NCBA member and rancher shares next steps for conservation policy
On March 11, the Beltway Beef podcast welcomed National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) member J.J. Goicoechea, fourth generation cattle rancher from east-central Nevada to discuss the Biden administration’s 30×30 initiative, intending to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s water and land by 2030.
NCBA and industry partners, including the Public Lands Council (PLC), help decision makers understand how farmers and ranchers work to conserve the environment, both now and in the future.
“I don’t think there’s any sector doing it better than ranchers when it comes to conservation,” Goicoechea says. “Producers know full well if they’re not conserving the land they are blessed with raising livestock on, farmers and ranchers wouldn’t be here. Conservation is the main thing farmers and ranchers do.”
Conservation versus preservation
Goicoechea reminds producers and lawmakers conservation and preservation have two different meanings. He finds these words can often be misinterpreted.
“Conservation means putting the land to work and using practices on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis which truly can serve the productivity of those working lands,” he says.
Goicoechea mentions when the 30×30 initiative was first mentioned, many folks thought this meant the Biden administration wanted to preserve land. This would mean the land would be untouched and unable to be used by humans.
“Especially in the Western U.S., this simply will not work. Farmers and ranchers need to be actively managing these lands day to day, whether it’s invasive plants, the threat of fire or managing water usage,” he says.
“There’s so little of the American landscape which hasn’t been touched by development and by mankind since settlement, so preservation is not where this needs to go,” Goicoechea says. “It has to be the daily management of conservation to ensure those working lands remain working and will stay this way for the next generation.”
Message to Congress
Goicoechea mentions NCBA and PLC have been involved with the Biden administration from the start, helping them decide what they wanted the 30×30 initiative to do.
“Our message from the beginning has been grazing is conservation,” he says. “Conservation is something ranchers care deeply about, if ranchers didn’t care, they wouldn’t be here for multiple generations.”
Goicoechea says using land for grazing gives back to the environment through carbon sequestration and helping wildlife migrate properly.
“Grazing is heavily regulated today, and farmers and ranchers will continue to make these lands profitable,” he says. “Give us the tools, allow us to graze lands and we will continue to serve these landscapes.”
Goicoechea says PLC and NCBA share common interests and goals with many environmentalists and outdoor recreationists. They need to work together for a common goal of making conservation a top priority.
“PLC and NCBA have been very big supporters of the multiple use mandate forever,” he says. “NCBA completely realizes this is the bedrock of what guides the decisions on our predominately public lands in the West.”
Goicoechea notes water and land recreationalists’ use has been conserved by farmers and ranchers for years. He says NCBA works with sportsmen’s groups and wildlife groups across the West.
“Farmers and ranchers are making working land available to everyone, and making sure it’s being protected from development, fires and invasive species,” he notes. “Conservation starts right here, and this is why PLC and NCBA have been such a strong voice in this initiative from the beginning.”
Public comments were submitted on the 30×30 Atlas, and NCBA members are anxiously waiting to see how the comments go through, says Goicoechea.
“Obviously, there are going to be some other groups feeling differently than NCBA,” he says. “They may feel preservation is the route they want to go, which is the worst thing people could do.”
Goicoechea says no matter what the administration decides, PLC and NCBA will continue to have conversations with agencies and elected officials.
“I can promise producers, NCBA and PLC will remain at the table,” he notes. “Submitting these comments was the first step, farmers and ranchers all need to stay engaged to let Congressmen and women know we are focused on this.”
“Producers need the strong leadership of PLC and NCBA to continue to move forward on this,” Goicoechea says. “NCBA will stay at this table for as long as it takes to make sure our message gets across the finish line.”
Kaitlyn Root is an editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.