Serving the Greater Good – The Back Country Horsemen of Santa Fe

'BCH members were a major force at the Galisteo Trail Building Day in October to build new multi-use trails.'

Serving the Greater Good – The Back Country Horsemen of Santa Fe

As federal and state budgets come under increasing pressure, BCHSF volunteers play a critical role maintaining back country trails in our wilderness for everyone’s enjoyment.

September 4th marked the 50th anniversary of the passing of the federal Wilderness Act.  In 1973, Back Country Horsemen of America was formed over concerns about losing access to trails, conditions of trails, and right to ride in the wilderness.  Several states facing the same challenges formed groups.  In 1985, the groups came together as a national organization - Back Country Horsemen.

Since then, chapters have been springing up in all states that have forest and wilderness areas.  New Mexico is lucky to have 7 chapters of BCH with one here in Santa Fe.  Our local chapter is led by President Debbie Spickermann, who has been involved with BCH for 8 years.  Debbie says, “Our work is important because we continue today what was started back in 1973.  We are dedicated more than ever to maintaining trails on public land.  With the current backlog of trail maintenance, BCH groups are more important than ever to keep trails open“.

50 years ago, much of our wildernesses were littered with trash and generally showed many signs of neglect and abuse.  You couldn't ride a hundred yards without seeing candy bar wrappers, cigarette butts and can pop-tops. As a people, we had to clean up our lands and influence land use planning, forms of recreational use, including horses, to preserve this heritage for generations to come. It was felt that a service organization, doing actual work in the back country like clearing trails, would lend credibility to the group when it became involved in criticisms of agency management.  As time has passed, and federal and state budgets have come under pressure, BCH working groups play an even more critical role.  They serve the greater good and protect our wilderness for all of our enjoyment.

Besides volunteer work and trail maintenance, BCHSF helps other groups such as Volunteers for the Outdoors and Rock Mountain Youth Corps with pack support by hauling supplies on our horses, mules, and donkeys. Many members of BCHSF also work to build and repair trails for National Forest Service and other government agencies.  One of BCHSF’s biggest successes was the re-opening of the lost trail from Trout Lakes to Canjilon Mountain.   Debbie said, “This was instrumental in helping form a new relationship with the Canjilon Ranger District and getting horses back into the area”.

BCH members were a major force at the Galisteo Trail Building Day in October to build new multi-use trails.  Debbie said, “We had 2 pack animals hauling tools.  Carlotta the donkey, belonging to member Joyce Davis, was led on foot while my horse ponied another pack horse loaded with tools we brought from home.  Having the stock helping with the work detail makes for good relationships and lightens the overall work load for everyone”.  Many members of BCHSF also work to build and repair trails for National Forest Service and other government agencies such as the National Forest Service’s Dead Dog Trail which was rebuilt last winter.

BCHSF monthly meetings are held the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Santa Fe Sheriff's Posse Building located at 3213 Rodeo Road, and are always open to the public. The gathering starts at 5:30pm with a casual potluck followed by the general meeting. The meetings often have a guest speaker such as a forester, map maker, veterinarian, or even author to share valuable information and experiences with the group. To contribute, join, or learn more, contact the BCHSF through their website www.bchnm-santafe.org or FaceBook

Photos courtesy of Piar Marks

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