FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 28, 2010
Contact: Steve Beyer 517-373-1263 or Mary Dettloff 517-335-3014
DNRE to Hold Informational Meetings on Horseback Riding Restrictions at Gladwin and Lapeer
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is reviewing regulations for horseback riding at the Gladwin Field Trial Area and the Lapeer State Game Area. Currently, horseback riding is allowed in the Gladwin Field Trial Area where posted open to horses, which is parts of Section 3 of Sherman Township (T20N-R2W), Gladwin County . Horseback riding is not allowed on any part of the Lapeer State Game Area. These two area reviews were prompted by legislation passed earlier this year. The department will summarize these reviews for the public at two informational meetings in the Gladwin and Lapeer areas.
“These meetings provide opportunities for folks who use and care about these areas to learn how we have regulated horseback riding so that we can continue to manage these areas for wildlife,” said Penney Melchoir, field operations supervisor for the DNRE Wildlife Division.
The meetings are designed to discuss the reviews and allow the public an opportunity to ask questions about how and why horseback riding has been regulated at these areas. The public will also have an opportunity to provide comments on these reviews.
The meetings are scheduled for:
- Nov. 8, 6-8 p.m. in the cafetorium at Gladwin High School , 1400 N. Spring Street, Gladwin; and
- Nov. 10, 6-8 p.m. in the Annex Room of the Lapeer Center Building, 425 County Center Street, Lapeer.
The results of the reviews, along with comments received at these meetings, will be presented to the Natural Resources Commission during its Dec. 2 meeting.
For more information on horseback riding opportunities on state land, check the DNRE website at www.michigan.gov/equestrian.
The legislation requiring these reviews (SB 578 and the related HB 4610 of 2009) did not result in any changes to the regulations regarding horseback riding at the Gladwin Field Trial Area or the Lapeer State Game Area. All land use orders and land use rules in effect before this legislation was signed into law on April 1, 2010 are still in effect.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is committed to the conservation, protection, management, and accessible use and enjoyment of the state’s environment, natural resources, and related economic interests for current and future generations. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/dnre.
Designated state trails would be reopened to horses and pack animals under legislation approved this week by the House.
House Bill 4610, sponsored by Rep. Tim Moore, R-Farwell, would direct the Department of Natural Resources to allow riders back onto all state land that was used before May 2008.
Last year, the department closed a number of horse trails throughout the state as part of its multi-use recreation management decisions, Moore said in a news release.
“Management of the state lands shouldn’t shut down the public use of Michigan’s resources by just one segment of residents and visitors,” he said.
“Tourism and recreation is a strong part of our local economies and Michigan can’t afford to chase that business away. We should be working to expand these types of opportunities in our state, not limit them.”
The legislation would reopen the horse paths and calls for the state to establish a pack animal trail network in Michigan.
There are 155,000 horse owners in Michigan representing an $8 billion industry and 80,000 of those are recreational horseback riders, Moore said.
Moore's bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Horse riders were out en masse Tuesday lending their support to legislation requiring the Department of Natural Resources to allow riding on state land in areas where it was recently prohibited.
HB 4610 follows the closure of some back country trails in the Pigeon River Country State Park in 2008, although some proponents of the legislation said the DNR has systematically been closing down access to riders in state parks for some time.
The legislation calls for reopening some trailways that have been closed down and for the department to preserve and facilitate use of some trails that have historically been used by horseback riders.
DNR Legislative Liaison Dan Eichinger said the department continues to oppose the legislation because it conflicts with the federal guidelines for money used to buy land in the park because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes having horses travel through these back country trails disrupts the wildlife in that area.
But Rep. Tim Moore (R-Farwell), sponsor of the bill, said he's been told elk in the park are not adversely affected by the presence of horses. He said the country roads and other pathways the DNR still has open for horse riding are not adequate.
"It's just frustrating because we are getting to the point so we can buy the land and nobody can use it ever again," said Rep. Goeff Hansen (R-Hart).
Mr. Eichinger said the department is trying to strike a balance between wildlife needs, the fact that money from anglers and hunters paid for the land and providing access to various recreational activities in the parks. He said the state can't afford to be in violation of the federal guidelines and risk being taken out of consideration for funding grants.
But Rep. Jim Stamas (R-Midland) said lawmakers should be able to find out which cases the federal government examined to determine horseback riding in Michigan would violate their guidelines and see if any of those cases were actually in the state.
And Rep. Joel Sheltrown (D-West Branch) said the idea is simply to get reasonable trails for the riders that are not on the roads. He said legislation was the only way to spur discussion to that effect.
Mr. Eichinger said he would contact the federal government to see what kind of exemptions to the guidelines have been given, but he expressed doubt an exemption could be granted because the money used to buy the land was awarded for wildlife preservation.
The House Office Building was filled this morning with horseback riders who came to show support for a bill that would give them back something they believe has been taken away from them.
Last year, Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM went along with the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) recommendation to restrict horseback riding in the Pigeon River State Forest. According to the DNR, the basis for the recommendation was that the state would lose out on $25 million in federal habitat enhancement dollars annually (plus other potential penalties for noncompliance) if the restrictions weren't put into place.
Basically, the DNR argues that the restrictions are necessary for compliance with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules, that are based on the claim that horseback riding is not consistent with the federal strings that came with the money used to pay for the land in the first place. This, apparently, stems from the federal agency's assessment that somehow horseback riding interferes with elk in the state forest.
HB 4610 would do more than just get rid of the restrictions. It would "preserve and facilitate" the use of horses and mules on all state-owned lands where there is a historical tradition of this use.
In addition, under HB 4610, the Natural Resources Commission would have to establish a network of trailways on state-owned lands for use by horses and mules that included "trailways and other areas" where there was a "historical tradition" of these animals being used.
The House Committee on Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources took up HB 4610 today for discussion only. The hearing attracted an overflow crowd sporting cowboy and cowgirl hats that filled the committee room and a second room where the proceedings were shown on a screen.
"Anytime the citizens of this state are denied access to state land it raises a red flag," said Rep. Tim MOORE (R-Farwell) the sponsor of the bill. "Limiting an $8 billion industry for no reason is not helping our state."
Supporters of the bill, claim that people come to Michigan from as far away as Canada and Texas to ride horses in Michigan, and have placed an $8 billion tag on the state horseback riding "industry."
DNR Spokesman Dan EICHINGER had the unpopular job of defending the department's position in front of the hostile audience.
"I want to point out that horseback riding can still take place on designated trails in the state forest and on county roads," said Eichinger, adding that he thought the problem the feds had with horseback riding involved going across country.
"I think these people are looking for reasonable trails off the road," said Committee Chair Joel SHELTROWN (D-West Branch). "Do you think it would be possible for the DNR to create some?"
"I'll carry that question back with me," Eichinger responded.
This response spawned a spontaneous groan from the audience.
Sheltrown also asked if mushroom pickers and berry pickers interfere with the elk.
In response, Eichinger said that the federal fish and wildlife service did not consider those activities to conflict with the purpose for which the land was designated.
