Nevada Rep. Walter Baring introduced a bill in January 1959 to prohibit the use of motorized vehicles to hunt wild horses and burros on public lands. Known as the “Wild Horse Annie Act” the bill passed and became Public Law 86-234 on Sept. 8, 1959. But that bill did little to protect the wild horses and burros from extirpation from our public lands. Their numbers continued to shrink and public outcry for the protection of America’s wild horses and burros was being heard loud and clear by Congress. But the protection of wild horses and burros was not welcomed by everybody. There were still many in positions of power who just wanted them all gone, such was the case in the Sitgreaves.
Animosity towards the wild horses on the part of the Forest Service and ranchers never let up over the years. Prior to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act being signed into law there was already concern on the part of some of the Forest Service personnel in the Sitgreaves National Forest. In the late 1960s the Sitgreaves Forest Ranger made a deal with local ranchers to capture the horses and remove them from the forest in order to avoid having the forest designated as a wild horse “refuge”. Although many were captured and sold at auction for slaughter with over 800,000 acres in the Sitgreaves and a long history of wild horses throughout, capturing them all was not possible.
The Forest Service and the public lands ranchers always fall back on one of their favorite myths that the horses are not wild because they all came from the White Mountain Apache reservation due to fences being downed. They conveniently fail to mention that a downed fence also allows horses from the forest to cross into the reservation, there are no one way turnstyles. Also important to note is that the Apaches saw the value of the horses that were brought in by the early explorers and settlers and released into the forest which is how they historically acquired horses. Whether on one side of a fence or the other they are of the same ancestors. And most importantly is that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act defines wild as:
(b) "wild free-roaming horses and burros" means all unbranded and unclaimed horses
and burros on public lands of the United States;
Oral history interview with Doy Reidhead [with transcript], April 3, 2006.
“So the old ranger that was up there, a great old guy, he just wanted the horses gone. And I’ll tell you why he wanted ’em gone. This might be a.... He was afraid they’d make a wild horse refuge. Now here we’re already gettin’ into some stink. You see what I mean? He said, "If these horses don’t get moved, we’re gonna have trouble with this. They’ll take this and make a wild horse refuge out of it." So he said, "I’ll build the traps, and we’ll [salt?] catch these horses." "All right, that’s fine." "You take ’em to sale and sell ’em, and whatever you get is yours." Lowe: So they were unbranded? Reidhead: Yeah. But they’d give me a bill of sale to ’em. They was unbranded, and on Forest Service land. So we built them traps and [salted?]. We caught 187 horses. I’d unload ’em out of the traps and load ’em in a trailer and haul ’em to sale. A hundred dollars was a big price on ’em.”
Reidhead: Well, in the old days there was no fightin’ fires. Didn’t have nothin’ to fight fires with. My dad tells the story they used to run more wild horses in this country than they do everything put together now. And the wild horses wasn’t hurtin’ nothin’.
Full transcript at: