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Buffalo – Legislation, wolves, restaurants and ranch humor blended together in the third annual Women’s Agriculture Summit. 

The summit, held Jan. 26 in Buffalo, brought together ranching women who heard four great speakers and had the opportunity to network and shop at several vendor booths. 

The event was organized by the Johnson County Cattlewoman and made possible by a many generous sponsors.

Look at legislation

Liz Lauck, communications and publications director for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, presented an informative program regarding current legislative issues affecting agriculture in Wyoming. 

Lauck also touched on national issues of concern over the next four years.

“Generally speaking, agriculture does not really expect much from Congress until the budget fight is over,” she said. “We are waiting to see who will be appointed as Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and who will be head of the EPA. With USDA Secretary Vilsack staying, we expect more of the same, and he has been reasonably good to work with.”

Lauck indicated that climate change could be a big issue. 

“We are concerned the EPA will be regulating ‘climate change’ rules at their level, not through Congress, so people in agriculture will need to keep an especially sharp eye on the EPA at all times,” she explained.

She added that although EPA has backed off on the dust rule, which would have regulated dust from ag activities, it’s wise to continue to be vigilant.

Lauck mentioned the farm bill, or lack thereof, authorized limited disaster assistance for 2012 and 2013, which includes livestock indemnity payments of $80 million, $400 million for livestock forage disaster and $50 for emergency assistance for livestock. The funding is subject to receiving money from the Appropriations Committee.”

She concluded the speech by urging people to become involved by contacting their legislators or going to testify in Cheyenne. 

“Contact the field office of your Congressmen, and be involved at both the state and national levels,” she emphasized. “Keep informed.” 

Chefs and ranchers unite

Chef Victor Matthews addressed a topic that’s becoming increasingly popular today: local food. 

Matthews, who donned his chef’s uniform for the lecture, has an impressive list of credentials, including numerous awards and 15 competition medals. He was named youngest four-star chef in Louisiana, founded the Culinary Institute of New Orleans and then founded the Paragon Culinary School. He owns Black Bear Restaurant in Green Mountain Falls, Colo. 

Though his list of accomplishments is long, one thing is especially apparent – he cares a lot about food and the people who eat it.

“I grew up on a farm in North Carolina, but I was the most un-country of kids,” he chuckled. “I left the farm and trained in North Carolina to be a chef. But after a few years, I looked for really good things to cook, and I couldn’t find any.”

Matthews continued, “I thought back to the farm and all the great food there. One-hundred years ago, a chef would venture out and talk to farmers, ranchers, look at some sheep and talk about what they wanted them to be fed. I realized that wasn’t happening anymore, and it made me realize that the people who raised animals for food and the people who cook the meat aren’t connected at all.”

Where meat comes from

Matthews said he looked at a box of cryo-packed beef and wanted to find out what farm it came from. He talked to the distributor who told him it was impossible to identify where a box of meat came from. 

“Then I finally went up the chain of command and got the person who organizes all the beef. Again, it was impossible. If you pass the distributor and go to the processor, again, there’s no way to know about the animals that are processed,” he explained. “There is a huge roadblock between the farmer and the chef.”

The creative chef lamented that the rancher/farmer and the chef are the two biggest pieces of the puzzle, yet rarely get a chance to meet. 

“We should be saying ‘How can we work together?’ ‘How can we make our customer happier?’” he said, adding, “so now I am doing all the legwork.”

Local foods

He agrees it’s difficult for a small producer to provide enough product. 

“But if 30 or 40 of ranchers or farmers could come together and form a co-op, that sometimes can work,” he said, adding that if the middlemen are taken out, both the farmer, the chef and the small processor will benefit.

Matthews noted that it’s becoming increasingly important for customers to know their food’s origin, especially in restaurants. 

“I’ve found this with steaks that are priced between $15 and $35. Diners like to know where it comes from and how the animal was raised,” he commented. “The more ‘local’ and the more you know about the rancher, the more they like it.”

Matthews, whose Paragon Culinary Institute teaches chefs-to-be everything they need to know about the business, urges more women to become chefs. 

“We need real chefs, not celebrities, but real, hard-working chefs who take care of the public,” he said. “People would rather pay more and know more. Chefs want that information. I love the idea of the customer getting high-quality food and the rancher getting more money.“

Crying Wolf

The Women’s Ag Summit also hosted brothers J.D. and Cody King, who’s award-winning documentary Crying Wolf has earned high praise, especially from those directly affected by wolf re-introduction programs. 

