Advocacy as the third spoke of the Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) philosophy is inherent in all of the stated purposes. “To speak in favor of, to recommend” is a simple definition but, its accomplishment involves going to meetings, lots and lots of meetings, on public land management and other issues.
Compared to other public land user groups and non governmental organizations (NGOs), equestrians are rank beginners, constantly playing catch up. It is best to be involved in the initial planning phases for public land policy as once enacted; it is much more difficult to change. NGOs which advocate for hikers primarily have been involved in these planning sessions for decades. In some instances, it is like arriving at the announced time for dinner to discover the main course has already been served.
Back Country Horsemen of Missouri believes that the first step is a strong statewide organization addressing trailrider issues. The second step for equestrians is adherence to trail ethics; every responsible equestrian by their actions and courtesy is a trail advocate. Other steps involve going to meetings, contacting your elected officials, the list goes on and on.
Back Country Horsemen of Missouri have been extremely successful in earning a ‘seat at the table’ when land managers are deciding the future of equestrian access to public trails in Missouri. Our Memoranda of Understanding with the U.S. Forest Service and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources are precedent setting. Missouri is leading the way in acknowledging and supporting our continued access to public trails.