It seems more than likely that the bill will eventually be reported out of committee. However, it's unclear what its future would be on the House floor, or if it were to reach Granholm's desk.
The best bet may be that at some stage of the process there will be serious efforts made to try to find a compromise. Meanwhile, lawmakers who support HB 4610 had a good crowd to play to today.
"We're getting to the point where we're buying more and more land and nobody can use it," said Rep. Geoff HANSEN (R-Hart). "Whose government is it anyway? There wouldn't even be a DNR without the citizens."
Not surprisingly, the audience cheered in response to this line of commentary.
WHAT'S the best way to manage wild horses and burros on public rangeland? The preferred method, according to the Nevada Department of Wildlife, is to shoot them.
Proposals by the federal Bureau of Land Management to euthanize thousands of captured wild horses have generated scorn and outrage among defenders of the wild horse herds. Now, the department is competing with the Bureau of Land Management for the top spot on the horse advocate's hit list, thanks to candid comments made by the agency's Game Division Chief Russ Mason -- that's Russ Mason Ph.D. -- who thinks the most effective way to manage wild horses on public lands is to shoot them out on the range, rather than go to the trouble of rounding them up and making them available for adoption.
Mason's views were made public after wild horse defenders recently wrote to Nevada's wildlife department to ask why horses are not mentioned whatsoever on the department's website. The Game Division is dependent on the sale of hunting tags to sportsmen, and sportsmen see wild horses as competitors for forage that might otherwise be consumed by deer, elk, and bighorn sheep.
For the wildlife department, it's a no-brainer. Horses are bad for business.
Mason's matter-of-fact reply e-mail correctly explained that most wild horses are under BLM jurisdiction. The Wildlife Department's authority encompasses a few scattered herds that roam across mostly-private lands around Virginia City. His e-mail repeated an oft-asserted falsehood that horses do not deserve their protected status since the species is not indigenous to North America. In the e-mail, Mason proclaims that horses are an exotic and invasive species that weren't introduced into the wild until the 19th century, when ranchers and cavalry officers released them onto the open range.
The statement is demonstrably false and ignores volumes of scientific research conducted in Mason's own backyard over the last 50 years. The ancestors of modern horses were born in North America, and later spread to the rest of the world. Thousands of them roamed the Las Vegas Valley centuries before the first humans arrived. (The petrified skeleton of one prehistoric horse has been displayed inside the Nevada State Museum at Lorenzi Park for many years, a fact that has seemingly escaped Mason's scholarly research.)
Without prompting, Mason opined that "the only agency in the state that effectively manages wild horse and burro populations is, remarkably enough, the National Park Service," since, in his words, "that agency shoots wild horses and burros to preserve habitat conditions on the Lake Meade [sic] National Recreation Area."
Intrigued by this accusation, television news producer Ian Russell telephoned Mason to ask if he was the author of the e-mail and what proof, if any, he might have to support it. Mason told Russell he obtained the information from National Park Service officials he knows. When asked if he could contact his sources so they might confirm that such a policy exists, Mason said he would try. Russell spoke with Mason a second time and says the wildlife official strenuously defended the use of bullets as a management tool for horses and burros on public land. He also told Russell, for the second time, that his information about the Park Service policy was accurate.
A horrified National Park Service official flatly and firmly denied Mason's assertions. Kent Turner, the chief resource manager for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, characterized the allegations as "completely and categorically untrue." Turner said the Park Service has "no idea how any employee of NDOW could make such a statement." Documents provided by National Park Service officials specify any horse or burro removal from Park Service territory is conducted by the BLM under a contractual agreement that has been in force for the last 13 years.
Earlier this month, Mason's inflammatory e-mail was posted on the website of KLAS Channel 8. The following day, a Nevada Department of Wildlife public affairs specialist named Kelly Clark phoned the station to find out more. But the agency wasn't interested in backtracking. Clark expressed the opinion that the e-mail had been manufactured out of thin air by die-hard wild horse advocates. She indicated that Mason denied that he was the author of any such e-mail, even though there was more than one exchange between Mason and members of the public, and in spite of the trail of electronic bread crumbs leading back to his state wildlife department e-mail address.
When informed that Mason had already confirmed his authorship of the e-mail in phone conversations, Clark asked if the calls had been recorded on tape. As any journalist knows, it is illegal in Nevada to record phone conversations without both parties consenting to the taping. Clark told Russell that, since there is no audio recording of the conversations with Mason, there is no proof Mason ever admitted he wrote the e-mail. Phone records can confirm conversations with Mason took place on two occasions, but the wildlife department has circled the wagons and insists Mason never wrote or said any of the things attributed to him. And that's that.
"I'm not surprised at all," says longtime wild horse advocate Jerry Reynoldson, a former chief aide to U.S. Sen. Harry Reid. "NDOW's goal has always been the promotion of exotic species that generate money for the agency, like bighorn sheep, and it's always at the expense of the horses. They see horses as a threat to their sales of sheep tags and elk tags and all the rest."
Reynoldson says Nevada's Department of Wildlife apparatus is in perfect sync with the ranching industry, which has used its influence in the Bush administration to round up more than 75,000 wild horses in seven years, arguing the 20,000 horses still living in the wild are a serious threat to the health of public lands. The 3-4 million cattle on the same lands are not a threat, apparently.
"If NDOW could make money by selling horse tags to hunters, if some hunter would pay big bucks to bag a mustang and put a stuffed horse head over the mantle, maybe their attitude would change," Reynoldson says.
And the follow-up article:
George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter
Updated: Nov 12, 2008 09:08 PM
Wild horses are managed by the U.S. BLM, with the exception of horses in the Virginia Range. Horses in the Virginia Range are managed by the Nevada Department of Agriculture because much of the land in that Range is privately owned. Horses are not under the jurisdiction of the Department of Wildlife, and in fact, are not considered an indigenous species. Wild horses in Nevada derive from 19th century releases of cavalry re-mounts and ranch horses and, as such, are an exotic species. Because of various federal laws, horses are not effectively managed in Nevada or any other western state because the only option is capture, and the capture program is grossly under-funded. Horses are over-abundant to extremely over-abundant in most of the locations where they exist, and this over-population has a significant and negative impact not only on the horses themselves but also on wildlife resources ranging from mule deer and pronghorn to sage grouse. In fact, horse over-abundance and the resulting range degradation are among the factors that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering in the ongoing sage grouse listing process. The only agency in the state that effectively manages wild horse and burro populations is, remarkably enough, the U.S. National Park Service (the agency has exclusive jurisdictional authority over species on its lands). That agency shoots wild horses and burros to preserve habitat conditions on the Lake Meade National Recreation Area.
Russ Mason, Ph.D.
Chief, Game Division
Nevada Department of Wildlife
Reply statement from Park Service:
Allegations that Lake Mead National Recreation Area shoots burros are completely and categorically untrue. For the entire history of the park Lake Mead NRA has worked closely with the Bureau of Land Management in cooperative management of burros to meet each agency’s objectives. All burro removals from the park have been live animal capture operations conducted by BLM or private contactors used by BLM, and all animals captured have been placed into the BLM adoption program. Since 1995, all operations have been guided by our 1995 Burro Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, which underwent extensive public review. That plan outlines management objectives and prescribes that all removals are capture operations with captured animals placed within the BLM adoption program. We have no idea how any employee of Nevada Division of Wildlife could make a statement that burros are shot within Lake Mead NRA, as we conduct coordination meetings every year with Nevada Division of Wildlife where items discussed include capture plans for the upcoming year, and a summary of burros captured for adoption during the previous year.
