Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Will the Nation's Longest Trail Ever Be Completed?

Outsideonline.com - Full Article

Kathryn Miles
May 16, 2018

Decades of political infighting have stymied construction of the North Country Trail, which, if finished, would run for 4,600 miles. Now it looks like Congress may finally be ready to get its act together.
Late last month, the House Committee on Natural Resources unanimously approved a bill to revise the route of the North Country Trail. Under most circumstances, this kind of legislative action would hardly seem noteworthy. But for the long-suffering national scenic trail and its supporters, this committee approval represents a major victory in a 50-year battle to make North Country a reality.

“We’re super excited,” Andrea Ketchmark, executive director of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA), told me over the phone. “We’ve never made it this far in Congress before.”

If that statement doesn’t give you pause, it should. The North Country Trail was first proposed in 1966 and received federal approval as a scenic trail nearly 40 years ago. It is nowhere near finished today. Why? Turns out there are many reasons...

Read more here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

California: Closed for nearly a decade, the historic Gabrielino Trail is nearly restored — thanks to mountain bikers

LATimes.com - Full Article

By Louis Sahagun
May 02, 2018

Erik Hillard has always believed the best way to know a rugged trail is to bike it. But for nearly a decade, the historic Gabrielino Trail in the peaks above La CaƱada Flintridge has been all but unknowable to mountain bikers.

The 2009 Station fire and the rainy season that followed it rendered much of a 26-mile stretch of the trail impassable.

Hillard, and a team of volunteers, have been working to change that.

It's a landscape-sized job in the San Gabriel Mountains, where about 100 people have spent spare days and weekends recarving a path wide enough for only one bike at a time that climbs and dips under canopies of aspen and oak, past rock overhangs and along cliffs with sweeping views and no guardrails.

But the U.S. Forest Service says the yearlong volunteer campaign holds the best hope for reopening the nation's first National Recreation Trail — and keeping peace between mountain bikers and hikers in the increasingly crowded backcountry of the Angeles National Forest's San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

"This is an unforgiving mountain range, where nothing is flat and wildfires and floods are routine," said Hillard, 43, a spokesman for the Mt. Wilson Bicycling Assn. "And without volunteer efforts, these trails would stay closed..."

Read more here:

Monday, May 14, 2018

Let's put more HORSEpower in the Recreation-Not-Red Tape (RNR) Act!

Tell Your Senators to Co-Sponsor S. 1633!

Let's put more HORSEpower in the Recreation-Not-Red Tape (RNR) Act!

As you know, Sen. Wyden (D-OR) has introduced S. 1633, the Recreation-Not-Red-Tape (RNR) Act, underscoring the need to reduce regulations that prevent trail rides on public land. With help from horsemen across the country, the House Natural Resources Committee has recently approved the House version of the bill (H.R. 3400) with strong, bipartisan support. Now it's time for the Senate to do its part and move this important legislation closer to the finish line. Please contact your Senators today, and urge them to cosponsor S. 1633, the RNR Act of 2017!

(Note that by filling out the form you will receive future communications from the American Horse Council.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

AERC Awarded $20,000 Trail Grant from the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance

May 9 2018

A commitment to trails is vital to the sport of endurance riding, and the American Endurance Ride Conference is pleased to announce that a National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance (NWSA) grant has been approved in the amount of $20,000 for trails work under the auspices of AERC, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The funding will develop and improve existing trail systems in the Wayne National Forest, Vesuvius Region, near Pedro, Ohio. This system is home to Elkins Creek Horse Camp and AERC’s Black Sheep Boogie and Gobble ’Til You Wobble endurance rides. Although the ride names are whimsical, the rides of 25, 50 or 75 miles in length are a testament to the horsemanship and training of the participating riders and equines. In addition the Boogie, held the last weekend of June, there are long-term plans in place to hold a 100-mile endurance event in 2019 and then host the AERC National Championship Ride in October of 2020.

Monies from this grant will be used to provide the materials and equipment rental needed to improve areas along the entire eastern side of the main loop, a 25-plus mile section of trail. These improvements will ensure the sustainability of these trail systems for years to come.

AERC Ride Manager Committee Chair Mollie Krumlaw-Smith, who also manages the two rides held on this system, and Alex Uspenski, co-chair of AERC’s Trails and Land Management Committee, helped Jill and Rick McCleese, owners of Elkins Creek Horse Camp, to write the grant. All are graduates of AERC’s Trail Master program, which trains AERC members and land managers to build sustainable trails and make trail repairs in that will last for many years.

The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act, signed into law in December of 2016, calls for the U.S. Forest Service to create a way to catch up on back trail maintenance, and pairs with organizations like the Back Country Horsemen, American Hiking Society, American Trails and the International Mountain Biking Association to meet the country’s trail maintenance goals.

