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[RC] Appeal of Horse Restrictions to Designated Trails in Southern NF - Jim Holland

On April 29th, 2004 the Back Country Horsemen of East Tennessee and Back Country Horsemen of America filed an appeal of the Forest Service Plans for the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests in Georgia.  The Georgia appeal contended that “Given the overbroad restriction on horse and pack stock activity pursuant to FW-127, the lack of sufficient environmental analysis related to the alternative containing that restriction and the other reasons set forth herein, the Re­gional Forester’s decision was arbitrary, capricious and not in accordance with applicable law”.

FW-127 in the Chattahoochee/Oconee LMP restricted horses to designated trails and trailheads and numbered FS roads.  In addition, the land manager for the Chattahoochee/Oconee NF imposed the additional restriction of no NEW trails…..fixing the available trails to 262 miles in 865,000 acres.  Only one of those trails is over 10 miles. The Brasstown Ranger District (where I live) has NO designated horse trails in the entire district. There are also no designated trails in the 9,476 acre Rich Mountain Wilderness nearby.

On July 25, 2006 the Chief Forester issued a Record or Decision (ROD) on the appeals for the Cherokee, Chattahoochee, and Oconee National Forests. The decision (for the Chattahoochee and Oconee) stated that:

“The Regional Forester is directed to either demonstrate that the analysis exists to support implementing Standard FW-127, or to con­duct additional site specific analysis, including public involvement, regarding the need for and impacts of the decision to restrict horse and pack stock to designated routes.  Until such analysis is provided or completed, Standard FW-127 may not be implemented, and is subject to modification depending on the outcome of the analysis.

The instructions regarding implementation of Standard FW-127 apply equally to horse and pack stock use within designated Wilder­ness.”

You can read the entire ROD for all the Southern National Forests at:  http://www.fs.fed.us/emc/applit/nhappdec.htm

This means that for the time being, horses in the Chattahoochee, Oconee, and Cherokee National forests are again considered “foot traffic” and (for now) are not restricted to designated trails, trailheads, and Forest Service Roads for riding and camping. 

We are extremely grateful to the Back Country Horsemen of America, Mike McClelland, President of Back Country Horsemen of East Tennessee (packhorse@xxxxxxxxxxx ) and Kenny Higgins, Vice-president of Southern Appalachian Back Country Horsemen (khiggins@xxxxxxxxx) who put together the team that filed the appeal.  FW-127 not only impacted our right to ride the National Forests of Georgia, but could have had a severe impact on land values and the equine industry as a whole. For future reference, be aware that the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Governor’s office SUPPORTED the FS decision to implement FW-127.  If you live in Georgia, keep that in mind when you talk to your Georgia elected officials and vote in the upcoming elections. The horse industry in Georgia contributes over $750 million dollars to our economy each year..

This should be a wake-up call for all equestrians.  It is hoped that the equestrians who ride our Southern National Forests will use good judgment when recreating there, practice “Leave No Trace” principles, and be considerate of other users. It is important that we built a strong state-wide trails organization and make every effort to be good stewards of our public lands.  Note that as stated in the ROD, the FS could still implement this restriction if subsequent additional analysis justifies this action. Let’s make sure it doesn’t. If you live in Georgia or Tennessee and would like to support BCH, we would welcome your membership in one of our affiliates.  You can download a membership application from the appropriate website.

Back Country Horsemen of North Georgiawww.bchng.org

Back Country Horsemen of Middle and South Georgiawww.bchsg.org

Southern Appalachian Back Country Horsemen – www.sabch.org

Back Country Horsemen of East Tennesseewww.bchet.org

Jim, Sun of Dimanche+, and Mahada Magic

Richard T. "Jim" Holland

Secretary – Back Country Horsemen of North Georgia

Webmaster – Southern Appalachian Back Country Horsemen


Three Creeks Farm

175 Hells Hollow Drive

Blue Ridge, Ga 30513

(706) 258-2830


Callsign KI4BEN