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Kleppe v. New Mexico

Kleppe v. New Mexico, 426 U.S. 529 (1976), was a United States Supreme Court decision, which unanimously held that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (Pub.L. 92-195), passed in 1971 by the United States Congress to protect these animals from “capture, branding, harassment, or death,” was a constitutional exercise of congressional power. The New Mexico Livestock Board claimed the federal government did not have the power to control these animals unless they were items in interstate commerce or causing damage to the public lands. In February 1974, the board rounded up and sold 19 unbranded burros from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. When the BLM demanded the animals’ return, the state filed suit claiming that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was unconstitutional.

Although the lower court found for the state, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed this decision. It wrote that the “‘complete power’ that Congress has over public lands necessarily includes the power to regulate and protect the wildlife living there.” In addition, the Supreme Court said that Congress may enact legislation governing federal lands pursuant to the property clause and “when Congress so acts, federal legislation necessarily overrides conflicting state laws under the supremacy clause.”

See also

  • List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 426

Further reading

  • Landres, Peter; Meyer, Shannon; Matthews, Sue (2001). "The Wilderness Act and Fish Stocking: An Overview of Legislation, Judicial Interpretation, and Agency Implementation". Ecosystems 4 (4): 287–295. doi:10.1007/s10021-001-0011-6. 


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