Category Archives: December Posts

Request for Nominations for BCHA Executive Board

Hello BCH State Presidents, Chairs and National Directors,

As you may know, one of our founders, Ken Ausk passed away late last month. Ken was
a member of the BCHA Executive Committee (EC) holding an “At Large” seat. Our by-
laws instruct the EC to fill any open seat with reasonable speed. I am sure Ken would share those feelings.

Therefore, we are inviting nominations from our membership of individuals who believe they are qualified and have the desire to serve the Back Country Horsemen of America. As this an at-large seat, current national directors cannot hold this seat. You can be a state or chapter officer or a member in good standing. So, if you know of individuals that may possess the necessary background please pass this email on to him or her.

The EC is the day-to-day governing body of the BCHA making wide ranging decisions on spending, BCHA’s position on issues, guidance for the national organization and relationships with federal and state agencies and other outdoor and equine A position on the EC will require at least one conference call a month of approximately two hours in length commencing at 9:00 am Pacific on the third Tuesday of each month; numerous, almost daily email communications; being assigned to ad hoc committees from time to time and other duties as requested by the Chairman. The term expires April 24th, 2015 where upon there will be an election at the national board meeting in Sacramento for an additional two year term. That election is open to all qualified, non-director BCHA members.

Requirements to be a nominee:

1) Complete an informal resume of not more than 300 words stating why you feel qualified to be on the EC, any similar positions within BCHA state or chapter organizations and examples of your commitment to our Five Purposes.
2) The period for accepting nominations will end at midnight, December 31st
3) After review of the informal resumes, several finalists will be identified and those finalists will be interviewed by four EC members via conference calls in early
4) The successful candidate, as voted upon by the entire Executive Committee will be a participating EC member for our January 20th, 2015 conference call.

Please email your informal resumes and any questions to:


Double Diamond Award & Application Guidelines

April 1st
Double Diamond Award & Application Guidelines

The Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) National Board established this special annual award in 2003. This award is presented to BCHA chapters for exceptional volunteer projects and/or educational programs completed during the previous year. The efforts eligible for recognition can include, but not limited to, trail maintenance, trail construction, trailhead construction, educational programs, and youth programs.

Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) will accept applications from any chapter/unit for a volunteer project or educational program that has been accomplished during the calendar year (Jan.1-Dec.31) immediately preceding the April National Board of Directors Meeting. All award applications shall be for a specific project or educational program, not for multiple projects or programs undertaken during the year. Multiple outings to accomplish a specific project are accepted.

Include a detailed description of what the project entailed and how it was accomplished from start to finish. Answer the questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Include any pictures (a maximum of eight photos) the committee can use in making its decision. Also include any additional support letters from the agency or private parties that were worked with on this project or program. Applications must be submitted by email in Word or Adobe format with a maximum of four pages. Digital format is preferred; however, a hard copy will be accepted if electronic options are not available to the nominator.  Applications must be received by April 1st  of the current year either by email to: or US Mail to: BCHA Double Diamond, 64 Clayton RD. Clarkston, WA 99403.  No applications received after April 1st will be considered.

The BCHA Volunteer Hours Committee appointed by the National Chair of BCHA will decide the winner or winners. The award will be presented at the BCHA National Board Annual Banquet. For questions, please call 970-247-3231.

Thank you for the coming application!

BCHA Volunteer Hours Committee

LBL Asks for Public Comment on Scenic Management Plan

Your comments are needed on the Land Between the Lakes Draft Scenery Management System Plan
Comments are due by December 31, 2014

The U.S. Forest Service at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area (LBL) has released for comment their Draft Scenery Management System Plan. This plan will be incorporated into the forest’s management plan, known as the Area Plan, and help guide management actions to enhance visitor experiences.

Unfortunately, the Forest Service is advancing the notion, and policy, that landscapes need to be managed including cutting the underbrush 100 feet into the woods next to roads, so that people driving through will have better “scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities”.

They are also considering a rule that says trails must be at least 100 feet from such “Visual

The LBL BCH has written a response to the Scenic Management plan.  (CLICK HERE TO READ IT).

But in addition, individuals who ride at LBL are encouraged to submit their comments.

Here is the link to the notice of this Public Comment Period
Here is the link to the DRAFT Scenic Management Plan itself.


The following is the comment sent by Mammoth Cave Back Country Horsemen regarding the request for public input on increasing fees at MC P for use of facilities.

As a user group dedicated to helping maintain a safe, user friendly back country trail system, the Mammoth Cave Back Country Horsemen  (MCBCH) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the proposed increase in user fees at MCNP.

Increased fees tend to discourage lower income users from using the facilities; yet we understand that costs rise over time for managing these facilities.  It is important to balance these factors and keep any increase to that which the economy can support.