The Trails Stewardship Funding Program awards funds to trails and stewardship organizations who then increase trail maintenance accomplishments and reduce deferred maintenance (trail backlog) on National Forest System trails. More than 100 proposals were received, requesting $1.4 million in funding, and a total of 42 projects were funded, totaling $402,000.

According to the NSWA, the Trail Funding program elicited over $1 million in matching cash, and over $2 million of in-kind matches. More than 5,300 volunteers, trail crew members, and nonprofit staff are expected to participate across the 42 selected projects. Over 1,700 miles of trail will be maintained, additional signing, structure repair, and many bridges will be replaced using these grant funds.

“I am very excited and proud of AERC’s Trails Program, said Monica Chapman, AERC Trails and Land Management Committee co-chair. “The grant is a perfect example of a group effort from the locals on the ground doing the sweat equity, the committee level members writing the grant and with the local forest, to attending meetings in Washington, DC, to meet with legislators and many of the groups belonging to NSWA. This is a perfect example of how a non-profit grass-roots organization should work.”

The volunteers at Elkins Creek Horse Camp plan on having most if not all of these improvements completed by December of 2018 and will be working steadily throughout the year.

“Endurance riders will appreciate the improved trail conditions, even under rainy conditions, in the Wayne National Forest, and the improvements will also be welcomed by the thousands of trail riders who visit the area each year,” said Krumlaw-Smith. This trail system has a wonderful group of volunteers who literally put thousands of hours each year into its development and maintenance.

“This grant will finally enable them to complete the 10-plus year project,” said Krumlaw-Smith. “Additionally it’s a wonderful help to the whole community in bringing more tourism to the region. By doing so we bring more revenue into local retail stores, restaurants, and other small businesses. The effect of the trail improvements will be felt community-wide.”

Randy Welsh, NWSA’s executive director who manages the program, said, “Trails connect people to the National Forests, and this funding will help these local groups and volunteers participate in caring for and managing their Forests. The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Partnership Funding Program will encourage a huge increase in the number of volunteers and public involved with National Forest trails.”

Further information on the National Forest System Trail Stewardship Partnership Funding program can be found on the NWSA website at www.wildernessalliance.org/trail_funding.

For more information about the American Endurance Ride Conference, visit www.AERC.org.

About the AERC

The American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) was founded in 1972 as a national governing body for long distance riding. Over the years it has developed a set of rules and guidelines designed to provide a standardized format and strict veterinary controls. The AERC sanctions more than 700 rides each year throughout North America and in 1993 Endurance became the fifth discipline under the United States Equestrian Team.

In addition to promoting the sport of endurance riding, the AERC encourages the use, protection, and development of equestrian trails, especially those with historic significance. Many special events of four to six consecutive days take place over historic trails, such as the Pony Express Trail, the Outlaw Trail, the Chief Joseph Trail, and the Lewis and Clark Trail. The founding ride of endurance riding, the Western States Trail Ride or “Tevis,” covers 100 miles of the famous Western States and Immigrant Trails over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. These rides promote awareness of the importance of trail preservation for future generations and foster an appreciation of our American heritage. For more information please visit us at www.aerc.org.

Monday, April 16, 2018

National Park Fee-Free Day on April 21


April 21st is the first day of National Park Week, and is being celebrated with a fee-free day in the nation's National Parks.

“National parks connect all of us with our country’s amazing nature, culture and history,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Michael T. Reynolds. “The days that we designate as fee-free for national parks mark opportunities for the public to participate in service projects, enjoy ranger-led programs, or just spend time with family and friends exploring these diverse and special places. We hope that these fee-free days offer visitors an extra incentive to enjoy their national parks in 2018.”

Normally, 118 of the 417 national parks charge an entrance fee. The other 299 national parks do not have entrance fees. The entrance fee waiver for the fee-free days does not cover amenity or user fees for activities such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

The annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks that charge an entrance fee. There are also free or discounted passes available for senior citizens, current members of the military, families of fourth grade students, and disabled citizens.

Other federal land management agencies offering their own fee-free days in 2018 include the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The National Park System includes more than 84 million acres and is comprised of 417 sites, including national parks, national historical parks, national monuments, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national seashores. There is at least one national park in every state.

Last year, 331 million people visited national parks spending $18.4 billion which supported 318,000 jobs across the country and had a $35 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Congress Appropriates Funds for LWCF for 2018


LWCF and Congressional Updates
PNTS Statement on the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill (3/30/2018)

The Partnership for the National Trails System thanks Congress for finally appropriating the money to fund Federal agencies—including our partners in the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S Forest Service, and the Federal Highway Administration—through the end of Federal Fiscal Year 2018 (September 30th). Within the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill, Congress has appropriated $425 million for acquisition of critical lands for conservation and recreation through the Land & Water Conservation Fund—a modest increase over the funding provided for FY 2017. This funding includes $18.359 million to buy land along three of the national historic trails and four of the national scenic trails.

