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Re: Vote to keep trails open in the Shawnee!  Mary_H-@nps.gov
 Jun 12, 2003 09:11 PDT 

I know how you feel. I sent (for me) a rather nasty email to the carriage
driving listserve because too many people who never do anything were
whining. Now ELCR is going to use it for an article.

Looking forward to visiting with everyone this afternoon,

Here is what Kandee's version of my letter she is making into an article:

There are two different types of people. Those that think something should
be done and those that do something.

The latest hot topic coming across my computer has been the U.S. Forest
Service's management plan for the Shawnee National Forest Illinois. One of
the recommendations was to close some horse trails in sensitive ecological
areas. The Forest Service receives an enormous amount of pressure from
environmental groups supporting this action. To add fuel to the fire, the
local newspaper ran a one question, on-line poll asking if horses should be
allowed in Shawnee National Forest.

The emails and list service messages stampeded across the Internet telling
people to vote. Last I saw 67+% of the responders did not want horses on
trails. Ignoring the fact that this was not a scientific poll and there
were accusations of environmental extremists, computer geeks voting over
and over, what hit me was how many horse people said "Someone should do

One person who does support equestrian trails, both as a private citizen
and as part of her work sent the following message to a carriage driving
list serve. Mary loves her work, but gets very frustrated with those who
complain and expects others to do what they could and should do. Here is
her response to comments, edited with her permission.

Some of you know me as a mild manner CDE (combined driving event)
competitor in the Midwest and past Organizer or Marathon Chairman/Designer
at Nebraska's CDE for ten years, but in my other life that pays the bills,
I am an Outdoor Recreation Planner with the National Park Service's Rivers,
Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. Our program's goal is to
assist locally led efforts to create trails, rehab rivers, and conserve

I am sending this as a fellow equestrian who likes open spaces for riding
and driving my horses, not as an employee of the National Park Service. My
work is in the Midwest involves many different projects. Some projects
involving horse trails. I love working with horse trail supporters. They
work hard, but there are not nearly enough of them to meet the need.

Equestrians are under-represented in the trails field. My special interest
is to see that equestrians are included in the preservation of open spaces.
I do what I can within the restraints of my position, but there are many
other excellent venues working towards keeping greenspaces and trails open
to horses.

There are three major problems equestrian trails users face:

1. Many equestrian trail users do not realize what is happening. They
either do not know how to deal with the management of the lands they use or
feel helpless to save their trails. Also, they do not realize or accept
the impact of trail use on natural areas and how to improve trails for
continuing use.

2. Horse people are far behind other trail users and environmentalists in
preserving trails and greenspaces for their use. These other groups are
well organized and active. They lobby and organize with amazing results.
They financially support national staffs and purchases of land.

3. People who own or use horses are too busy and/or are not facing reality.
Yes we have chores, shows, families, jobs, etc... Everything those other
trail users have, but somehow our time seems to be more precious. Just
like CDEs can have problems getting enough volunteers and funds for their
events, organizations supportingt equestrian trail use have a terrible time
acquiring support in both time and money.

What must you do to preserve your right to trails and greenspaces?

1. Learn who manages the lands you use and visit with the land manager.
Let them know you appreciate their allowing you to use their land. Ask
what you can do to keep the land open for equestrian use. Offer labor and
help raise funds to maintain the trails.

Federal agencies must post notices of actions. Ask them; bug them if
necessary, to let you know when a public hearing is scheduled. Do not
assume someone else will represent you. Be in contact with your elected
officials from your local reps to Congress. Who do you think provides the
funds for parks and forests? Friendly, sane, informative squeaky wheels
get support.

2. JOIN groups that support horse trails and open space. There are
organizations that do exactly what you need. Get on the Web, contact your
state horse council, pickup a horse trail magazine (Trail Blazer, Trail
Rider), at worst, email me. Examples of existing organizations include
Equestrian Land Conservation Resource (www.elcr.org). They provide
information and contacts that can help. Backcountry Horsemen of America is
the top example of an effective group working with the federal and state
agencies. Join if you are in a state with a chapter or at least follow
their principles. Join your state horse council or local trails group. An
example of a local group is Glacial Drumlin Horse Trail Association. They
support and lobby for equestrian trails in the Madison, Wisconsin area -
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gdhta. Another group on the west coast is the
California Equestrian Trails Coalition -

3. Quit whining and get to work. Yes it takes time. I know you are the
busiest person alive, but one of my favorite sayings is; 'If not you,
who?',   and I find this one true over and over - 'If you want something
done, give it to a busy person.' You could accomplish a lot if you really

Many in the carriage driving world balance many responsibilities, add one
more and save your trails. Do not end up on the outside looking in.

Once more piece of information, there are a couple of states or regions
holding horse trail conferences. They are excellent places to meet people
who are on the front lines of horse trail preservation and get learning
opportunities. The next one I know of is the Southeast Equestrian Trails
Conference in July. Check out

Mary Hanson
Ithaca, Nebraska

Mary A. Hanson, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Rivers & Trails - NPS technical
assistance for locally led projects.

1709 Jackson Street, Omaha, NE 68102-2571, Phone (402)221-3350, Fax
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