Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee released a draft report outlining an actionable plan – and associated costs – for removing the lower Snake River dams (LSRDs) and replacing their services. The report clearly shows removing the LSRDs is not only feasible but fiscally responsible to improve the region’s long-term infrastructure and to save Idaho’s iconic salmon and steelhead.  READ MORE

27. May 2022 · Comments Off on Western Riding Club – Equine Education Day · Categories: Around The Campfire, Education

27. May 2022 · Comments Off on lower Snake River dam debate · Categories: Around The Campfire

It seems the lower Snake River dam debate is always one side against the other: fish versus agriculture, hydropower versus alternatives, or “my science” versus “your science”. The question is: Who is actually winning?

We know fish and fish reliant communities aren’t. There are annual discussions about what restrictions will be put in place for fishing: shortened seasons, reduced limits, or entire stretches of water closed to fishing all due to worsening fish returns. Our hatchery system was built specifically to mitigate the loss of harvestable wild salmon and steelhead to the hydropower system, but increasingly we worry if we’ll have enough hatchery fish return to provide minimum broodstock needs, let alone a recreational fishery. Luckily, this year’s spring chinook return is looking better than previous years and is forecasted to be near Idaho’s ten-year average. This is good news, but combining wild and hatchery goals for a healthy and harvestable population set by the Columbia Basin Task Force, we’re forecasted to be about 25% of Idaho’s 217,000 fish goal.

Shippers seem to be making out well, but only because the rest of us pay for it. Wheat is the main commodity shipped through the lower four Snake River dams, about 90% of which is shipped overseas. Our taxpayer dollars currently prop up every barge – the latest estimates are well over $30,000 per barge – to keep river transportation cheap. I’m not saying the dams don’t provide value to those who barge, but it comes at a cost to taxpayers. Our dollars keep shipping cheap, not the barges themselves. Why not take those dollars and use them in a way that will boost the area’s economy through necessary infrastructure upgrades that help fish and support rural river communities at the same time? If we consciously choose a system that has so few winners at everyone else’s expense, then we have a system that is failing us all. If there is a way to provide transportation services for farmers that don’t impact their bottom line and get our fish back – and there is – let’s do that.

Even power consumers aren’t really winning. Much of Idaho’s power comes from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a federal power marketing administration required to sell energy at cost. BPA is currently about $15 billion in debt, and recently had its borrowing authority more than doubled to accommodate its coming debt growth. This should concern BPA customers, whose rates are slowly rising in an attempt to pay off that debt. Yet another cost is borne by us all. Not to mention 30% of each BPA bill goes towards projects aimed at recovering fish, an effort that simply hasn’t worked.

Our current system clearly has many losers. Don’t we want this to change? Bypassing the lower Snake River dams would cost money, but it wouldn’t be wasted. It could transform the region. The investments for infrastructure, energy, and fish would be a boon for our communities, providing economic diversity and resiliency. The jobs created would give our young people the opportunity to stay here instead of them leaving to make the money necessary to raise and support a family.

Washington state, Oregon and Washington D.C. are currently looking at potentially bypassing the lower Snake River dams. I for one would like to see Idaho’s interests at the table advocating for us, rather than sitting on the sidelines and watching our future be decided by someone else. We need long-term, durable solutions that make everyone whole. I believe this is possible and then, for once, we can all win.

23. May 2022 · Comments Off on Out Horse your Email · Categories: Around The Campfire

Vacation was an ailing concept before the pandemic; covid finished it off. Oh, we still go places, but we never really leave work behind. Whether canoeing, hiking, snorkeling, spelunking or just suntanning, we’re always saddled with answering emails from the office.

Is this writerly chore really inescapable? Neigh. The good people of a small northern nation have a solution: “Let the horses of Iceland reply to your emails while you are on vacation!”

In a gorgeous (and hilarious) public service announcement posted yesterday, the Icelandic tourist bureau offers the services of three equine secretaries:

  • Litla Stjarna: Types fast, but might take a nap.
  • Hrímnir: Assertive. Efficient. Shiny hair.
  • Hekla: Friendly, trained in corporate buzzwords.

The service – “Outhorse Your Email” – reins in all your correspondence and sends it to a coastal field at the foot of snow-capped mountains. There, majestic horses tap out replies to your emails on a giant keyboard. Or sometimes, they just gallop across the keyboard, which I’ve decided is the way I’m going to start responding to certain people’s messages.

Sigríður Dögg Guðmundsdóttir, the head of Visit Iceland, the country’s tourist information bureau, tells me, “The idea, of course, was a bit out there when we first heard this, but we trust the process.” (How Iceland’s horses learned to type emails.) She and her team were responding to surveys that suggest 65 percent of people look daily at their work email even while on vacation. “So we thought, ‘Okay, here’s a problem. Is there something that Iceland can offer to help?’ And so we employed three Icelandic horses to do just that.”

To be honest, they are not particularly articulate writers, and their spelling is worse than mine, but once the horses have responded to all your email, you can also ride them around the countryside. “That,” Guðmundsdóttir adds, “is actually a wonderful way to experience Iceland.”

04. May 2022 · Comments Off on It’s Coming! Most Awesome Yard Sale May 21 2022 · Categories: Around The Campfire, Current Events

In years past, the Messenger Index has run a small article to help promote the annual fund raiser yard sale benefitting Squaw Butte Back Country Horsemen (SBBCH), a local volunteer organization.

Below is the yard sale information. Thank you.

