Back Country Horsemen of Oregon History

The roots of Back Country Horsemen of Oregon (BCHO) can be traced back to the visionary efforts of Flathead BCH members Roland Cheek and Jack Watts in 1977, who initiated the idea of a state organization in Enterprise. However, the seeds truly took root in 1989 when Don McPherson from Idaho played a pivotal role in organizing the High Desert Trail Riders chapter in Klamath Falls. Success followed in 1991 with the establishment of the Blue Mountain chapter in La Grande and, subsequently, the formation of the Tiller BCH in 1994.

Three Sister Wildernes in Winter

A significant milestone occurred on May 4, 1996, when the High Desert Trail Riders brought together representatives from the Oregon Coast Horse Association, High Desert Trail Riders BCH, Blue Mountain BCH, and interested individuals from the Hood River area. With the support of Randy Darling, BCHA president, and Al Pitts from BCH of Washington, the inaugural organizational meeting of Back Country Horsemen of Oregon took place in Hood River. Interim officers, including Howard Bailey, Fred Jette, Dan Applebaker, and Becky Clark, were appointed to guide the organization in its early stages.

By the second meeting in Bend on November 23, 1996, additional chapters joined the cause, including Coos BCH and Columbia Gorge BCH, while the Tiller group and the Oregon Coast Horse Association opted not to pursue membership. A crucial donation of $1,000 from HDTRBCH ensured the fledgling BCHO’s survival in its first year.

In May 1996, affiliate members of Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) and other horse enthusiasts gathered in Hood River to officially form the Oregon State Organization of Back Country Horsemen. The application to BCHA was successful, and in April 1997, Back Country Horsemen of Oregon (BCHO) was accepted into BCHA during the National Board Meeting in Plain, Washington.

Since its inception, BCHO has flourished, expanding from four member chapters in 1997 to ten active chapters today: Columbia Gorge, Coos, East Cascades, Emerald Empire, High Desert Trail Riders, North Umpqua, Sourdough, Steens, West Cascade, and the most recent addition, Territorial Riders. State membership has grown substantially, from 129 memberships in 1997 to 350 family/single memberships in 2012. Moreover, the Back Country Horsemen of America has seen remarkable nationwide growth, boasting over 16,000 members.

In its inaugural year, BCHO demonstrated a commitment to volunteerism, amassing 3,620 man-hours, 168 days of stock use, and 11,296 miles of stock hauling on public land projects. The organization’s focus remains on keeping backcountry trails open for stock users, enhancing trailheads and stock-oriented campgrounds, and educating recreational stock users through Leave No Trace (LNT) training sessions and an annual three-day packing clinic sponsored by HDTRBCH in Klamath Falls. The evidence of this dedication is reflected in the significant increase in volunteer time, with 9,080 man-hours, 56,472 miles driven, and 828 stock-days donated in 2011.

The enduring commitment of Back Country Horsemen of Oregon to its parent organization was further exemplified by the Coos chapter’s sponsorship of the 2003 BCHA National Board Meeting in Coos Bay, Oregon. The rich history and growth of BCHO stand as a testament to the passion and dedication of its members in preserving equestrian access to Oregon’s wilderness and backcountry.

Back Country Horsemen of America History

The formation of Back Country Horsemen of America took place in Montana ‘s Flathead Valley in January of 1973. Since then BCH progress is a matter of record. BCH members have used their specialized knowledge of stock and the backcountry to bring about changes and modifications of restrictive management. BCH has participated in many agency meetings on land use planning and regulations and has become a strong voice for continued, responsible, horse use. This responsible approach has assured a valid consideration regarding regulations and planning and has given BCH the support of other conservation groups.

Growth of the Back Country Horsemen organization continued with formation of additional clubs in Montana . In 1979 these clubs and one from Salmon, Idaho formed the Back Country Horsemen of America. Three more Montana clubs and one from Idaho were added in the next few years.

The Back Country Horsemen of Washington was incorporated in 1977 and developed an informal liaison with the Montana and Idaho Back Country Horsemen. In 1981 a California organization, the High Sierra Stock Users, was formed. After several years of discussion the four groups decided to merge, using the Back Country Horsemen of America name. A constitution was drafted in 1985 and adopted in 1986. It provided that the governing body of this new organization would be a board of directors elected from each state. Montana , Idaho , California and Washington Back Country Horsemen units became the BCHA. Since that time there has been a steady growth within the four founding states organizations. By 1996 there were additional state organizations in Arizona , Nevada , New Mexico , North Carolina , Utah and Wyoming Additionally there were affiliate chapters in Colorado , Oregon , British Columbia and Alberta , Canada .