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During the 1950s in Nevada, Velma B. Johnston, later known as Wild Horse Annie, became aware of the ruthless and indiscriminate manner in which wild horses were being rounded up from the rangelands. Ranchers, hunters and "mustangers" played a major role in harvesting wild horses for commercial purposes.
Wild Horse Annie lead a grassroots campaign, involving mostly school children, that outraged the public and ultimately got them fully engaged in the issue. Newspapers published articles about the exploitation of wild horses and burros and as noted in a July 15, 1959, Associated Press article, "Seldom has an issue touched such a responsive chord."
In January 1959, Nevada Congressman Walter Baring introduced a bill prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles to hunt wild horses and burros on all public lands. The House of Representatives unanimously passed the bill which became known as the "Wild Horse Annie Act." The bill became Public Law 86-234 on Sept. 8, 1959; however, it did not include Annie's recommendation that Congress initiate a program to protect, manage and control wild horses and burros. Public interest and concern continued to mount, and with it came the realization that federal management, protection, and control of wild horses and burros was essential. This would result in enactment of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act.
Wild Horse Annie Act - Public Law 86-234
Use of aircraft or motor vehicles to hunt certain wild horses or burros; pollution of watering holes
(a) Whoever uses an aircraft or a motor vehicle to hunt, for the purpose of capturing or killing, any wild unbranded horse, mare, colt, or burro running at large on any of the public land or ranges shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
(b) Whoever pollutes or causes the pollution of any watering hole on any of the public land or ranges for the purpose of trapping, killing, wounding, or maiming any of the animals referred to in subsection (a) of this section shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
(c) As used in subsection (a) of this section—
(1) The term "aircraft" means any contrivance used for flight in the air; and
(2) The term "motor vehicle" includes an automobile, automobile truck, automobile wagon, motorcycle, or any other self-propelled vehicle designed for running on land.
Public Law 94-579, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act dated Oct. 21, 1976, amended the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 to allow the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to use or contract for the use of helicopters and motorized vehicles to manage wild horses and burros on public lands, thus bypassing the Wild Horse Annie Act.