Chief, Resource Management
Lake Mead NRA
Mason's background: *About Russ Mason
*Click here for video from Las Vegas Now - channel 8 News (Russ Mason, now Michigan's Wildlife Chief is brought up of near the end of this video.)
At a time when Michigan is faced with hard economic challenges, the DNR is conducting a series of town hall meetings to figure out how to pay most of its bills, yet it continues to restrict horseback riding opportunities and ignore an $8 billion horse industry in Michigan.
The horse industry pumps billions into the economy by buying Michigan-made trucks, horse trailers, tack, fuel and feed, as well as state trail and camping fees. Investing in equestrian trails for Michigan makes sense - and dollars.
The DNR and the state need to promote tourism in its state parks and forests by expanding their use for equestrians. A prime example of what the state needs to do is the Allegan County Equine Trail System.
Under a lease agreement among the state, Allegan County and an equestrian group, these trails were kept open. In an article from the Holland Sentinel, Allegan County Parks and Recreation and Tourism Director Kevin Ricco said, "We draw lots of equestrian folks from outside the state. Those riders bring in money into the county." Ricco estimated park users brought in $500,000 into the county, including money spent at restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.
DNR Director Humphries states, "We want to bring new users in and keep our current ones." Yet they restrict areas where horsemen can go.The DNR needs to start thinking outside the box by expanding its trail system and camping facilities not closing them down. If Allegan County can see dollars can be brought in by promoting equestrian trails and tourism, one would think the DNR could see it, too.
• A hearing for House Bill 4610, known as "Right to Ride," in the Tourism, Outdoor Recreation-Natural Resource Committee is set for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Room 521 of the House Office Building, 124 N. Capitol Ave. For more information, go to www.bchmi.org.
The 2007 Michigan Equine Survey has been completed, and results show that equine animals — horses, ponies, donkeys and mules — are on the increase. And their impact on Michigan’s economy is significant.
Learn about the first Michigan Equine Survey completed since 1996.
How many equines are in Michigan? Where they are located? What are the most popular breeds? How many Michiganians work with horses, ponies, donkeys or mules? How valuable are equine assets in the state? See the Survey Results for answers to these questions and more.
If you’re an equine enthusiast, you don’t have to tell us your horse counts! Show us — and the world — by sharing a photo to be posted at Your Horse Counts! Participate in the Question of the Month to help this site provide valuable information to equine enthusiasts.
Keep checking this site as it is updated with Hot Topics, resources for equine enthusiasts, would-be owners, businesses that serve the equine industry and decision makers at the local and state levels.To all of us, horses count in Michigan!
NEW! For a list of tack sales to be held in Michigan, see Tack Sales under the menu, Info for Equine Enthusiasts.
According to the 2007 Michigan Equine Survey, Michigan is home to approximately 155,000 horse, ponies, donkeys and mules. This represents a 16% increase from the last Equine survey, conducted in the nineties. These animals are found in every county, with the largest numbers found in highly populated areas. For more information on Michigan equine numbers please see www.horsescountinmichigan.com).
With the economic pressures under which people are finding themselves, however, there has been an increase in unwanted or abandoned equine nationwide. In an effort to get more information regarding "the Unwanted Horse Issue", which includes all equine, we ask that you share the following survey with your equine constituents. This survey is being conducted by the Unwanted Horse Coalition, in an effort to collect information about both causes and possible solutions to the issue.
The link to the survey is: http://survey.ictgroup.com/uhcsurvey/.
Thank you so much for your assistance in getting others to respond to this important survey. The more information, the better the data. Which in turn allows us to create the best solutions to address this critical animal welfare issue.
Ann Nieuwenhuis, MSU Extension
Emergency Planning Specialist
cell (269) 567-0983
5833 East HJ Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49048
State land that was open to horse and pack-animal use before May 2008 would be re-opened under legislation sponsored by State Rep. Tim Moore, R-Farwell.
Last summer, the Department of Natural Resources closed a number of horse trails throughout Michigan as part of multi-use recreation management decisions, Moore said in a news release.
House Bill 4610 would reopen those paths, and calls for the state to establish a pack animal trail network in Michigan by August.
The bill is under consideration by the House Committee on Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources, Moore said.
9 & 10 News / 4/3/2009
The Horseback Committee from the Pigeon River State Forest Advisory Council met with horseback riders who use the Pigeon River Forest.
Last year, the Department of Natural Resources restricted horseback riding to specific areas within the forest.
The horseback committee cannot change the restrictions, but wanted feedback from the riders on ways to iron out rough spots within the policy before the 2009 season.
Some concerns brought up include safety, confusion, and overall frustration for having to stay in specific areas.
9&10's Christina Vecchioni and photojournalist Aaron Smith were at the meeting and have more details.
GAYLORD -- In the summer time it's not uncommon to see horseback riders taking to the trails on many of the state owned forests, but Friday many of those riders were taking to the Department of Natural Resource's Gaylord office.
"It's the people's land, it needs to be regulated but not ruled over like it has been," said Vern Bishop, an equestrian rider.
More than 50 people peopled packed into a tiny conference room for the Pigeon River State Forest Advisory Council's committee meeting on horseback use. Council members of the PRSFAC are appointed by the director of the DNR.
Discussions Friday focused on what available opportunities may exist for horseback riders but inside of existing trail regulations.
"The DNR adopted a new police about horseback use about a year ago," said Dave Smethurst, a member of the PRSFAC. "What we're doing is going to review use data from 2008, highlight any problem areas and any areas of concern and try to brainstorm some ideas." Last year the DNR closed a number of horse trails throughout Michigan as part of a multi-use recreation management program. That included trails in the Pigeon River State Forest.
At the time of the regulation implementation, the DNR claimed the restrictions were necessary in order to protect the habitats, adding that horse use has increased considerably over the years.
During Friday's meeting the DNR reported that overall usage for the forest was down in 2008 from the year before, a fact that many of the horseback riders said was the result of them being prohibited from using the existing trails.
While no specific action resulted from Friday's meeting, legislation in Lansing could soon follow that would ultimately re-open the trails.
State Representative Tim Moore (R - Farwell) is sponsoring House Bill 4610. The measure aims to re-open state land that was available for horse and pack-animal use before May 2008 but was later closed. Optimistic, Moore said it's a move he would hope to have passed by the start to summer.
"State land belongs to the people, we have every right to be able to use it and when the DNR comes in and starts shutting down certain areas to the different segments I have a really big problem with that and that was my great motivation in getting involved," Moore said.
The bill would also call for the state to establish a pack animal trail network in Michigan by August.
"As I got deeper involved in this I found that many other states have trail networks and they have people that come from all over to ride their trails and the economic impact is phenomenal," Moore said.
