Rio Capulin Trail 31 clearing
By Sarah Wynne Jackson
As members care for these trails and make improvements to assist recreation, their work becomes a labor of love. Returning to these wild places during different seasons, year after year, they develop an even deeper appreciation for the beautiful world we live in. They build relationships with other users and the managers of these properties, striking alliances for achieving the mutual goals of preserving and enjoying these special landscapes.
Since its founding in 1993, the Northwest Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico has been caring for a number of protected lands in the Corrales, Bernalillo, Rio Rancho, and Albuquerque Metro areas. Projects range from one-day visits to pick up trash left by careless users, to years-long efforts reclaiming abandoned trails.
The Northwest Chapter has been working with the Bureau of Land Management with the long term goal of building a better horse trailer parking lot and creating more defined trails in the Ojito Wilderness. This 11,823-acre desert landscape northwest of Albuquerque features steep-sided mesas, rocky terraces, retreating escarpments, box canyons, deep meandering arroyos, and austere badlands.
Several types of ruins are scattered in the Ojito Wilderness, including those of the prehistoric Puebloan, Navajo, and Hispanic cultures. The erosion process has exposed the bones of huge dinosaurs, including one of the largest dinosaur skeletons ever discovered. This property is also home to three rare plant species, birds of prey, reptiles, mule deer, elk, American antelope, and mountain lions.
Valles Caldera National Preserve
The Northwest Chapter has been building a relationship with the management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. This 89,000-acre ranch nestled within an ancient collapsed volcano crater in the Jemez Mountains provides habitat for a variety of plants and wildlife. Despite its many miles of ranch roads, livestock paths, and game trails perfect for recreation, public access has been strictly controlled.
With the consent of preserve management, the Northwest Chapter, along with other New Mexico Back Country Horsemen chapters, removed about 5 miles of old barbed wire fencing. They hope that this effort and the newly established relationship will eventually allow them to locate and create new trails and equestrian facilities, establish permanent fire rings, and possibly build shelters in the caldera with the ultimate goal of greater access to this stunning landscape.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument
At the request of the Bureau of Land Management, the Northwest Chapter scouted out horseback riding trails in the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. Located 55 miles northeast of Albuquerque and set on the Pajarito Plateau, this property encompasses 4,645 acres of public land. It’s known for its cone-shaped tent rock formations that are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick. While fairly uniform in shape, the tent rock formations vary in height from a few feet up to 90 feet and range from 5,570 feet to 6,760 feet above sea level.
San Pedro Parks Wilderness
The Northwest Chapter is also involved in a long-term project using GPS to create detailed maps of the trails in the 41,132-acre San Pedro Parks Wilderness. Although the elevation ranges from 7,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level, this wild land is known for moist, rolling mountaintops with many meadows and large grassy "parks." Clear streams with abundant trout wander through the forest openings.
The area has nine access trails and approximately nine more internal trails. Chapter members learn more about this amazing landscape each year as they clear trails in the springtime, shore up water bars in the summer, and recreate there with their horses throughout the year.
About Back Country Horsemen of America
BCHA is a non-profit corporation made up of state organizations, affiliates, and at-large members. Their efforts have brought about positive changes regarding the use of horses and stock in wilderness and public lands.
If you want to know more about Back Country Horsemen of America or become a member, visit their website: www.bcha.org; call 888-893-5161; or write PO Box 1367, Graham, WA 98338-1367. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!