The Teton Valley Backcountry Horsemen were not horsing around this summer.
Pack animals, crosscut saws, and a helping hand from the Forest Service have led to the completion of some backcountry projects for both local and visiting riders to use.
Lacy Garton is one of 50 or so members of TVBH, which is a local chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of America.
The Teton Valley chapter is committed to upholding the national organization’s mantra of protecting the access of equestrians to public lands.
“We team up with the local forest service to work on trails,” said Garton. “We do this to enhance trails, keep trails safe, build new trails, re-route trails, and to keep these trails open for all users, with a focus on keeping access for equines.”
The Teton Valley chapter was founded spring of 2020, and this was their second summer.
In order to get the projects done, they rely on a two-way relationship with the USFS who both assigns and enables projects with the TVBH.
“The Forest Service actually will give us assignments that they need help with or we go to them and say this is what we want to do, and then we have to team up with them for the different rules that we’re supposed to follow,” said Garton.
The riders completed two USFS-backed projects this summer; the most recent was in the Coyote Meadows area of the Jedediah Smith Wilderness, with an earlier one in the Grizzly Creek area of Targhee National Forest.
At Coyote Meadows the TVBH volunteers built and installed some new hitching posts. At Grizzly Creek, they helped the forest service clear and rehabilitate the trail.
“The one out in Coyote Meadows we rebuilt the hitching posts and that was something the Forest Service came to us asked us to do,” said Garton. “On the Grizzly Creek project we actually moved all of the Forest Service camping gear, tools, and everything around for them to make it easier for them to move from basecamp to go clear trail. We also assisted in clearing the trail too.”
It’s easy to imagine how some horsepower can make all the difference out in the wilderness.
TVBH uses pack animals to bring those supplies, tools, and other necessities to the work site as well as helping move downed timber to clear trails.
“We have to utilize these pack animals to carry in all of the equipment that will be necessary,” said Garton.
The number of pack animals for each mission varies heavily depending on the project to be completed.
“It’s dependent on the size of the project, the number of volunteers, and whether it’s a day project or an overnight project where we can have up to five or six pack animals,” said Garton.
Tools can range from big crosscut sawyer saws to axes and shovels, along with ropes and other tools.
To help ease logistical concerns, the TVBH uses natural materials found in the woods when they can.
“What was really cool about that project is we just used downed logs from the forest to build these tie rails,” said Garton. “It’s always good to use a natural resource back in the wilderness to complete the project.”
If you’re a rider interested in helping out and becoming a member, you can jump on the bandwagon and reach out via the TVBH Facebook page.