It’s Coming! Most Awesome Yard Sale May 21 2022
Saturday May 21 you just may find that treasure you have been searching for.

Squaw Butte Back Country Horsemen (SBBCH) will be hosting their Annual Most Awesome Yard Sale fundraiser on Saturday May 21 at the Gem County Fairgrounds Emmett Idaho. An awesome variety of gently used items have been procured from around the county and from the SBBCH members themselves. Fabulous finds will include furniture, household items, clothing, books, children’s items, outdoor gear, tools, craft items, horse stuff, and more.
There is sure to be that treasure you have been searching for.

Doors open at 8 AM. Find those treasures and we will make them yours.

Our annual yard sale is a successful fundraiser and the proceeds help defer the expenses the chapter incurs in supporting its mission to perpetuate the common sense use and enjoyment of horses in America’s back country and wilderness. These expenses include chainsaw maintenance, tools purchases, Wilderness First Aid & CPR training, maintaining chapter human and equine first aid kits, and providing certified weed free hay at project work weekends.

The Squaw Butte chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Idaho works to insure that public lands remain open to recreational stock use and assists the various government and private agencies in their maintenance and management of those resources.

Contact information for SBBCH is:
President: Heather Donesky
Email: president@sbbchidaho.org
Phone: 530-615-1326

16. April 2022 · Comments Off on USFS – Opportunities of Young People · Categories: Around The Campfire, Current Events


21st Century Conservation Service Corps

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps puts thousands of young people, veterans and emerging professionals to strengthen America’s infrastructure, boost local economies, and modernize the way government works. The 21CSC initiative supports partner organizations and service, training, education and employment opportunities for young people to learn and work on lands, waterways, and cultural heritage sites across the country. 21CSC includes Public Lands Corps, a work and education program for young people and veterans. Please contact your local Forest Service unit to learn more about how 21CSC partnerships work.

Youth Conservation Corps

The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) is an exciting summer youth employment program that engages teenagers, ages 15 to 18, in meaningful work experiences on forest lands and prairies, national parks, wildlife refuges, and fish hatcheries.

Resource Assistants Program

The Resource Assistants Program is a rigorous, immersive work and learning experience for emerging professionals interested in conservation and/or natural and cultural resources, environmental management, research and development, and other career opportunities with federal land and water management agencies.


Pathways Programs provide paid employment opportunities with the Federal government for high school students,
undergraduates, post-graduates and recent graduates:

  • Internship Program – Opportunities for students to explore Federal careers while still in school, Students may
    be hired on a temporary basis for up to one year (NTE Intern) or; for an indefinite period (Indefinite Intern).
  • Recent Graduates Program – Available to individuals who have completed qualifying degree or certificate
    programs within the previous two years. Qualified veterans may have an extended application period due
    to military service.
  • Presidential Management Fellows Program – For individuals who have completed an  advanced degree
    within the past two years.

Job Corps

Job Corps is a residential education and career training program for qualifying young people ages 16 through 24. Job Corps members learn a marketable skill, may earn a high school diploma or GED, make lifelong connections, and learn citizen stewardship values  while succeeding in today’s demanding workforce. Maximum age limits may be waived if an applicant has a documented disability.

Related blogs:

VSReports Portal Training (FS Partners)

Thank you for joining us yesterday for our VSReports Portal training for FS Partners. Attached please find a copy of the presentation. The recording has been posted on our SharePoint site: VSReports Portal Training (FS Partners)-20220414_110234-Meeting Recording.mp4 or you can also watch it here: https://youtu.be/qbFtDCaiwtk.

We are working on a user manual and a fact sheet to provide more information about the VSReports Portal. Finally, we are still looking for volunteers to assist with the soft launch of the application, if you are interested in participating, please email us at sm.fs.21csc@usda.gov.

20220414_VSPortal_PartnerTraining v2

04. April 2022 · Comments Off on The Appaloosa is Idaho’s state horse · Categories: Around The Campfire

Anna Daly writes: The Appaloosa was named Idaho’s state horse for the role it played in the state’s history. In the 1700s, the Nez Perce tribe first started breeding the horse, which provided the tribe with more mobility and was used for hunting and fishing.

“The Nez Perce tribe became excellent horsemen and breeders, creating large herds renowned for their strength, intelligence, and beauty,” the Appaloosa Horse Club website notes. The tribe was known throughout the Northwest for their hunting skills and craftsmanship. These skills allowed the Nez Perce to trade for necessary goods and services.

In the mid-1800s, settlers flooded the Nez Perce reservation – leading to the Nez Perce War of 1877. According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, the Appaloosa horses helped the non-treaty Nez Perce, under the guidance of Chief Joseph, elude the U.S. Calvary for several months.

Settlers referred to the tribe’s horses as “a Palouse horse” in reference to the Palouse River in north-central Idaho. Eventually, the name evolved, becoming “Palousey”, then “Appalousey” and finally “Appaloosa”.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, more interest in the breed gradually began to grow as Appaloosas began appearing in Western roundups and rodeos – according to the Appaloosa Horse Club. The club, which was charted in 1938, works to preserve and improve the Appaloosa breed. Headquartered in Moscow today, it’s one of the leading equine breed registries in the world – according to its website.

On March 25, 1975, Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus signed a bill naming the Appaloosa as the state horse.

Today, you can learn more about the state’s horse by visiting the Appaloosa Museum and Heritage Center in Moscow.