Moore says the horseback riding industry contributes more than $8 billion into Michigan's economy.
A hearing on House Bill 4610 is scheduled for April 28 in Lansing before the House Committee on Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is again showing total disregard for the 80,000 trail-riding equestrians in the state by backing legislation that would impose a bridle tag fee on riders 18 or older who use trailways.
The legislation, S.B. 496, introduced by state Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Muskegon, comes on the heels of a state House hearing in Lansing during which an overflow crowd of riders provided testimony for the reopening of miles of rustic trails closed by the DNR.
S.B. 496 would impose a fee on riders who have been banned from a majority of trails in the Pigeon River State Forest area. We would be forced to pay a bridle fee of $25 annually, $60 for a three-year permit, or a $5 daily fee.Ironically, the fees would be imposed on a rider in any of the 108 state parks. But a search of the DNR Web site reveals only two parks as having horse trails. Many miles of trails at Pigeon River have been reduced to dangerous county roads, and 15 equine campgrounds have been closed.
If H.B. 4610 — the Right to Ride bill introduced by state Rep. Tim Moore, R-Farwell, and the subject of a April 28 Tourism Committee hearing — is passed, miles of trails open to riders as recently as 2007 will again be accessible by horse enthusiasts, and a bridle fee might appear more logical, although unacceptable to trail riders since it appears to be targeting a single, nonmotorized user group.
My question is, how will this be enforced and how much will it cost to enforce it? This would be in addition to park entry fees and, frequently, camping fees that we now pay.
The DNR conducted many town hall meetings in March and April this year. Is this what came out of those meetings with the public? To target one user group? If the equestrians must pay a fee to use trails, then why not those who hike and bike? Will those who use canoes and kayaks have to pay a fee to use Michigan waterways? Will those who use strollers and Rollerblades be next?
S.B. 496 calls for establishing a Equine Trailways Commission and a fund within the DNR. The legislation states that the commission may spend the money but it does not say what it will be spent on. The problem with this legislation is that it asks for money from a single user group that has the fewest trails.
Contact Van Woerkom at firstname.lastname@example.org. gov; call (517) 373-1635; fax (517) 373-3300; or send mail to P.O. Box 30036, Lansing, MI 48909-7536, and let him know this is not the answer.
More info can be found at www.bchmi.org on how this $8 billion industry, which generates more than $1 billion in taxable revenue annually, wants to create multiuser trails throughout the state.
Gabrielle M. HumeColumbiaville
Cheboygan and Otsego counties, at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula, contain some of the most beautiful and pristine forests in the state. The Pigeon River Country State Forest covers some 118,000 acres, over 184 square miles. Here, hunters, fishermen, snowmobilers, and equestrians have enjoyed the natural beauty that defines Michigan. But because of an arbitrary decision by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, that enjoyment has been jeopardized for horseback riders.
The pleasure of enjoying the Pigeon River Forest has been jeopardized by an arbitrary decision from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Last May, they restricted the use of the forest by horseback trail riders. In so doing, they shut down several campgrounds for horseback riders, some of which were built by the Michigan Trail Riders Association (MTRA) with prior DNR approval and at a cost of over $200,000. The trail riders are now restricted to using trails that are also used by motorized vehicles, not ideal for horses.
The DNR cited several reasons for their decision. As each "reason" was debunked, others would be offered:
The Pigeon River Country State Forest is 118,000 acres. There is more than enough room for all sportsmen and nature lovers to use without anyone interfering with anyone else.
But there is a bigger issue here. It is another example of regulatory taking of the rights of Michigan citizens to enjoy what they own. Let's face it, not only is the property you purchased yours, but so is state park and forestland that is maintained with your tax dollars. We would all agree that the state should be empowered to protect forest and parkland. But should the DNR and other departments of state government be allowed to make arbitrary rules without legislative oversight? The DNR just shut out horseback riders from much of the forest. When will they shut out the bikers, snowmobilers, the fishermen, and the hunters? Administrative rules must be reasonable. What is needed here is legislative oversight.
State Representative Tim Moore has done just that. His bill, HB4610 would effectively repeal the arbitrary decision made by the DNR to restrict the use of the Pigeon River Country Forest last May. The bill has been referred to the House Tourism Committee, chaired by Representative Joel Sheltrown, who has co-sponsored the bill.
I encourage you to contact Reps. Moore, Sheltrown and other members of the committee. Encourage them to take up the bill and move it into the full house. Here are the email addresses for each member.
Joel Sheltrown (D), Committee Chair, 103rd District
Jim Slezak (D), Majority Vice-Chair, 50th District
Kate Ebli (D), 56th District
Mike Huckleberry (D), 70th District
Steven Lindberg (D), 109th District
Mike Simpson (D), 65th District
Woodrow Stanley (D), 34th District
Jim Stamas (R), Minority Vice-Chair, 98th District
James Bolger (R), 63rd District
Goeff Hansen (R), 100th District
Kenneth B. Horn (R), 94th District
GRASS LAKE -- Stop the loss of equine trail camps and horse trails in Michigan.
Ongoing research has revealed a significant loss by closing or severely limiting equine trail camps, equine riding trails and open forest areas. Support Michigan Back Country Horsemen's group efforts to get "Right to Ride" legislation enacted in Michigan.
A legislative hearing on house bill House Bill 4610 (right to ride) is scheduled for April 28 in Lansing before the Committee on Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources. Come to the hearing to show your support.
You also may get more information, sign a petition and give comments by logging on to www.bchmi.org. Please contact your local legislator.
I am a trail rider in my late 70s and have seen the effects of some of the restrictive actions. My wife and I both want to ride as long as we can, but do like some conveniences and have a significant investment in a diesel truck and trailer. Camping restrictions have limited where we can now go. If we want to help our economy, we should be encouraging and expanding equine tourism, not reducing it.
I see Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet trucks pulling these trailers. We supported Michigan's automotive industry. Let's get Michigan to support us.
-- Ron Beyer
I want to publicly thank (state) Rep. (Kenneth) Kurtz for his co-introduction of House Bill 4610 into Committee.
This bill is informally referred to as the “Right to Ride Bill.” The hearing for this bill will be held by the Tourism, Outdoor Recreation & Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Rep. Joel Sheltrown, on April 28, 2009, at 10:30 a.m., Room 521, in the Anderson House Office Building, 124 N. Capitol, Lansing, Mich.
Rep. Kurtz worked with seven other representatives to get this bill introduced into Committee. The work of this group of representatives, along with the support of the other members of the House of Representatives, will help to change restrictive rules that have severely curtailed the Horseback Trail Riding opportunities in our beautiful state forest lands.
A small group of trail-riders has been working together diligently for over 18 months to regain access to horse camps and trails that were closed by the DNR. They recently formed a new organization called Pigeon River & Beyond, Back Country Horsemen of Michigan, which is an affiliate of Back County Housemen of America. The name Pigeon River and Beyond was chosen by this group because the Pigeon River Country Forest was where the camp and trail closures began for this group; the Beyond part of he name recognizes any and all other places where trail riding opportunities are threatened in Michigan.
