September 14, 2012
Public Lands Council (PLC) last week 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.
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.
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 U.S. Forest Service 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."
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), national member of PLC, applauds the organization's Endowment Trust for approval of funding for "Bighorn and Domestic Sheep Interface Risk Analysis: Public Land Grazing and Comparative Immune System Investigation." This research project, as initiated with ASI last year, is critical to resolving the conflict that threatens grazing for 20 percent of the entire sheep industry.