January 26 2011
By Sarah Wynne Jackson
In its ongoing pursuit of protecting our right to ride horses on public lands, Back Country Horsemen of America sends an appropriate ambassador to the major conventions of land management agencies. Their goal? To be the voice of horsemen across the country that cherishes the opportunity to enjoy America’s beautiful landscape by horseback, as our ancestors did.
The National Landscape Conservation System Summit
On November 15 and 16, 2010, Dennis Dailey traveled to Las Vegas to attend the Bureau of Land Management’s National Landscape Conservation System Summit. Dailey is BCHA’s Senior Advisor of Wilderness, Recreation, and Trails. He was one of approximately 340 participants representing the wide variety of folks interested in the use and management of BLM land.
The summit focused on the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) and community partnerships. The NLCS contains some of the West’s most spectacular landscapes. It includes over 886 federally recognized areas and approximately 27 million acres of National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers, National Scenic and Historic Trails, and Conservation Lands of the California Desert.
Created in 2000 by former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, the NLCS brought these special places into a single system where conservation would be the overriding goal. NLCS lands are managed to conserve, protect, and restore the exceptional scientific, recreational, cultural, and ecological values for which they were designated. The system was made permanent by the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act.
The purpose of the summit was to provide a forum to solicit, discuss, and build upon ideas and suggestions from NLCS partners to assist in the challenging mission of balancing competing land and resource uses while protecting the values for which the areas were designated. Dailey also participated in focus group sessions brainstorming ideas.
More Than Just Words
Dailey felt the summit was constructive and was pleased with various statements he heard from attendees, which reflected BCHA’s desire to both preserve and enjoy the land.
Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey made remarks that, consistent with the values for which the lands were designated, these areas would remain “accessible for use,” management plans would be “built on local effort,” and that these areas would be managed to “preserve local traditions and history as working landscapes;” a “bridge between landscapes and cultures.”
When asked whether the law meant “protection or use,” Abbey responded, clearly but politely, that it does not have to be “either/or.” The areas would be managed “to protect the values for which they were established and provide for compatible uses.”
Both Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Director Abbey stressed the importance of “partnering” and “neighboring.” The Wilderness Society President Bill Meadows, moderator of a panel discussion, also emphasized the “gospel of partnering and neighboring” and the importance of “connecting people to the places they care about.”
The Importance of Relationships
At this summit, Dailey also renewed old acquaintances and made new ones. He visited briefly with Director Abbey about BCHA’s mission and partnership contributions. He also conversed with TWS President Meadows (who once again spoke about the importance of the partnership between BCHA and TWS); Doug Scott, Campaign for America’s Wilderness; Adam Cramer, Outdoor Alliance; Greg Mumm, Blue Ribbon Coalition; Jay Watson, Student Conservation Association; and with several BLM Washington Office staff members.
Much of the emphasis for their volunteerism is with “site based” organizations, otherwise known as “friends” groups. It seems that BCHA’s volunteer work is becoming legendary. A number of other people approached Dailey throughout the meeting to comment on volunteer Back Country Horsemen efforts in their respective areas.
Although traditional land users such as ranchers and the oil/gas industry also have an interest in the land, Dailey didn’t meet many of these folks at the summit. He feels the exchange might have been more meaningful if traditional users had been better represented. BCHA was the only equestrian group there and a couple of BLM employees asked him about the organization and indicated that they would like to join or form a local chapter.
Now It’s Our Turn
Dailey feels that the BLM clearly sees the NLCS as “a different way of doing business;” a more collaborative management environment in which the responsibility for both planning and the actions prescribed by the plans would be shared with stakeholders. Back Country Horsemen of America sincerely hopes that intention becomes reality. That method would become a model for management that other agencies have yet to achieve.
Many lands in the NLCS provide important recreation experiences for horsemen. In order to preserve a reasonable balance between protection and responsible use, it’s vital for us to be involved with the planning processes from the beginning. Dailey believes that the BLM leadership is sincere about their commitment to making public involvement truly meaningful. It’s up to us now, to participate in a meaningful way.
To learn more about how you can get involved, contact Back Country Horsemen of America to find a local BCH group near you.
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 the wilderness and public lands.
If you want to know more about Back Country Horsemen of America or become a member, visit their website: www.backcountryhorse.com; call 888-893-5161; or write PO Box 1367, Graham, WA 98338-1367. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!
Contact: Peg Greiwe
Back Country Horsemen of America