Disabled Equestrians Organization
231 Glenwood Ave
Woodside, Calif. 94062
August 20, 2001
Supervisor Bill Postmus
385 North Arrowhead Ave Fifth Floor
San Bernardino, Ca 92415-0110
Dear Supervisor Postmus,
The U.S. Forestry Service and the Bureau Of Land Management current policy of unilateral and preemptive closure of roads/trails on public land is a violation of Federal Law. We request these closures be stopped until the impact on disabled equestrains can be assessed.
The Disabled Equestrians Organization (DEO) represents individuals that are moderately disabled and use a horse or mule to provide them access to trails in the outdoors. The causes of their disabilities are varied, and include accidents, old age and disease. Some of the areas affected are knees, lungs, hearts, backs, ankles and eyesight. In spite of the diversity of aliments, they all share a common solution to their disabilities: they use a horse or mule to carry their worn out bodies to the places that millions of Americans enjoy: the beautiful high country of the Sierras, the rolling hills of the California coast, and many other public parks and forests.
The DEO is very concerned about Federal, State and Local agencies that are restricting, limiting or reducing the use of horses on the public trails they manage. There appears to be a concerted effort by some people who seem to think such restrictions are somehow good for the environment. We disagree with this conclusion, but the issue we are concerned about is far more important.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336 enacted July 26, 1990 and the Department of Justice's regulation implementing title II, subtitle A, of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all services, programs, and activities provided to the public by Federal, State and local governments. A disability as defined by ADA is a “ physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of an individual”. To watch the roar of the falls in Yosemite, see the snow-capped peaks of the high Sierras, listen to the wind rustling in the aspens, these are truly a major life activity.
The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 requires all buildings and facilities built or renovated with Federal funds be accessible to and usable to physically disabled persons. This law forms the foundation of the legal mandate requiring Federally funded facilities and programs to be accessible to and usable by physically disabled persons.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1978 states "No otherwise qualified handicapped individual in the United States shall, solely by reason of his handicap, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity conducted by Federal financial assistance or by an Executive Agency." This Act further broadens the Architectural Barriers Act in that it requires program accessibility in all services provided with Federal dollars.
To deny disabled horsemen the right to use their horse to access the public trails is a clearly a violation of Federal law and results in discrimination against disabled equestrians. The closures are reducing opportunities for disabled equestrians to access the backcountry. It is essential that disabled equestrians have a place to park their trailer to unload their horse, a place for their horse to spend the night, and the permission to ride on the trails.
We do not want to see our funds and public funds spend on a lawsuit to enforce our rights. We would rather work with the public agencies to improve the trails, raise funds for outdoor programs, expand horse camps, and raise public awareness. But if we are denied our rights, a lawsuit will be our only recourse.
Please keep us informed of your progress in revising the plan to comply with Federal Law.
Donald E. Pugh