming horses and burros are hereby                 Jurisdiction;
                                                                                 management.
declared to be under the jurisdiction of the Secretary for the purpose of
management and protection in accordance with the provisions of this
Act. The Secretary is authorized and directed to protect and manage
 wild free-roaming horses and burros as components of the public
lands, and he may designate and maintain specific ranges on public
lands as sanctuaries for their protection and preservation, where the
Secretary after consultation with the wildlife agency of the State
wherein any such range is proposed and with the Advisory Board
established in section 7 of this Act deems such action desirable. Tlie
Secretary shall manage wild free-roaming horses and burros in a
manner that is designed to achieve and maintain a thriving natural eco-
logical balance on the public lands. He shall consider the recommenda-
tions of qualified scientists in the field of biology and ecology, some of
whom shall be independent of both Federal and State agencies and
may include members of the Advisory Board established in section 7
of this Act. All management activities shall be at the minimal feasi-
ble level and shall be carried out in consultation with the wildlife
agency of the State wherein such lands are located in order to protect
the natural ecological balance of all wildlife species which inhabit
such lands, particularly endangered wildlife species. Any adjustments
in forage allocations on any such lands shall take into consideration
the needs of other wildlife species which inhabit such lands.

650 PUBLIC LAW 92-195-DEC. 15, 1971 [85 STAT. reSova'i"'iu°horit . ^^) Where ail area is found to be overpopul ated, the Secretary, after ova , u or y. ^.Qj^g^j^jj^g ^ j t h I\^Q Advisorj Board, may order old, sick, or lame ani- mals to be destroyed in the most humane manner possible, and he may cause additional excess wild free-roaming horses and burros to be cap- tured and removed for private maintenance under humane conditions and care. (c) The Secretary may order wild free-roaming horses or burros to be destroyed in the most humane manner possible when he deems such action to be an act of mercy or when in his judgment such action is necessary to preserve and maintain the habitat in a suitable condition for continued use. No wild free-roaming horse or burro shall be ordered to be destroyed because of overpopulation unless in the judg- ment of the Secretary such action is the only practical way to remove excess animals from the area. (d) Nothing in this Act shall preclude the customary disposal of the remains of a deceased wild free-roaming horse or burro, including those in the authorized possession of private parties, but in no event shall such remains, or any part thereof, be sold for any consideration, directly or indirectly. Private mainte- gj,^, J. j f ^yj}^ free-roamiiig horses or burros stray from public "^"''^* lands onto privately owned land, the owners of such land may inform the nearest Federal marshall or agent of the Secretary, who shall arrange to have the animals removed. In no event shall such wild free-roaming horses and burros be destroyed except by the agents of the Secretary. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a private landowner from maintaining wild free-roaming horses or burros on his private lands, or lands leased from the Government, if he does so m a manner that protects them from harassment, and if the animals were not willfully removed or enticed from the public lands. Any individuals who maintain such wild free-roaming horses or burros on their private lands or lands leased from the Government shall notify the appropriate agent of the Secretary and supply him with a reasonable approximation of the number of animals so maintained. Recovery rights. SEC. 5. A persoii claimiiig ownership of a hoi'se or burro on the public lands shall be entitled to recover it only if recovery is per- missible under the branding and estray laws of the State in which the animal is found. Agreements and SEC. 6. The Secretary is authorized to enter into cooperative agree- regulations* ments with other landowners and with the State and local govern- mental agencies and may issue such regulations as he deems neces- sary for the furtherance of the purposes of this Act. Joint advisory SEC. 7. The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agri- boarda culture are authorized and directed to appoint a joint advisory board of not more than nine members to advise them on any matter relating to wild free-roaming horses and burros and their management and protection. They shall select as advisers persons who are not employ- ees of the Federal or State Governments and whom they deem to have special knowledge about protection of horses and burros, man- agement of wildlife, animal husbandry, or natural resources manage- ment. Members of the board shall not receive reimbursement except for travel and other expenditures necessary in connection with their services. Penalty, SEC. 8. Any person who— (1) willfully removes or attempts to remove a wild free-roaming horse or burro from the public lands, without authority from the Secretary, or (2) converts a wild free-roaming horse or burro to private use, without authority from the Secretary, or (3) maliciously causes the death or harassment of any wild free-roaming horse or burro, or
85 STAT. ] PUBLIC LAW 92-196-DEC. 15, 1971 651 (4) processes or permits to be processed into commercial prod- ucts the remains of a wild free-roaming horse or burro, or (5) sells, directly or indirectly, a wild free-roaming horse or burro maintained on private or leased land pursuant to section 4 of this Act, or the remains thereof, or (6) willfully violates a regulation issued pursuant to this Act, shall be subject to a fine of not more than $2,000, or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both. Any person so charged with such violation by the Secretary may be tried and sentenced by any United States commissioner or magistrate designated for that purpose by the court by which he was appointed, in the same manner and subject to the same conditions as provided for in section 3401, title 18, United States Code. 82 Stat. I l l s . (b) Any employee designated by the Secretary of the Interior or Power of arrest. the Secretary of Agriculture shall have power, without warrant, to arrest any person committing in the presence of such employee a violation of this Act or any regulation made pursuant thereto, and to take such person immediately for examination or trial before an officer or court of competent jurisdiction, and shall have power to execute any warrant or other process issued by an officer or court of competent jurisdiction to enforce the provisions of this Act or regulations made pursuant thereto. Any judge of a court established under the laws of the United States, or any United States magistrate may, within his respective jurisdiction, upon proper oath or affirmation showing probable cause, issue warrants in all such cases. SEC, 9. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the Sec- Limitation. retary to relocate wild free-roaming horses or burros to areas of the public lands where they do not presently exist. SEC. 10. After the expiration of thirty calendar months following Report to Con- gress. the date of enactment of this Act, and every twenty-four calendar months thereafter, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture will submit to Congress a joint report on the administration of this Act, including a summary of enforcement and/or other actions taken there- under, costs, and such recommendations for legislative or other actions as he might deem appropriate. The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture shall consult with respect to the implementation and enforcement of this Act and to the maximum feasible extent coordinate the activities of their respective departments and in the implementation and enforce- ment of this Act. The Secretaries are authorized and directed to under- Studies. take those studies of the habits of wild free-roaming horses and burros that they may deem necessary in order to carry out the provi- sions of this Act. Approved December 15, 1971. Public Law 92-196 AN ACT December 15, 1971 To provide additional revenue for the District of Columbia, and for other [H. R. 11341] purposes. ~ Be it enacted hy the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That this Act may District of be cited as the "District of Columbia Kevenue Act of 1971". AclTf^Jgrl!''*""^