Thursday, August 31, 2017

Back Country Horsemen of America Keeps Trails Open for All in Arkansas

August 30 2017

by Sarah Wynne Jackson

Even today, over 40 years after its creation, Back Country Horsemen of America still adheres to the principles that guided its founders: keeping trails open for equestrians requires 1) a desire to keep trails open for all and 2) making yourself part of the solution with boots-on-the-ground trail work and generous distribution of responsible recreation skills through clinics and one-on-one instruction. The Buffalo River Chapter in Arkansas applies BCHA’s vision and mission to the wild lands in their state with determination, drive, and heart.

The Lands They Love

The Buffalo River Chapter BCH’s primary focus is the Buffalo National River and its watershed in northwest Arkansas. This National Park Service gem stretches 136 miles from Route 21, through five counties, to Route 14 and a Wilderness area also maintained by the NPS. Within and adjacent to the National River are Wilderness areas managed by the NPS and the US Forest Service, Ozark National Forest land, Wildlife Management Areas, and other conservation land.

Buffalo River Back Country Horsemen cherish this, America’s first National River. It flows freely nearly 150 miles from headwaters high in the Boston Mountains of Ozark National Forest to White River near Buffalo City. This national treasure encompasses almost 96,000 acres of rugged mountain terrain that is best accessed by horseback, massive limestone bluffs, deep hollows, and lush valleys.

Trails That Feel Like Home

BRBCH knows the 75 miles of equestrian trails very well. They ensure that they are clearly marked with yellow blazes, whether they are old road traces, gravel bars, or rocky mountain paths. These Back Country Horsemen remove downed trees, clear windfall, and repair water crossings on the trails that meander gently, crisscrossing the river many times. On the narrow, steep, and challenging trails, they repair washouts, dig out rocks in the trail tread, and lay down durable surfaces where needed.

Buffalo River Back Country Horsemen also maintain horse campsites, like the primitive camps at Steel Creek and Erbie, where recreationists find basic facilities like a pit toilet, fire grates, and places to hightie their horses. On the middle Buffalo, equestrians can stay at Woolum horse camp, which also has ample trailer parking. Wagon Gap and Hathaway camps on the lower Buffalo have no water and no facilities, but they access beautiful trails along the river.

Back Country Horsemen of the Buffalo River Chapter have spent many happy hours on horseback, both clearing and enjoying trails not only in the Buffalo National River, but also through the rest of their state’s stunning and varied landscapes. They help maintain trails in Wildlife Management Areas overseen by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, including the Gene Rush and the McElroy Madison County Wildlife Areas.

Keeping Trails Open for All

The Buffalo River Chapter works and coordinates with the Buffalo River National Park through a special Memorandum of Understanding that outlines their working relationship with the Park. Through regularly scheduled work days, the chapter puts their mission into action. They keep trails open to everyone by clearing brush and deadfall, pruning low-hanging branches, picking up trash, placing water bars to control erosion, and maintaining horse camps.

Their skills are especially valued when work is required in Wilderness areas too fragile for mechanized travel and power equipment. Their steady horses and mules haul equipment and supplies necessary for repairs, and the hard-working BRBCH members use hand saws, nippers, and loppers instead of chainsaws.

In 2015 alone, BRBCH contributed over 3072 volunteer hours to the Buffalo National River and its surrounding areas. Members also volunteered their time in the Ouachita Mountains, the Ozark National Forest, six different Wilderness Areas, and several Wildlife Management Areas maintained by Arkansas Game and Fish, totaling more than 1845 hours of trail work that year.

Promoting Responsible Recreation

In keeping with their mission to educate others on the wise use of our limited back country resource, Buffalo River Back Country Horsemen provide classes in CPR and first aid, packing with stock, and Leave No Trace Outdoor Ethics principles. They also host an annual Youth Camp Weekend that promotes responsible riding, packing, and camping skills to young people in a fun, safe environment.