Pigeon River & Beyond Back Country Horsemen of Michigan are strongly encouraging all horsemen and horsewomen of Michigan to come to the House Building on April 28 to show support for this bill. They are encouraged to wear their western wear and hats so the committee will recognize them as trail riders in support of the passage of this bill. For more information and the complete wording of House Bill 4610, go to www.bchmi.org.
Thank you again state Rep. Kurtz for your support of the horseback riding communities of Branch and Hillsdale counties.
Sherri Richardson wants state lawmakers to recognize that horse trail riding isn't just for "old bluehairs" anymore.The girls, ages 12-17, will be representing Michigan's young trail riders at the meeting. (photo gallery)
Richardson said trail riders pump a lot of money into the economy from state trail and camping fees, and some invest as much as $100,000 on trucks and trailers for long hauls.
That's not to mention the cost of veterinary and other services.
"To close down our trails, it's like, why? We just want to be recognized that there are still a huge amount of us out there," Richardson said.
"I'm certainly doing my share. I'm putting money into this community," she added.
Livingston County, with its vast, open areas and sprawling state parks, is a destination for trail riders.
The state expends significant dollars in often-expensive trail maintenance.
To offset those costs as well as other expenses, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has closed riding trails, including one along the Pigeon River near Cheboygan. Livingston County trails don't appear to be on the chopping block, Richardson said, but that is always a possibility.
"That's what we're worried about," she said.
Richardson lives on her ranch, where she owns about 20 horses and boards another 10.
She bought her Spears Road home due to its proximity to trails at the Pinckney State Recreation Area and the Lakelands Trail.
Despite the state's move to close trails, the Michigan Trail Riders Association's efforts to encourage youth trail riding is apparently taking hold — including at Horse'N Around Stables. Richardson said, if nothing else, trail riding teaches young riders the definition of hard work and self-reliance.
A case in point is the upcoming 17-day, 250-mile Shore-to-Shore ride from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron, organized by the Michigan Trail Riders Association.
Richardson's students fall in the beginner, intermediate, advanced, cadet or junior wrangler classes. Only junior wranglers are eligible for the cross-state ride.
In June, Richardson will take six girls on the Shore-to-Shore ride, which will begin in Empire and conclude in Oscoda. The Michigan Trail Riders Association began the summer tradition during the 1950s, and in recent years has attempted to recruit younger riders into the sport.
Yet the ride isn't for the faint of heart. If riders can't pull their own weight or prove they can lug up to 60-pound bales of hay, they're not going. Riders must have both stamina and the ability to control their horses under duress.
"It is an adventure, and it is the hardest thing that they are ever going to have to do. I am hard on these kids, but I have to know everything about them to know that they can do it, can make it," Richardson explained.
Richardson said her younger students look up to older students, particularly those who qualify for the Shore-to-Shore ride.
"This is what they want to do someday. This is what they're hoping they're going to be," she said.
Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Christopher Behnan at (517) 548-7108 or at email@example.com.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) has apparently placed the protection of the elk herd in this state above the rights of property owners to protect their property and livelihood.
Vicki Reinhardt just wants to enjoy her horses, her home, and her boarding business. Her ten-acre ranch has been invaded by elk, dozen of elk. She has tried everything to scare them away from her horses and their food supply. Nothing works. The health and safety of her horses are at risk. And what is the DNR's response? They are investigating her for illegally baiting the elk. Sound unbelievable?
The following text comes from a report filed by Channels 7 & 4 out of Traverse City. They should be commended for taking on this issue and pursuing it through the freedom of information act.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 4, 2007
Washington, D.C. —The American Horse Council (AHC) and member organizations are initiating “The Congressional Cavalry Program,” a new direct grassroots effort, to better represent and serve the horse industry in Washington, DC.
The purpose of the program is to identify at least one member of participating organizations in each Congressional District across America who will agree to contact his/her Representative/Senator or other federal officials when asked.
AHC member organizations represent all segments of the horse industry.
“If we can involve just one member in these organizations in each Congressional district across the country in the grassroots effort,” said AHC President Jay Hickey, “think of the potential effect that could have when contacting Representatives and Senators about issues important to the industry.”
Horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, trainers, competitors, recreational riders, shows, stables and others who desire to be involved in grassroots efforts in Washington are encouraged to join the Congressional Cavalry Program.
“We are hoping to include individuals from as many AHC member organizations as possible to get a cross-section of the horse industry identified in each district to represent themselves, their organization and the horse industry when called upon,” said Hickey.
Member organizations already signed onto the Congressional Cavalry include the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the American Paint American Paint Horse Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the U.S. Equestrian Federation and the U.S. Trotting Association.
Individuals will be mobilized when there is a need for grassroots lobbying. The AHC will provide participants with whatever information is necessary.
“Other Congressional Cavalry activities may include visits with Members of Congress in Washington or back in their home district and invitations to Members of Congress to visit your facility, event or activity,” according to Hickey.
Please contact the equine association you are a member of or join the American Horse Council to become a part of this exciting initiative.
Contact: American Horse Council
January 15 2009
The 111th Congress has convened and the Democrats have picked up seats in both the House and Senate. The country also has a new President, Barack Obama, who will take office Jan. 20, 2009. Many are wondering what these changes will mean for the horse industry.
"For the most part, issues affecting the horse industry are not partisan," noted American Horse Council (AHC) president Jay Hickey. "Like most industries, our legislative concerns don't clearly split along party lines. Democrats may approach issues from a different perspective than Republicans, and vice-versa, but the industry works on a bi-partisan basis with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle."
Nonetheless, since the Democrats now hold larger majorities in both houses, there could be less partisan "gridlock" that has prevented Congress from acting on legislation in the past. But the margins are not so great that the Democrats can simply push through whatever they want. They will still need some Republican support, particularly in the Senate, to pass legislation.
Tax issues and the state of the economy will have a starring role in the coming months. The inclusion of the Equine Equity Act in the farm bill that was passed in the last Congress was a victory for the horse industry. Beginning in 2009, all racehorses will be depreciated over three years, regardless of when they are placed in service.
But the second part of the Equine Equity Act, which would reduce the holding period for horses to one year from two for capital gains purposes, was not passed. This issue will once again be pushed by the horse industry, along with the Pari-Mutuel Conformity and Equality Act, which would repeal the 25% withholding tax on winning wagers of more than $5,000 when the odds are at least 300-to-one.
The increase of the Section 179 expense deduction to $250,000, and the reinstatement of bonus depreciation, were included in last year's tax stimulus bill. Both expired at the end of 2008, but the American Horse Council thinks it is likely that Congress will extend both provisions in this year's stimulus bill. As Congress considers these bills, the AHC says it will be important to remind Congress of the $102 billion impact of the horse industry and the 1.4 million jobs the industry supports.
In the "old" issues category, the last Congress tried to enact comprehensive immigration reform several times, but failed.
The horse industry relies heavily on foreign labor. Some of this labor is provided by the H-2A agricultural and H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker programs, which are costly and inefficient, according to the AHC. In addition, the H-2B program is capped by Congress at 66,000 workers a year, making competition for these workers from all industries intense.
