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Ranching Collaboratively: UW kicks off Ranching in the West Seminar Series with discussion on public lands partnerships

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The University of Wyoming’s (UW) College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources kicked off its 2024 Ranching in the West Seminar Series at Casper College on Feb. 12. 

Titled “Ranching Collaboratively: Mastering Public Land Partnerships,” the event hosted a panel discussion featuring grazing permittees and public lands managers who shared challenges they have faced on public lands and offered tips for creating and maintaining successful partnerships.

Moderated by Russell Burton, a natural resources field services project manager with Y2 Consultants, LLC, the panel also included Powder River District Ranger Thad Berrett, Fourth Generation Ten Sleep Rancher Dan Rice, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rangeland Management Specialist Mike Murry and Wyoming Stock Growers Association President Jack Berger. 

Public lands challenges

To begin, Berrett noted as a grazing permittee, he has ran into a few challenges on public lands, including having issues with BLM’s multiple use mandate and problems with the high turnover rate of rangeland consultants in his area.

“Some of them respect livestock and grazing and are willing to work with ranchers, but others seem like they don’t want livestock there at all,” he shared. 

Burton has also seen issues arise due to lack of longevity and public engagement from agency employees. 

Berger agreed, “I think longevity is a big part of it. There hasn’t been a lot of turnover in the Rawlins Field Office and the same people have been there for a long time, building solid relationships.”

Rice, however, sees things a little differently. 

“I think no matter how long someone is in a position, their perspective on things isn’t going to change much,” he said. “We aren’t going to change their mind on how they believe we should protect range resources. If they don’t think livestock producers are doing a good job of managing rangelands, no matter how long they are in the community, no matter how many relationships they build, their opinion is going to be hard to change.”  

Collaborative solutions

According to Berger, his time as a grazing permittee through the Rawlins Field Office has overall been a really positive experience, which he attributes to communication and mutual respect. 

“I have heard some horror stories from other district offices, but we have always gotten along really well,” he said. “We have a really good relationship with mutual respect, and we really haven’t had any big problems.”

Murry agreed communication is key, sharing an example of when having a tough conversation led to successful collaboration for him and a producer. 

“During one of the dry years, there wasn’t a lot of grass and we missed a guideline,” he said. “We had some conversations, but we decided we needed to do something differently the following year. We needed an annual adjustment but it was a tough conversation.” 

“It was one of those times we could have buried down and decided not to talk to each other. We could have told the permittee, ‘This is how it is, regardless of how it impacts you.’ But, it would only result in poor relationships where agencies and permittees wouldn’t want to work together,” he continued. 

Instead, Murry shared the stakeholders in his story got back together for another tough conversation and were able to make changes and recommendations which benefitted both parties. 

Burton, Berrett, Rice and Berger all shared similar stories, encouraging all public lands users to take some time to understand other points of view, actively listen to others’ perspectives and find commonalities in goals and objectives. 

The panel collectively agreed communication and collaboration can lead to successful partnerships on public lands. 

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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