Western ranchers discuss policy at public lands meeting
The Public Lands Council last week held its 2014 Annual Meeting in Ignacio, Colo. Ranchers from across the West gathered to discuss agenda items important to the public lands grazing industry including the potential sage grouse listing under the Endangered Species Act; the federal wild horse and burro program; the Clean Water Act; and local government participation in federal land use planning.
Joining in the discussion were Washington and regional officials of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service; natural resource experts; representatives from Rep. Tipton’s (R-Colo.) office and Sens. Bennet (D-Colo.) and Udall’s (D-Colo.) offices; representatives from national affiliate associations; and other industry leaders.
“There are approximately 22,000 federal land ranchers, and this week, industry leaders came together to provide direction for the coming years,” said PLC Executive Director Dustin Van Liew. “Our board of directors approved five new projects to be funded by the Public Lands Endowment Trust, including a national public relations campaign to research and ultimately bring more awareness to the benefits of utilizing public lands for grazing. This is a new step for our organization and the industry alike. We hope this long-term project will help bridge the gap between our producers and consumers across the country.”Members also heard from Susan Combs, Texas Comptroller for Public Accounts, about Texas’ efforts to bring awareness and understanding of the faulty Endangered Species Act. Since 2004 there has been a significant increase in the number of proposed listings across the country and according to Combs, there is not broad and clear understanding of the listing process, making it very difficult for ranchers and other stakeholders to engage early or at all.
Retiring president, Brice Lee, was honored at the Friday night banquet where many fellow ranchers shared their appreciation for his lifetime of dedication to the industry. Lee ranches in Southwest Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Saturday, members toured his ranch and learned about his work with Dow AgroSciences to treat Sage Brush and increase forage on his rangeland.
Lee passed the gavel to Idaho rancher Brenda Richards, officially beginning her two-year term as president. Richards, along with her husband and three sons, operate a cow-calf operation based in Owyhee County, Idaho. Dave Eliason, a Utah rancher, assumed the role as the vice president and Oregon rancher Bob Skinner was elected secretary/treasurer.
“These ranchers take time away from their operations and their families to travel here and discuss the important issues our industry is facing,” said newly-elected PLC President Brenda Richards. “Public lands ranching is a significant part of American agriculture, and I am looking forward to taking on this leadership role in an organization that strives to preserve the ranching heritage of the West.”