Our Public Lands Story
The 1964 Wilderness Act established a National Wilderness Preservation System of federal lands “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The act designated 54 wilderness areas with 9.1 million acres within the national forests and reserved to Congress the authority to add areas to the system. Congress has enacted 117 subsequent statutes designating wilderness areas (including one with 16 wilderness-related subtitles) and 8 other statutes requiring wilderness study or otherwise significantly affecting wilderness areas. Many of these statutes provide management direction for designated areas that differ from the Wilderness Act provisions. As of December 31, 2010, the system totaled 759 wilderness areas with 109.7 million acres of federal land.
Our Public Lands
There has been a lot of attention recently about Public Lands and where America is headed with the management of those lands. Further, anyone who recreates on America’s public lands is often exposed to unfamiliar terms and may not understand the differences. The Wilderness Act focuses on wilderness areas but what about our other public lands? These lands are owned “equally” by all Americans. There are 618 million acres of public land across the U.S., with a significant portion in Alaska and the western U.S. The total U.S. land base is 2.27 billion acres in size. A discussion by Mac Long titled, “Our Vast Public Lands, Owned Equally by all Americans” discusses the differences in our public lands and what it means to you.
Law & Policy
The National Trails System: What It Is and How It Came To Be – A history by Thomas Gilbert of the National Park Service.
Wilderness Laws: Statutory Provisions and Prohibited and Permitted Uses – A Congressional Research Service report February 2012
Definitions of Special Management Areas for Federal Public Land – This describes the types of land management that are applied to federal lands under a variety of regulations and prescriptions.
Our Public Lands
We protect our public lands and our right to access them.
National presence on the “Hill” – representatives from the Public Liaison Committee make several trips to Washington, D.C. annually to maintain our visibility with our legislators. (Local contacts with the legislators is also extremely important.)
You can help by voicing your opinion to Legislation that will affect our rights to access public lands. From time to time we will alert our members and ask you to act by contacting your congress members on important issues!
“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it can change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.”
— President Obama
Public Lands Workshop
Learn to Communicate The Equestrian Experience
Three presentations were presented at the BCHO 2010 National Board meeting by Dennis Daily, Senior adviser for Wilderness recreation & Trails. We encourage you to watch these to improve your public land skills.
The Equestrian experience is more than the act of riding. What does trail riding in the wilderness mean to you? If all your telling your local public land manager you want to just ride the trails, you are leaving out a lot of details they need in order to provide you with the opportunity to enjoy a quality experience. The desired outcome or experience may also have a social component, sharing the experience with family and friends, or enjoying the solitude of the forest.
When responding to scoping comments requested by public land managers it is not just a chance to ride, it is more. Riding in a natural appearing environment, near my community where I can enjoy on evenings and weekends, in an area where I can get help if needed, and much more. Learn to be effective when responding.
This and other related topics are covered to help teach you how to respond when asked for your help to keep trails open on public lands.
National Park Issues
We Advocate for the Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,650-mile hiking and equestrian trail closely aligned with the highest portion of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, which lie 100 to 150 miles east of the U.S. Pacific coast.
Forest Service letter to BCHA November 2013 – Confirmation from Regional Forester for maintaining existing rules on allowable uses of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (i.e., PCT)
Forest Service letter to PCTRI November 2013 – Rationale from Regional Forester shared with the PCT “Reassessment Initiative” (PCTRI) that the PCT was neither designed nor constructed for bicycle use
BCHA letter to Forest Service February 2013 – Offering support for the Regional Forester’s decision not to consider “termination” of the bicycle closure order for the PCT.
Forest Service letter to PCTRI February 2013 – Rationale from the Regional Forester to the PCTRI for not initiating a rulemaking process to evaluate the addition of bicycle use on the PCT
Forest Service PCT Closure Order: Bicycles 1988 – Forest Service Order from 1988 that restricts the use of bicycles along the PCT
US Forest Service Planning Rule
BCHA Comments regarding the US Forest Service 2012 Planning Rule
BCHA Comment Letter May 2013 – Comments regarding the need for stronger guidance related to planning for National Scenic and Historic Trails [FS Handbook 1909.12-Land Management Planning Handbook, Chapter 23.22(L)]
BCHA Comment Letter April 2013 – Comments regarding Wilderness Evaluation in the Forest Plan revision process [FSH 1909.12-Land Management Planning Handbook, Chapt. 70]
BCHA Comment Letter Wilderness Character April 2012– BCHA letter to the Forest Service Chief regarding the need to safeguard agency-recommended wilderness areas.