BCHC Mid Valley Unit
President's Monthly Message
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(Left) Michael King, and friend.
Greetings, Mid Valley members.
I certainly hope that everyone is enjoying the current round of rain as much as I am.
Not wanting to sound like a pessimist, but even before the wet season started, I had a feeling it was going to be a dry year. Unfortunately, time has partially borne me out.
Now, near the end of our rainy season, we are finally getting some much needed and significant precipitation. Although it probably will not be a banner year for total rainfall, we are at least getting some real, measurable rain, both for now and for later. The rain is helping the dryland grasses grow, providing feed for livestock and ground cover to help prevent erosion. In the higher elevations snow is accumulating which is good for the health of the forests and also for later use in summer irrigation.
As many of you know, especially those who have been persistently pestered by me for the information I need to compile the report, each Backcountry Horsemen unit/chapter is asked to annually compile the hours spent volunteering on unit activities. A person at BCHC tabulates all the California information into a single form, which is then sent to BCHA. The process then iterates one more time where the information for all of the states, in which there is a Backcountry Horsemen presence, is compiled into one comprehensive report.
Well, so what, why is all this important? It's important because BCHA uses that information to illustrate to legislators, state and federal alike, the effort expended in fulfilling our purpose, and the earnestness of Backcountry Horsemen to protect the resource, and for the legislators to justify the request for resource budget money. In short it helps in our lobbying for funds needed to maintain trails, facilities, wildernesses, etc.
So, where am I going with all of this? Each year the volunteer effort for Mid Valley averages around $600,000 +/-. In 2017 our total volunteer effort of $346,430 was about half of the average. This decrease is largely due to the heavy snow pack from the 2016/2017 winter. It simply prevented work parties from accessing the backcountry and doing our work projects. Sometimes there can just be too much of a good thing!
I want to turn the topic now to that of membership. Membership is the lifeblood of any organization, and Backcountry Horsemen is certainly no different. Since my joining BCH, I have witnessed a general decline in membership over the years that one might call significant. To be a strong advocate for what BCH represents we need membership, strong and supporting membership!
I joined BCH somewhat near the formation of the organization, and I remember the enthusiasm of belonging to this new group. BCH had similar thoughts to mine about unspoiled places. I liked that BCH was committed to protecting our right as equestrians to access public lands. I instantly recognized the value of the education programs, which were designed to make us good users of these same public lands. Bad manners in public land use were going to cost us bad public reputation, access and restrictions. All that and some more was the genesis of Backcountry Horsemen; a grand idea with a grand purpose. In any organization there is naturally going to be some attrition of members. There always is. Outside demands on the limited resources of time and money, sometimes get in the way of memberships. The kids needing braces, economic downturns, college tuition, changes in life focus, job demands/changes and a myriad of other factors all tug at our resources. These demands sometimes grab our attention away from things that we still believe are important, and really still are our core beliefs. On the other end of the spectrum, and more often than I like, I hear of older folks who are dropping their membership for various reasons such as "I don't ride anymore," or "I'm getting too old," plus a whole host of other sundry reasons. This is all foreign to my way of thinking. If I earnestly believe in an idea or an organization, as I do Backcountry Horsemen, I intend to belong as a member as long as I am here on this earth. Whether I continue to ride or not, whether I own a horse and mule or not, I believe in what BCH represents. If you believed in it then, you most likely believe in it always.
BCH is continuing to expand their sphere of influence into the future, too. Just this week delegates from all of the California state units voted to sponsor the hiring of an intern with the US Forest Service. What an opportunity to introduce Backcountry Horsemen to a potential future leader that may well, one day, be making decisions as to the access of equestrians and packers into the public lands.
So, I am asking those of you who might be thinking about not renewing to reconsider your decision, and choose to renew. If you have dropped your membership, please rejoin. We need you, all of you, to help get our message out. Remember, a strong membership is a strong organization. In closing, don't forget about Rendezvous. It will be in Paso Robles, April 13-15. Practically in our back yard! Help support Los Padres Unit who is the host this year. If only for one day, go for Saturday. You will not regret it!
(Our President writes a message every month for the newsletter.)