Back Country Horsemen of America protects our right to ride horses on public lands, cherishing America’s heritage of traveling this landscape as our ancestors did. That’s not just a conviction; it’s a way of life. For over four decades, Back Country Horsemen have volunteered their time, skill and resources toward keeping trails open to horse use and promoting responsible recreation.
In 2014, Back Country Horsemen from coast to coast donated $14.4 million in volunteer value to this cause. The nearly 14,000 BCHA members cleared trails, restored trail treads, built bridges, educated youth and adults in horse use, spread the word about responsible Leave No Trace habits, attended public lands planning meetings, spoke with legislators, held food drives, cleaned up litter and so much more.
BCHA Executive Director Jim McGarvey is leading by example. When his two-year term as Chairman ended in April 2015, he announced his commitment to fill the vacant position of executive director on a volunteer basis for up to two years. During that time, he aims to raise the funds required to cover three years of salary and travel expenses for a professional executive director.
Back Country Horsemen of Virginia
In May, the Iron Mountain Chapter and the Eastern Divide Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Virginia teamed up for a National Trails Day project in the eastern end of the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The work party included 14 members on foot and four on horseback with one pack horse. They were joined by US Forest Service Ranger Stephen Hmurciak and two American Endurance Ride Conference certified trail masters to advise in the best way to solve the problems on the trail.
Located in southwest Virginia, the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area encompasses 200,000 acres of National Forest land, including four Congressionally designated wilderness areas; the Virginia Creeper Trail; the 5000-acre Crest Zone featuring elevations over 4,000 feet, large rock formations, and a mixture of bald mountain summits and spruce-fir forests; and a herd of wild, free-ranging ponies.
In five hours, the group widened and repaired several hundred yards of tread on the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail and reworked a washed-out switchback. They cut a tree to make cribbing and filled it with rock and soil to form a sturdy, wider trail bed. They also cleared deadfall from six miles of trail. Their work, which was done by hand using trail tools and a chain saw, made this treacherous area much safer.
Show Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen
The Tri-Lakes Chapter of Show Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen participated in another successful collaboration. They routinely carry trash bags on the trail and pick up garbage left by other users. The group recently approached the PepsiCo plant in Springfield to help fund the purchase of mesh bags that are easily carried on horseback. PepsiCo and SMMBCH purchased 5,000 reusable mesh bags printed with the Pepsi and SMMBCH logos, along with trail ethics statements.
Show Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen distributed the mesh bags to its chapters across the state to be used in trail maintenance. The bags are proving not only to be very useful and practical but also good for spreading the message of Back Country Horsemen values and purposes. Bags were given out at SMMBCH’s Leave No Trace display tent at the Missouri State Fair, and will also be made available at trailheads, saddle clubs and to any interested equestrian individual or group.
This beneficial project was made possible by generous funding from PepsiCo and a grant from the Back Country Horsemen of America Education Foundation. Show Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen also works regularly with five different federal and state public land management agencies to maintain and protect Missouri’s wild lands.
Ride Kansas Back Country Horsemen
The new Ride Kansas Back Country Horsemen expresses the same spirit of volunteerism BCHers are known for. Every autumn, they organize a benefit trail ride to raise money for improving the campground at Rockhaven Horse Park on the south shore of Clinton Lake in northeast Kansas.
With the money raised, Ride Kansas Back Country Horsemen have built over 30 steel pipe pens at the camping sites to go with the 18 electrical sites, 32 primitive sites, 14 centrally located pens, a shower house, and a shelter house. Along with 70 miles of wooded and scenic trails, these amenities make Clinton Lake one of the best trail riding destinations in Kansas.
The Things We Value
BCHA believes our nation’s public lands are a precious resource to be preserved and enjoyed. With federal, state and local budgets shrinking, it’s our responsibility as citizens to pick up the slack. When we accomplish the required maintenance, all users can continue to recreate in these beautiful areas.
Back Country Horsemen of America highly values our right to ride horses on these public lands, despite the fact that every day more of them are being designated “No Horses.” Without a unified voice such as that of Back Country Horsemen of America, our heritage of equine use and our right to ride on public lands is in serious jeopardy.
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 at www.bcha.org; call 888-893-5161; or write PO Box 1367, Graham, WA 98338-1367. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!