J.D. noted that the Greater Yellowstone elk herd has decreased by 90 percent since wolf-reintroduction, and he expects moose will be on the Endangered Species List in two to five years. 

“Of course, you have environmental groups now switching from wolves to moose being endangered to get more money,” he explained. “They’ve received a three-year grant to study the decline of moose, but it’s very obvious. The moose declined drastically with the increase in wolves.”

The documentary uses statistics and historical accounts to show the devastation of wildlife and livestock since wolves were re-introduced and covers the duplicity of government officials involved in reintroduction, some secretive.

King pointed out that the latest ploy for environmental groups to gain control of the wilderness is a disease that was already in the re-introduced wolves caused by tapeworms, which is lethal to game and humans. 

“Two-thirds of the wolves have it, and the game herds now have it. It’s only a matter of time until it’s believed that it’s too dangerous for humans’ health to go into the wilderness,” he said.

The King brothers are currently working on a new film, Axed: The End of Green.

Rebecca Colnar Mott is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Denver, Colo. – “We have a large foundation in this country that is opposed to everything that you are doing,” says Gary Baise, lawyer with Olsson, Frank and Weeda Law in Washington, D.C. “The social contract with American agriculture is broken, and we are in a very serious time.”

Baise mentions, along with combating the American public’s negative perception of agriculture, the industry is forced to reckon with regulatory burdens as well. 

Building trust with stories

“I want you to understand that the American public used to trust us – they no longer trust,” says Baise, pointing out that recent trends show an opposition to monocultures, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), international trade, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the criminalization of CAFO runoff.

“We have so many great stories that we can tell about American agriculture, and we aren’t telling them,” says Baise. 

Baise suggests that characters such as Mark Francis, who developed cattle tick vaccines, can help to regain trust and tell the story.

“Mark Francis was a professor in the 1880s when we only had one breed of cow, and it was the Longhorn, because of ticks and Texas fever,” he explained. “If ranchers took cattle any place in this country, they’d die, but Mark Francis figured out that if you dipped cattle, it killed ticks. By 1920, we had all sorts of breeds of beef cattle in this country, and the beef cattle industry exploded in growth.”

Baise notes that rebuilding trust with the American consumer won’t be an easy task, and he says, “There are great stories in ag that we all have, and all you have to get out there and start telling them.”

‘It’s criminal!’

“Did you ever think of agriculture as a criminal activity?” asks Baise. “The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) does.”

Agriculture’s regulatory burden encompasses issues from genetically modified organisms to effluent limits and Clean Water Act compliance. Effluent limitations, according to Baise, are very similar to carbon dioxide concerns.

“The environmentalists want to take away the nutrients you use to grow your crops. They say they will control the runoff of nutrients for farmers and ranchers,” he says, noting that groups want farmers to control nutrients in rainwater runoff, specifically. “Streams will have limits on them, and they will come from American agriculture.”

Though there is a current exemption for agriculture storm water runoff, environmental groups have made efforts to eliminate them.

“They are trying to destroy the waterfall exception, and are being very effective,” says Baise, noting that if water falls on a piece of land, the farmer become responsible. “If you don’t control what runs off of your property, that can be deemed criminal because you knowingly allowed the rainfall.”

Regulations forced on the industry will shut down a variety of segments, including Florida’s agriculture industry. Baise says the Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi watersheds are next.

EPA indictments

Today, Baise says the EPA is indicting farmers across the country for what they call negligent acts. Attorneys across the U.S. have charged farmers and ranchers with criminal negligent discharge as a result, and in 2011 a number of large cases were cited, including a dairy co-op for discharging ammonia solution into a creek and killing fish and an Idaho dairy farmer charged with a negligent misdemeanor for water runoff.

The list of EPA and Clean Water Act related cases is extensive, says Baise, adding, “This is what the EPA is doing to us.”

Baise admits that the picture he paints isn’t pretty, but in the long run, he is optimistic about the future.

“We will figure out how to solve these problems, but in the meantime, we have enormous threats, and they are legal threats,” comments Baise. “Admiral William Fredrick Halsey said, ‘There are not great men in life, only great challenges that ordinary men rise to meet.’ I think we can do that, and I think we will do that. I think we will rise to win in the end.”

Baise addressed attendees of the closing session of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture in Denver, Colo. on March 28. Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Right before the close of 2017, on Dec. 29, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued updated policy statements designed to maintain healthy sagebrush habitat in the West while also continuing to allow multiple use and influencing local economic development. 

The six Instruction Memoranda (IM) provide guidance to BLM staff and managers for implementing sage grouse habitat management plans at the local level. 

