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The Word is Out

Written by Dennis Sun

For those of you out in the hills, if your business, farm or ranch is touched by federal lands, doing business may be getting easier. For a start, the climate of doing business on federal lands seems to be one of more cooperation.

Not all may not agree with me, especially those who have never had to deal with public lands managers or those who now have to allow tribal consultation if any part of an oil and gas development crosses federal surface or sub-surface minerals. That is a hard pill to swallow.

But for those of us who grew up dealing with either Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or Forest Service (FS) personnel, one knew there would always be conflicts – not only with the regulations but also with personnel, and I’m sure the federal land managers out there felt the same about us. At times, there was good cause on both sides, and we agreed to disagree, so to say.

I sense, for the most part, those days are hopefully behind us. The word “cooperation” is being heard more and more frequently today. We, as public land users, need to take advantage of this opportunity and not only use that word more often but practice it. As you know, cooperation is a two-way street.

When Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke took office, he said he was planning a major reorganization of the Department of Interior (DOI). Now, he has said he is currently considering moving at least three DOI agencies’ headquarters outside of Washington D.C. – BLM, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. The new Trump administration, along with western states Republican lawmakers on the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources, which oversees the DOI, are also in favor of moving the agencies out to the West.

A letter sent recently to Secretary Zinke by Republican committee members stated, “Any thoughtful DOI reorganization should give serious consideration to relocating select agencies away from Washington, D.C. As a result of mission drift, federal agencies have lost touch with concerns of Americans most impacted by administrative and regulatory burdens.”

The Republicans have also backed a more cooperative approach to western land management, promoting activities like resource extraction, hunting, fishing and ranching in conjunction with environmental stewardship.

The word cooperation was repeated time and time again during a recent public agency meeting held in conjunction with Wyoming Natural Resources Rendezvous last week in Casper. The number of Wyoming BLM regional and area managers and Wyoming FS managers who attended was large, the largest in recent memory.

Tony Tooke, FS chief, also backs more cooperation, especially in the West. He has never managed a forest in the West but has good friends here who back him and like his message.

I welcome cooperation from all sides. It makes getting good conservation and good decisions easier. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support the Public Lands Council any more. We still need them – more or as much as ever. With parties cooperating, decisions will come faster and more frequently. Western ranchers still need someone to lobby Congress and others in Washington, D.C. Last year, if you paid your assessment with $100, this year, write the check for $120, and get your neighbors to do the same.