23. March 2022 · Comments Off on Idaho – Scenic & Historic Byways · Categories: Around The Campfire

Idaho Scenic Byways Brochure.pdf

12. March 2022 · Comments Off on Man injured after getting charged by moose, Idaho Fish and Game says · Categories: Around The Campfire

A hiker was injured after he and his dog were charged by a moose south of Pocatello earlier this week.

Idaho Fish and Game says the man was on the Gibson Jack trail in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest Wednesday morning when the incident occurred. The hiker says he was unaware of the moose when it charged him from behind.

“The moose stomped him two or three times before withdrawing,” Fish and Game says.

The man was able to hike out to safety.

Authorities say conflicts with moose are pretty rate, but the animals can be defensive if they are startled.

Here are some tips from Fish and Game if you do encounter a moose.

  • Keep your distance, at least three car lengths between you and the animal. Never approach a moose, especially a female with her young.
  • If recreating with dogs, maintain control of your pets with leashes and don’t allow them to chase moose or other wildlife.
  • A moose will often bluff by pawing the ground and licking its lips. If it lowers its ears, a charge is likely forthcoming!
  • If a moose charges, run. Try to keep a tree or other object between you and the moose, or climb a tree if necessary.
  • If you find yourself on the ground, curl in a ball and do your best to protect your face and head. Try not to make noise. Moose charge because they perceive you as a threat. If you are curled up on the ground quietly, you will likely appear less threatening.
  • Discharging a can of bear spray may also deter a charging moose.
  • If you have any questions about recreating around wildlife or if you have a wildlife encounter to report in southeast Idaho, please contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at 208-232-4703.
10. March 2022 · Comments Off on Expect delays on Highway 55 · Categories: Around The Campfire

The Idaho Transportation Department is resuming construction on SH-55 between Smiths Ferry and the Rainbow Bridge on March 14. The stretch of highway will be reduced to one-way alternating traffic. Drivers should anticipate 15-minute delays.

In mid-April, ITD will begin four-hour closures from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Construction on Highway 55 near Smiths Ferry has been ongoing since September 2020. Crews are working to widen shoulders, install guardrails, and minimize roadway curves.

The project area has been the site of three rockslides. In January 2021, two rockslides closed the roadway for about three weeks. In January 2022, another rockslide closed the road for several days.

“We are going into spring with lessons learned from last year,” said Jason Brinkman, ITD engineering manager. “We have spent the past winter working with geotechnical experts and the project team to change designs based on new information gathered after studying the areas where slides occurred.”

The spring construction schedule is expected to last through May.

03. March 2022 · Comments Off on Local event – Sweet, ID · Categories: Around The Campfire

18. February 2022 · Comments Off on Supply Checklist and Emergency Preparation Resource Guide · Categories: Around The Campfire

Heading out for a hike or setting up camp in your favorite national forest are both great ways to explore nature, connect with friends and family, and get a little respite from your daily life. From local excursions to mountainous journeys, preparation is key. Even a short day hike close to home could require some extra supplies.

Equipment and gear, first aid kits, food, and water are just a few of the necessities every camper, hiker, or backpacker should have. Whether your trip goes as planned or you’re thrown off course, with the right supplies there is nothing to worry about. Gear up with the best outdoor recreation hats, the tools and technologies to keep safe, and the right clothes to stay warm and dry.  READ MORE

18. February 2022 · Comments Off on Small-Scale Solar for Trailer or Boat · Categories: Around The Campfire


14. February 2022 · Comments Off on Pulaski Users Group 2021 Annual Report · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands


01. February 2022 · Comments Off on Bright Ideas – Embroidery – Emmett, ID · Categories: Around The Campfire


30. January 2022 · Comments Off on (IDPR) – Non-Motorized Summits & Activities · Categories: Around The Campfire, Current Events

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation (IDPR) hosted three (3) summits to discuss issues and solutions pertaining to non-motorized trail recreation in Idaho. The discussions were held in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls. Below are the meeting handouts and minutes from each location. The open discussions explored all topics pertaining to non-motorized trail recreation in Idaho and ideas for solving the non-motorized trail funding gap.

Boise – February 11, 2016

Boise, January 11, 2017

A meeting was held January 11, 2017 to share results of the 2016 summits and to organize a leadership team, willing to take suggestions and strategies through the next very important steps. Download the meeting materials.

Summit Attendees

A complete list of summit attendees is available for download here.

Next Steps – Use collective report and results from statewide summits to answer the following:

  1. Is there a need to address non-motorized trail maintenance in Idaho?
  2. Is there enough support statewide to address non-motorized trail maintenance and related funding in Idaho?
  3. Who will work together to address the need?
  4. What does addressing the need look like?
  5. What are the necessary actions / future next steps?

Want to take a leadership role? Have questions?

If you have questions, would like to lead in next steps, or were unable to attend a summit in your area, you can share your thoughts and ideas via email: inquiry@idpr.idaho.gov

IDPR Activities

The 1,311-mile Idaho Centennial Trail (ICT) weaves through the most scenic portions of Idaho’s wild country, from high desert canyonlands in southern Idaho to wet mountain forests in North Idaho.

Designated the official state trail during Idaho’s Centennial year in 1990, the southern portion of the trail begins at 6,000 feet near Murphy Hot Springs on the Idaho/Nevada border.  Heading north, the trail descends to 2,500 feet at the Snake River near Glenns Ferry. The trail yo-yos up and down through the mountains of Central Idaho between 3,000 and 9,000 feet. At its low point (1,900 feet above sea level) the trail skirts the Selway River near the Moose Creek Guard Station then climbs again to high points up to 6,000 feet in the Cabinet and Selkirk Mountains as the trail approaches the northern boundary.

