PLC meeting stresses need for rancher involvement
Public Lands Council recently held its 2012 Annual Meeting in Winnemucca, Nev. Agenda items important to the public lands grazing industry, such as fire and drought; sage grouse planning; water rights; and local government participation in federal land use planning, drew a wide audience from ranchers to members of Congress.
"We had a lot of ground to cover in three days," said PLC Executive Director Dustin Van Liew. "Our board of directors approved the first projects to be funded by the Public Lands Endowment Trust; we honored our retiring president, John Falen, and toured his ranch near Winnemucca; our members elected new leadership; and we joined the Bureau of Land Management in honoring the Kirby Creek Coordinated Resource Management Group from Worland, Wyo., recipients of the BLM Rangeland Stewardship Award."
Colorado rancher Brice Lee officially began his two-year term as PLC president at the meeting, and Utah rancher, Dave Eliason, was elected as the new secretary/treasurer. Brenda Richards, an Idaho rancher, assumed the role of vice president. PLC members also voted on new policy to protect grazing preference numbers and help ensure continued permittee involvement in allotment management plan changes.
Issues affecting the roughly 22,000 public lands ranchers across the West were discussed by ranchers; elected officials; Washington and regional officials of the BLM and U.S. Forest Service; natural resource attorneys; and other industry experts.
"Utah State Congressman Ken Ivory spoke to us about Utah's efforts to properly manage the federal lands Utahans rely on. We even heard from U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei of Nevada, a champion for our industry in Washington," said Van Liew, who is also the director of federal lands for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Additionally, a panel of experts discussed the importance and legal right of local governments to act as cooperating agencies and coordinators in the federal land use planning process. PLC members discussed with agency officials the need to implement local and state sage grouse conservation plans. Those is attendance also conversed with local and state fire experts about improving fire prevention and fire suppression through cooperative, local efforts. Public lands ranchers made a point to stress to USFS officials the importance of preserving privately held water rights for ranchers grazing livestock on federal lands.
"Overall, there was a general feeling that federal land management decisions need to be made as close to the ground-level as possible. The caretakers of this land, which are ranch families, must be included in the decision-making process to achieve the best results for the land, wildlife and the future of these family ranching operations," Van Liew said. "No one knows better than ranchers and local agency range staff about the rangeland needs. On the same token, no one knows better than local elected officials what their communities require. The effort on the parts of ranchers and local officials to properly manage the federal range is stronger than ever. It's very encouraging."