Backcountry Horsemen of California

Header Image of BCHC Members on a Trail.

Intern Program

History

Backcountry Horsemen of California and the U.S. Forest Service partnered in 2018 to develop a packing internship program. The program’s mission was “To develop young adults to carry on the skills, attitude and fundamentals of packing, partnerships and LNT for the future of BCH.” Under the supervision of Forest Service Packers Lee Roeser and Michael Morse, the first training took place at Region 5 Pack Stock Center of Excellence to in Bishop, California. Funding to support the program came from various BCHC units combined with a grant from Back Country Horsemen of America. A donation was made to Eastern Sierra Conservation Corps who, in turn, paid the intern.

Program Mission

The mission of the BCHC Intern Program is to recruit and train apprentices that may become the new generation of highly skilled packers, trail workers, wilderness managers and volunteers that have a strong desire to protect our public lands, while preserving traditional wilderness skills and maintaining accessibility.

This is an all-inclusive training program in the use of pack stock as a traditional tool, humane stock handling and packing procedures. Mule and horsemanship, as well as safety, are the cornerstones this training is based on. Also included in the program are Leave No Trace practices for stock users, wilderness management, trail maintenance and all the details that go into creating a safe, productive and efficient packing operation.

BCHC Goals

The Packer Intern will develop the skills and knowledge to help perpetuate the common sense use of horses in America’s backcountry and wilderness and to help work to ensure that public lands remain open to recreational stock use, whether as an employee of a governmental agency, or as a private citizen.

Further, the Intern will learn proper use of a crosscut saw and other trail maintenance tools, will learn/develop the skill of packing, and will educate and encourage wise use of backcountry resources by all visitors to public lands through Leave No Trace principles. In addition, the Intern will understand the historical aspect of pack stock use in the backcountry and wilderness areas as a means for transportation, trail development and other functions and will continue relationship-building efforts with the Forest Service.

Funding

Since inception of the program, funding has been through BCHC unit pledges and individual donations and only been enough to fund one Intern each year.

In its fifth year of operation (2022), BCHC received its first outside grant for the Intern Program. Subsequently, Lucy Badenhoop, a BCHC member with years of grant experience for trail projects, was appointed Grants Coordinator. Lucy has worked diligently to develop a plan and schedule for long-term funding through grants and 50/50 matching funds (unit pledges).

A pledge schedule was implemented in late 2023 for the 2024 internship cycle. One grant and sufficient pledges were obtained to fund one Intern in 2024. If additional pledges are received in time to acquire additional matching grants, multiple Interns could be funded. Any late or unused funds/grants would roll to the next year.

Program description and application: https://bit.ly/BchcIntern

Recruitment began in January at colleges that send student pack teams to Bishop for the annual Mule Days Celebration packing competition. These students are expected to be highly motivated with some packing and stock handling skills. Other candidates will also be encouraged to apply.

Members of the BCHC Intern Committee, appointed by the BCHC President, will review all applications submitted by the deadline. Interviews will be conducted and the candidate best fitting the qualifications will be selected.

With continued experience, BCHC will adjust its funding plan and make necessary changes, eventually being able to focus on an endowment idea to provide stable long-term funding for the Intern Program.

For more information about the Intern Program, contact the BCHC Intern Committee Chair.

You can Help!

BCHC pays about $13,000* to support one Intern for the 12-week summer Intern Program. Like everything else, this amount goes up every year.

A donation to BCHC’s nonprofit 501(c)3 Education Fund, Inc., will help support our education mission and is tax deductible.

Please give any amount you can to sustain this worthwhile program.

Help us “develop young adults … for the future of BCH.”

Donations Needed!

(*If donations exceed the amount needed, they will be held in a fund for the next year. Donations to the BCHC Intern Program will only be used for that purpose.)