Idaho offers some of the most pristine wilderness areas in the lower 48 states. Follow a trail through 6,000 foot river canyons, hike to crystal alpine lakes or jagged peaks, or find solitude on thousands of miles of hiking trails in Idaho’s designated wilderness areas, two of which (the Frank Church and Selway Bitteroot Wilderness areas) are the largest in the lower 48 states. Some of the most popular wilderness areas for hiking include:

Another good tool to find information about Wilderness Areas in Idaho is Wilderness.net.

WHY Trails provide access to Idaho. Trails are part of Idaho’s recreation heritage, providing paths to camping, fishing and the wild places that make the Gem State great. We already have one of the most effective motorized trail maintenance programs in the country, supported by user fees. But the needed resources to maintain trails for hiking, biking and horse riding are lacking. And without adequate maintenance and improvements, access to some non-motorized trails will be lost.

The stickers are now available in person at:

  • REI in Boise
  • JD’s Bodega in Boise
  • IDPR HQ Office in Boise
  • George’s Cycles (both Boise locations)
  • Hyperspud Sports in Moscow
  • Idaho Mountain Trading in Idaho Falls
  • IDPR East Region Office in Idaho Falls
  • IDPR North Region Office in Coeur d’Alene
  • Massacre Rocks State Park in American Falls
  • Winchester Lake State Park in Winchester
  • Bruneau Dunes State Park in Bruneau
  • Lake Walcott State Park in Rupert
  • Hells Gate State Park in Lewiston
  • Ponderosa State Park in McCall
  • Heyburn State Park in Plummer
  • Dworshak State Park in Orofino
  • Farragut State Park in Athol
  • Lake Cascade State Park in Cascade


18. January 2022 · Comments Off on The powerful, elusive animal roaming Idaho’s forests · Categories: Around The Campfire

Inside the powerful, elusive animal roaming Idaho’s forests

The wolverine is an animal roaming Idaho that you’ve probably never seen – but you might have wondered, ‘what are they, exactly?’

Only 300 are estimated to be left in the lower 48 – mostly in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. It’s also the mascot of several Idaho schools including Wood River Valley High School in Hailey.  READ MORE

North American Wolverine

The North American wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus) is a medium-sized, solitary carnivore adapted for digging, climbing, and traveling long distances in deep snow during the winter. Since the wolverine is a highly elusive creature, the 2018 Species Status Assessment (SSA) mapped the current potential extent of occurrence for the North American wolverine spanning through Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, and Canada. As mentioned in the SSA, the wolverine occupies a variety of habitats including Arctic tundra, subarctic-alpine tundra, boreal forest, mixed forest, redwood forest, and coniferous forest.

11. January 2022 · Comments Off on NWSA Webinar – Stock use rule · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands

Stock use rules in BLM and USFS-managed wilderness.

One of the most common categories of rules in wilderness is rules associated with stock use. Stock rules can include feed requirements, party size limits, camping setbacks from water and/or trails, grazing restrictions, as well as stock restrictions to certain trails or outright prohibition of stock. This research describes the frequency of stock rules in wilderness areas managed by the BLM and USFS. Additionally, the differences associated with the rules that are included in Wilderness Character reports as well as how they are weighted are also explored.

C. “Griff” Griff is a Professor in the Biology Department at Grand Valley State University. Her research focuses on unconfined recreation in the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Randy Rasmussen, Public Lands Policy Expert for the Back Country Horsemen of America will also participate in this discussion with a horseman’s perspective.

National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance


One of the most common categories of rules in wilderness is rules associated with stock use. Stock rules can include feed requirements, party size limits, camping setbacks from water and/or trails, grazing restrictions, as well as stock restrictions to certain trails or outright prohibition of stock. This research describes the frequency of stock rules in wilderness areas managed by the BLM and USFS. Additionally, the differences associated with the rules that are included in Wilderness Character reports as well as how they are weighted are also explored.

C. “Griff” Griff is a Professor in the Biology Department at Grand Valley State University. Her research focuses on unconfined recreation in the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Randy Rasmussen, Public Lands Policy Expert for the Back Country Horsemen of America will also participate in this discussion with a horseman’s perspective.

11. January 2022 · Comments Off on Wilderness Connect – a valuable resource · Categories: Around The Campfire, Education, Public Lands

Wilderness Connect Link

Contact Lisa Ronald lisa@wilderness.net if you have a question.

09. January 2022 · Comments Off on AirFlare Rescue App · Categories: Around The Campfire, Education

This App will not replace a satellite beacon service rescue device like inReach or Spot, but is a very useful low cost tool that should be part of every back country riders tool kit.


04. January 2022 · Comments Off on ITA – Trail Talks · Categories: Around The Campfire, Current Events, Education

16. December 2021 · Comments Off on Senate Energy & Natural Resources Legislation Hearing 12-02-21 · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands

PDF: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Outdoor Recreation Legislation Hearing 12-2-21

08. December 2021 · Comments Off on Trail Meister Christmas · Categories: Around The Campfire





05. December 2021 · Comments Off on Val Johnson – Visionary and founder of Back Country Horseman of America · Categories: Around The Campfire, Member Profiles

Val Baker Jonhson, husband, father, brother, friend, grandfather, packer, mule-man, teacher, and political scientist passed away Friday morning, November 12, 2021, at Grace Assisted Living in Twin Falls, Idaho with his family by his side.