“The updated policies are in response to concerns raised by the states, local partners and our own field staff,” said Brian Steed, BLM’s deputy director for programs and policy.  “They were developed from the ground up with the goal of improving sagebrush habitat while permitting measured economic and recreational activity.”

Overview

The six documents provide guidance for oil and gas leasing and development, livestock grazing leasing and permitting, and evaluating the health of sagebrush habitat. Three of the IMs revise memos issued in 2016, two super 

sede guidance from 2016, and the final document is a new IM that directs field staff in using the habitat objective stable in sage grouse management plans.

The IMs, which were developed with input and consultation from the Governor’s offices in 11 western states and built on reviews of Greater sage grouse plans and policies, as director by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.

The IMs also reinforce the importance of land health standards, which are established in regulation for evaluating all BLM-managed public lands, those with habitat and those without.  

BLM says, “While policy on land health evaluation has not changed, clarification in the policy for prioritizing grazing permit renewal responds to concerns of several states that earlier guidance could be interpreted as making the presence of sage grouse habitat the primary or sole factor to consider in permit and leasing evaluations.”

Local explanation

Bob Budd, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust and co-chair of the Sage Grouse Implementation Team, said, “These IMs are mainly to clarify things that were unclear in the previous plans.”

He continued, “For the ag industry, there were real concerns about the misinterpretation and misapplication of the habitat tables. We think this is a move in the right direction to applying them correctly.” 

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, added specifically, “The thing that bothered us most was Table 2.2 on stubble height. In the IMs, they make it very clear stubble height is not the basis of grazing decisions. Instead, it is to inform the process, but decisions are to be made based on standards for healthy rangelands, as in the past.” 

Rather, the IMs emphasize that grazing plan decisions can be informed by the habitat assessment frame work for sage grouse, but “it doesn’t directly drive decisions,” Magagna explained.

“Overall, the IMs are very good for Wyoming,” Magagna said.

Plan amendments

While the IMs have made significant progress, according to Budd and Magagna, both note that land use plan amendments are necessary for the future. Those changes are still being pursued in a parallel track. 

Magagna explained BLM hired a private contractor to analyze comments, with direction to report back by Dec. 31. The next step is development of proposed amendments and public input, a process which could take six months to a year or more to complete.

“In the meantime, these IMs should help to clarify the fact that objectives for sage grouse are not what grazing permits should be solely renewed by,” he said. 

Magagna commented, “I’m very pleased with the IMs. They go about as far as BLM could go and defend their actions, short of plan amendments.”
The interim actions, continued Magagna, take some of the burden off producers for the BLM planning process. 

Additionally, Budd said, “In Wyoming, with our sage grouse plans and what we have been doing, we shouldn’t see too much of an impact.” 

IMs are generally issued for three years, which allows BLM to review their effectiveness, and if needed, make changes. The IMs issued in December will be BLM policy through September 2021.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article, which was written from press releases and Roundup interviews, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Washington, D.C. – On Oct. 11, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed House of Representatives (HR). 3990, the National Monument Creation and Protection Act, dubbed the CAP Act, which was introduced by Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

The bill was introduced with the intention of protecting archeological resources while also ensuring public transparency and accountability in the use of the Antiquities Act.

“Congress never intended to give one individual the power to unilaterally seize enormous swaths of our nation’s public lands,” Bishop said during markup of the bill. “Our problem isn’t with President Obama or President Trump. It’s the underlying law – a statute provides authority to dictate national monument decisions and without public input.”

He emphasized the only way to ensure accountability is to amend the Antiquities Act.

Ultimately, on markup, the bill was amended, adopted and ordered favorably reported to the House of Representatives by a vote of 23-17.

Reasons for the bill

Bishop emphasized that lack of transparency associated with the use of the Antiquities Act has been an overreach by the federal government.

“At the end of the day, any call for transparency is good,” he said.

He also explained that the bill introduces a new, tiered framework requiring a reasonable degree of consultation with local stakeholders and an open public process.

“HR 3990 strengthens the president’s authority to protect actual antiquities without the threat of disenfranchising people, something we can all agree is a bad thing,” Bishop emphasized, noting that his bill even goes so far as to strengthen the original intent of the law while adding accountability.

“We must also realize that the only path to the transparency and accountability we all seek – no matter which party controls the White House – is to amend the Act itself,” Bishop said.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) argued that, while he welcomes the chance to fight to increase transparency in the Antiquities Act, “We welcome the discussion of the language. National monuments are not a problem. The problem is this committee and this administration.”

Bill text

HR 3990 protects archeological artifacts in imminent danger and ensures comprehensive review of designations.

