ISPMB is an empowering force influencing global attitudes and catalyzing actions for the protection, preservation, and understanding of wild horses and burros and their habitat.

The International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros is dedicated to the preservation ad protection of free-roaming wild horses and burros, nationally and internationally. It is the oldest and largest wild horse and burro organization in the United States. ISPMB was founded in 1960 to assist Velma Johnston in her 10-year effort to prevent inhumane treatment and eventual eradication of wild horses and burros on western rangelands. In 1965, the organization attained 501(c) (3) non-profit charitable status. It provided the answer to a need for a sophisticated advocacy program and public forum at a time when wild horses and burros were fast disappearing from the American West. The organization’s innovative programs, vast knowledge, and long range planning sustains ISPMB as a leader in its field.

The efforts of Velma Johnston (affectionately known as Wild Horse Annie) and ISPMB brought tremendous attention to public lands in the West. The profound awareness that these lands belong to the people of the United States resulted in sweeping changes and legislation that resulted in protection not only to wild horses and burros but to the lands themselves–ensuring investment and enjoyment for future generations.

In 1959, PL86-234 was enacted which prohibited the use of motorized vehicles in the capture of wild horses and prohibited the poisoning of water holes for the purpose of trapping horses.

Recognizing the heritage of wild horses and burros, Mrs. Johnston and ISPMB were instrumental in encouraging the federal government to establish protective- ranges for horses. In 1962, the first refuge was established on Nellis Air Force Base in southern Nevada followed by the Pryor Mountain Refuge in 1968 and Little Bookcliffs Refuge in 1980. (The Bookcliffs Refuge, located in the mountains north of Grand Junction, Colorado, was dedicated in memory of Wild Horse Annie.)

In 1968, under a custodial agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), ISPMB’s President accepted orphaned foals from the Pryor Mountains in Montana and found homes for them. This unprecedented agreement gave birth to the federal Adopt-A-Horse program in 1976. (Since this time, BLM has placed more than 200,000 wild horses and burros in adoptive homes.)

In 1971, federal legislation to protect wild horses and burros was achieved by ISPMB through its first president, Wild Horse Annie. This highly successful grass-roots effort resulted in the unanimous passage through Congress of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act that received the second largest outpouring of mail to Congress in our legislative history.

“Congress finds and declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people…..It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment or death, and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

In 1959, PL86-234 was enacted which prohibited the use of motorized vehicles in the capture of wild horses and prohibited the poisoning of water holes for the purpose of trapping horses.

Under a mandate from Congress, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture are authorized and directed to appoint a joint advisory board of not more than nine members to advise them on any matter relating to wild horses and burros, their management and protection. Since 1971, four boards have convened. With its interests of wild horses and burros, ISPMB is the only organization, which has had the honor of all three presidents serving consecutively on the first three boards, (Mrs. Johnston, Mrs. Reilly and Ms. Sussman).

In 1989, ISPMB signed a historic national agreement with the BLM to ensure humane treatment of adopted horses and burros by checking on untitled animals to make sure adopters are in compliance with federal regulations.

After the slaughter of 54 wild burros in Kingman, Arizona in 1990, ISPMB raised $22,000 as an incentive for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of this crime. This received attention nationally by press and media.

The ISPMB began an experimental program in Arizona in 1990 purchasing titled BLM wild horses.

thereby preventing them from being sold for slaughtering purposes. Unable to monitor the auctions throughout the entire state, the organization negotiated an agreement with members of the horse slaughter trade allowing for the total protection of all BLM wild horses and burros in the state since 1995. More than 100 adopted animals have been saved and have found permanent responsible homes.

In partnership with the BLM and through the Sentencing Reform Act of 1988, ISPMB helped to enact higher fines for inhumane treatment and violations of the Wild Free-Roaming Horse And Burro Act in the Federal District of Arizona. Penalties of up to $100,000 per animal, per offense and/or up to one year in jail are unsurpassed as compared with other federal districts or state humane laws. In 1994, ISPMB along with White Sands Missile Range, the state of New Mexico, and Congressional leaders successfully facilitated the safe removal of over 1800 wild horses from the Range into adoptive homes, thereby preventing federally unprotected animals from being slaughtered.

ISPMB’s participation was critical to the success of one of the first Ecosystem teams created by Secretary Babbitt in 1992. The Arizona Black Mountain Eco- team received the prestigious Health of the Land Award from the Department of the Interior in 1996 for its tireless work in creating a master model for management of burros in the United States.

In Arizona, ISPMB alone saved four wild burro herds from being eliminated by the BLM. The number of burros saved by ISPMB’s actions is well into the thousands of animals.

In 1999, ISPMB became the first privately funded organization to manage a wild free-roaming wild horse herd. This is the first time that a private organization has maintained, managed and protected a wild free-roaming herd. ISPMB relocated the last of the White Sands Herd in New Mexico, to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation where they are managed by ISPMB. There are approximately 80 wild horses. These horses carry a unique genetic marker which is a rare pacing gene found in North American Gaited horses.

ISPMB has worked in concert with several major programs involving interactions between wild horses and disadvantaged youth and prison inmates. The programs were designed to create positive educational experiences for the participants and the horses.

ISPMB paved the way for the protection of the Arizona Gila wild horses as wild- free-roaming horses under the 1971 Wild Horses and Burro Act. The Gila horses are descendants of Father Kino’s Spanish horses that he brought to this country in 1640. It is the only herd to be designated as federally protected since the implementation of the original Act, coming twenty-eight years later.

