BCHC Mid Valley Unit

President's Monthly Message


May, 2018

Michael King (Left) Michael King, and friend.

Hello, everyone! I hope this newsletter finds you all doing well. Warmer weather is now upon us and our annual forays into the backcountry for volunteer work projects will soon commence.

While volunteer work safety has always been our goal, it moved higher up in our awareness bubble a couple of years ago, primarily as a result of Backcountry Horsemen's active new role in sawyer training and, secondarily, due to some preventable accidents that occurred in other units.

To get our sawyer program up and running, a lot of work and thought went into putting together a structure, procedure and safety protocol that satisfied not only Backcountry Horsemen but also the various agencies (USFS, BLM, Park Service, etc.).

As a result, qualified BCHC trainers are now certified to not only train our own members in safe and proper sawyer techniques but also to train those very same agency personnel mentioned above.

Without a doubt, especially when working on volunteer trail clearance and maintenance projects, a very big emphasis has been placed on working and operating safely. Working on trails in the backcountry is hazardous and is the time we are most exposed to accidents and failures in judgement. Our BCHC safety protocol is designed to meet that of the public agencies overseeing the public land we are working on and to help avoid making mistakes that might get someone injured, or worse.

In the event we are injured while working on those public lands AND we are in compliance with overseeing agency rules, we will be covered by their workman's compensation. That is invaluable right there and everyone can see the importance of that. On the flip side, however, if we do not operate within their guidelines, we may not be covered by workman's compensation insurance. You can instantly see the importance of following the rules and requirements.

Incidentally, the agencies will be monitoring our activities for compliance. All accidents will be noted/investigated and any deviations from agreed upon protocol will be recorded. We always want to work smart, safely, efficiently and also be within the rules.

To re-instill and refresh the importance of working safe, we reviewed the subject of safety at the May board of directors meeting. The presentation was a reprise of the safety presentation from last year and included the operating protocol required of a Mid Valley volunteer group. The review covered:

The selection and duties of the project leader and ultimate decision maker, the primary and secondary first aid person, who is the emergency communication person, the individual saw and first aid certifications required, the personal protective equipment we need to possess on the job for our own personal safety, and forms required to be a volunteer.

While it all sounds a bit daunting to absorb, it really isn't. It does require one to plan ahead a bit more than in the past. You should have a current first aid certification in hand. You should also obtain your crosscut and chainsaw certificate from our unit by attending a class when at first possible. Not having the saw certificate(s) will not preclude you from volunteering but it will require that you work with someone who does have the certificate.

Whew! All that was a mouthful! It really isn't hard to follow and your project leader will be responsible, with your help and cooperation, for making sure you are in compliance. We have another selfish reason for all of this, too. We want you healthy and able bodied to volunteer for next year's work projects. No slackers recovering from avoidable injuries in this group!

While on the subject of safety, I have a question. In whose hands (hoofs) do you place a large degree of your health and well being? Yes, your horse and/or mule! Spend the time now, working with them in a controlled environment, to get them in shape for what you will be asking of them later on out on the trail in the mountains. Get them used to standing tied to a highline, as that's where they will be spending a large part of their leisure time. Get them familiar with unexpected objects moving around them, such as shovels and the like. A small flag on a stick is a good tool for that. Spend time riding them to build muscle tone and stamina. If packing stock, work with them to accept the packs and loads they will be asked to carry. Believe me, when a load slips, and one day it will, you want them to stay calm as you unravel the situation, rather than scattering your stuff over a hundred acres before it all stops. Remember, after a long fat winter we have trouble mustering the pep required at high elevations and steep conditions. Our stock is no different. It's not fair to them to just load and go. Help them to be in shape, both mentally and physically, too. The trail is not the place to be training your stock!

That's all for now. Thank you all for your membership. Stay safe!

(Our President writes a message every month for the newsletter.)

Backcountry Horsemen of California - Mid Valley Unit
PO Box 1709
Modesto CA 95353-1709

Questions about the Mid Valley Unit? Ask Dennise Davis,
Questions about the web site? Ask Ted Pack,

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