The Back Country Horsemen Education Foundation: Keeping Trails Open, One Project at a Time
by Sarah Wynne Jackson
As a service organization with an exemplary record of volunteerism, Back Country Horsemen of America knows the true cost of keeping trails open, not only for horse use but for all users of every kind. They occasionally receive donations of funds, materials, or labor, but BCHers frequently bear the majority of the cost of those projects themselves, out of their individual pockets.
But that’s beginning to change, thanks to the Back Country Horsemen Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit corporation formed to provide financial support for the programs and projects that keep trails open for you.
Making Projects and Education Possible
The Back Country Horsemen Education Foundation provides funds for qualified programs that meet its specific objectives and purposes in a wide range of public interests. Supported programs include those that benefit the horse and other stock users, and programs that promote cooperative interaction with other user groups regarding safety, care, and the protection of our wild lands.
Foundation funds may be used to provide scholarships or financial support for training, certification, and/or presenting in a variety of areas, including minimum impact practices with saddle and pack stock (such as Leave No Trace), trail construction and maintenance, promoting cooperative interaction with other user groups and public land managers, wilderness safety and first aid, and research concerning responsible recreation.
When allocating funds, preference is given to projects that involve partnerships with public land agencies and other trail or youth groups. These projects may include 4-H, Future Farmers of America, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or other youth groups, and are typically oriented towards education about saddle and pack stock, and the responsible use of our precious back country resource.
Wasatch Front Back Country Horsemen
A $450 grant from the BCH Education Foundation helped cover the costs of a very popular annual youth weekend organized by the Wasatch Front Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Utah, which always draws interest and excitement from local kids. Last year’s event hosted fifteen kids at Weber County’s North Fork Park in Eden, a popular and easy-to-get-to horse camping spot that provides relief from the valley’s summer heat.
The weekend is about so much more than camping, riding with their friends, and having fun. The kids also become more accustomed to riding and handling horses, learn the importance of responsible recreation, practice using Leave No Trace principles, renew friendships formed at last year’s campout, and find fulfilment and confidence in a job well done in a wild place that only God could make.
The Wasatch Front Back Country Horsemen work frequently in North Fork Park, maintaining trails, building facilities, and more. Many miles of trails through mountain forests and glens provide fantastic opportunities for recreationists to get away from it all, even if only for a few hours.
Front Range Back Country Horsemen
A $500 grant from the BCH Education Foundation enabled Front Range Back Country Horsemen of Colorado to provide the food, supplies, and trail maintenance materials for an entire youth work weekend. In 2017, this annual event hosted seven children. Along with 15 adults, the group worked a total of 126 hours on repairing Running Bear Trail near Buno Gulch on Guanella Pass in Pike National Forest.
Adjacent to a bog, the trail had deteriorated. Before the FRBCH group arrived, workers from Pike National Forest realigned the timbers bordering the trail that had become skewed. The Back Country Horsemen youth and adult volunteers used wheelbarrows, shovels, rakes, and hard work to refill the trail with an aggregate trail surface base.
Some FRBCH adults brought their horses, giving the boys and girls exciting opportunities to help care for the horses and learn how to use them in the back country. The kids did most of the cooking and cleaning up, which afforded more opportunities to learn outdoor skills and responsibility. The adults had formal and impromptu conversations with the youth regarding survival skills, wilderness first aid, proper use and care of tools, and Leave No Trace outdoor ethics.
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: www.bcha.org; call 888-893-5161; or write 342 North Main Street, West Hartford, CT 06117. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!