In 1971, President Richard Nixon signed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the first federal legislation of its kind designated to protect the nation’s wild horse population on both federal and private land. Essentially, the wild horses in the United States were put under the control of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
A few key things the law implemented were: making it a federal crime to harass or kill any horse or burros on federal land. It also set the foundation for studies into animal behavior and habitats and required land to be set aside to be used for herd management programs. Management plans were required to “maintain a thriving natural ecological balance among wild horse populations, wildlife, livestock, and vegetation and to protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation.”