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Charlie Russell Chapter of Back Country Horsemen Wins the 2006 National Stewardship Award

The Charlie Russell Chapter of Back Country Horsemen was presented with a check for $1,000 as the winner of the Trail Trotters Day National Stewardship Award 2006 for its outstanding efforts in restoring Trail #454 in the Highwood Mountains, part of the Lewis and Clarke National Forest near Great Falls, Montana. Known as the Windy Loop Trail, #454 begins at the Thain Creek Campground and is a popular starting point for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, but it had suffered severe damage due to torrential rains in 2005. Although the trail remained open, “deep ruts in narrow places made the experienced and beginner alike wish they had stayed home”, said Mark Himmel, project leader for the group. “The likely possibility of an injury to horse and human caused many people to avoid using the area all together.”

After months of ground work with the Forest Service, the Charlie Russell group had a plan in place and on this past National Trails Day, 28 crew members provided 252 volunteer hours to haul more than 5 tons of clay and gravel by horseback, 50 loads in all, to complete repairs to the trail and return it to a safe condition for all outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.

The Charlie Russell Chapter was one of 59 Trail Trotter projects in 30 states across the nation that took place on June 3rd. A panel of experts evaluated each project that was submitted for judging based on its involvement in the community as well as its sustainability. Said Melanie Heacock, a member of the panel, “This was a very complicated, even dangerous project hauling 5 tons of material long distances to repair a deeply rutted and unusable trail. Much attention was paid to safety concerns and to meeting Forest Service standards.” ELCR Board member and Montana resident Ben Pierce echoed these thoughts. “The Lewis and Clarke National Forest is particularly grateful for efforts such as the Charlie Russell Back Country Horsemen in helping them meet their stewardship needs.” He congratulated the group “for the diverse and challenging efforts you made on repairing this trail, and for showing how important equestrian use can be in maintaining many of our public resources.” According to Mark Himmel, the award will be used to produce educational materials for horseback riders heading into the back country.

2006 was the second year of ELCR’s Trail Trotters Day, which is held in conjunction with National Trails Day in order to promote horseback riders’ involvement in the repair and restoration of trails and trailheads in their communities, thus demonstrating their commitment to care for the land they use. For more information regarding ELCR or its Trail Trotters Program contact Kandee Haertel at P.O. Box 423, Elizabeth, IL 61028; phone (8150 858-3501; email: info@elcr.org; website: http://www.elcr.org.


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