I recently was given a wonderful opportunity to speak at a mule event that is widely considered to be “par excellence”, or if you prefer Merriam Webster’s definition “the best of its kind”, the annual Wilderness Packing Clinic in Klamath Falls, Oregon, held by the High Desert Trail Riders chapter of Back Country Horsemen. In between my seminars on how to Stay Found on the trail with a map and compass I had the opportunity to talk with many of the people wandering through the show’s venue and I had two questions that I asked everyone. Do you ride? and do you belong to a trail advocacy organization? Invariably the answer to the first query was “Yes, of course” but far too often the response to the second was a blank stare.
May issue of Western Mule had several articles reflecting on the pressure we as riders are facing when it comes to places to ride with our animals. At least two articles had important words to say about the concern and how this will affect each and every one of us, who chooses to visit our trails with our livestock, whether we ride in Yellowstone, rode the Grand Canyon, or the county park down the road. Rather than repeat what Mr.’s Tennison, and Wagner have already stated on the perils of what can happen, I’d like to venture into some of the ways that we can help to prevent more of these travesties from occurring.
If you want to continue enjoying the world from the back of a mule your voice needs to be heard. Public officials from our elected representatives to the land managers for our favorite riding areas have to hear our voices. Please note the “S” at the end of that sentence. My voice, your voice, alone isn’t enough to be heard over the din from the various well organized environmentalist groups that are actively pursuing their agendas to significantly limit or eliminate stock use throughout the country. Just as groups such as Wilderness Watch, and others have joined together to further their objectives, we need to add our views, our thoughts, and our opinions, to the fray. If we don’t exercise our voices, we’ll be overlooked and our legacy will be forgotten.
The question then is how can we make our public servants hear us? First we can contact them directly.
• This URL is for the US House of Representatives, all 435 of them.
http://www.house.gov/representatives/ Find the Representive for your locale, call him or her, and let them know that you support stock use in wilderness areas and beyond, and that you vote.
• Contact Yellowstone National Park directly and add your comments relating to stock use in the park by emailing your concerns to
The second thing we can do is to join with like minded groups
that support equestrian activities. It’s no great secret that
I enjoy a relationship with various Back Country Horsemen
organizations, from the national association to state and
local chapters. BCH’s sole purpose is: 1 - Perpetuate the common sense use and enjoyment of horses in America’s back country and wilderness.
2- To work to insure that public lands remain open to recreational stock use.
That being said BCH is just one small group who is trying preserve your access to the trails you ride with your mule(s). In fact I often believe that BCH is one of the best kept secrets in America. If BCH isn’t in your deck of cards, most state horse councils have some form of trails advocacy program. Even if you never touch a Pulaski, do trail maintenance, or attend a meeting, your membership dollars will help put the message about keeping horse trails open and accessible in front of the people that need to see it.
The third thing we can do to keep access to our trails open for generations to come is to be the poster child for equine trail use in general. Pick up your manure at the trailhead, say hello to the bicyclists, help pack in a work party, in short make equestrian trail users the great folk that everybody wants to share the trail with.