Val was born in Nampa, Idaho on March 6, 1941, to Marie Baker and Lafe Gwilliam Johnson. He was raised in Cascade and joined by sister Sharon and later, brother Joe. Being older, Val was their caregiver and backbone of the family for many years. As a youngster, he traveled to the backcountry with his dad, uncles, grandpa, and grandma to the Snowshoe Cabin area, many summers herding sheep.

Val graduated from Cascade High School in 1959 and went to Brigham Young University that fall. The second semester he tried the University of Idaho but did not like beer, so transferred back to BYU and graduated in 1963 with a degree in Political Science. Figuring he would get drafted, he enrolled in the US Air Force Officer Training School in San Antonio, Texas in November of 1963. Thereafter, he was assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) HQs at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska as a 2nd Lt. Photo Intelligence Officer. It was here that he met Stephen P. Mealey with whom he would later partner and run an outfitting and guide business in Salmon. Val was sent to Vietnam from December 1965 until December 1966. Upon his return, in his new blue GTO with white leather interior, he made it to Offutt AFB for a New Year’s Eve party where he first met Sara Lee McConnell, also an AF Intelligence Officer.

Val and Sara were married on June 9, 1967, at the Offutt AFB Chapel. Their USAF obligations were met within two weeks of each other in February of 1968 at which time they moved to Salmon, Idaho, and with Steve Mealey, started Nez Perce Outfitters and Guides. Big-game hunting and summer float and pack trips were the results. Val and Sara bought 120 acres on the Salmon River, which was ideal for keeping pack string animals and later Hereford cows and pigs. Val and Steve sold the outfitting business in 1971 and Val opted to go to Idaho State University to get his teaching certificate in Social Studies. He kept the float business for a few years and continued his many backcountry explorations.

Daughters Laurie and Suzie were born in 1968 and 1969, respectively, and they all lived in the old log house. The pastures were irrigated via ditches from a pipeline just south along the Salmon River. Wheel lines were added when the kids were gone! In 1971, they built a house east above the highway, and Erik came along in 1974.

For the 25+ years that Val taught at Salmon High School, his voice rang through the hallways. The relationships that he developed with students and faculty went beyond the classroom and continued throughout his life.

In 1978, Val was instrumental in joining three Montana state chapters of Back Country Horsemen, with a newly formed Salmon River Back Country Horsemen, the first in Idaho. Val, Dave Couch, and Richard Smith were the visionaries for the future Back Country Horseman of America. Now in 2021, there are 212+ chapters in 32 states with roughly 13,000 members throughout the US and Canada.

Val’s extreme love of the backcountry and his mules were part of his DNA. His favorite mule, Reuben, carried him thousands of miles and still carries his grandchildren today. He shared his appreciation of mules, hunting, and the backcountry with his children and grandchildren. Lick Creek hunting camp and fellow riding companion stories abound to this day.

From plaza backgammon games in Turkey, travel to India, visiting Suzie wherever she was stationed, 30 days with Cole in South Africa, rodeoing with Erik, and attending high school sports with grandchildren, Val so enjoyed seeing different places and varied cultures. In 2009, Val and Sara purchased a second home in Arizona, where his pace slowed to the desert and warmer climate.

Val is survived by wife Sara of 54 years; daughter Laura Marie (Bill) Lickley of Jerome, Idaho, grandchildren Valene Marie Lickley and Cole Johnson (Anna) Lickley; daughter Suzanna Kay Hardy and grandsons Andrew Johnson Hardy and Kyle William Hardy; and son Erik McConnell Johnson of Eltopia, Washington, and grandchildren Tiegan Grace, Tessa Faith, and Traver Imes Johnson. He is also survived by his sister Sharon (Joe) Stippich of Weiser and half-brother Joe (Marla) Worthington of Red Oak, Iowa.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the Salmon Public Library or your favorite educational or outdoor charity in memory of Val.

BCHA Announces 2012 Legacy Award Winner

Back Country Horsemen of America leads the nationwide effort to preserve trails for horse use, not only for today’s equestrians, but also for tomorrow’s. They seek to leave an inheritance to future generations; a legacy of responsible enjoyment of America’s wild lands the way our forefathers did: by horseback.

With that goal in mind, Back Country Horsemen of America selects an individual member each year whose numerous contributions, made over many years of dedicated membership, exemplify their mission and values. In 2012, BCHA chose Val B. Johnson of the Salmon River Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Idaho.

There From the Start

Val was an organizing founder of Salmon River Back Country Horsemen in Idaho in 1978, the fourth group in the original BCH organization, and the first outside of Montana. Val joined the presidents of the three Montana groups (the Flathead, Missoula, and Bitterroot BCH), to outline a proposal for uniting the existing groups into a formal organization. The presidents presented their plan at the first BCH annual convention in Kalispell, Montana, on March 17 and 18, 1979.

That weekend, Back Country Horsemen was born, with stated purposes that Val helped draft: 1) to perpetuate the common sense use and enjoyment of horses in America’s back country and wilderness; 2) to work to ensure that public lands remain open to recreational stock use; 3) to assist the agencies responsible for the management of public lands; and 4) to educate, encourage and solicit active participation in the wise and sustaining use of the back country resource by horsemen and the general public commensurate with our heritage. Over the years, slight updates were made, and a fifth was added: to foster and encourage the formation of new state Back Country Horsemen organizations.

