A Milestone for America's Living Legends

Banner with commemorative logo and horses on a hillside.

This year, the Bureau of Land Management commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The Act, which provided wild horses and burros on Federal lands with legally protected status for the first time, placed them under the stewardship of the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service. The legislation inspired broad support from the American people who recognized the enduring legacy of the animals. This was fully expressed when the Act passed unanimously by Congress and was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on December 18, 1971. 

The Act defines wild horses and burros as “all unbranded, unclaimed horses and burros on public lands of the United States” and recognizes them as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West that contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” The Act further directs the BLM and the USFS to “manage wild free-roaming horses and burros in a manner that is designed to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands."

To commemorate this milestone, BLM hosted public events across the country, including educational trail rides through herd management areas that highlighted the history of wild horses and burros on public lands and the importance of proper management. Off-range facility tours offered attendees an up-close view of the operations necessary to care for nearly 50,000 wild horses and burros in holding. New anniversary-branded promotional materials were produced with a commemorative logo and provided to the public to celebrate the year, including a new educational webpage, a beautiful 24-month planner, desktop wallpaper, new adoption event flyers and t-shirts for the public. 

Horses with riders crossing a creek
On December 18, 2021 BLM California hosted a Ride/Hike at the Olmstead Loop of the Auburn State Recreation Area in Cool, California to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.
Kids posing in front of herd management area sign
Wind River/Bighorn Basin District hosted an educational day on August 10 with Cody Science Kids/Wyo Hoofbeats youth group in the McCullough Peaks Herd Management Area. The kids were able to write letters to themselves that included a commemorative envelope for the 50th Anniversary.
People around a corral with a horse
On July 8, wild horse adopters rode their trained wild horses and demonstrated skills, an adopted wild burro carried the mail for a commemorative cancelation stamp, and keynote speakers discussed the Act and the BLM's partnership with Friends of a Legacy in Wyoming, all to commemorate the 50th Anniversary.

This anniversary year was also a landmark year for wild horse and burro adoptions, with over 8,600 animals either adopted or sold – the largest number placed into private care in 24 years. The BLM and its partners hosted over 100 events that facilitated these adoptions and sales. This included training competitions like the Extreme Mustang Makeover hosted by key partner Mustang Heritage Foundation, which found homes for nearly 3,500 animals this year. Some events featured virtual elements, including the agency’s Online Corral platform, which placed 11 percent of the total.

The BLM also made progress this year toward achieving sustainable herd sizes on the range as part of its efforts to protect animal and land health. More than 14,000 animals were gathered from overpopulated herds on public lands, including more than 7,000 animals that were suffering from the impact of severe drought conditions that gripped the West last summer. At the same time, the BLM treated more animals with fertility control in Fiscal Year 2021 than has ever been treated in a single year, slowing herd growth and reducing the need for future removals. Learn more about this record-setting year in the infographic below. (Click on the image to enlarge). 

An infographic displaying key data about the Wild Horse and Burro Program. Data can be found at blm.gov/whb



Download the full infographic.

Wild horses and burros gathered from overpopulated herds on public lands are prepared for domestic life and made available for adoption or purchase by qualified members of the public. Get started on adopting a wild horse or burro of your own