Monday, August 7, 2017

Congress Continues to Promote Land Access, Gives Momentum to “Trails Act” Victory


Horsecouncil.org

August 3 2017

On July 26, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced the “Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (RNR)” (S. 1633, H.R. 3400), legislation that expands the scope of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (PL 114-245), signed into law in late 2016. While the RNR focuses on streamlined permitting to access public lands, the bill includes provisions that would authorize the Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to enter into cooperative agreements with private parties to promote the role of volunteers in trail maintenance. The bill also authorizes the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and BLM to develop an interagency trail management plan that will assure uniform maintenance standards for trails crossing jurisdictional lines between the two agencies.

The Trails Act outlines a detailed program including goals and timetables by which the USDA will leverage private partners to clear trails long overdue for maintenance. Unlike the RNR Act, which applies to both the BLM and USDA’s National Forest System (NFS), the Trails Act focuses only on trails under the jurisdiction of the NFS.

Chairman Bishop and Sen. Wyden worked closely on the bill to emphasize key issues – especially outdoor recreation permit streamlining – that will likely attract bipartisan support. GOP staff with the House Natural Resources Committee, which is the committee of jurisdiction for federal land issues, are encouraging AHC and allies to help drive cosponsors for the legislation, which currently has none. Committee staff also state that the Subcommittee on Federal Lands will conduct a markup in late September or October, giving members the opportunity to offer technical corrections and amendments to the text.

To review a summary of the legislation, please see the following link: https://www.wyden.senate.gov/download/?id=DDF411A6-5D21-40BD-B17C-2BF73A2B9C51&download=1. If you would like more information about the RNR Act and related lobbying activity, please contact Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

ELCR and USDF Partner for Equine Land Conservation Achievement Award

July 6 2017

ELCR, in partnership with the United States Dressage Federation (USDF), is pleased to announce the inaugural Equine Land Conservation Achievement Award. Nominations for the award, which recognizes an individual or organization for outstanding achievement in protecting land or access to land for equine use. USDF's Regional Group Membership Organizations (GMO) will nominate those individuals, organizations or agencies that they feel have exhibited exceptional land or facilities advocacy or protection related to the dressage community with local or nationwide impact.

USDF executive Director, Stephan Hienzsch, says that the organization is 'very pleased to partner with ELCR on this award to help increase awareness of the importance of land conservation in the dressage community and to serve as inspiration to others within our discipline."

The award will be presented at the Adequan/USDF Annual Convention awards ceremony on Saturday, December 2, 2017 in Lexington, KY. Convention and awards ceremony information may be found here .

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Back Country Horsemen of America Trail Work Helps Contain Forest Fire

August 1 2017

by Sarah Wynne Jackson

Back Country Horsemen of America takes very seriously their mission to ensure that public lands remain open to recreational stock use, and they know that their hard work also allows other user groups to enjoy more recreation opportunities. But sometimes BCHA’s on-the-ground trail work makes a difference in other, unexpected ways.

Reclaiming Neglected Trails

From July 28 through 31, 2015, eight members of the San Joaquin-Sierra Back Country Horsemen of California joined four US Forest Service workers clearing a two mile long trail that connects the Rancheria Trail to Spanish Lake in the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierra National Forest. The trail was so overgrown and neglected that they sometimes had difficulty finding the original path. After several long days of hard labor, the team had removed 64 downed trees and cleared over 1000 feet of trail, making it passable once again for all trail users, including equestrians.

Mission Accomplished, Just in Time

On July 31, the day they finished their work and packed out to head home, lightning struck about five miles north of Hume Lake, not far from where they had been working. It started the largest wildfire California saw that year. The Rough Fire burned unchecked until it destroyed 151,623 acres and was finally contained on November 5.