In March, 1983, Val was elected Vice Chairman of Back Country Horsemen. He took the Chairman’s seat a year later, with the goal of affiliating with Washington Back Country Horsemen and the High Sierra Stock Users Association of California. Val was also very involved in the drafting of the BCHA constitution, which was adopted in 1986 by representatives of the groups in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and California. The organization officially became Back Country Horsemen of America.

In 1989 and 1990, Val was again elected Chairman. He served on the BCHA National Board of Directors through 1991, and again from 1999 until 2011. Val was also Chairman of the Visions Committee for a number of years, and the unofficial historical and constitutional watchdog.

Many Roles of Service

Born in Nampa, Idaho, and raised in Cascade, Val spent his early years with his father and grandfather at Snowshoe Cabin at the head of Pistol Creek in the Idaho Primitive Area. After college in Utah, he worked one year as the Sulphur Creek Patrolman on the Landmark District of the Boise National Forest. That fall, he attended Officer Training School and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He served in Vietnam from December 1965 to December 1966 as an intelligence officer.

Upon returning from Vietnam in 1967, he and a fellow officer from Oregon bought an outfitting and guiding business, offering big game hunts and summer float and pack trips out of Salmon. They sold it in 1971, but retained the summer float and pack trip portion of the business. After earning a teaching certificate, Val began teaching social studies in the Salmon High School in 1972.

Driven by his love for the former Idaho and Salmon River Breaks Primitive Areas, along with the Middle and Main Salmon Rivers, Val became involved with the management of those areas, and eventually became dedicated to promoting the use of horses and mules on public lands.

About Back Country Horsemen of America

Back Country Horsemen of America commends Val B. Johnson of the Salmon River Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Idaho for his outstanding example of commitment and dedication to the vision and principles of BCHA. They encourage horsemen from coast to coast to allow his accomplishments to be an inspiration and encouragement to achieve their goals for protecting our right to ride horses on public lands.

BCHA is a non-profit corporation made up of state organizations, affiliates, and at-large members. Their efforts have brought about positive changes regarding the use of horses and stock in the wilderness and public lands.


23. November 2021 · Comments Off on Sawtooth Society – 2021 Year in Review · Categories: Around The Campfire

Sawtooth Society-2021 year in review

09. November 2021 · Comments Off on ITA 2021 Video · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Meetings



08. November 2021 · Comments Off on PUG Video · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands


26. October 2021 · Comments Off on SBFC – Wilderness Blogs · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands

Link to Tales from the Trails

Learn about the Wilderness Ranger Fellowship

05. October 2021 · Comments Off on End of Season Report – Squaw Butte Chapter · Categories: Around The Campfire

SBBCH End of Year Report 2021

29. September 2021 · Comments Off on Fall Food Drive · Categories: Around The Campfire

2021 Food Drive

21. September 2021 · Comments Off on SBFC – Women in the Wilderness · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands


19. September 2021 · Comments Off on Weekend went a little sideways · Categories: Around The Campfire

The Kennelly Creek weekend project scheduled for September 18 is generally a popular and well attended project.  This weekend for various reasons it was not!  Rob Adams plus three other members signed up for the project.  On Thursday one dropped out and one said that they would be coming up early Saturday morning.  On Friday, I packed up my trailer loaded, the newly prepped saws and gear and around noon headed up 55 towards Donnelly, ID.  I turned on to Paddy Flat road and when the surface changed from paved to gravel, stopped and put my truck in low range 4-wheel drive for the climb up to Paddy Flat summit.  Paddy Flat road is a good US forest service type road that winds along hill sides with the first section on private land holding that has had some logging or thinning this summer.  There are some very narrow spots but there are generally good places to pass along the road if you go slow and watch for oncoming traffic.  Wood gathering and hunting are both going on this time of year, to there is more traffic than is typical on a week day.  The drive into the trail head is 13 miles and at mile 7, I came around a blind corner and saw a small SUV pulling a heavily loaded single axel trailer up the middle of the road towards me.  What I expected to happen was he would pull over against the hill side and we would sneak past each other and continue on our way.  What happen is he did move over a bit and I got my trailer straight behind the truck as far over as I felt safe.  Watching the mirror it looked like we might make it.  At the last minute he slammed on his brakes and I tried to get my rig stopped before we hit.  I was about a foot long, folding his trailer fender up, cutting gashes in both his and my trailer tires.

We had him back up a bit and I could get by and then we surveyed the situation and started working on his trailer first.

His tire needed to be changed which required jacking up his trailer, His jack would not do the job, but I had stuff to help get that done, once the tire was off, it became clear that the front mount on the axel spring had broken so it was likely that the axel could fold up under the trailer.  We rigged a chain to hold it in place, used a big hammer to get the fender out of the way and installed a spare that he hoped would get him to McCall.  He promised to go really slow and I know for a fact he made it into town.  I took my spare off the front of the trailer and swapped out the wrecked one and 30 minutes later was at the camp ground.

I was the only one there, a surprise, it being a Friday afternoon.  At 18:30 I grilled a pork chop and by 21:00 it was getting dark and cool, so said good night to the stock and crawled in by bag to read a book before going to sleep.  Around 21:30 two pickup came into the camp ground and set up tents, but none with horse trailer.