In February of 2000, ISPMB adopted the last remaining Gila wild horses in a conservation effort to preserve this rare gene pool. The horses were eliminated from their rightful lands based on a technicality of the 1971 Act that allows horses to be removed from private lands. Prior to the protection afforded to the Gila horses, they were indiscriminately shot by the local ranchers.

The third wild horse herd saved by ISPMB was initiated in September of 2001. Eighty wild horses from the Virginia Range near Carson City, Nevada were transported to the Cheyenne River Reservation in November 2001. The Virginia Range horses face a constant threat from diminishing habitat from both industrial and private development in their habitat area. These were the first horses to receive protection through the efforts of ISPMB’s first president, Velma Johnston. Yet, when the 1971 federal law passed, these horses were excluded from its protection. Because of the historical significance of this herd and the possibility of eventual elimination of the herd, ISPMB found permanent refuge for 160 of the Virginia Range horses on the Cheyenne River Reservation.

2002 – ISPMB and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe have begun a joint effort to establish an eco-tourism center on the Cheyenne River Reservation. This Center, Sunka Wakan, will serve as a model for other reservations where more wild horse herds will be placed as needed.

October 2003, ISPMB began an Animal Assisted Therapy program for recovering alcoholics, in conjunction with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Four Bands Healing Center bringing healing between ISPMB’s abused rescued horses from the BLM’s adoption program and Tribal clients.

In September of 2004, ISPMB accepted a fourth wild horse herd into its wild horse conservation program. Eighty-two wild horses were received from the Catnip herd from the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This agency is not mandated by law to protect wild horses and will reduce wild horses on its refuge to 125 animals and may potentially eliminate all the horses from the refuge over time.

January 2005, ISPMB formed the Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates in Reno, Nevada to counter the stealth rider from Senator Burns (R-MT) that was secretly inserted in the appropriation bill allowing all wild horses over the age of ten to be sold to the highest bidder paving the wave for sale authority by the BLM. ISPMB has been active since this time in trying to end horse slaughter in the US and to reverse the Burns amendment to the Wild Horse and Burro Act.

2004-2005, ISPMB’s National Spokesperson, Stefanie Powers, was successful in bringing Ford Motor Company to the rescue of wild horses that fell under the Burns amendment. Today ISPMB continues to work with Ford to bring about a “win-win” solution in saving over 8,000 wild horses threatened by the Burn’s amendment.

2006- ISPMB is preparing to save its fifth herd from the West Douglas Creek Herd in Colorado. Plans are underway to move the horses to a 9,000-acre site where they will be managed in a conservation program.

February 2007 – Saved 11 West Douglas Creek Stallions from castration by the BLM and brought them to our facility to be eventually reunited with the West Douglas Mares. This Colorado herd is scheduled for elimination from their Herd Area by the BLM shortly. It is ISPMB’s goal to protect endangered herds from eradication. ISPMB is looking for land to eventually place this herd. The Minneapolis Star Tribune covered the event of the stallions coming to ISPMB’s ranch.

May 2007 – Associated Press covered ISPMB’s quest to save threatened and endangered herds.

May and June 2007 – National Geographic magazine photographer photographed ISPMB’s rare Spanish Herd (Gila Herd).

August 2007 – ISPMB prepared to rescue over 300 historic wild horses from the Virginia Range Herd now roaming on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

August 2007 – ISPMB has begun its search for a larger ranch where the organization can supply its own hay, cutting costs, and house one of its four herds

October 2007 - ISPMB took 80 of the original Virginia Range Wild Horses and placed them under ISPMB’s conservation program designed to save endangered wild herds from extinction.

October –December 2007 – ISPMB began adopting out the younger Virginia Range Herd that remained on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal ranch. More than 200 wild horses were adopted. Two Native American Schools took 25 wild horses into their program reuniting the Lakota youth with horses in a cultural preservation program. This constituted the largest horse rescue in the United States since the slaughter plants were closed in 2007.

In the spring of 2008, the ISPMB succeeded in rescuing over 300 Virginia Range Horses from the possibility of slaughter. That fall, the ISPMB was a pivotal force in creating the landmark Las Vegas wild horse and burro summit, instrumental in protesting the BLM’s announcement of its inability to care for approximately 35,000 wild horses – posing the real threat of euthanasia.

In 2009, ISPMB’s eleven years of behavioral observations of its herds has yielded significant information to show that the removal of wild horses by helicopter and separating mares from their harem stallion has led to the destruction of their social systems over time which has resulted in the increase in the horses’ recruitment rates. This finding has significant importance to the future of wild horses on public lands.

In 2010, the ISPMB has completed a model management plan that will be submitted to the BLM. This plan if followed will ensure protection of the herds and will assure the herds survival over the long term.

ISPMB remains an advocacy organization to promote education, protect and preserve America’s wild horse and burro organization.

Throughout the year, ISPMB has conducted tours to see its wild herds in an effort to raise awareness about the plight of wild horses and burros in the United States. Tours are conducted from May 15 through September 15th.

In December 2015 in an ongoing effort to save the Heber Wild horses that reside in the Apache & Sitgreaves National Forest, an appeal by ISPMB's attorney, Anthony W. Merrill of Polisinelli Law Firm in Phoenix was filed on December 23rd. ISPMB and Mr. Merrill have been active in the Heber Case since 2005 winning a stay for the horses and requiring the FS to develop a Territory Plan for the wild horses.

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