Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Back Country Horsemen of America Welcomes Minnesota Trail Riders as Advocacy Partner

July 5 2011

By Sarah Wynne Jackson

Back Country Horsemen of America is the major advocate for preserving our right to ride horses on public lands. Accomplishing that goal takes a unified effort of pooled resources, networking, and shared information, which is why BCHA created their Advocacy Partnership Program.

Back Country Horsemen of America welcomes the Minnesota Trail Riders Association as their newest Advocacy Partner. MTRA shares BCHA’s mission in promoting, developing, and maintaining trails for equestrian use, and providing assistance to public land managers in the performance of their stewardship responsibilities to provide the public with safe and well-maintained equine trail systems.

Minnesota Trail Riders Association

A statewide 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, MTRA was originally formed in 1978 to identify rides and ride sites sponsored by groups and individuals across Minnesota. Although that communications effort is still an essential mission, the group has since then moved into the promotion of trail development, management, and assistance to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources with the vision of maintaining and gaining trails for riding. All of MTRA’s Officers and Board of Directors donate their time and skills to benefit the organization.

Since 2000 MTRA has channeled over $250,000 to trail and campground maintenance and improvement projects in local, county, state, and national forests and parks. These projects include trail maintenance, erosion control, map printing, trail signing, and campground improvements such as corrals, picnic tables, fire rings, picket lines, electrical hookups, and assistance with new campground development. As an added bonus, MTRA partners with the Minnesota DNR to secure matching funds from the Federal Recreational Trail Program for all MTRA dollars used on trails and campgrounds.

Minnesota Trail Riders Association’s Board of Directors is active with the MN Trail Pass Advisory Committee and Parks & Trails Council. They also work closely with the MN Horse Council and MN DNR. They strive to keep their members updated with current affairs that affect our right to ride horses on public lands. MTRA’s 600 memberships represent families, which translate to over 2000 riders.

MTRA advocated for a long time for the MN Horse Trail Pass, an annual pass for access with horses to any DNR managed lands. Once it was enacted in 2008, they found land managers far easier to work with because there was more money to support the care and maintenance of their park.

Also in 2008, the citizens of Minnesota adopted the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment which authorized 3/8 of one percent of all sales tax revenues for certain environmental concerns such as protecting wildlife habitats and water quality. Of that amount, 14.25% is dedicated to parks and trails.

This funding mechanism is carried outside of the normal conservation efforts sponsored by the legislature. The Minnesota Trail Riders Association sees this as a major step forward in preserving our right to ride horses on public lands.

With the Legacy Fund moneys, MTRA would like to build loops and connecting trails across about 150 miles of the Minnesota River Valley and promote another 150 to 250 miles of DNR managed trails.

MTRA also supports the Minnesota DNR Volunteer Campground Host Program and will work with any forest or park management that would like to have a Campground Host at their facility. Volunteers greet visitors, pass out self-registration envelopes, offer information and trail maps, and help maintain camping and parking areas.

Partner Up

Formed in 2008, BCHA’s Advocacy Partnership Program seeks to share strengths, information, and support with horse groups of any size and any focus, as long as they believe in the mission of preserving trails for horseback riding.

As Advocacy Partners with BCHA, groups have a stronger voice on all issues – local, state, and national. They can also contact the BCHA national office with their concerns and receive advice, support, and information for dealing with right to ride battles in their area.

Partnering with Back Country Horsemen of America makes your group part of a nationwide network of folks who keep up with the happenings that affect your experience as a trail rider. They pass on information and updates to the BCHA national office so this vital information can be dispersed to the rest of the BCHA family and the issues handled in a timely manner.

Advocacy Partners also get a link on BCHA’s popular and informative website; a business card advertisement in BCHA’s quarterly newsletter; and recognition in BCHA’s annual report to the membership. Partners also receive a 25% discount on all advertising in the newsletter or on the website for the first year of partnership, and a 20% discount on all BCHA publications and merchandise.

Back Country Horsemen of America’s Advocacy Partnership Program gives the national organization an increased number of constituents, which broadens their influence and strengthens their voice when working with land management agencies. BCHA hopes the program will additionally expand the volunteer base locally as state BCHA organizations and their chapter’s network with Advocacy Partners in their area and include them in volunteer projects.

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!

For Additional Information Contact: Peg Greiwe
Back Country Horsemen of America

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