Backcountry Horsemen of California

Header Image of BCHC Members on a Trail.

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Public Lands

“Public land” refers to government-owned and managed land. It serves various purposes and is overseen by different entities. California has the third most public land in the U.S. (after Alaska and Nevada). Almost one-half of California is owned and managed by the government (about 51 million or 49% of California’s 104 million acres).

California’s Yosemite National Park (By Diliff, wikimedia.org)

Four government agencies manage about half of the land in California. Here is a breakdown:

FEDERAL
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) 21 million acres (19.8%)
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 15 million acres (14.5%)
U.S. National Park Service (NPS) 7.6 million acres (7.3%)
U.S. Department of Defense 3.8 million acres (3.7%)
Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) (0.6%)
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) (0.3%)
STATE
State Departments of Parks and Recreation (1.3%)
California Fish and Wildlife (0.6%)
California State Lands Commission (0.5%)
LOCAL
Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (0.4%)

BCHC Works With Public Lands Agencies

BCHC, in partnership with governmental agencies such as the USFS, BLM and NPS, is dedicated to preserving and maintaining the backcountry wilderness for future generations to enjoy and to use saddle and pack stock in a backcountry wilderness environment.

BCHC works with public lands agencies on a regular basis and has helped keep public lands open by volunteer-based trail maintenance and trail repair.

BCHC Keeps Public Lands Open For All Users

Throughout California, BCHC volunteer members contribute thousands of hours each year keeping trails maintained and open on government-owned public lands.

In 2022, Back Country Horsemen members from 32 different states donated over 207,800 volunteer hours with a dollar value of over $12 million. 14,779 stock animal hours (horses and mules) were used with volunteers traveling over 1.2 million miles to locations to do volunteer work.

The total volunteer hours donated by Back Country Horsemen over the past 28 years was 6,950,429 with a dollar value of $192,494,393.

Regardless of the work done by this single organization and others like it, the trail maintenance backlog grows worse every year. The Forest Service has more miles of trail than it has been able to maintain, resulting in a persistent maintenance backlog with a range of negative effects. Trail users witness the deteriorating condition of forest trails that, in many cases, prevent public access due to unsafe or impassible conditions.

In 2020, Congress enacted the Great American Outdoors Act to provide up to $1.3 billion annually for five years to rebuild trails, roads, bridges, shelters, visitor centers and other facilities. At that time, the backlog was around $14 billion. Unfortunately, the current administration is spending the money on long-term solutions rather than short-term “Band-Aid” projects, and the need has grown to an estimated $22.3 billion.

With Congress continuing to view public lands funding as a low priority, BCHC and similar organizations are expected to maintain more trail miles each year. If BCHC and others do not volunteer this maintenance service, trails will become overgrown from neglect and public access will become increasingly limited.

You Can Be Part Of The Solution

Partner with Backcountry Horsemen and our hard-working members by donating today. BCHC is an all-volunteer organization that relies on charitable donations to accomplish its goals. Please help us by donating. All donations to the BCHC Education Fund, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, are tax deductible and easy to make through

Corporate sponsors and philanthropic foundations, your participation in this fund shows your interest in keeping America’s treasured public lands intact for future generations and demonstrates your interest in promoting healthy lifestyles in the great outdoors.

Whether or not you’ve ever set foot on a trail, we know you would like to ensure your kids, grandkids and future generations of youth will have this healthy opportunity. To meet today’s challenges and future needs, you can help build a stronger BCHC with greater capacity to help bridge the gap in the public lands trail maintenance backlog.

Keep America’s trails open for future generations!

Know What's Going On With Public Lands

To know what’s going on with Public Lands, be proactive and the “boots on the ground” for BCHC. Watch what is happening in your local area, your county and the State of California as well as with the federal government.

Here are some ways to find out what’s going on with Public Lands:

  • BCHC State Public Lands Committee

    The State Public Lands Committee acts under the authority of the BCHC State Board with a Vice President (or Co-Vice Presidents) elected by that board.

