|Western Ranchers Discuss Policy Priorities during Annual Meeting in Cody, Wyo.|
|WASHINGTON (September 14, 2015) – The Public Lands Council hosted its annual meeting in Cody, Wyo., last week to discuss issues critical to the western ranching industry. Session topics included the need for modernization of the Endangered Species Act, sage grouse, invasive species, wildfire management, water rights issues, and management of wild horses among others. These hot button items drew a wide attendance and speakers from national affiliate organizations, the Western Governors’ Association, Western Resources Legal Center as well as Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“The western ranching industry is unique in the fact that it faces an added layer of federal bureaucracy in dealing with lands managed by the government,” said Dustin Van Liew, PLC executive director. “Nearly 22,000 ranchers utilize grazing permits to graze on federal lands equating to nearly 40 percent of western cow herd and 50 percent of the nation’s sheep herd spending some time on federal lands. I’m pleased this year’s meeting brought great insight and discussion to the table.”
The potential listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act was top of mind, as the habitat improves and even thrives, specifically in properly-managed ranching areas. James Ogsbury, executive director of the Western Governors’ Association stressed the importance of individual state involvement in land management decisions such as the potential listing of the Sage Grouse, which would not only harm the ranching industry, but potentially halt the successful conservation programs already underway by ranchers and the states.
Western Resources Legal Center Executive Director Caroline Lobdell gave an eye-opening presentation on emerging issues in animal law. One particular issue of concern being tried in the courts, she said, is attributing human rights and personhood onto animals and livestock.
The Public Lands Endowment Trust allocated nearly a half a million dollars to invest in the protection, enhancement, and preservation of the western ranching industry, including a continuation of the communications project that serves to educate policy influencers and the public on the beneficial uses of grazing on federal lands. Since inception four years ago, the Trust has distributed over $1.3 million to projects across the west.
“Grazing continues to represent a multiple use that is essential to the livestock industry, wildlife habitat, open space, and the rural economies of many western communities,” said Van Liew. “This meeting always fosters insightful conversation about the future of the industry, and we greatly appreciate those who sacrifice their time and energy to join the meeting to shape the direction of our industry.”