Monday, October 22, 2012

Fish and Wildlife Service proposes to eliminate or restrict horseback riding at the North Track in Laurel

The Fish and Wildlife Surface is seeking public comments on three alternative proposals that will affect riding at North Track for the next fifteen years.  One alternative would eliminate horseback riding at North Track in Laurel (near Fort Meade).  The other would require use of a horse diaper or dismounting and removing manure from the trail.  It also prohibits trotting and cantering.

Fish and Wildlife is seeking public input.  
Two public meetings are scheduled for this Monday and Tuesday.  

TONIGHT, Oct. 22nd @ 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
National Wildlife Visitor Center
10901 Scarlet Tanger Loop 
Laurel, MD 20708
TOMORROW, Oct. 23rd @ 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Chesapeake Bay Field Office
177 Admiral Cochrane Drive
Annapolis, MD 21401
It is important that trail riders attend in numbers to present a unified point of view.  I do not believe that Fish and Wildlife is anti-horse.  I do believe they do not understand the burden of these requirements nor the miniscule benefits to be obtained.

Comments can be sent (until November 26) to:

Bill Perry, Natural Resource Planner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  |  300 Westgate Center Drive  |  Hadley, MA 0103
(write "Patuxent CCP" in the subject line)
For details on the alternative plans, visit the following links:

Chapter 3 page 97
Appendix C pages 48-56
Here are the comments submitted by MHC:
Bill Perry
Natural Resource Planner
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
300 Westgate Center Drive, Hadley, MA 01035

Re: Patuxent CCP 

Dear Mr. Perry:
I am the Vice President of the Maryland Horse Council, which is the trade association representing Maryland's equestrian farms, businesses, interest associations and enthusiasts. Together, our membership represents over 30,000 Marylanders, many of whom ride at North Track on the Patuxent Research Refuge.

In the just released draft Patuxent Comprehensive Conservation Plan, FWS makes numerous findings that the North Track trails are well-suited to horseback riding, that the use of the trails by horses has had no significant negative effect and, in fact, advances the purposes and priorities of the Refuge. Yet, inexplicably, the Service recommends new restrictions on horseback riding that are impracticable, potentially unsafe, and will have the effect of severely curtailing the availability of these trails for use by horses.

For example, there is a recommendation that horses should not be permitted to travel faster than a normal walking gait. [App. C, p.55] It is hard to see why such a requirement should be necessary. The trails were originally constructed to support heavy military equipment and there is no documented evidence of erosion or damage from equestrian use. [App. C, pp. 50, 52] There is sufficient viewing distance for riders to detect the approach of other users and accommodate them. [App. C, p. 50] There have been few documented complaints from other members of the public. [App. C, p. 51] There have been no speed restrictions imposed on hikers, bikers or cross- country skiers. It is difficult to understand why horseback riders are being singled out.

Particularly onerous is the requirement horse manure be cleaned up from trails and roads, and packed out. [App, C, p. 55] A requirement that manure be removed from parking lots and the grounds adjacent to the check-in station is reasonable and we would support that. However, the requirement that manure be removed from the trail and packed out is difficult and potentially dangerous. Dismounting on the trail places an undue burden on trail riders, many of whom cannot remount without use of a mounting block. Moreover, horses are much more controllable from the saddle in the event they are startled or spooked. Requiring riders to dismount increases the chance that a horse could get away from a rider and become loose on the trail, while the rider is engaged in collecting and bagging manure and attempting to remount while managing this bag of manure. Furthermore, the requirement may be difficult to enforce as a practical matter. Experienced trail horses often drop manure while walking without any indication to the rider.

Chapter 3 page 97 suggests the use of horse diapers. Although horse diapers are used in urban settings by commercial licensed carriage drivers, they are not generally available to the public at horse tack shops or most online tack suppliers. They are difficult and time consuming to put on and remove. It takes significant time and training for horses to accept a bag suspended beneath their tail. Requiring use of diapers would have the effect of eliminating horseback riding from the refuge.

The Maryland Horse Council strongly urges the FWS to adopt Alternative A, which makes no changes to the current policy for use by horseback riders. As the Service itself points out, horseback riders have been using these trails since 1991 with no ill effect. There is no justification for imposing a more onerous policy now.

Respectfully submitted, 
Jane Seigler
Vice President 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maryland Ballot Question 7 - how will it affect the MD horse industry?

