Lane: Public lands grazing critical for effective land management
Bellevue, Neb. – “It costs the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) five dollars to manage an ungrazed acre, but by grazing, the cost drops to two dollars per acre,” said Public Lands Council (PLC) Executive Director Ethan Lane.
He continued, “Eliminate ranchers from that equation and we simply cannot afford to manage the federal estate.”
During the May 19-20 Range Rights and Resource Symposium, Lane discussed PLC’s voice on grazing and current actions in Washington, D.C.
One of the primary ways PLC works to advocate for western ranchers is through educating the public and Congress.
“Our goal is to help people to understand what it is that livestock grazing does for western communities, both economically and ecologically,” said Lane.
Whether the message they are working to convey is related to the number of jobs agriculture creates, ecosystem services provided or acres of Greater sage grouse habitat conserved, Lane explained the intent is the same.
“We work to get the point across to people around the country that grazing is absolutely essential to managing land in the West,” he commented.
Lane continued, “None of the goals of the radical environmental community, the moderate environmental community, sportsmen, counties or anybody else can be achieved unless ranchers are doing what they do on a daily basis to manage resources, period.”
Another way PLC actively works to educate legislatures and the public is through targeted campaigns.
The organization spent the month of May focusing on education about wildfires.
“This is partially because we’ve had such a prolific season and also because it is a topic that’s critically important,” said Lane.
As part of the campaign, videos from different range specialists and areas of the West are used to look at effective fire prevention and control strategies.
“I think a lot of us watch these videos and say, ‘Yeah, of course. We know that,’ but it helps make the point to legislators on the Hill and help them to understand just how bad the situation is and how beneficial grazing is,” commented Lane.
He continued, “We also have BLM participating at this point, agreeing with us and weighing in about how important it is to get these cows out to reduce fuel loads.”
Lane explained litigation is another large component of PLC’s activity in Washington, D.C.
“What’s surprising for a lot of people is the vast majority of our litigation efforts are in defense of agency action,” he said.
Lane noted that when an agency renews a permit or allows a producer to keep grazing numbers at a viable number, the agency is oftentimes sued.
“We spend a lot of time defending their action,” he commented. “We run counter to them, as well, when need be, but the vast majority of our efforts are in helping them combat offensive environmental litigation.”
Lane continued, “There’s not a single problem we’re dealing with in the West right now that doesn’t come back to offensive litigation.”
“Some of the current issues and priorities we’re working on all come back to that main theme, operational certainty for permittees,” said Lane, noting that reform of the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act are top priorities.
He explained that Greater Sage Grouse Resource Management Plan Amendments (RMPAs) continue to be a major challenge.
“Eleven states were working through some solutions with the Department of the Interior for some clarification of that language that has been so challenging, as well as a path moving forward because grazing is not a threat to the Greater sage grouse,” commented Lane. “Fire is the greatest threat.”
Another important topic is wild horse populations which “have absolutely paralyzed some parts of the West,” said Lane.
“There is no solution to this problem, short of a full gather, surgical sterilization and selling excess population,” he stressed. “Anything short of that and we’re kidding ourselves. We’ll continue driving that message home moving forward.”
PLC is pleased the current presidential administration has moved quickly on the Antiquities Act, but Lane noted that public comments are critical.
“Wild Earth Guardians and groups like that have an incredibly sophisticated network of members around the world that they drive to these comment periods,” Lane continued. “They’ve out-organized us, they’ve out-maneuvered us and they’re dominating these comment periods. We have to show up for success.”
Call to action
According to Lane, the current political challenges faced, particularly with wild horse management, are not a failure to effectively communicate with inner city Democrats but rather suburban Republicans.
“We must make sure our voices are unified, make sure our message is clear and make sure when we speak, we speak with authority because we are the experts on these issues,” he said.
To protect public lands rights, Lane commented that being politically active and presenting clear, consistent positions and consequences is critical.
Lane explained that activists began flooding Congress with calls and e-mails on issues such as wild horses beginning on Jan. 1, but western offices do not receive any calls on the issues.
“Stakeholders in the West know the issue and talk about it, but we talk about it amongst ourselves,” noted Lane. “What we don’t do is tell enough other people.”
“Folks on Capitol Hill need to know that if they make the wrong decision on these issues, they will hear about it from constituents, western ranchers and they’ll hear about it on an individual basis,” he said.
Lane concluded, “Weigh in, get involved and get your name counted. It’s critically important.”
Emilee Gibb is editor of Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.