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.
BCHW Leadership Training is coming up January 25, 2020, Click here for details
2020 Rendezvous March 20-22, 2020
Kittitas Valley Event Center, Ellensburg, WA
Click here for details and a 2020 Rendezvous Registation form
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
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
- Packed safety, water, and
food supplies to stops along
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
- Pack supported FS crews and supplies for endangered frog research in Goose
- 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
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
for adequate trail maintenance. Thousands of hours put in by horse people across
have remained neglected.
As a wilderness user group, equestrians are also faced with the limited access
restrictions and fees
proposed by the
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 lives in
Back Country Horsemen of Oregon, contributor to BCHO Public Lands Committee,
and trail crew leader through High Cascades Forest Volunteers.)
Interesting Fun at the 2019 Winery Ride - Click here for more photos
Tom Conner and Doc and Deb Wesselius packing supplies on the Green River area work party
Find more photos here.
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
BCHW General Meeting Minutes - March 2019
BCHW Board of Directors Meeting Minutes - December 2019
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
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