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New U.S. Forest Service Guidance on Use of Equestrian Campsites
At the prompting of the equine community, last month the Forest Service national office circulated a memo to all national forests and national grasslands titled “Recommended Best Practices for Managing Stock Use Sites at Developed Campgrounds.” A copy of that memo can be found here.
The problem of occupied horse camps escalated across the nation during the COVID pandemic, when many families and others chose close-to-home vacations in favor of long-distance travel. The Forest Service memo describes well the implications to stock users of this growing problem.
The American Horse Council would like to encourage equine organizations, such as local clubs, state horse councils and others, to review this memo and, importantly, to use it as a reason to schedule a meeting with personnel at your local national forest to assist you to achieve the following objectives:
1. Ensure the memo was received by the local Forest Service office,
2. Discuss with forest staff the magnitude of the problem locally and the memo’s relevancy and implications, and
3. Come to agreement on what adjustments in the management of equestrian campsites within Forest Service jurisdiction might be implemented in order to communicate to the public the need to prioritize equestrian campsites for use by parties with stock.
Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) and its allies have developed a Horse Camp Incident Report form for campsite users to capture and record incidents where parties without stock are occupying Forest Service equestrian campsites. The purpose of the form is to collect data should we need to make the case for new regulations to prevent parties without stock from occupying equestrian campsites. The form may be found here
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• Always be courteous to other campground users. It’s likely that any party without stock has occupied an equestrian campsite because regular campsites were already taken or reserved.
• Remember, it’s not illegal for others to camp in an equestrian campsite. Plus, some folks might not know the difference between an equestrian and regular campsites or why their occupancy of an equestrian campsite might force equestrian campers to travel far distances in order to find a legal campsite—if not forced to return home, an outing ruined.
• If you end up speaking with such parties, use these talking points to educate them about the scarcity of legal campsites for equestrian use and what happens when parties without stock occupy equestrian campsites.