It is understood that 2015 user fees will be used for mandated improvements to the hotel.  It is hoped that the 2016 recreational fee program would again provide for improvements to other facilities and services that benefit park visitors, to include the back country trail system.

The MCBCH is in support of the proposed increase in user fees.  However, we would asked to be kept apprised of any other proposed or potential changes in federal land user fees, either locally at MCNP or related to passage of a new or revised Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.

Thank you.

Brenda Cecil
President, MCBCH

MCBCH Accomplishes a FIRST for the new chapter on Nov. 8th Work Day

Accomplished today was a first for our group: 2 of our chainsaw crew utilizing mules for riding and packing traveled 3 miles down McCoy Hollow to cut and clear a large tree that was posing problems for riders–Thanks to Kevin and Brandon!!

Also another group of 7 plus our trail boss Mike Edwards installed a total of 12 hitching posts along the Buffalo Trail, Sal Hollow, Turnhole Bend intersections. There are 4 sites with 3 posts at each. The hardware is not yet applied to all but will be when available.

Thanks to Bert, Bonnie, Cyndi, Derek, Marsha, and Myra plus horses Little Man and Maggie for their help. Great job, guys!! Brenda Cecil, President MCBCH

MCBCH work day Nov 2014MCBCH WORK DAY 2

LBL Asks for Public Comment on Scenic Management Plan

Land Between the Lakes Back Country Horsemen
Roger Kendall, Board President
523 Bob Road
Mayville, KY

December 17, 2014

Dear Mr. Mitchell,
Land Between the Lakes Back Country Horsemen (LBLBCH) appreciate the opportunity to comment on the recently released DRAFT LBLNRA Scenery Management System Plan and Implementation Guide.

We have compiled our detailed comments and question in the attached pages,

in summary,

– This plan creates an over-managed, non-natural scenery atmosphere that will require LBL to spend additional resources on maintenance.

– The suggestion of below-ground-level wildlife viewing bunkers also creates additional maintenance to keep critters dens, bees and wasps, and litter from accumulating.

– The plan focuses on ‘drive-by” scenic experiences, which are the anti-thesis for getting our obese population out of their cars and engaging in the natural world with all five senses.

– The evaluation of the scenic value of different places is out of synch with what the visitors are saying.  More people would like to spend time in the woods than any other place, yet the woods are rated in the lowest scenic category.

– Mr. McDermott is from a western state and does not appreciate the landforms in western Kentucky.  His emphasis on having “Dramatic” landscapes focuses on large elevation changes, bold outcropping of rocks, etc. These all occur in Western States but not in Western Kentucky.

– Mr. McDermott also referred to vegetation as “overgrown” which is a bias on his part due to his experiences in dry western lands where vegetation does not thrive as it does in Kentucky.

– Due to the placement of undefined “Lake Enhancements”, a number of existing horse trails are threatened.  This is particularly disturbing after the closure of Trail #11.

– Wrangler’s Campground, the most popular of all campgrounds, depends on miles of trails and opportunities for forest and lake edge experiences, not drive-by scenery.

We would be glad to discuss any particulars with you.  Thank you.


Roger Kendall, President
Land Between the Lakes Back Country Horsemen
Detailed comments

DRAFT LBLNRA Scenery Management System Planand Implementation Guide December 2014
Provided by Land Between the Lakes Back Country Horsemen

Roger Kendall, President

Overall Objectives
P. 8  The objective to “Manage vegetation to increase sightseeing and wildlife viewing
opportunities along selected roadways….” is one which encourages visitors to stay in their cars to “enjoy” the natural world.

This reduces the impact of being in nature and adds to the obesity of the UnitedStates.  USFS should be taking steps to get people out of their cars rather thanenhance the view from the car with “Drive-by” scenery.

The Edge Phenomena, Pro and Cons

Although edges provide scenic value to humans, and provide a desirable habitat for deer and rabbits, some of the possible negative effects should be considered,including the increased wildlife on the road (a safety issue) and the introduction of new vegetation which thrives on the increased sunlight introduced by the clearing of undergrowth near the road.  This new vegetation may be invasive, non-native, or require more cutting back than what is growing on the edges currently.

Manicured land?

On p. 30 the following statement is made:
Our typical guests are agreeable to more maintained areas or the appearanceof maintained and manicured areas.Was this a specific question in the inventory or was this a supposition by Mr.
McDermott?   If visitors want to visit “natural places” and also enjoy being “in thewoods”, how would anyone conclude that they are agreeable to more manicuredareas?

Vegetation, non-natives

P. 8   The management of vegetation for wildlife viewing should not include the introduction of non-native plants.

p. 14   The following is not true, yet is stated as fact rather than opinion:”The pre-European savanna-like grasslands condition is more desirable visually than overgrown naturally appearing woodlands.”

