What about horses?

  Dear HCN,
As a dedicated mountain bike enthusiast and wilderness preservation advocate, I take keen interest in the divergent opinions expressed by Carroll and Hasenauer in “Do mountain bikes belong in the wilderness” (HCN, 3/3/03: The Wild Card). I frequently ruminate over both sides of this debate when enjoying wilderness outings, by foot, in designated areas. When it’s all said and done, I find myself agreeing with the position of Carroll that my bike simply does not belong in wilderness areas.

But what about the domesticated horse? Horse use conjures romantic images and traditional notions of backcountry travel in the U.S. Indeed, pack-stock travel was so commonplace in Aldo Leopold’s time that he conceived of wilderness as representing an area large enough to accommodate a two-week pack-stock trip. And while stock use has presumably decreased since the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964, the ecological impacts associated with horse use in primitive areas are undeniable. One only has to consider the major impacts to trails from horse use due to erosion, informal trail development, muddy quagmires and soil compaction.

True, mountain bikes may have similar, yet far less-intensive impacts on trails. And while Carroll astutely notes how the now lighter and technologically advanced mountain bikes enable riders to venture deeper in the wilderness, the overall impact of bikes pale in comparison to those inflicted by the heavy weight of a horse, which is carried on a small, and usually shod, hoof.

So what does all this mean? Should travel in wilderness areas be regulated on the basis of two primary criteria: Travel that is both nonmechanized and solely human-powered? Maybe so, if wilderness areas are to be managed in the spirit of the law, in a manner that “will leave them unimpaired for future use” and ensure the “preservation of the wilderness character.” In the meantime, the discussion over which type of human travel belongs in wilderness cannot be taken to a logical and perhaps fruitful end without bringing the horse, as well as the bike, into the debate.

Brad T. Clark
Fort Collins, Colorado
High Country News Classifieds
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Amargosa Conservancy (AC), a conservation nonprofit dedicated to standing up for water and biodiversity in the Death Valley region, seeks an executive director to...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • EVENTS AND ANNUAL FUND COORDINATOR
    The Events and Annual Fund Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating the Henry's Fork Foundation's fundraising events for growing the membership base, renewing and...
  • EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Position Description: The Education Director is the primary leader of Colorado Canyons Association's (CCA) education programs for students and adults on the land and rivers...
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • WATERSHED RESTORATION DIRECTOR
    $58k-$70k + benefits to oversee watershed restoration projects that fulfill our strategic goals across urban and rural areas within the bi-national Santa Cruz and San...