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Back Country Horsemen of Washington (BCHW), is a 501 (c) (3) organization with 32 chapters across the state dedicated to: keeping trails open for all users; educating horse users in Leave-No-Trace practices; and providing volunteer service to resource agencies.

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BCHW Leadership Training is coming up January 25, 2020, Click here for details 

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2020 Rendezvous March 20-22, 2020
Kittitas Valley Event Center, Ellensburg, WA
Click here for details and a 2020 Rendezvous Registation form

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Equestrian Use of Wilderness Trails


There are common misconceptions about the use of horses and mules on

public lands, particularly in wilderness areas. Art Pope’s editorial,

printed in the Register Guard December 3, cites impact of equines on trails

as deleterious, requiring policies to mitigate their use. In response, I submit the

following information for readers’ consideration.

Visitation by horsemen and women to wilderness areas has been on the decline

for decades. The Forest Service acknowledges that pack and saddle stock use

in wilderness areas is no more than 1 to 3 percent of overall visitation. Horses are

not the cause of wilderness overuse.

The Forest Service and other management agencies do, however, rely heavily

on horse and mule pack support for their backlog of trail building and maintenance

projects. There is really no other method. Chain saw use is not allowed in

wilderness areas, and stock are able to carry large cross cut saws, heavy tools,

timbers for construction, and camping supplies in and out of wilderness worksites.

Our local chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Oregon has topped 450 hours of

volunteer work in 2019 alone supporting trail projects in the Middle Fork Willamette

and Crescent Ranger Districts, and the Waldo, Three Sisters, and

Mt. Washington Wildernesses. We employ Leave No Trace skills for low impact stock

use in all our wilderness endeavors.

Consider the work our volunteers and their equine friends have accomplished in

local forests, in conjunction with government agencies, at no cost to the public:

- Packed tools for Scorpion trail crews who cleared Six Lakes Trail in the

Waldo Wilderness

- Packed safety, water, and food supplies to stops along Waldo Lake trails

for the last three Waldo 100K Trail Runs

- Packed in boards to rebuild a broken bridge on Erma Bell Trail, Three Sisters


- Packed and cached tools for Foley Ridge Trail reconstruction over a two year

period, Three Sisters Wilderness

- Provided packing trips into the forest for disabled youth, Three Sisters Wilderness

- Packed in trout fingerlings to High Cascade lakes with ODFW

- Packed supplies for trail crews into Diamond Peak Wilderness for

new trail construction project

- Packed out timbers from multiple damaged and unsafe bridges on the North Fork

Willamette Trail

- Pack supported FS crews and supplies for endangered frog research in Goose

Lake area of Three Sisters Wilderness

- Logged out and maintained 8 miles of Pacific Crest Trail, Diamond Peak Wilderness,

for over 15 years

(This trail section is in great shape, not damaged by our repeated presence.

We also maintain yearly at least 8 miles of feeder trails to the PCT.)

- Logged out and maintained 20 plus miles of trails in the Mt. Washington Wilderness

each year for over a decade

- With SOLVE, packed out hundreds of pounds of garbage off Oregon beaches

each spring for over 15 years

- Restored wilderness campsites that others have left damaged, and

regularly pack out garbage


This is only a partial list. Add to these volunteer efforts all the work of 8 other chapters

of Back Country Horsemen of Oregon and statewide chapters of Oregon Equestrian

Trails, and you begin to get a picture of how indispensable horses are for trail work

on wilderness and all public lands. The USFS does not have sufficient funds to budget

for adequate trail maintenance. Thousands of hours put in by horse people across

Oregon go a long way to keeping trails open for public use, trails that would otherwise

have remained neglected.

As a wilderness user group, equestrians are also faced with the limited access

restrictions and fees proposed by the Willamette and Deschutes National Forests.

Mr. Pope makes points in his column that confirm some of our own misgivings about

these new policies. What we wish to correct, however, is the idea that horse and mule

use is a detriment to wilderness areas. Equestrians join all other users as passionate

protectors and maintainers of our common heritage of wilderness and public lands.

-Jean Clancey


(Jean Clancey lives in Eugene and is current president of Emerald Empire Chapter

Back Country Horsemen of Oregon, contributor to BCHO Public Lands Committee,

and trail crew leader through High Cascades Forest Volunteers.)

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Interesting Fun at the 2019 Winery Ride - Click here for more photos

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Tom Conner and Doc and Deb Wesselius packing supplies on the Green River area work party
Find more photos here.

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2019 BCHW Statewide Work Party -  Umatilla National Forest
Mark Schaefer, Ken Evars, and Glenn Hallberg repaired a trail where there was no trail in two spots on the face of a rock cliff.
Find some more photos here

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Click here for the full January - February  TRAILHEAD NEWS

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BCHW General Meeting Minutes - March 2019
BCHW Board of Directors Meeting Minutes - December 2019

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The documents and information published on this registered website are provided for informational purposes only. The information contained on this website represents the current view of Back Country Horsemen of Washington State on the issues discussed as of the date of publication. Information contained on this website should not be interpreted to be a commitment on the part of BCHW.  BCHW cannot guarantee the accuracy of any information presented after the date of publication.
Information provided on this registered website is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to the implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and freedom from infringement. The user assumes the entire risk as to the accuracy and the use of information published on this website. Information and documents and graphics may be copied and distributed subject to the following conditions: 1) All text, graphics, photos, logos, trademarks, depictions, symbols, color schemes, must be copied without modification and all pages must be included; 2) All copies must contain BCHW's copyright notice and any other notices provided therein; and  3) This document may not be distributed for profit. All trademarks acknowledged. 

As a 501(c)(3) organization, The Back Country Horsemen of Washington State has enacted the following policy: Back Country Horsemen of Washington does not endorse or oppose any political candidate, donate or contribute to any political candidate's campaign, participate or engage in political fundraising events, distribute statements for or against particular political candidates, nor engage in any other activity that may constitute favoring or opposing a political candidate.    IRS 501(c)(3) Certification Letter

Copyright © 1998 - 2019
  Back Country Horsemen of Washington   All rights reserved.

PO Box 1132

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