Desirable to whom?  Certainly based on visitor surveys, this is not the case.The term “overgrown” is also a non-definitive term from someone who does notappreciate the lushness of naturally growing vegetation in a this of the countrywhere we have adequate water.   How much growth is  “over grown”?

Impact on Trails
P. 8
The ‘visual quality zones’ will be kept 100 feet from trails.  How does that affect current trails?   Will there be additional trail relocation due to the proposed Visual Quality Zones”?

On the maps:   A number of the proposed Lake Enhancements are on Equestrian Trails. What will happen to those trails?  Most of the affected trails have beautiful lake views; will they be moved further back into the woods?

On p.22 , the scenic quality classification of woods v. open fields is not accurate within the perspective of the users.
“All trails for the most part go through wooded areas so they fall within Class“C”. However, when a trail comes within 100 meters and or enters open lands or the built environment elements it then falls within a Class “A” category.”If this consultant were to ask trail riders which atmosphere they would rather ride in, “the woods” would rank much higher than “open land”, due to the scenic nature of the woods and its water features, rocks, shrubs, flowers, towering trees, young trees, fallen leaves, etc.  This scenic classification methodology does not represent

P. 27.  Will the scenic and visual rehabilitation of these roads affect existing trails?

It appears as if Mr. McDermott does not have much woods experience, as they are generally rated as having low scenic value.  In addition they are described as being “homogeneous” while in fact most forests are anything but that.


Clearing boundaries around roads will requires significant maintenance activities,since these areas are not being allowed to grow naturally. LBLNRA currently does not have sufficient manpower to keep trails maintained, so is this plan of action wise in a period of decreasing budgets?

The building of sunken viewing blinds, as referenced in the appendix, is also an additional maintenance demand.

What Visitors Enjoy

Although 24% of visitors prefer an experience “in the woods”, the table on 21 ranks these areas as Class C, because of their “indistinct atmosphere with weak or missing attributes.”  It begs the question whether the academic approach to classifying beauty matches what human beings really feel when in an environment.

42% of visitors want to be either in the woods or on a trail.  Yet there are no proposed plans in this document to supplement trails and trail quality.  In fact, it appears that trails may be threatened by the “Lake Enhancements” or the Visual Quality Zones.


In Figure 6, “LBL Top Ten Activities”:  Was horseback riding an option on the survey list?  Were visitors at Wranglers asked to fill out this survey? Wranglers Campsite is one of the most popular places for LBL visitors. (p. 31, third highest location, and more popular than other campgrounds) It depends wholly on the quality and length of trails surrounding it.  The changes proposed in this document should be analyzed to see if there would be any negative effect on any of the equestrian trails.


End of season for two campgrounds at Mammoth Cave

MAMMOTH CAVE, Ky., December 1, 2014 – December marks the end of the season for two campgrounds at Mammoth Cave National Park.  Maple Springs Group Campground and Mammoth Cave Campground (near the visitor center) closed today, December 1, 2014, for the winter season.  They will reopen in March.

Backcountry campsites on the north side of Green River and Houchin Ferry Campground will remain open through the winter months.

The picnic area will remain open; restrooms will be available at the visitor center.

BCHA’s Wilderness Advisor Presents at National Wilderness Conference

By Randy Rasmussen

As you know, I had the honor to present among a panel of wilderness managers and advocates during last month’s National Wilderness Conference in Albuquerque, NM. Oscar Simpson was there for support and helped with Q-and-A from the audience. We also had a BCHA-BCH NM booth staffed by local BCH volunteers during the day-long “Get Wild” Festival.

Attached are the slides I used for BCHA’s presentation. The panel was titled: “Engaging the Full Spectrum of Wilderness Stewardship: Partner Viewpoints.” Panelists were asked to address 3 challenges faced by their organization regarding wilderness management.

The moderator held us to no more than a dozen slides, with each being shown for only 20 seconds. This is a good model that forced panelists to be brief and to-the-point.

I started the presentation by citing the amazing public service statistics BCHA volunteers have amassed since 1995:
– 3.7 million volunteer-hours for an in-kind value of over $100 million;
– 30,247 trail-miles cleared in 2013 alone; of which 44% or
– 13,306 trail-miles were cleared in designated Wilderness.

Here are some other good stats that I cited to which Alan Hill steered me:
– During the 2014 Coffee Fire in N. CA, each mule string saved 10-12 helicopter round trips in Wilderness;
– Mule strings continued to bring in supplies and evacuate sick firefighters for 11 days when helicopters were grounded as a result of weather/inversion conditions;
– BCH CA helped to evacuate a CCC youth trail crew that was in the fire’s path; and
– In total, the USFS R5 estimated that use of packstrings saved 110 helicopter flights, reducing both exposure (risk) and costs associated fire fighting in Wilderness.

I ended by emphasizing that this example is but one way in which stock users canhelp the agencies PRESERVE WILDERNESS CHARACTER.

