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Horses and burros were introduced to North America in the 1600s with European missionaries and explorers. Over time, abandoned and released horses and burros formed herds and by the time European-American settlers began to explore North America in the 1700s, these free-roaming horses and burros had adapted to their habitat and been incorporated into Native American culture. By the mid-1900s, most Americans considered these horses as wild and symbols of freedom and beauty.

In 1971, Congress passed the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Public Law 73-482) to provide federal protection for free-roaming horses and burros (also known as wild horses and burros) in the western United States. In 1978, the Act was amended (Public Law 95-514) to require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to “determine appropriate management levels (AMLs) for wild horses and burros on [designated] public lands.” The Bureau of Land Management set AML at 26,715 wild horses and burros on 29 million acres of public land across 10 western states. The U.S. Forest Service was also tasked with managing over 7,100 wild horses and 900 burros on 53 wild horse territories (USFS, 2020).

Managing free-roaming horses and burros on public lands has its challenges. In this article, we explain some of the potential conflicts free-roaming horses create with native wildlife on western public lands.



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