The Original Horsepower Protects Wilderness Areas

When wildfires burn in wilderness areas, firefighters try to honor the rules in place to protect those lands by using Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics (MIST). This includes using pack stock instead of mechanized transport to deliver supplies to firefighting crews. The USFS called on their packers to relay supplies to four different groups that were fighting the fire.

Because the trail to Spanish Lake was clear, it was used as a fire line for the back burn. Firefighters set backfires to burn up the available fuel and stop the progression of the wildfire, which was heading toward drought-stricken timbered areas that would have allowed the fire to gain strength and speed. The accessible trail gave firefighters an open area to set backfires as well as providing an easy route for pack horses and mules to deliver supplies to various teams along the fire line.

Once the back burn started moving away from the trail and towards the main fire, the recently opened corridor was invaluable in allowing firefighters to make daily patrols to ensure no burning material came down across the trail which could have started a new fire on the other side of the fire line. The crews remained vigilant until they knew the flames were fully suppressed.

Fighting the Fire Breathing Dragon

The Rough Fire burned almost twice as many acres as the second largest wildfire in California that year, and required 3,742 firefighters with 345 engines, 19 helicopters, and 45 bulldozers to contain. It threatened life and property, necessitating evacuation of Hume Lake Christian Camps, Dunlap, and the Wilsonia and General Grant Grove areas. The fire approached (but didn’t reach) the heavily populated areas of Fresno and Clovis. It resulted in ten injuries, one of them a firefighter who suffered severe burns and was airlifted to a medical facility, and hospital emergency rooms filled with folks with respiratory distress due to smoke inhalation.

The fire line along the newly re-opened trail proved to be a major factor in containing this massive wildfire. The Back Country Horsemen of the San Joaquin-Sierra Chapter were just doing what they do: keeping trails open for all users to enjoy. They didn’t know that accomplishing this humble task would make it possible to keep a fire-breathing dragon from becoming an even bigger monster and swallowing up more of the state’s stunning landscape and maybe even claiming human lives and homes.

About Back Country Horsemen of America

BCHA is a non-profit corporation made up of state organizations, affiliates, and at-large members. Their efforts have brought about positive changes regarding the use of horses and stock in wilderness and public lands.

If you want to know more about Back Country Horsemen of America or become a member, visit their website: www.bcha.org; call 888-893-5161; or write 342 North Main Street, West Hartford, CT 06117. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A California counter-attack could ward off land transfers

HCN.org - Full Article

In response to Trump, the West’s most liberal state goes on the offensive.

Tay Wiles
News
July 26, 2017

The morning after the 2016 presidential election, California’s legislative leaders issued a message that has set the tone for the state under the new administration, under President Donald Trump. “Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land,” it said. Since then, many Californians have pushed back against conservative policies on everything from immigrant rights to the environment. One of those offensives is Senate Bill 50, which, after sailing through committee this spring and summer, aims to stop the federal government from transferring or selling off public lands to corporations.

The Public Lands Protection Act is part of a series of three bills introduced in late February called the “Preserve California” package, meant to preempt any efforts by the Trump administration to weaken environmental laws. The bill would allow California’s State Lands Commission first dibs on lands the federal government wants to sell, and would let the state have a say in transferring to a new owner.

The law is largely symbolic. The intense push led by conservative lawmakers in Western states beginning around 2012 for a massive transfer of federal lands to state and local control has slowed. That’s in part thanks to the Trump administration, which offers other means for conservatives to influence land management from within agencies. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says he does not support the land transfer idea, but he is sympathetic to critics of federal overreach in natural resource management...

Read more here:
http://www.hcn.org/articles/california-bill-aims-to-protect-public-lands

Friday, July 21, 2017

New York: Equestrian paths offer miles of scenic beauty

ObserverToday.com - Full Article

JUL 19, 2017
DAMIAN SEBOUHIAN OBSERVER STAFF WRITER

JAMESTOWN — The final phase in upgrading the Chautauqua County Equestrian Trail system is all a matter of time and partially dependent on future funds, said Senior Planner Patrick Gooch of the Chautauqua County Planning Department.