At 07:30 on Saturday I got up, fed the stock, made some breakfast and then packed up my camping stuff as I planned to head home at the end of the day as a front was expected.  By 09:30 I was all saddle and had the equipment packed on my mare and happened to look down at the tire next to where Payette was tied.  It was nice and round on top and totally flat on the bottom.  $H!T!!!, every back country horsemen nightmare is two trailer flats on the same trip!.  I knew it was ok on Friday, but assumed it was also damaged by the fender-bender.

On to plan “B”,  I un-saddled the stock and put them back on the high-line with some more certified hay so they were happy but confused.  Disconnected the truck and headed with the slashed tired to McCall with hopes of getting a new one mounted.  Les Schwab had what I needed and had one mounted and balanced in about 30 minutes and it was back to the trail head.  Still no other horse trailers.  I pulled the second flat to find a big screw in it so it had nothing to do with the fender-bender.  Got the new one mounted and then drove out of the trail head had very carefully making sure I could see and could get pulled over if necessary as I passed a number of hunters on 4-wheeler, side-by-sides and trucks.  Getting backed to the paved road was a great relief.

Summary of weekend, No trees cut, No brush removed, No nice ride in the mountains.  One great pork chop dinner at a very pretty trail head, minor damage to my trailer fender and two very pricey new trailer tires and a new rim so I can carry two spares going forward.  Not the best way to end what had been a very successful BCHI season.  I do wonder what happened to the other two guys, maybe they have similar story’s.




13. September 2021 · Comments Off on Wilderness Volunteer – Imogene Project · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands, Work Parties and Projects


12. September 2021 · Comments Off on ITA – The Old Saw · Categories: Around The Campfire

ITA looking for Trail Projects Director

After six years leading and organizing trail projects across Idaho, Clay Jacobson is leaving ITA for new adventures, including hiking the Continental Divide Trail next summer. We will miss you, Clay and wish you the very best!

ITA is looking for a Trail Projects Director. This person will oversee the planning, coordination, logistics, and successful completion of our trail maintenance and monitoring projects. They will also train and empower volunteer crew leaders to lead projects. This position requires a highly motivated and well-organized trail enthusiast with a variety of skill sets. Click here to see the full job description!

To apply, please submit a cover letter, resume, and the contact information for three references in a single PDF. Send via e-mail to jobs@idahotrailsassociation.org with the subject line “Trail Projects Director” by or before October 8th, 2021.


07. September 2021 · Comments Off on End of Season Potluck – Members & Guest · Categories: Around The Campfire, Current Events

2021 End of Season Potluck

05. September 2021 · Comments Off on Rocking JB Bags & Embroidery -Hats, Vests & Jacket · Categories: Around The Campfire

Rocking JB is located in beautiful Central Idaho overlooking the Camas Praire. I am a home based business specializing in hats, coats, shirts, bags, & sweat shirts. I take orders for large and small quantities. I can purchase items for you or I can personalize your own items.

Jackets and Vests with the BCHI LOGO on it. That is something that each individual would need to discuss directly with Julie. (208) 983-2183, rockingjbbags@gmail.com, https://www.facebook.com/RockingJbBagsEmbroidery

03. September 2021 · Comments Off on SNRA End of Season Clean-UP · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands

Sign UP

01. September 2021 · Comments Off on Sample of a Volunteer Trail Liability Release · Categories: Around The Campfire

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30. August 2021 · Comments Off on Regional 4 special order for weed free hay · Categories: Around The Campfire

Regional Order 04 2021 03 Weed Free Hay Order

26. August 2021 · Comments Off on 2021 Chapter memories in pictures · Categories: Around The Campfire

Jan – Leadership Team
Feb – Birds of Prey Fun Ride /  Video
Mar – Wilson Creek – China Ditch /  Video
Apr – Succor Creek Natural Area /  Video
Apr – Camping with Stock Clinic
May – 4 Mile HMA  /  Video
Jun – Peace Creek
Jun – Cuddy Mountain
Jul – Bogus Basin Sawyer Workshop
Jul – Wilson Corral – West Mountain
Aug – MCC Twenty Mile Creek
Aug – Squaw Creek TR-131 North
Aug – WV Imogene Lake – Sawtooth
– Video’s created by Linda Hughes –

SEE Past chapter photo’s

24. August 2021 · Comments Off on Moments in the Mountains – SBFC · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands

Watch the Video    /    More Blog Posts

31. July 2021 · Comments Off on Gem County Fair · Categories: Around The Campfire, Current Events

As part of the deal to use the 4-H building to hold chapter meeting during the Covid-19 lockdown  Squaw Butte agreed to do a presentation at the 2021 Gem County Fair for the 4-H.  This presentation was scheduled by the fair for Saturday July 31, at 13:00 in the 4-H building.  Phil Ryan and Rob Adams agreed to do a talk on BCHAI and stock camping on Public Lands.  Both arrived at 11:00 to get the lay of the land and to make sure they were set up and ready to go at 13:00.  After wandering around for while looking for an Information booth or schedule they tried the fair office and were in luck, someone was there and said yes, we were scheduled for 13:00 at the 4-H build, but they were sorry to say they didn’t do event schedules this year an oversite and as the steer, lamb and hog sale was going on it was unlikely we would have many show up.  They were right, we had three, a couple enjoying the AC for a few minutes and a young girl who told us about her rabbit.  If interested the high steer went for 7,500, the average steer went between 5 & 6 K and prime sheep between 1,500 and 2,000.  They had not gotten to hogs before we left.

