Backcountry Horsemen Contributing Time and Muscle to Trail Work

Plains/Thompson Falls, MT. – Operating under a new five year agreement with the Forest Service, the Wildhorse Plains Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen has joined forces with the Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger District and Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) trail crews to clear and improve trails on the ranger district, bringing the added capacity of their stock to clear logs and rocks from trails, carry supplies and tools for restoration work, clear culverts and ditches, and repair water bars – all critical but sometimes unnoticed components that keep a trail system accessible and usable.

Backcountry Horsemen

The two organizations have also been sharing expertise and skills in a series of work-days and training sessions that ultimately benefits public users of the trails. District trail managers organized their first trail maintenance instruction workshop for backcountry Horsemen in spring of 2010 under a previous agreement. This summer, the Backcountry Horsemen spent a day with members of a YCC crew, demonstrating how stock must negotiate a trail and why trail widths and switchbacks are required to be a certain size.




“They really appreciated that, seeing how wide a trail needs to be, especially for a horse that has pack saddles,” said Lisa Read, of the Wildhorse Plains Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen.


Todd Springs Trail Construction Todd Springs Trail










The young trail crew members on that day also got treated to some fresh ice cream – packed in ice in the saddle bags and delivered by the Backcountry Horsemen. The YCC had been working on reconstructing the trail so it was again passable by pack and saddle stock animals.

Todd Springs Trail Crew

Read said the agreement with the Forest Service is a natural fit for her group, which has a mission statement that includes promoting use of the backcountry.

The partnership began this year out of a shared desire to keep specific, heavily used trails clear and free of debris. The Plains/Thompson Falls District has a trail system that includes almost 350 miles of trail, and countless water bars, drainage systems, and retaining structures across its 490,550 acres. To keep those miles clear for trail users the district trail managers must prioritize based on public demand and need.

“With our maintenance budget, a two-person trail maintenance crew can only make it so far,” Said Dave Wrobleski, the Plains/Thompson Falls Ranger District’s Trail Program Manager. “Many trails are still under snow until late June and hikers hit the trails hard in July and August. Having Backcountry Horsemen help us get the specific trails cleared every year lets our crew focus on other trails. Backcountry Horsemen are eager to have a well-maintained, usable trail system and that makes them very enthusiastic to work with.”

In 2012 the Backcountry Horsemen provided the needed logistics to pack in tools and equipment to begin restoration of the Big Hole Fire Lookout on the district. That work will likely continue in 2013.

“The Backcountry Horsemen were great help moving equipment back and forth to the Lookout and also help us use our trail stock more safely and effectively” said Wrobleski. “It’s a great partnership!”

For more information please contact Dave Wrobleski at (406) 826-4321.