The Seasons Change, the Mission Does Not
By Niels Hansen
As we move through the changing of the seasons, we see everything around us preparing for winter. These changes have been going on forever and will continue regardless of what some people think. Everyone is moving forward with the fall work of moving the stock closer to winter pastures and feed, getting the equipment winterized and all the other jobs that have been going on as long as our families have been on this land.
At the Public Lands Council (PLC), we also continue to plan for whatever change the season may bring. With the upcoming elections, we know change is coming. It may be big or it may be small, but it will come.
Regardless of whether the election brings a shift in Congressional majorities or White House occupancy, there will be plenty of new members of Congress coming to Washington. We need to meet them in their first days and introduce them to our issues, especially if they are not from the West.
As a rule, new congressmen and senators typically have limited understanding of the substance of agricultural issues and even less knowledge of federal lands grazing issues. While the general subject will be familiar to many of them, one of the biggest issues we will need to introduce is how to address catastrophic wildfires.
Likely all these individuals heard on the campaign trail was talk of climate change and the danger of building homes in the woods. They likely didn’t hear about fine fuels management and the value of grazing as a tool to reduce the risk of fire. This discussion has largely been ignored for the last four decades or more, and now the landscapes and local residents are paying the price.
Decades ago, there were calls to reduce and eliminate logging and grazing, which affected policy at a national level. When those policies played out, the loss of industry devastated entire communities and local economies. Now, we are experiencing mega fires that are destroying people’s homes and businesses again.
These fires are also damaging the land in a way far more lasting than the groups who called for the elimination of grazing and logging could have ever imagined. New members of Congress and the American public must not be allowed to be lulled into a sense of complacency – this is a problem we can fix.
The list of issues PLC is working on is long and evolves with the seasons, but neither the changing seasons nor a new Congress changes our key priorities. While the priorities stay the same, the people across the table continue to change.
The recently signed Memorandum of Understanding between PLC, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Ducks Unlimited and Safari Club International is a great example of groups working together to create a coalition to show new members and the public we can work together to achieve a common goal.
We have been working with several advocacy groups building a level of trust and educating their members about ranchers’ role in developing management plans and the role of livestock grazing in land management. The more people we have telling the good news story about public lands grazing, the better.
Yes, change is coming, but we are in a better position to deal with change than we have ever been. Our staff has worked hard at positioning PLC to be the go-to group in Washington, D.C. on federal land and natural resource issues. Change is not always bad. It’s up to us at PLC to take advantage of change and turn it into opportunity.
I’m looking forward to the new opportunities that lie ahead. I hope you are, too.
Niels Hansen is a third generation rancher from Rawlins and president of PLC. For more information about PLC, visit publiclandscouncil.org.