Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Equestrian's View: Finding Common Ground

The author, Dennis Mayo, stands beside the sign
that closed an area he had enjoyed for 50 years.

An Equestrian's View: Finding Common Ground - Blue Ribbon Magazine

I'm a very lucky man. For over 50 years now I have ridden my horses on the cool beaches, emerald forests and rugged cattle ranches of Northern California.

What I am starting to realize more and more is what I have in common with you 4x4ers, quad and mountain bikers and even BRC's Don Amador on his hot enduro motorcycle. No, its not our love of the great outdoors, our individualist nature, our love of this great nation or even our support of BRC. What we all have in common is the day-by-day assault on our freedom of access and use of our precious public lands.

See the picture of me (at right)—the old gray haired geezer—beside a "keep out" sign on a trail I have literally used for 50 years. A trail that has been in use for 150 years and that has zero reason to be closed.

This is happening all over America. I'm sure that each and every reader knows of a spot just like this. The other commonality is the deterioration and lack of system maintenance of the trails and access we do have.

Here's a great example. Just a half an hour up the road is Redwood National Park (RNP). Their wesite (www.nsp.gov/redwood) states, "Horse Trails: Redwood Creek Horse Trail comprises four possible loops and two stock-ready camps. Several days of riding are possible. The Redwood Creek Horse Trail begins in Orick next to the Orick Rodeo Grounds off Hwy 101,1 mile north of the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center." It goes on to name 4 other trails and the Mill Creek Horse Each summer the Redwood Empire Riders hold two endurance rides in Redwood National Park. Trail 40 miles north near Crescent City.

Those of you in the know may remember that it was the direct involvement of BRC's Don Amador that has opened up a new management plan review of The Mill Creek Addition to RNP which will keep this needed access available to the recreational public.

Each summer the Redwood Empire Riders hold
two endurance rides in Redwood National Park.
Each summer the Redwood Empire Riders hold two endurance rides in RNP. They camp at the Orick Rodeo grounds with a veterinary check point inside the park at an old logging deck. They are limited to 60 horses. Riders from southern Oregon and northern California come to ride a 30 and 50 mile course.

Club Vice President Karen Brooks reports: "Over the years the trails have deteriorated tremendously. To the extent that they are very dangerous in some spots with unrealistic turns, steep drop offs, sink holes, extended undulating surface, and yellow jacket nests on the trail. Of all the places our club rides and the thousands of miles each year, RNP is the most beautiful but the trails are the worst. They are not all weather or multi-use. In addition only a very small number of trails are available representing only a small percentage of the total slated in the original general plan. Because of the tree cover you could ride back in there all year but the trail surface in some areas isn't adequate. Redwood National Park could be a world-renowned equestrian destination and it wouldn't require an unrealistic investment in infrastructure."

I agree with Karen completely but what will it take to secure and protect these special places for our continued use? It will take the will of the people. WE have a great opportunity right now to help in developing that will. You can join with me, the American Horse Council, and the Back Country Horsemen by calling your local, state and federal representatives urging them to join with you in supporting Sen. Mike Crapo's (R-ID) Preserving our Equine Heritage on Public Lands Act (S.2238).

(Photos provided by Angela Burgess)
This bill recognizes the importance of saddle and pack animals in the settling, exploration and recreation of our country by ensuring that the horse's historic and traditional use is recognized as our public lands are managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service. This is important legislation that would impose additional specific and designated procedures to be followed by agencies before any lands are closed to horses.

It would also provide the managers of these public lands with the tools needed to serve us, the recreational public. Look at the smiling faces of everyone you see on horseback and you will see this isn't a democrat or republican issue, it's an across-the-board issue. It can become public policy and you can make it happen. Well, riding pards, always remember to share the trails and keep you spurs dry.

—Questions or comments regarding this article should be directed to the BlueRibbon Coalition: Phone: 208-237-1008, Fax: 208-237-9424. Email: .
BlueRibbon Magazine, April 2008