The AHC supports a comprehensive approach to our immigration problems that would address a better guest worker program and a way to handle undocumented workers in the United States. The last Congress considered the AgJobs bill, which dealt specifically with undocumented agricultural workers and would have reformed the H-2A program. In addition, the Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act would have provided some cap relief to H-2B users. Both of these bills will be debated again.
"The agricultural industry laid a good foundation for reform with the AgJobs bill, and that will be pushed again in this Congress," said Hickey. "Senator Obama and Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA), who has been nominated to be Secretary of Labor, supported AgJobs, so there is reason to hope for action in this Congress."
Internet gambling will continue to be a topic in Congress. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), passed in 2006, contains provisions protecting racing's activities allowed under the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA). However, rules adopted by the Bush Administration in November could prove troublesome to the industry. It is likely there will be efforts to modify the restrictions on Internet gambling during this Congress in order to regulate, license, and tax it. The horse industry will need to watch any such efforts closely to ensure that any legislation does not adversely impact the current interstate wagering allowed on pari-mutuel horse racing under the IHA.
In the last Congress, several bills were introduced to prohibit the shipping, transporting, or sale of horses for slaughter for human consumption, including the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act. It is likely the same bills will be reintroduced. The election of Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, replacing Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), could impact the passage of the slaughter prohibition bill. Congressman Waxman cosponsored the legislation in the last Congress, while Dingell did not.
Legislation was introduced in the last Congress to ensure equestrians are not unfairly excluded or removed from federal public lands to which they have traditionally had access, including the Right to Ride Livestock on Federal Lands Act and the Preserving our Equine Heritage on Public Lands Act. The American Horse Council will be working to make sure similar legislation is reintroduced. But the group says it will need substantial support from horse owners and recreational riders to have any chance of passing this legislation.
Other bills that could impact the horse industry are likely to come up, including the Travel Promotion Act, which could positively impact equine tourism.
No matter what legislation is introduced in the coming months, it will be important for the new Congress to hear from members of the horse industry. This is why the AHC, in cooperation with its member organizations, has launched a new grassroots initiative called the Congressional Cavalry program. All individual horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, trainers, competitors, recreational riders, service providers, or anyone who desire to join the grassroots efforts of the horse community in Washington, are encouraged to join. Through this free program the AHC will let you know when legislation that affects the horse industry is introduced and when and how to contact your members of Congress. To sign up for this program call the AHC at 202/296-4031.
Horse Shows by the Bay’s Dean and Alexandra Rheinheimer receive 2007 Community Champions Award from the Traverse City Visitor and Convention Bureau
Written by: Phelps Media Group, Inc.
Client: Horse Sports by the Bay, Inc.Release
Date: 2007-12-05 - Traverse City, MI – December 5, 2007
- November 11 2007
During the Nov. 2 American Horse Council (AHC) Issues Forum held in Lexington, Ky., AHC President Jay Hickey reviewed legislation and regulations pending at the federal level that could affect the horse industry.
Riding on Public Lands
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced Preserving our Equine Heritage on Public Lands Act (S. 2238) on Nov. 1. Senator Crapo introduced similar legislation in the last Congress. That legislation was known as the Right to Ride bill.
The new bill "recognizes the importance of saddle and pack stock in the settling, exploration, and recreation of our country by ensuring that the horse's historic and traditional use is recognized as our public lands are managed by the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service," noted a press release from AHC.
Hickey said the bill requires the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to manage the federal lands under their jurisdiction "in a manner that preserves and facilitates the continued use and access of pack and saddle stock animals" on lands on which "there is a historical tradition" of use. The bill applies to the management of the National Park System, BLM lands, National Wildlife Refuge System land, and National Forest System land.
The AHC statement noted that the bill provides that such lands "shall remain open and accessible to the use of pack and saddle stock animals" where there is a tradition of use, but does not limit the federal agencies' ultimate authority to restrict such use, provided the agencies perform the review required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. Hickey said the bill would impose specific procedures that agencies must follow before any land is closed to use by horses. These procedures include advance notice of any proposed reduction in use in order to allow public comment, convening a public meeting near the area involved, and collaboration with various users during the process.
The bill directs the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to issue a policy within 180 days of enactment that defines the meaning of "historical tradition of the use of pack and saddle stock animals" on federal lands.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Hickey said the AHC supports this legislation and asks all recreational riders to contact their Senators and encourage them to act on it.
AHC President James J. Hickey, Jr., spoke on federal changes affecting the horse industry.
This bill addresses depreciation on horses under federal tax law. According to the AHC, horses "must be held longer than other business assets to be subject to capital gains. Racehorse owners are required to make a decision regarding when to begin depreciating their racehorses that is not based on the expected racing life of the animals."
This bill was re-introduced on May 1 by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jim Bunning (R-KY), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) as S.1251. This type of legislation has been introduced before.
According to the AHC, this bill will end the "disparate treatment" of horse industry investments versus other businesses under the federal tax code. Specifically the legislation would 1) make horses eligible for capital gains treatment after 12 months, similar to other business assets; and 2) place all racehorses in the three-year category for depreciation purposes.
The operation of permanent private quarantine facilities under strict USDA regulation was proposed four years ago, Hickey said. There are only three import facilities in the United States, which all foreign animals, including horses, have to go through for import. The AHC and other groups have been calling for USDA to republish the rule proposal in order to allow the establishment and operation of permanent, privately owned quarantine facilities for horses entering the country permanently.
These facilities would have to be approved by the USDA's Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) and would maintain the same level of biological security standards as current permanent facilities operated by APHIS. Although the facility would be privately owned, at least one APHIS representative would be at the facility to oversee the care of horses during normal working hours.
This will be particularly important when hundreds of horses will be coming from around the world for the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
See www.TheHorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=10772 for information on other topics covered at the Forum.
November 07 2007
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced Nov. 1 the Preserving our Equine Heritage on Public Lands Act (S. 2238). This bill is similar to the so-called "Right-to-Ride" bill that Crapo introduced in the last Congress.
"Senator Crapo has been a champion of preserving riders' access to public lands," said American Horse Council (AHC) President Jay Hickey. "He has retooled the bill he introduced in the last Congress and we appreciate his steadfastness in introducing the legislation again. Equestrians are going to have to let Congress know that they are concerned about access to trails and public lands and that they support this bill if we hope to get it passed."
The bill directs the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to manage the federal lands under their jurisdiction "in a manner that preserves and facilitates the continued use and access of pack and saddle stock animals" on lands on which "there is a historical tradition" of use. The bill provides that such lands "shall remain open and accessible to the use of pack and saddle stock animals" where there is such a tradition. The bill applies to the management of the National Park System, BLM lands, National Wildlife Refuge System land, and National Forest System land.
The bill does not limit the federal agencies' ultimate authority to restrict such use, provided the agencies perform the review required under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The bill would also impose additional specific and designated procedures to be followed by agencies before any land closures. These procedures include advance notice of any proposed reduction in use to allow public comment, convening a public meeting near the area involved, and collaboration with various users during the process.