Quite a number of Marylanders have been asking about the impact of Ballot Question 7 on the horse industry. Ballot question 7 asks "Do you favor the expansion of commercial gaming in the State of Maryland for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education to authorize video lottery operation licensees to operate “table games” as defined by law; to increase from 15,000 to 16,500 the maximum number of video lottery terminals that may be operated in the State; and to increase from 5 to 6 the maximum number of video lottery operation licenses that may be awarded in the State and allow a video lottery facility to operate in Prince George’s County?"

Folks want to know what the impact of a yes or no vote will be. The short answer is "not much." The 70 page Senate Bill 1, which was enacted during the special legislative session last summer, does contain some revisions to the amount and timing of video lottery (slots) proceeds to the racetracks. But  it appears that those provisions are included in sections of the bill that are not subject to the referendum. Of course, the overall amounts of those proceeds will likely be affected (in hard to predict ways) by changes in the number and location of slots facilities that are subject to the referendum. The legislation does not appear to provide for distribution of any of the proceeds of table gaming to the tracks. Knowledgeable sources inside the racing industry say that the outcome of the referendum will not affect the horse industry much either way. If you'd like to spend a lazy afternoon reading Senate Bill 1, click here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Summary of new manure management requirements

Here's a brief summary of the new manure management requirements, which take effect on October 15, 2012.

Nutrient management changes in a nutshell:

Rules apply only to those who have must have Nutrient Management Plans (8 or more animal units for livestock operations; $2500 or more gross annual income for crop operations)

Manure spreading:
Manure can be spread on hay and pasture land from March 1 through November 15 through 2015. After July 1, 2016, manure can be spread March 1 through November 1 east of the Bay, and through November 15 west of the Bay. Note gap between December 31, 2015 and July 1, 2016.

No spreading in winter (from above Fall end dates through February 28. Does not apply to manure deposited by livestock.

Dairy or livestock operations with less than 50 animal units have until February 28, 2020 to comply with winter application ban.

Horse manure may be stacked in fields temporarily, subject to certain requirements. Note no definition of “temporary;” previous limit of 120 days of stockpiling has been removed.

For pastures and hayfields - 10 foot setback from surface water and streams. No manure may be spread of deposited by livestock.
For sacrifice lots (less than 75% vegetative cover)- 35 foot setback.

Stream fencing or other plan developed with Soil Conservation that includes BMP’s such as stream crossings, alternative watering facilities, pasture management or other BMP’s that are equally protective of water quality.
Stream crossings must have sediment and erosion control.
Stream crossing wider than 12 feet must be gated. Livestock may be allowed controlled access to streams for watering.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

MD Dept. Of Agriculture finalizes proposed changes to Manure Management Regulations - to take effect October 15

ANNAPOLIS, MD (October 5, 2012) – The Maryland Department of
Agriculture (MDA) announced that the Final Notice to Adopt its revised
nutrient management regulations is published in the October 5, 2012,
issue of the Maryland Register. The regulations will go take effect
October 15, 2012.  They are designed to achieve consistency in the way
all sources of nutrients are managed and help Maryland meet nitrogen
and phosphorus reduction goals spelled out in its Watershed
Implementation Plan (WIP) to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.

The final regulations include one technical, non-substantive change in
the provision that refers to nutrient application setbacks and the
department’s consideration of new practices developed by the USDA’s
National Resources Conservation Service and the University of
Maryland. MDA revised the provision to add “and other land grant

To read the Final Notice to Adopt, visit the Maryland Register.
A copy of the final regulations is available on MDA’s website.
A Frequently Asked Questions document is available online.

The Nutrient Management Advisory Committee has been working on the
revised regulations for nearly two years.  The new rules were
originally introduced last October; however, due to overwhelming
feedback, Governor Martin O’Malley asked that the proposed regulations
be placed on hold to provide an additional opportunity for
stakeholders to further discuss the proposal as well as input from his
BayStat Scientific Panel. The regulations were revised and published
in the Maryland Register on June 29. MDA then held a series of four
public meetings across the state in July to provide information to
farmers, environmental interests, local governments and other
stakeholders on the proposed changes to Maryland’s Nutrient Management
Regulations and offer an opportunity for public comment.

Established in 1998 to develop and refine regulations and requirements
for Maryland's Nutrient Management Program, the 16-member Nutrient
Management Advisory Committee includes representatives from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture, MDA, University of Maryland, Maryland
Department of the Environment, Maryland Department of Natural
Resources, Maryland Farm Bureau, Delaware-Maryland Agribusiness
Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, commercial lawn care
companies, the biosolids industry, as well as local governments and
the state legislature.

For more information, see previous blogposts on July 10 and August 20, 2012.