Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act Law and Legal Definition

Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (“Act”) is a federal legislation enacted in 1971. The Act aims to protect wild free-roaming horses and burros from capture, branding, harassment, or death. The provisions relating to the Act are found under 16 U.S.C. §§ 1331 through 1340.

Pursuant to the Act, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service is responsible for managing wild horses and burros on lands under their jurisdiction. Consequently, the BLM has issued regulations requiring that wild horses and burros be managed as an integral part of the natural system of public lands under the principle of multiple use.

The Act requires the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to protect and manage wild free-roaming horses and burros as components of the public lands and maintain ecological balance on public lands. They may designate and maintain specific ranges on public lands as sanctuaries to protect wild horses and burros. However, before designating a sanctuary, the concerned secretary must consult with the wildlife agency of the state in which the sanctuary is proposed and also with the advisory board created under § 1337 of the Act.

The Secretaries are also required to maintain a current inventory of wild free-roaming horses and burros on given areas of the public lands in order to determine if and where overpopulation problems exist and whether actions should be taken to remove excess animals.

Additionally, the Act authorizes the secretary to empower any employee to arrest, without warrant, a person who commits a violation of the Act or its regulations in the presence of the employee. The employee can take violators immediately for examination or trial before an officer or court of competent jurisdiction. Designated employees may also execute any warrant or other process issued by an officer or court of competent jurisdiction to enforce the Act or its regulations.