Back Country Horsemen of America Invites New Generations to Join Them

November 29, 2014
by Sarah Wynne Jackson

The tradition of traveling long distance through wild lands by  horseback is older than our country itself. Back Country Horsemen of America cherishes that heritage and protects our right to carry on that legacy. The participation of younger folks who hold the same passion ensures that the tradition will thrive long into our country’s future.

Back Country Horsemen of America has always put a priority on younger folks, and the Flathead Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Montana took that idea and ran with it.

Keeping the Tradition Alive

For a number of years, the Flathead Chapter has sought to attract and retain younger generations of members. The general membership, with an average age of about 55, held a wealth of hard-earned knowledge, experience, and know-how, but very few younger folks to
pass it on to. Recognizing the value of maintaining the tradition of traveling through America’s landscape with saddle and pack stock, and all the skills that go along with that adventure, the Flathead Chapter started reaching out to youth and younger adults.

Life Skills

Five years ago, chapter members Andy Breland and Chuck Allen started an annual packing clinic for the vocational-agricultural students of the Kalispell Public Schools. They learn about the basics of arranging a load on a pack horse or mule, how to manty (wrap a load in canvas), how to fit a pack saddle, different ways to tie on a load, general horse handling safety, and Leave No Trace basics.

Typically, between 30 and 35 students participate in this outstanding program each year. Past students have carried their newfound proficiency into their chosen careers, such as work with the US Forest Service; membership in a hotshot crew of elite firefighters specially trained in wildfire suppression; treating animals as a veterinary technician; and as wranglers for a back country outfitter.

Girl Power

For the past six years, Andy and Chuck have been teaching for Becoming an Outdoor Woman, created by the University of Wisconsin with workshops taking place in most states. This non-profit, educational program offers hands-on workshops to women 18 and older in outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, archery, rifle shooting, and camping. Approximately 30 women participate in Andy’s and Chuck’s packing clinic, Leave No Trace workshop, and outdoor cooking segment.

In Demand

The Flathead Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Montana also started a program with the local 4-H group. Back Country Horseman Alden Totten became a certified 4-H leader so he could conduct a packing clinic at the Flathead Valley 4-H camp. Fifteen young 4-Hers were excited to learn about packing and the work BCHA does for the US Forest Service.

With those popular programs in place, word got around. The nearby Family Life Church asked chapter member Rick A. Mathies to give a packing demonstration at their first Kids Camp. Children learned about lots of activities including horseback riding, horse training, camping,
swimming, and packing. Rick showed about 15 kids how to fit a pack saddle, how to manty, and how to tie on a load. Then each child mantied up a bar of soap with a miniature manty and string, a take-home memento of their experience.

Creating Lasting Relationships

These successful ventures brought in new members eager to learn even more about traveling through our wild lands by horseback. Veteran members invited the fresh folks to go with them on projects, sharing their knowledge one on one and building their confidence for their first packing trips.

The chapter also planned fun activities to help establish ties between the various generations. They kicked off the new year with a chapter bonfire party, then organized the annual Meadow Creek trail clearing and cleanup, which includes a campout. Members’ families, including
kids and grandkids, were welcomed and put to work on appropriate tasks.

When the US Forest Service Swan Lake Ranger District needed help returning Owl Creek Trailhead and Packer Camp to its original purpose as a packers’ trailhead, the Flathead Chapter used the opportunity as packing training for new members. Most of the 55 members who participated had joined the chapter recently. For many, this was their first packing trip.

Fostering a Love for the Back Country

Back Country Horsemen of America encourages members and all horsemen to find ways to introduce youth and young adults to the back country. When we build the public’s awareness and understanding of our wilderness areas, and help them to experience what got us hooked on enjoying the landscape by horseback, they also will see the need to protect our wilderness lands and keep trails open for horse use. As this generation passes, the next one will take the
reins and preserve our right to ride horses on public lands for the generation that comes after them.

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 PO Box 1367, Graham, WA 98338-1367.

The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!


As a user group dedicated to helping maintain a safe, user friendly back country trail system,
the Mammoth Cave Back Country Horsemen  (MCBCH) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the proposed increase in user fees at MCNP.

Increased fees tend to discourage lower income users from using the facilities; yet we understand that costs rise over time for managing these facilities.  It is important to balance these factors and keep any increase to that which the economy can support.
It is understood that 2015 user fees will be used for mandated improvements to the hotel.  It is hoped that the 2016 recreational fee program would again provide for improvements to other facilities and services that benefit park visitors, to include the back country trail system.

The MCBCH is in support of the proposed increase in user fees.  However, we would asked to be kept apprised of any other proposed or potential changes in federal land user fees, either locally at MCNP or related to passage of a new or revised Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act.

Thank you.
Brenda Cecil

President, MCBCH