“There’s a four-phase plan to extend the trails,” said Gooch. “Phases one through three are completed.”

According to Missy Whittington, long time volunteer and newly appointed president of the trail system, “we’ve just completed the incorporation of Chautauqua County Equestrian Trails (CCET) as its own entity. We have filed paperwork to become a 501c3, so we’re a not-for-profit organization for the trail.”

Currently, the trail runs along existing pathways and new connections that extend from the northwestern corner of Boutwell Hill State Forest to the peaks of the Cockaigne Ski Area in the south and over to the village of Cherry Creek, with many privately developed trails in between, which are accessible to the public...

Read more here:
http://www.observertoday.com/news/local-region/2017/07/equestrian-paths-offer-miles-of-scenic-beauty/

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nominations for the Ann Parr Trails Award due August 1

Ann Parr Trails Preservation Award Recipients

This award, named after trails volunteer Ann Parr, was first given in 2012, and honors the member who has worked tirelessly for equine trails.

Ann supported the Trails and Land Management Committee with her time, effort and knowledge. She worked with state count and city political offices from her home in Draper, Utah, to promote trail easement preservation and urban trails development. Ann led a campaign to enable the city of Draper to purchase an area previously slated for residential development for use as a public outdoor recreation area. Her trail advocacy and committee work are an inspiration for those who care for and work to preserve and expand equestrian trails across the country.

Sharon Ballard proposed this award on the death of her beloved friend in 2011.

This award may not be given every year.

Nominations are due August 1. Nomination form is available here:
https://aerc.org/static/2017Nomination.aspx

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Call to Protect Your Trails Funding

Hello Trail Partners,

As you heard in our last call to action, the Administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 reveals what are nothing less than catastrophic cuts to programs that directly impact trails and the places where Americans ride, bike, hike, and enjoy the outdoors. The proposed budget for trails and the federal agencies that manage and maintain trails on federal lands fails to provide for even the most basic necessities needed to maintain and manage these critical recreation resources. 

The President's budget cuts the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by 84% compared to the amount approved by Congress for 2017. Similarly, the President's budget would cut the trails program of the U.S. Forest Service by 84%. There is little doubt the agency would be forced to make sweeping personnel changes that would leave few staff among local ranger districts to work with volunteers and partners-to say nothing about the complete lack of seasonal trail crews that could be expected next year. Such budget cuts would be disastrous and unprecedented.

The good news is that Congress does not have to follow the President's proposed budget for 2018. But members of Congress need to hear from you. Otherwise, they just might fall in line behind the President's budget proposal.

Take Action!

Please call your member of Congress today.

1. Let them know that trails and outdoor recreation are important to you.

2. Ask them to maintain the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2018, at the minimum, at a level consistent with what Congress approved in 2017.

3. Ask that they support levels of funding that keep agency trail programs intact, as volunteers alone cannot be expected to do it all.

4. Ask that funding for trails reflect the growing importance of trails to the American public, including the outdoor "recreation economy," which directly supports 7.6 million jobs across the U.S. 

To find information, including a phone number, for your representative in Congress click on this link. For contact information for your U.S. senators, click here. And if your congressman or senator is on one of the committees that control the agency budgets (i.e. the Senate or House Appropriations Committees, or the Interior Subcommittees) then your immediate action is especially helpful! Please consider reaching out to them immediately to let them know that you care about trails and trails infrastructure. 

If you desire more background and information on this issue, 3-page paper and a sign-on letter was carefully crafted in partnership with the American Hiking Society, Backcountry Horsemen of America, and the Partnership for the National Trails System, reflecting the level of concern among all trail user groups. 

Please take action TODAY to preserve access to trails on public lands.

Our future access to public lands depends on it. Thank you for your efforts to ensure trails for everyone's future.

Michael Passo
Executive Director, American Trails