Chapter members experienced with Leave No Trace, back country packing, and other skills regularly share their knowledge with other members and the general public. Several members are trained and participate in Wilderness Search and Rescue, providing a life-saving resource to the public.

The Original Horsepower

One spring, the National Park Service had cut some logs to be used to repair a badly washed out stretch of trail leading to the Hathaway Horse Camp in the Lower Buffalo River Wilderness. Five members of the Buffalo River BCH and their horses joined three NPS trail personnel in moving the logs to the repair location.

This area of the Ozark Mountains is a rough and rugged place to ride, but the washed-out trail was so hazardous that even experienced BCHers led instead of rode their sure-footed horses up the hill. They used horses and mules to drag thirty-five 8-foot cedar logs a quarter mile from the adjacent wooded area to the damaged trail so the repair could be made, all without the harm caused by motorized vehicles and equipment.

Well-Earned Accolades

The folks at the National Park Service are so grateful for the sustained volunteerism of Buffalo River Back Country Horsemen that they recently sent the chapter a letter that said in part, “...a BIG THANK YOU for all the volunteer hours donated to maintain horse trails at Buffalo National River. During this latest effort… your assistance put us about two weeks ahead of schedule... We are so thankful for all the park volunteers who help to make Buffalo National River such a great park!”

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:; 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!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Nurturing Land Management Relationships - Full Article

July 12, 2016, by ELCR

Maintaining and Acquiring Horseback Access to Public Land, Trails and Facilities

By Denise Y. O’Meara, RLA | May, 2015

In the upstate areas of the New York City watershed, equestrians are losing access to trails on land newly acquired by the water authority. Often, the trail segments lost to use provide connections that can’t be replicated by detours as they cross long stretches of land. The New York State Horse Council is taking steps to understand why these trails have been closed to horses, and what they can do to regain access.

Publicly owned open space, lengthy trail corridors and a variety of landscapes create the backbone of our riding and driving needs. Managing public agencies range from municipal parks and woodlands, to state parks and natural resource areas, to federal parks and the vast natural resource zones. Ownership and management of these lands may also be jointly undertaken between multiple agencies.

A What to Do Guide

Get to Know Public Land Policies through the Agency Land Manager

If you are riding on public land, you should know not only the government agency or agencies involved, but their rules and regulations, their planning and decision-making processes and schedules, and the specific land managers for your region.

Keeping up with changes in access and other policies is a continual task, but one that must not be overlooked. When government agencies create policies that are unfriendly to horses, it is critical to gain an understanding of why these changes came about. To do that, horsemen and women need to develop lines of communication with public land managers...

Read more here:

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

National Recreation Trail: Forever Wild Wehle Trail System - Alabama - Full Article

The Forever Wild Wehle Tract consists of 1,500 acres of rolling hill country through open pine grasslands and mature hardwood bottomlands.

The Forever Wild Wehle Tract consists of 1,500 acres of rolling hill country in Bullock and Barbour County, AL. The tract was once owned by Mr. Robert Wehle whose dream was to see that the property be protected by the Alabama Forever Wild Program and that the land be used for educating people about Alabama's need for conservation.

The Wehles generously funded the construction of the ROBERT G. WEHLE NATURE CENTER on land they deeded to the State Lands Division. This center was opened to the public for use for education and enjoyment.

There are three trails, which are part of the Forever Wild Wehle Trail System, that extend away from the Center, taking hikers on short, medium, and long treks through different habitats. These trails are augmented with interpretive stations highlighting the unique characteristics of many local plants and animals. The Nature Center can also be reserved for meetings, school field trips, and approved special events by appointment through the State Lands Division.

After opening the property to the public, roughly one third of it was added to the Barbour County Wildlife Management Area to increase acreage available for public hunting. The other two-thirds of the property are used for natural science education and non-consumptive recreational activities such as nature study, photography, hiking, picnicking, fishing, horseback riding and general field related activities...

