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Backcountry Horsemen of California and the Tuolumne River Trust

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Source: Mid Valley Monthly from the Backcountry Horsemen of California - Mid Valley Unit
Date: May 2014
Journalist: Debra Mason


In much the same way that a group of horse trail enthusiasts formed BCH, a group of concerned rafters formed the Tuolumne River Trust (TRT) in 1981 and were eventually successful in having 83 miles of the Tuolumne River designated as “Wild and Scenic.” A three-dam hydroelectric project from the river’s headwaters to Don Pedro Reservoir was not constructed due to this "Wild and Scenic" designation. Since then, TRT has managed to protect the Tuolumne and its tributaries from other attempts to manipulate the river and divert its resources out of the area. The Tuolumne is now #8 on the list of Most Endangered American Rivers. In 2006, the TRT convinced the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to adopt an “Environmental Stewardship Policy” for the first time in its history and to establish significant missions and goals. Namely, to seek a healthy river that is:

•Teeming with fish and wildlife
•Safe for drinking, fishing and swimming
•Held in trust as a refuge for our children and grandchildren

The Tuolumne River Trust is a voice for the river. They promote stewardship of the Tuolumne through:

•Education, community outreach and adventures

•Collaboration with a diverse array of stakeholders

•On-the-ground restoration projects

•Advocacy and grassroots organizing to demonstrate public support for their work

Among other TRT goals, there are ongoing efforts in the Sierra Nevada to protect untouched tributaries like the Clavey River from development and to provide quality flows for healthy fish and recreation.

Right in our backyard there are efforts to create a more natural floodplain as well as a healthier river for people to enjoy and for fish to thrive. Also, their efforts include restoration of stream- side habitats for the wide variety of species that inhabit river corridors.

Mid Valley BCHC can participate in this continuing effort.
While there are plans for eventual trail systems and equestrian opportunities, right now there is an urgent need for clean up and garbage removal. There is remarkable community support for this effort and there are specific spots where use of pack stock is a very realistic option. Most specifically, these spots are in steep, rugged or eroded locations which are unreachable with standard mechanized equipment. The indigent community is being pushed out, leaving behind their furniture, shopping carts, etc. Many items (including old tires) have become embedded in the river and along its banks. I am planning to arrange some special cleanup efforts during the summer season and will eventually be calling for volunteers. Please watch this newsletter for more information.