Ranching By Representation
By Neils Hansen
In the wake of one of the most challenging days America has ever seen and an election season which divided the country, I have been inundated with calls, texts and posts from friends, neighbors and colleagues.
To say emotions are at an all-time high is an understatement. While we are still in the beginning of the year, I have heard statements and opinions I never would have believed coming from our agriculture community.
While it’s tempting to give into the emotions of the day or the political wave of the moment, we must remember these things do not change – the core beliefs and the standards of conduct we all grew up under. We must remember our way of life has endured for generations, and while hard times are ahead, we are prepared to put our shoulders into it and push forward.
While sorting through the emotional statements and challenging political headwinds, I found myself focused on a simple question, “How can I best represent these people?”
How do I represent those who have such different operations, different political points of view and different levels of emotion about the direction this country is going?
The Public Lands Council (PLC) and Congress have something in common. PLC leadership and the Board of Directors is made up of people who were picked to represent the folks back home, just like those who make up both houses of Congress.
Regardless of the group or entity, anyone who is picked to represent others has the responsibility to work with other representatives to find common ground on as many issues as possible. At PLC, this means sitting down with representatives from the western states to find common principles, common challenges and desired outcomes representing the industry’s collective needs.
No one ever goes home with everything they wanted, but we work hard to make sure the paths we take represent as many as possible with the best possible outcome.
Now more than ever, we must band together behind shared goals and positions. There have been many efforts in the recent days to divide us – both as an industry and as a country.
If we don’t find common ground and if we don’t find a way to work together, everything our families and neighbors have worked and fought for will be lost.
PLC and the ranchers we represent have the high ground. We have sound stewardship of the range and environmental science on our side. We have a long history of support in rural communities.
We have a long legacy of producing the finest protein and fiber in the world. And, we have strong relationships with Congress, agencies and every administration which has ever taken their direction from a resident of the White House.
In each of those areas, we might not always agree with the person on the other side of the table, but we know they will listen when we bring out shared goals and priorities to them.
Nothing in politics – or in ranching – is all or nothing. We can’t, and shouldn’t, “throw the bums out” whether they’re lambs, calves or elected officials. We work with them, show them a better path and hold out hope that with the right encouragement and the right information, they will stay the course.
We are now in the early days of the 117th Congress and the Biden administration. Now is the time to convey our priorities and build relationships based on fact, civility and the knowledge that at the end of the day, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.
Niels Hansen is a third generation rancher from Rawlins and currently serves as president of the Public Lands Council. He has served as chairman of the Wyoming State Grazing Board and president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.