Read more here:

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Washington: Hold Your Horses: Trail Riding Around the South Sound - Full Article

By Mariah Beckman

Hikes are better with friends, and some trailblazers say man’s best friend is the perfect companion, especially if your four-legged companion happens to be of the equine variety. If you fall into this category or have been looking for a good place to start a trail riding tradition, there are plenty of places near and far that can have you saddled up and ready to ride in no time.

Horse Ranches and Guided Tours

Sunset Chevrolet LogoEZ Times Trail Rides in Elbe, Washington, has been serving the South Sound for nearly 30 years. Owner Jeff Celskki cleared and shaped all of the trails around his Elbe ranch when he moved to the area in 1989, and the routes he created take riders past points of interest like Lake Adler, the Nisqually River and several overlooks that offer views of the Elbe Hills. Rates vary per trail and number of riders, but rest assured that horses here hit the trail rain or shine, sleet or snow. You can learn more about taking in a one-, two- or three-hour guided ride, designed for equestrians of all ages and experience levels, on EZ Times Trail Ride’s website. Kiddos are welcome!

Riding Horses in South Sound

Access miles of trails in the Puyallup River Valley when you visit Orting’s Northwest Horse Park. Riders here can enjoy wide open spaces, but also feel safe in the knowledge that seasoned equestrians are on site if any questions or concerns arise on the ride. And, because lessons are available at the park as well, this is a great place to identify areas where horse and rider can both improve before they ever step out on the trail and into wilder terrains...

Read more here:

Wisconsin: Southern Kettle Moraine Horse Trails Association plans annual fall roundup - Full Article

Lake Country Published 2:22 p.m. CT Aug. 16, 2017

Southern Kettle Moraine Horse Trails Association (SKMHTA) is once again preparing for its annual fall roundup, scheduled this year for Saturday, Sept. 9.

The event needs volunteers, donations for raffle baskets and silent auction items, as well as sponsors and cash donations to make this eighth annual fundraising event successful.

Proceeds are used to maintain and improve the horse trails and campground in the Southern Kettle Moraine Forest.

Past improvements include the electrification of 29 campsites and pavilion at Horseriders’ Campground, kiosk installation, purchase and maintenance of the Viele Loop portable toilet, donation to the Palmyra Corral Project, and installation and maintenance of the Obstacle Course Trail at the Highway S trails in Eagle and development of the Wilton Road rest area...

Read more here:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

New Mexico: Horse owners, mountain bikers square off at meeting - Full Article

By Tris DeRoma
Monday, August 21, 2017

A public discussion about a network of trails around the North Mesa Stables took a sharp turn Wednesday when county officials gave an update on a proposed “flow” trail meant exclusively for mountain bikers.

After County Parks and Recreation officials gave a brief update about the proposed flow trail, residents who attended the meeting debated whether the trail was a good idea at all.

According to county officials, the trail, if built, would parallel and intersect an existing popular horseback riding and hiking trail in Bayo Canyon.

“I think it’s a really bad idea to put it here,“ said resident Bruce Warren. “I think the county needs to reopen negotiation about installing a trial flow trail on the ski hill, which is where it really belongs, it’s a recreational type facility. It’s not really a trail in the sense of what we know is a trail.”

A proponent and founder of the flow trail idea said it couldn’t go on Pajarito Mountain because the ski area is privately owned.

Lisa Reader, an avid horseback rider and leader in the local riding community, thought the flow trail needs to be somewhere else too, that horse owners are slowly getting squeezed out of the recreational trail picture.

“I support multiple use as a concept. Our community is very small geographically, we only have a small footprint to work in, we don’t need to be fussing and fighting with each other. But, I will say that we are out here for good, and we keep getting squeezed and squeezed,” Reader said. “There’s so few places we can safely access anymore, so this (plan) is an eyeopener to us. This is the one trail we have easy access to and now they’re going to make it potentially unsafe...”

Read more here:

Monday, August 7, 2017

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

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: If you would like more information about the RNR Act and related lobbying activity, please contact Bryan Brendle at 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:; 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!