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Accessibility for Disabled Veterans on America's Public Lands

For disabled veterans, recreation on BLM-managed lands and rivers is a great way to improve physical and mental well-being. The benefits of participation in recreational activities are proven to enhance self-perception and quality of life.

Across the National System of Public Lands, the BLM provides accessible recreation opportunities for disabled veterans and their families. The public lands experience can be as unique as the individual, and the essence of the adventure will keep drawing you back.  Accessible facilities for camping, hiking, picnicking, biking, off-highway vehicle (OHV) rides, and a multitude of other activities are available. A number of qualified and permitted BLM outfitters and other service providers are prepared to offer services and assistance to you.

For more than 30 years, the BLM has encouraged qualified outfitters and other service providers to take disabled veterans on raft trips and other adventures. The BLM issues special recreation permits (SRPs) to these outfitters, known as permittees, to help ensure that natural and cultural resources are protected, that visitor health and safety is addressed, and that the number of visitors does not exceed the capacity of the land. The SRP program is intended to enhance the public lands experience, not only for those who visit today, but also for those who follow.  Some BLM permittees have worked with disabled veterans and specialized in serving all people with disabilities for over 20 years. 

Permitted outfitters work closely with BLM field offices, as well as with the Veterans Administration and non-profit groups, in coordinating a number of recreational opportunities and events.  One such event in eastern Utah regularly includes a large group from the Salt Lake City Veteran's Administration Hospital, whose participants enjoy a  whitewater raft trip down the Colorado River through Westwater Canyon, a popular Class IV section of river.  (Due to the high demand, remote nature, and management prescription, a private or commercial permit is required year round in Westwater Canyon.)


Colorado River raft trip, 1977

In 1977, disabled Vietnam-era veterans took their wheelchairs along on this raft trip down the Colorado near Moab (photo courtesy of John Librett, SPLORE).


Disabled veterans on the Colorado River near Moab, Utah
Disabled veterans on the Colorado River near Grand Junction, Colorado.
Here are some examples of programs for disabled veterans that are run by BLM permittees on BLM-managed lands:

Montana (Missoula Field Office): offers access to disabled hunters.  BLM allows disabled persons special vehicle access to retrieve game and access to areas closed seasonally to the general public during hunting season are considered on a case by case basis

Medford, Oregon: The annual Rogue River Clean-Up includes veterans from the Veteran Administration's White City Domiciliary in White City, Oregon. Outfitter Hellgate Excursions donates a jet boat for up to 50 veterans for the cleanup, which is coordinated by the BLM's Medford District.

Statewide, Utah: Through their many land and river programs on Utah’s public lands, national forests, and national parks, SPLORE has served over 40,000 people with disabilities and has been recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs for providing outstanding service.  In recent years, SPLORE has focused on treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Wasatch Adaptive Sports Program works with Steve Young's "Forever Young" Foundation, the University of Utah Health Science Center and Adrift Adventures as partners in providing a variety of trips for disabled veterans, including day and overnight Colorado river trips, 4-wheel drive tours and horseback tours on BLM-managed lands.

Westwater Canyon, Utah: Challenge Aspen worked with Adventure Bound to take disabled veterans through Westwater Canyon between 2004 and 2009.  On September 1, 2011 Challenge Aspen Military Opportunities (CAMO) hosted wounded warriors from around the country on the second adaptive trip ever to be permitted by the Bureau of Land Management.

Moab, Utah: The annual Rally on the Rocks for utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) includes a veteran-only trail run.  During the event a fundraiser is held for the Wounded Warrior Project.  Several commercial outfitters that are BLM permittees in the Moab area offer a discount to veterans.

Statewide, Colorado: Most of our commercial river outfitters serve disabled veterans, and river camps have been adapted to accommodate special needs. One such BLM permittee is Adaptive Sports.

Craig, Colorado: The Little Snake Field Office issues approximately 67 outfitter permits for big game and lion hunts each year.  Through qualified and permitted outfitters, the office accommodates disabled veteran hunters.

Grand Junction, Colorado:  Colorado Discover Ability is a BLM-permitted outfitter, running trips for disabled veterans and others on the Colorado River through the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area in western Colorado.

Wyoming (Rawlins FO) allows hunting access for hunters with special needs.  Hunter can receive a permit to travel cross-country on BLM only after they have received a disabled hunter permit from WG&F. 


Disabled veteran on the Colorado River.

Enjoying the mighty Colorado.  Photos courtesy of SPLORE.

The BLM is legally mandated by the Architectural Barriers Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and 43 CFR part 17 to provide accessibility in its programs and facilities to all people with disabilities.  The BLM works closely with its permittees to ensure that disabled veterans can experience their own unique adventures on America's public lands.

Learn more about the BLM’s Accessibility Program and find facilities and qualified BLM outfitters offering trips for the disabled. For more information about events for disabled veterans in your area of interest, please contact the local BLM Field Office.  For information about BLM's accessibility programs, contact a BLM Accessibility Lead.

 

Accessibility Leads

National Accessibility Coordinator -  Tina McDonald, (202) 912-7251,tmcdonal@blm.gov

Note: The use of permittee names on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement of any of the businesses or organizations listed.

Alaska - Mark Paprocki, (907) 267-1314, Mark_Paprocki@blm.gov
Arizona - Chester Gawin, (602) 417-9438, Chester_Gawin@blm.gov
California - Paul Fulkerson, (916) 978-4439, Paul_Fulkerson@blm.gov
Colorado – Geoffrey McManus, (303) 239-3921, Geoffry_McManus@blm.gov
Eastern States – ELynn Burkett, (202) 387-5711, ELynn_Burkett@blm.gov
Idaho - Cynthia Kowalczyk, (208) 373-3952, Cynthia_Kowalczyk@blm.gov
Montana/Dakotas - Lance Brady, (406) 896-5339, Lance_Brady@blm.gov
Nevada – June Loreman, (775) 861-6400, June_Loreman@blm.gov
New Mexico - Elaine Lopez, (505) 954-2175, Elaine_Lopez@blm.gov
Oregon/Washington – Todd Curtis, (503)-808-6103, Todd_Curtis@blm.gov
Utah – Trent Duncan, (801) 539-4090, Trent_Duncan@blm.gov 
Wyoming - Jim Honn, (307) 775-6233, Jim_Honn@blm.gov