Those who enjoy riding on public lands have expressed concern about the reduction of trails and public lands available to horses and pack stock.
Click here for more information about the American Horse Council.
In an effort to better represent and serve the horse industry in Washington, DC, the American Horse Council and the Appaloosa Horse Club have organized a new grassroots effort entitled, “The Congressional Cavalry program.” ApHC members can participate and help to make a difference in federal legislation and regulations that affect the horse industry.
A new Congress will begin in January of 2009. If you care about the national issues that impact you and the horse community, now is the time to get involved.
All ApHC members, including owners, breeders, veterinarians, trainers, competitors, recreational riders, service providers, and others who wish to be involved in grassroots efforts in Washington are encouraged to join the Congressional Cavalry program. The purpose of the program is to enlist individuals from all segments of the horse industry and in every Congressional district who will agree to contact their Representative/Senator or federal official when asked.
Cavalry members will be mobilized when there is a need for grassroots contacts, such as letters and phone calls. Members of the program will be put on an email or fax list so they can be contacted and activated quickly. The AHC will provide participants with whatever information is necessary. Participants will be free to do as much as they feel comfortable doing.
If you want to sign up or have any additional questions about the Congressional Cavalry program, please contact the American Horse Council at 2o2-296-4031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AHC’s Congressional Cavalry Program Grows
April 16, 2008, Washington, DC - The Congressional Cavalry, organized by the American Horse Council and some of its member organizations, continues to grow. “The most recent organizations to sign on are the American Paint Horse Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, the American Saddlebred Horse Association, and the U.S. Equestrian Federation,” said AHC President Jay Hickey. “They join the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the U.S. Trotting Association. We’d like to have many more of our member organizations participating by the end of the year.”
The Congressional Cavalry was formed last year by the AHC in an effort to better represent and serve the horse industry before Congress. All horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, trainers, competitors, recreational riders, service providers, and anyone who desires to be involved in grassroots efforts in Washington may join the Congressional Cavalry .
“If we can involve just one person from a few of our member organizations in each Congressional district with an expressed desire to be involved in the grassroots effort, think of the potential effect that could have when contacting Representatives or Senators about issues important to the horse industry,” said Hickey. “That’s a lot of ‘Horse Power’.”
“Just like the real Cavalry, the Congressional Cavalry will be called upon when needed. This will not be a lot of work. Last summer, when the appropriations bill for the Department of Agriculture surfaced with a misguided provision that could have shut down the interstate and international movement of horses, we activated the and other Congressional Cavalry organizations and were able to point out the problems the bill would have caused. We got a great response and the provision was changed before the House voted on it,” said Hickey.
The AHC will provide participants with whatever information is required to take action. Participants will be contacted as necessary and activated quickly. “We hope the Cavalry will eventually provide the base for additional activities like visits with Members of Congress back home; invitations to Members of Congress to visit a facility or event; and regular reports to Congress about activities back in the district that illustrate the importance of the horse industry to the state and local economy, sport and recreational life,” said Hickey.
Anyone who wants to enlist in the Cavalry or has additional questions about the program should contact the American Horse Council at 202-296-4031 or email@example.com.
CORWITH TWP. -- Work to replace a bridge will have traffic headed to the Pigeon River Country State Forest by way of Sturgeon Valley Road detoured for the next 12 weeks.
The bridge, which spans the Pigeon River just west of Pigeon Bridge Campground, is “old and falling apart,” according to Mike Roper, director of the Otsego County Road Commission (OCRC). Allegan-based contractors Milbocker & Sons began work on the bridge Monday.
Detours are in place, but some Vanderbilt merchants are concerned the three-month-long road closure could hurt their businesses (see story below).
The project involves the complete removal and replacement of the bridge. Roper said the project will benefit the river by widening the span.
“It always improves the river system when a new bridge is put in,” Roper said, adding no records could be found to verify the year in which the bridge was built.
The bridge will be two lanes and will be a free span of 75 feet with no support structure in the river, just as it is now.
The Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) put out a press release on the construction Tuesday.
Project manager Pete Tornes said measures will be taken to protect and improve the river as the project progresses — from using steel sheeting and a barge to catch and contain demolition debris, to surrounding the bridge abutments with natural fieldstone riprap to stabilize the sloping riverbank. Black silk fence will also prevent erosion and contain debris.
Eight hundred feet of approach work on either end of the bridge will be carried out after the bridge is complete to prevent damage to the roadway by trucks and heavy machinery.
Tornes said the crew is excited about the project because of the natural setting.
“It’s a nice area,” he said. “My crew would stay up there all summer if we wanted them to.”
Milbocker & Sons’ bid for the project is $783,684 — 95 percent of which will be paid for by state funds. OCRC will pay the other 5 percent.
Motorists from Vanderbilt can take Sturgeon Valley Road east six miles to Dudd Road, head south to Old Vanderbilt Road/Black River Trail, then north on Round Lake Road back to Sturgeon Valley Road, ending up within a mile east of Pigeon Bridge. Traffic from Gaylord will be diverted by way of M-32 East, Wilkinson Road, Marquardt Road, Sparr Road and Tin Shanty Road, a route of approximately 20 miles from Gaylord to the Pigeon River Country State Forest Headquarters. Additionally, motorists from I-75 can go east from Wolverine on Webb Road eight miles, then take Osmun Road seven miles south to headquarters.
The Shingle Mill Pathway trail head is at the headquarters; Pigeon Bridge Campground is a few miles southwest.
The project is expected to be complete in early August, barring any weather extremes.
Some Vanderbilt businesses fear drop in tourism
VANDERBILT -- Some Vanderbilt businesses are worried the three-month-long closure of Sturgeon Valley Road this spring and summer could reduce the number of tourists passing through the “Gateway to the Pigeon.”
Pigeon Bridge, which crosses the Pigeon River approximately nine miles east of Vanderbilt, is being replaced this summer (see related story). Detours to the Pigeon River Country State Forest by way of back roads off Sturgeon Valley Road, or from Gaylord or Wolverine are available, but business owners still fear tourists will be fewer this year.
“It’s another nail in my coffin,” said Dave Embree, owner of Vanderbilt Village Market, a grocery store and gas station on the northeast corner of Old 27 and Sturgeon Valley Road. He said visitors to the Pigeon account for 25 percent of his business this time of year and would have preferred the work be done in the fall.
The closure only adds to his stresses of competing with other chain grocery stores.
“What can you do?” he said. “The mom and pop shops are about done for.”
Pat Fetters, owner of Red Wing Services and Whippy Dip ice cream shop five miles north of Vanderbilt, doesn’t get too many tourists to the Pigeon at her store but feels she’ll see even fewer.
“The only impact it might have on us is the holiday weekends, when it’s hot and campers come for ice cream,” she said. “People might not be willing to come because of the detours they need to go through.”
She feels the closure will “definitely have an impact” on the other businesses in Vanderbilt.
Nikki Raatz, bartender at Ugly Bar & Grill on Main Street in Vanderbilt, feels much of her business is local, but she might see a slight drop in customers.