    The State Public Lands Committee is made up of one delegate from each BCHC unit and meets at the same date and place as the State Board. The Public Lands Committee is charged to monitor all activities taking place that affect the use of California’s public lands. For more information, contact the BCHC VP of Public Lands.

  • Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA)

    Randy Rasmussen is BCHA’s full-time Director for Public Lands & Recreation. One of his primary roles is assisting BCHA’s Executive Committee and state organizations like BCHC to advance initiatives and strengthen partnerships with public lands managers. Randy works side by side with state BCH organizations to challenge agency decisions. An example is the 2019 lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service decision to allow motorized bikes to operate on non- motorized trails in the Tahoe National Forest. News, alerts and information are available on the BCHA website.

  • Unit Public Lands Committee

    An important part of each unit is its Public Lands Committee which is responsible for maintaining a line of communication with the public agencies in its respective geographic area(s). The unit’s Public Lands Chair should have good communication skills. It is their responsibility to make initial contact with representatives of land management agencies. It is a good idea to invite agency representatives to a unit meeting, even take them along on a back country trip, to establish good rapport and develop a positive working relationship. Every unit Public Lands Chair is responsible for tracking issues that affect their region, to inform unit members and to encourage written and/or verbal communication with the appropriate entity.

  • Mailing Lists

    Get on these mailing lists to receive information:

    • Local Forest, County and/or State Parks.
    • County Board of Supervisors’ meetings
    • City (or Town) Council meetings

  • Websites

    Go to fastdemocracy.com and sign up to receive information about state and national bills. You can specify your area(s) of interest. This website makes it easy to track legislation so you can take timely action on important bills.

    When you hear about new legislation and want to know more about it, go to legiscan.com , enter the bill number and ask to be notified of any new action. This site was the nation’s first impartial real-time legislative tracking service designed for public citizens as well as government affairs professionals regardless of the size of their organization.

  • BCHC Action Alert System

    BCHC Action Alert System The best way to get the most current information on urgent public lands requests that may affect your area is to make sure we have your updated email address. BCHC’s electronic Alert System informs members of issues that could affect them. Alerts include a concise description of the issue and summary of arguments both pro and con (if available), so that local units and members can respond individually.

Public Lands Awards

  • Ben York Trailblazer Award

    This award was created in honor of Dr. Ben York, Jr., DVM (1924-2011), a member of San Diego Unit. Dr. York’s working on trails with the PCT and USFS has made a significant impact on the continued use of pack and saddle stock on the PCT to this day. Dr. York rode the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail in the spring, summer and fall of 1992. His ride took place during the last year of his BCHC Presidency. Dr. York rode the PCT to promote trail riding and the goals and purposes of Backcountry Horsemen.

    This award is presented as determined by accomplishments, to the member who, in the eyes of the judges (BCHC Past Presidents), blazed new trails in some facet of the operations of the organization. Any member may nominate, by letter, anyone he or she feels has demonstrated qualities of a “trail blazer.”

    2022 recipient: Lynn Joiner, Kern Sierra Unit

  • BCHC Public Lands Ann Lange Award

    This award was created in honor of Anne Lange (1941-2020), a member of Kern Sierra Unit, and a founding member of BCHC. Her focus was always on trails and maintaining them for pack stock use. She was a powerful voice within BCHC, BCHA and in Washington, D.C., always advocating for trails and keeping them open.

    This award is presented annually at Rendezvous to a unit member who goes above and beyond in the Public Lands arena, and has consistently worked in Public Lands, improving trails, meeting with agencies, and advocating for trail improvement. The nominee should have a true passion for preserving Public Lands.

    The awards selection process is as follows:

    • A letter will go to all Unit Presidents and Public Lands Chairs 2 months prior to Rendezvous along with the nominating form.
    • The form is due by February 1 to BCHC Public Lands VP and the award will be presented at Rendezvous.
    • A committee headed by the Vice President of Public Lands and two other members will review the nominations and chose the recipient.


    2022 recipient: Marily Reese, High Sierra Unit

Other Public Lands Resources