US Forest Service to “Keep it Wild” with historic mule pack trains in January 1 Rose Parade

Equestrian entry—one of only 18 in the parade, celebration of national forests and all those who protect them

Forest Service Shield Wilderness 50 logo Tournament of Roses logo

U.S. Forest Service rangers, firefighters and volunteers will take to Colorado Boulevard for the 126th Rose Parade in Pasadena on January 1. The agency celebrated its centennial a decade ago with a Rose Parade entry in 2005.

The U.S. Forest Service entry will be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, the historic role of packers in supporting wildland firefighters and other backcountry operations and appreciation of the outstanding contributions made by national forest volunteers.

The all-mule equestrian entry will include an entourage of Forest Service Rangers in period uniforms and anchored by three mule pack strings. The mule pack strings will be expertly guided by California-based U.S. Forest Service packers Michael Morse, Lee Roeser and Ken Graves, who have an average of 37 years of experience each in the saddle.

In 1897, the first Forest Rangers in California rode out of Pasadena into the (then) San Gabriel Timberland Reserve. The beautiful San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest, one of the most heavily visited national forests in the U.S., have helped serve as the backdrop for 125 years of Rose Parades.

As the centerpiece of the entry, Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore will be joined in an authentic 19th century wagon by Thomas Tidwell, 17th Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Tidwell and Moore will be joined in the wagon by fire prevention icon Smokey Bear, known to generations as the symbol of wildfire prevention in America, and Mike Heard, a national wilderness volunteer award winner from California’s Los Padres National Forest.

“The U.S. Forest Service is excited to be a part of the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade,” said Moore. “Our entry is a chance to showcase our outstanding packers and wildland firefighters as well as honor the thousands of volunteers who help care for your national forests every day.”

R5 Packers

The event also represents the final chapter in a year-long series of events and festivals celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

In addition to about 35,000 employees nationwide, the U.S. Forest Service volunteer workforce numbers in the tens of thousands. These dedicated Americans contribute thousands of hours each year to the conservation of national forests in California and across the U.S. The contributions of volunteers are highly regarded in the U.S. Forest Service and constitute a large part of the workforce. U.S. National Forest volunteer and retired San Bernardino County Fire Captain Jim Wilkins whose vision and energy have helped shape the entry over the past few years, will also be riding in the wagon.

The entry is unique in that the parade mules are also working pack animals, having come off the frontlines of supporting wildfires across Northern California for several months in the summer and fall. The mules are used for long treks deep into national forest wilderness areas to resupply firefighters and wilderness rangers. They’re also uniquely suited to working at high altitudes and in the rugged terrain of the Sierra-Nevada, Trinity Alps and other mountain ranges in California.

The U.S. Forest Service Pack Stock Center for Excellence keeps the tradition of packing alive by continuing to train packers who support backcountry activities across the 20.8 million acres of national forest lands in California. The Center employs about 10 packers and about 150 working animals.

The parade and its flat 5 ½ mile route will be a welcome break for the 20 firefighters joining them. U.S. Forest Service firefighters and cooperators have fought 1,449 wildfires that have burned 399,649 acres on national forest lands across the state in 2014. California’s historic fire season, driven by three straight years of drought, has been slowed only by several days of heavy rain in December.

Note to media: Employees and volunteers from nearly a dozen national forests across California are assisting with the U.S. Forest Service Rose Parade entry. Check locally for information on participants from communities in your area. In addition to the parade, the mule pack trains will be participating in the Equestfest at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center on December 29 as well as the post-parade viewing event. For more information on the parade, Equestfest and other activities that comprise the Tournament of Roses, visit:


U.S. Forest Service background:
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. National forest lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply. The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region encompasses 18 national forests that cover nearly 21 million acres across California.

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