From the bidding pen to your freezer

So, to summarize: A 1200 steer, ½ inch fat, average muscling, yields a 750 pound carcass. The 750 pound carcass yields approximately:

  • 490 pounds boneless trimmed beef
  • 150 pounds fat trim
  • 110 pounds bone

A specific example of how the 490 pounds of boneless, trimmed beef could break out includes:

  • 185 pounds lean trim, or ground beef
  • 85 pounds round roasts and steaks
  • 90 pounds chuck roasts and steaks
  • 80 pounds rib and loin steaks
  • 50 pounds other cuts (brisket, flank, short ribs, skirt steak)

Maybe this helps explain how the products from a 1200 pound steer to fit in your freezer!


4-H’ers must own or manage their lamb at least 60 days prior to our County Fair. Lambs should weigh somewhere
around 65 – 70 pounds by June 1, in order to reach the minimum weight of 100 pounds by fair. If the lamb is wormed,
proper genetics have been followed and good feed has been given they should gain at least .6 pounds a day. A 100 pound lamb will yield around 40 pounds of meet in your freezer.

If we do this again in the future Saturday at 13:00 is not a prime time to generate interest in BCHI!



31. July 2021 · Comments Off on PUG – Pulaski Users Group 2021 Mid-Season Report · Categories: Around The Campfire


28. July 2021 · Comments Off on Idaho Wildlife – PRIVATE LAND CONSERVATION, PUBLIC LAND BENEFITS · Categories: Around The Campfire, Current Events

Picture this

A cow elk gives birth to a calf in the mountains of Idaho.

The calf spends the next six months in its lush summer range before following a well-worn migratory path to a neighboring valley to spend the winter.

That critical winter habitat includes property owned by a family who manages the land to benefit their ranching operation.

The calf, a bull, returns winter after winter to that same ranch in the valley.

Years later a hunter hears the shrill bugle of a bull elk high on a mountain one September morning. Slowly the hunter inches closer. Finally within shooting range, they shoot, their arrow finding it’s target, the bull providing a year’s worth of meat to the hunter’s family.

The story of the hunter and the bull, one common across Idaho, was made possible thanks to the benefits private land provided to that animal during its lifetime.

Private lands in Idaho

Roughly 31% of the land in Idaho is privately owned. Wildlife, of course, does not adhere to the same property boundaries as humans. Migratory species especially rely on a patchwork of land ownership to survive from year to year, whether that land is someone’s private ranch, farm, or expansive BLM-managed sagebrush steppe.

So shouldn’t habitat conservation efforts be just as diverse?

This is where the US Fish and Wildlife’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program) comes into play.

Working alongside willing landowners and within designated priority landscapes, the Partners Program began in 2006 and has become a shining example of the possibilities for habitat conservation on private land.

“These lands have to have three foundational components to ensure they’re viable: looking through economic, ecological and social lenses”, said Jason Pyron, a wildlife biologist with USFWS who oversees Idaho’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

Landowners tend to focus on the economic lens, while balancing that alongside social and ecological lenses. Idaho’s hunting and fishing community will keep the ecological lens at the forefront. This overlap offers many opportunities to collaborate and provide benefits to all stakeholders.

“We have some highly migratory species in Idaho, and due to the way our landscape is dissected by private lands in valley bottoms, we are at a high risk of losing significant proportions of these populations if we don’t incentivize landowners to keep these lands open. I hope the hunting and fishing community fully appreciates what these landscapes do”, added Pyron.

Where the needs of wildlife and the needs of private landowners collide is where the Partners Program comes into play.    READ MORE


Posted by Dan Waugh ( tacpdan@gmail.com)

The city of Eagle is looking for inputs from trail users (Equestrians) for an ongoing project of over 1,600 acres in the northwest corner of eagle with a possibility to expand to 2,200. The city will be developing a trail system in the eagle foothills on BLM land. But, the city of eagle will run the trail system. Over 1200 citizens have been engaging so far and the city staff members are looking for more input.

Marja (360-791-1591), Arlynn (208-249-2091), and I are actively working with the project manager as the IHC Trails and Urban Spaces Committee. But, we would love to get additional views and feedback from other equestrians who will likely use this trail system. Feel free to disseminate to any and all equestrians!

PDF:  Foothills_Recreation_Plan_20_July2021_202107220914014507

Link to the Eagle Foothills Concept Plan:  New Submission (cityofeagle.org)

Leave comments at the link above!

21. July 2021 · Comments Off on Oregon Trails Coalition’s Blog · Categories: Around The Campfire

The Oregon Trails Coalition BLOG is a great source of information for all things trails and is worth checking out and getting on their mailing list.

An example is their piece on Trail Planning

Submitted by: Robbin Schindele
Crater Lake Wilderness Campaign Coordinator
539 SE Main Street
Roseburg, OR 97443

19. July 2021 · Comments Off on Smartphone Directions – May not be safe! · Categories: Around The Campfire

READ MORE: Directions May Put Novice Hikers in Danger

30. June 2021 · Comments Off on PUG – Pulaski Users Group · Categories: Around The Campfire, Public Lands

The Pulaski Users Group (PUG) organizes volunteer trips focused on trail maintenance, trail reclamation, and invasive species monitoring. Volunteers receive related training which equips them with the skills and knowledge to complete a variety of trail restoration projects. We aim to inspire community members to be stewards and advocates for our public lands.

Visit Our Web Site

11. June 2021 · Comments Off on Applied Equine Podiatry Workshop – Emmett, ID · Categories: Around The Campfire

01. June 2021 · Comments Off on Northwest Horse Source – May & June · Categories: Around The Campfire

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