“We just had a couple guys in today (Tuesday) that had lunch and were on their way out to the Pigeon to look for mushrooms,” she said.
Vicki Wilson, owner of White Wolf Inn just south of Vanderbilt on Old 27, expects more of a slump.
“I think it’ll slow things right down,” she said. “Most of our business right now is trout fishermen and mushroom hunters.”
The ELCR is the only national organization dedicated to saving land for horse-related activities. The organization’s goals are to get horsemen to understand the magnitude of the land loss issue and to guide them in taking grassroots action to preserve open space. Breyer created a special model horse from which a portion of the proceeds will create a fund to help local groups preserve land for equine use through the ELCR. Breyer has pledged a minimum of $20,000 to the ELCR over two years.
“Loss of land use for equestrian activities cuts across all breeds and disciplines and affects everyone who loves horses,” said Stephanie Macejko, Breyer’s Vice President of Marketing & Product Development, and a frequent trail rider. “That’s why we named the Equestrian Land Conservation Resource as the beneficiary of our 2008 Breyer Benefit Model program and why we will continue this
program with the ELCR in 2009. If we don’t act, the land we ride on, drive through, pasture and raise our horses on will be gone.”
“It’s not enough to be aware,” agrees Deb Balliet, ELCR CEO. “You have to take action and be advocates in understanding and conveying appreciation of the value of horses.”
The Highland Equestrian (Land) Conservancy, the first of its kind in
Plans are underway for hitching posts and stabling for equestrians to ride into the horse-friendly town. The Conservancy has already established two greenways with riding trails around local housing developments. The HEC is working on two more to create a network. The “Highland Model” is now recognized as a strategy for preserving the rural character of developing townships. Information on the Highland Equestrian Conservancy can be found at www.highlandequestrians.org.
Applying For Funds
To support the program, Breyer has created two new model horses for 2009 in ELCR/Breyer branded custom-designed boxes that also contain an application to apply for funding. The ELCR Benefit models will be available from January-December 2009 at specialty toy stores, tack shops, and agricultural retailers nationwide in specially marked displays. Details about applying for funding will also be available online at www.breyerhorses.com or www.elcr.com.
Those hoof prints have largely vanished nowadays, thanks to land use regulations restricting equestrians from many trails on state-owned public lands.
But the thunder of hoof beats is growing louder these days, as local equestrian groups join a new statewide fight to save their right to ride.
The main weapons in their arsenal: House Bill 4610 and Senate Bill 578, which would restore equestrian access to any state trails with a historical tradition of use by pack and saddle animals.
The bills were a response to the state's decision in May 2008 to restrict horse and mountain bike access within much of Pigeon River Country's 118,000-acre state forest in the northern lower peninsula, home to the largest free-roaming elk herd in the eastern U.S.
"The closures at Pigeon River were just the last straw that broke the camel's back. We've been losing our rights for decades, from one area to another across the state," said Shiawassee Trail Riders president Norma Laine of Davison Township. "We firmly believe it is the hidden agenda of some fringe groups to ban other people's rights to what they consider their own private forests."
The proposed legislation has energized trail riding clubs and sent a shock wave of alarm through other user groups worried how this might impact their own rights to Michigan's trails.
"Public lands are there for everyone's recreational use and have to be managed to minimize user conflicts and protect and promote wildlife habitat," said Dave Nyberg, spokesman for Michigan United Conservation Clubs. "I can certainly understand why the horse community is upset and we're trying to figure out a way we can all compromise.
"But the legislation they've proposed is so broad it would impact the entire state. It would essentially mean you could ride your horse down Grand River Avenue in Lansing, depending on the cut-off date they use to claim historical tradition."
But riders say they need to make big demands in order to reach a fair compromise.
"We lost Lapeer about 10 years ago when they changed it to a state game area, and Holly Recreation Area was taken away from us probably 20 years ago to give the trails to the mountain bikers. There are even some counties up north where horseback riding (on public land) has been totally eliminated," said Laine. "That's why we're calling this movement 'Pigeon River and Beyond.' We feel they've gone after us from one area to another. It's time to preserve and restore our riding rights by whatever means we can."
As the movement grows, more and more riders are flocking to still-open trails like the Genesee County Parks-run Elba Equestrian Complex in Oregon Township and the state-owned Ortonville Recreation Area.
"All our riding trails were packed on Memorial Day weekend. There wasn't a single blade of grass at Elba that didn't have either a horse or a horse trailer on it," said Genesee County Parks director Amy McMillan. "I think there is a real sense of urgency with trail riders about the issue, a sort of 'use it or lose it' thought pattern."
Ortonville Recreation Equestrian Association president Steve Keim agreed. It's been hard to get individuals together, Keim said, but not so anymore.
"There's a lot of misinformation out there about the impact of horses on trails and hunter and wildlife conflicts. But the truth of the matter is horse people are the ones maintaining a lot of trails that provide access for hunters," said Keim. "There are a lot claims made with no scientific evidence to back it up."
Nyberg said science-based land management is exactly what the MUCC and DNR are trying to protect.
Designated trails and routes for ORVs, snowmobiles, mountain bikes and horses help limit natural resource damage and avoid user conflicts. Giving horse people carte blanch access would make it nearly impossible to block trails even when environmental damage is an issue, said Nyberg.
"And then what do you do when someone else is in power in another two years? Give the same rights to the next group that comes along?"
The issue could boil down to whether such laws would jeopardize nearly $25 million in federal resource management funds the state receives from fish and game revenues and other restricted funds. By law, use of any land purchased or maintained with those funds must be managed in ways consistent with that original intent.
That's got even some Right to Ride supporters nervous.
"I firmly support the horse people's rights but my first priority has got to be protecting that $25 million," said Sen. John Gleason, D-Flushing, who hosted a Right to Ride town hall meeting in Mundy Township on May 27 that drew 223 riders from across the state. "We've got to make certain those federal funds aren't jeopardized and my office is trying to get those answered."
Horse people say it's all just political spin.
"We've been told horses are against the management concept of keeping Pigeon River Country 'The Big Wild.' But I've never understood how they can say that when they allow lumbering and oil drilling," said Jean Dodge of Burns Township.
"Bottom line, horses helped build this country when the settlers came in and they were the original means of transportation all over these forests. They want to talk about consistent land use? Horses were one of the original uses."
There were close to 300 people concerned with trail access for equestrian use. Guest speakers discussed current legislation that would have a positive impact on equine trail access. The seven representatives present from the Michigan Legislature stressed the importance of talking to your individual House and Senate representatives on a weekly basis to let them know this is an important issue. Steve Didier from Back Country Horsemen of America talked about the positive results that are achieved through working together with other stakeholders. Michigan Equine Partners, Michigan Horse Council, and Farm Bureau of Michigan are partners in support of our mission.
The meeting ended with the realization that we need a state wide action plan. If you would like to get involved in preserving and protecting our trails and retaining access to Michigan's public lands, please, come to the next meeting at Jay's Sporting Goods store in Clare, Michigan on February 28, 2009 at !:00 p.m. The public is welcome and bring a friend!
Questions: Connie Kleinhardt (989) 386-2910