Tomorrow a local boarding stable will close its doors. Next week a public trail will no longer allow equine access. Next month a farm will become a subdivision and the following year another hay field will convert to corn.
How many boarding stables, trails, competition venues, hayfields and small farms or ranches have you seen disappear from your community over the past decade? How many more are threatened by encroaching development and changing landscapes and how many will still be there in the next ten, five or even two years?
Although horses do not play as significant a role in our daily lives as they once did, they still remain an extremely powerful icon of our rich American heritage and culture. However, with increasing familiarity both horsemen and non-horsemen have witnessed open areas that were once horse lands, taken over by development.
Poorly planned, uncontrolled development or sprawl, population growth and a citizenry that is increasingly unfamiliar with livestock are the greatest threats to equestrians and horse land owners today. Urbanization and sprawl are increasingly putting pressures on land for horses and horse related activities putting the equine experience further out of reach for many. In those places where horse people are organized they are grouped by discipline — with some crossover and interaction — but they are, for the most part, splintered and not organized as an equine community with common interests. As a result, they are usually left out or under-represented when zoning, land use and development policies are being formulated.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that if we want to keep horses in our local communities where we live and work than every horsemen needs to be aware of the threats of land loss and what can be done to protect local horse lands. Recognizing that conservation is a local issue the Equine Land Conservation Resource recently released a three year strategic 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 will disseminate educational materials, expertise and other resources to support horse land conservation activities at the grass root level.
“We are excited to begin this new phase of our work here at ELCR,” 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 www.elcr.org/strategic-plan.
ELCR, recommends horsemen do the following to ensure horses remain in their communities.
- Stay aware – watch for potential emerging land related issues in your community. Far too often horsemen react only when an issue becomes a crisis.
- Get organized – Initiate a trail or riding club with equine advocacy and land protection in your mission. Getting Organized: Creating an Equestrian Trails Organization https://elcr.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Getting-Organized.pdf is a good resource.
- 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 visit https://elcr.org/conservation-resources/farms-and-ranch-land/
- Educate yourself – understand local planning and zoning issues and what can be done to impact them. Many resources on this topic are available at https://elcr.org/conservation-resources/community-land-use-planning/ Become familiar with the various conservation tools which could be utilized in your community by visiting https://elcr.org/conservation-resources/helpful-publications-and-links/
- Practice advocacy – non horsemen need to know why horse are important to our communities. Educate them on the benefits of horses. Visit https://elcr.org/conservation-resources/equine-economic-impact/ to learn more
- Stay connected – learn what other groups our doing in your state or around the country by staying connected to state, reginal and national equine organizations. If your local organization is interested in going the ELCR national network contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org