Conserving Land Begins Locally
AAlthough horses don’t play as significant a role in our daily lives as they once did, they still remain a powerful icon of our rich American heritage and culture. However, open areas that were once horse lands and riding trails are being taken over by development. The greatest threats to equestrians and horse-property owners today are poorly planned, uncontrolled development; population growth; and a citizenry unfamiliar with livestock.
Urbanization and sprawl are increasingly creating pressure to develop land used for horses and trails, moving the equine experience further out of reach for many.
In those places where horsepeople are organized to preserve equine land, they’re grouped by discipline — with some crossover and interaction — but, for the most part, they’re not organized as an equine community with common interests. As a result, they’re usually left out or underrepresented when zoning, land use, and development policies are being formulated.
A Three-Year Plan
To protect horse lands and trails in our local communities, we first need to be aware of the threats of land loss, then we need to know what we can do about it. Recognizing this, the Equine Land Conservation Resource recently released a three-year stra- tegic plan focusing on assisting communities with local land-loss issues.
The plan lays out how ELCR will enhance its existing capacity to be more actively engaged at the local level. ELCR will expand its existing network of equine and land conservation organizations to include more local organizations. Giving these groups the opportunity to learn from one another, be united by a shared commitment, and share successes and failures will strengthen local equine land conservation efforts.
The expanded network will act as a unified voice on behalf of the horse both in response to crisis and in shaping public support and local policies. Network members will help inform ELCR and shape its programs and services, and disseminate educational materials, expertise, and other resources to support conservation activities at the grassroots level.
“We are excited to begin this new phase of our work,” said ELCR Executive Director Holley Groshek. “Working more closely in partnership with local, community-based organizations will help accelerate the conservation of local horse lands in order to protect the future of the horse in America.” The ELCR 2016-2018 Strategic Plan is available at https://elcr.org/strategic-plan/.
ELCR recommends horsepeople do the following to help ensure horses remain in their communities. • Stay aware. Watch for emerging landrelated issues in your community. Don’t wait until an issue becomes a crisis. • Get organized. Initiate a trail or riding club with equine advocacy and land protection in your mission. One good resource is Getting Organized: Creating an Equestrian Trails Organization (https://elcr.org/ wp-content/uploads/2014/08/GettingOrganized.pdf). • Be inclusive. Reach out to other breed and discipline groups to have greater impact on local issues, as well as the local conservation community. • Be responsible. Practice good land stewardship on your own property and the land on which you ride. Encourage good stewardship practices in the next generation. (To find out more, go to https://elcr. org/conservation-resources/farms-andranch-land.) • Become educated. Understand local planning and zoning issues and what can be done to impact them. (For resources, go to https://elcr.org/conservation-resources/ community-land-use-planning/ and https://elcr.org/conservation-resources/ helpful-publications-and-links/.) • Practice advocacy. People who don’t ride need to know why horses are important to our communities. Educate them on the benefits of horses. (To learn how, go to https://elcr.org/conservation-resources/ equine-economic-impact/.) • Stay connected. Learn what other groups are doing by staying connected to state, regional, and national equine organizations. If your local organization is interested in connecting with the ELCR
national network, contact us at info@ elcr.org.
One good example of a local organization working to keep horses in its community amid development pressures is the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition in Orange County, California.
The SJCEC educates the public on the positive benefits of living and working in an equestrian community. It supports equestrians by providing educational workshops, funding equine safety measures for the community, and supporting equestrian use and access areas.
ELCR’s mission is to assist all types of equestrians in their endeavors and to preserve these traditions for generations to come. TTR The Equine Land Conservation Resource is the only national not-for-profit organization advancing the conservation of land for horse-related activity. ELCR serves as an information resource and clearinghouse for land and horse owners on issues related to equine land conservation, land-use planning, land- stewardship, best management practices, trails, liability, and equine economic development. For more information, call (859) 455-8383, or visit www.elcr.org.
Open areas that were once horse lands and riding trails are being taken over by development. Equine Land Conservation Resource has launched a three-year plan to help keep horses in local communities.