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!