Back Country Horsemen of America Work Promotes a Healthy Economy

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Back Country Horsemen of America Work Promotes a Healthy Economy
by Sarah Wynne Jackson

For over 40 years, Back Country Horsemen of America has led the movement to keep trails open for horse use, because they know that wild places are good for the spirit, good for the mind, good for the body, good for the young, good for the old, and so much more. With the recent release by the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis of the first ever report on the contribution the outdoor recreation industry gives to the GDP of the country, we now know that these lands are also good for the economy.

The report shows that the outdoor recreation industry accounted for 2.0 percent ($373.7 billion) of current-dollar GDP in 2016. In addition, the outdoor recreation industry grew 3.8 percent in 2016, compared to growth of 2.8 percent in the overall economy. BCHA’s work on trails, trailheads, and other recreation amenities encourages more recreation, which draws trail users of all kinds, giving them more opportunity to contribute to the economy locally and at large.

Rocky Mountain Chapter

The Rocky Mountain Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Colorado joined forces with their local US Forest Service office to make the Horn Creek Trailhead more visitor friendly. Located at the base of the striking Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the San Isabel National Forest, this trailhead receives considerable use by out-of-state stock owners.

There are eight “fourteeners” in the local range between the towns of Alamosa and Salida. A multitude of trails, many leading to high country lakes, enter on both the east and west sides of the mountain range. Popular with ATVs, the Rainbow Trail transits almost the complete distance along the east facing side. Elk, deer, bear, bighorn sheep, and mountain lion are not uncommon sights.

Members of Rocky Mountain BCH provided a portion of the materials and all of the labor to build a 20’ x 20’ steel pipe panel stock corral, a pipe hitch rail, and a pipe high line. This work added significant value to the Horn Creek Trailhead, which will attract more visitors and, in turn, boost the local economy. This is yet another successful project completed with the help of this BCH chapter’s 20-year working relationship with their local public lands management agencies.

Bristlecone Chapter

The Bristlecone Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Nevada assisted Friends of Red Rock Canyon on a day of trail maintenance on the Pine Creek Trail at the Red Rock National Conservation Area. Using pack horses and mules, the group hauled 7,200 pounds of gravel to fix worn and washed out trails for hiker safety and enjoyment.

Organized by the Southern Nevada Climbers Coalition and the Bureau of Land Management, the work also included a flood warning system, pulverization and paving of the 13-mile Scenic Drive, and expansion and improvements to parking lots. The masterpieces of the entire project, bridges constructed over low water crossings, were awarded the Federal Highway Administration’s 2017 Environmental Excellence Award. Bristlecone BCH was pleased to be involved with these improvements, which mean better access for visitors, a new restroom, and over 200 more parking spaces inviting recreationists from near and far.

Back Country Horsemen of Missouri

When it comes to helping neighbors, Back Country Horsemen of Missouri don’t mind crossing the border. Eight members traveled to southern Illinois to join the Shawnee Trail Conservancy and three Forest Service employees for a volunteer service day on the River to River Trail in Lusk Creek Wilderness.

Because mechanized and motorized equipment is not allowed in designated Wilderness areas, pack animals were used to carry in the gravel to improve one of the most popular trails in the area. After the BCHers instructed the others in how to pack the animals, the group prepared each horse and mule for the trek, each animal carrying 180 pounds of material.

By the end of the day, this dedicated group of 21 volunteers and their pack animals had hauled an estimated 16 tons of native stone to eroded and compromised sections of the River to River Trail. One of several improvements underway for this 157-mile trail, this maintenance project was made possible with a US Forest Service grant from the National Stewardship Wilderness Alliance. Projects like this make it easier, safer, and more enjoyable for all users to visit these wild places, which can significantly boost the economy in the local area and the greater region.

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 342 North Main Street, West Hartford, CT 06117. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!