Congress appropriated $2,298,397,000 for the National Park Service to operate the National Park System, including 23 of the national scenic and historic trails. This is an increase of $54.046 million over the funding provided for 2017.

In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System this year Congress, provided this direction: “National Trails System—In preparation for the National Trails System’s 50-year anniversary in 2018, the Committees urge the [Park] Service to make funding the construction and maintenance of national trails a priority.” It remains to be seen how the National Park Service will carry out this guidance.

Congress also appropriated $80 million for the U.S. Forest Service to build and maintain the 158,000 miles of trails on the national forests, including the five national scenic trails and one national historic trail that it administers and sections of 17 other national trails within national forests. The funding provided for 2018 is $2.47 million more than Congress provided to the Forest Service for the trails in 2017 and is the first increase in trail funding in three or more years.

Additionally in the Omnibus FY 2018 Appropriations Bill, Congress has also permanently reauthorized the Federal Lands Transfer Facilitation Act (FLTFA), authorizing the Bureau of Land Management to sell surplus Federal land and use the money gained from these sales to buy land for conservation and recreation purposes.

Congress also finally passed a comprehensive Wildfire Suppression funding program that should enable the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies to pay the increasingly greater costs of suppressing wildfires and eliminate the need to “borrow” funds from other programs to do so.

We applaud Congress for finally resolving these several long-standing issues, but we are disappointed that Congress did not re-authorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund, which expires on September 30, 2018.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Back Country Horsemen Education Foundation: Keeping Trails Open, One Project at a Time

March 28 2018
by Sarah Wynne Jackson

As a service organization with an exemplary record of volunteerism, Back Country Horsemen of America knows the true cost of keeping trails open, not only for horse use but for all users of every kind. They occasionally receive donations of funds, materials, or labor, but BCHers frequently bear the majority of the cost of those projects themselves, out of their individual pockets.

But that’s beginning to change, thanks to the Back Country Horsemen Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit corporation formed to provide financial support for the programs and projects that keep trails open for you.

Making Projects and Education Possible

The Back Country Horsemen Education Foundation provides funds for qualified programs that meet its specific objectives and purposes in a wide range of public interests. Supported programs include those that benefit the horse and other stock users, and programs that promote cooperative interaction with other user groups regarding safety, care, and the protection of our wild lands.

Foundation funds may be used to provide scholarships or financial support for training, certification, and/or presenting in a variety of areas, including minimum impact practices with saddle and pack stock (such as Leave No Trace), trail construction and maintenance, promoting cooperative interaction with other user groups and public land managers, wilderness safety and first aid, and research concerning responsible recreation.

When allocating funds, preference is given to projects that involve partnerships with public land agencies and other trail or youth groups. These projects may include 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or other youth groups, and are typically oriented towards education about saddle and pack stock, and the responsible use of our precious back country resource.

Wasatch Front Back Country Horsemen

A $450 grant from the BCH Education Foundation helped cover the costs of a very popular annual youth weekend organized by the Wasatch Front Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Utah, which always draws interest and excitement from local kids. Last year’s event hosted fifteen kids at Weber County’s North Fork Park in Eden, a popular and easy-to-get-to horse camping spot that provides relief from the valley’s summer heat.

The weekend is about so much more than camping, riding with their friends, and having fun. The kids also become more accustomed to riding and handling horses, learn the importance of responsible recreation, practice using Leave No Trace principles, renew friendships formed at last year’s campout, and find fulfilment and confidence in a job well done in a wild place that only God could make.

The Wasatch Front Back Country Horsemen work frequently in North Fork Park, maintaining trails, building facilities, and more. Many miles of trails through mountain forests and glens provide fantastic opportunities for recreationists to get away from it all, even if only for a few hours.

Front Range Back Country Horsemen

A $500 grant from the BCH Education Foundation enabled Front Range Back Country Horsemen of Colorado to provide the food, supplies, and trail maintenance materials for an entire youth work weekend. In 2017, this annual event hosted seven children. Along with 15 adults, the group worked a total of 126 hours on repairing Running Bear Trail near Buno Gulch on Guanella Pass in Pike National Forest.

Adjacent to a bog, the trail had deteriorated. Before the FRBCH group arrived, workers from Pike National Forest realigned the timbers bordering the trail that had become skewed. The Back Country Horsemen youth and adult volunteers used wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, and hard work to refill the trail with an aggregate trail surface base.

Some FRBCH adults brought their horses, giving the boys and girls exciting opportunities to help care for the horses and learn how to use them in the back country. The kids did most of the cooking and cleaning up, which afforded more opportunities to learn outdoor skills and responsibility. The adults had formal and impromptu conversations with the youth regarding survival skills, wilderness first aid, proper use and care of tools, and Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.

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!