Bishop also notes that the bill empowers state and local voices by requiring county commissioner, state legislature and governor approval of designations between 10,000 and 85,000 acres to protect the economic viability of local landscapes.

Additionally, Bishop included provisions to provide emergency national monuments for up to one year to protect areas during times of emergency.

Finally, the bill prohibits marine national monuments and limits presidential power to reduce national monuments.

The bill would also require National Environmental Policy Act reviews on proposed designations greater than 640 acres and prior written consent of impacted landowners before private property is included in a proposed designation.

Industry reaction

Markup of the bill was praised by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC), who noted that reform of the Antiquities Act is long overdue.

“Previous presidents consistently ignored original congressional intent for monument designations to be the ‘smallest area compatible’ with conservation objectives,” said Dave Eliason, PLC president. “Repeated abuse of executive authority under the Antiquities Act harmed local economies and communities in rural areas across the country.”

NCBA President Craig Uhden added, “HR 3390 adds critical details to original, vague legislation regarding the creation and management of national monuments. By limiting presidential authority and restoring balance to the monument designation process, the bill would ensure local ranchers and communities are not subject to the whims of an unchecked federal government.”

Recreation bill

At the same time Bishop worked to pass HR 3990, he also introduced HR 3400, the Recreation Not Red Tape Act, as a companion bill to Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-Ore.) bill in the Senate. Wyden and Bishop are attempting to make the legislation a bipartisan bill.

A hearing was held on HR 3400 on Oct. 3 by the Federal Lands Committee.

The bill intends “to promote innovative approaches to outdoor recreation on federal land and to open up opportunities for collaboration with non-federal partners and for other purposes.”

However, there is concern from Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) that Title III, which establishes the process for designating the national recreation areas, raises recreation to a higher level than other uses, such as grazing, on public land.

“We believe that current uses of public land must be protected. We also do not want other, equally important, uses of land to be prohibited on large areas of public land,” said Holly Heussner, a staffer in Rep. Cheney’s office. “We are concerned that the criteria for designating national recreation areas is too broad, which could result in more restrictions on our public land.”

To alleviate concerns, Bishop has indicated he will work with the committee to amend the bill. Rep. Cheney is currently working on the best approach to amend the bill to address concerns.

The bill has not yet been scheduled for markup.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

On Sept. 22, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service announced that their land use plans would be implemented. 

The plans were met with concern by many, including the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. 

The plans have been under development for many years, and BLM said, “Effective conservation of the Greater sage grouse and its habitat requires a collaborative, landscape-scale, science-based approach that includes strong federal plans, a strong commitment to conservation on state and private lands and a proactive strategy to reduce the risk of rangeland fires.”

“The BLM and Forest Service land use plans will conserve key sagebrush habitat, address identified threats to the Greater sage grouse and promote sustainable economic development in the West,” BLM continued.

Plan overview

The 98 BLM and Forest Service plans represent the federal land covering 10 western states. They are based on three objectives – minimizing new or additional surface disturbance, improving habitat condition and reducing threat of rangeland fire to sage grouse and sagebrush habitat.

Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna commented, “The idea of releasing two Records of Decision to cover 98 BLM offices is unique. It sounds like, on the surface, this ought to represent efficiency.”

“It also represents conformity and standardization, which can be bad for people who are impacted by these plans,” he added.

Changes from a draft

Magagna noted that BLM responded to and denied nearly all of the objections that were filed in response to the plans. However, there were a handful of positive changes in the document due primarily to work done under the Governor’s consistency review.

“One of the critical elements of Wyoming’s own plan was recognition that grazing was not a major impact on sage grouse. The original Executive Order (EO) said grazing was de-minimus,” he explained. “To satisfy BLM and others, a new EO that Gov. Mead issued in 2013 said proper grazing was not an impact and could be beneficial to sage grouse.”  

“The EO further stated that where improper grazing was identified through at least three years of monitoring, the BLM and state would work collaboratively with permittees to address those negative impacts,” Magagna said. “The final BLM Record of Decision adopted the ‘improper grazing’ language.  That is significant.”

Other changes related to grazing improvements were made, providing additional opportunities for improvements to be made with appropriate modifications. 

On another item important to agriculture, Magagna noted that the draft documents contained language he called “very disturbing.” 

“There was language in the draft that said when permits were voluntarily relinquished, BLM would consider closing those permits permanently to grazing in sage grouse habitat,” he said. “The language is much broader now. It says if permits are voluntarily relinquished, BLM will look at the range of opportunities – from reissuing permits to creating forage reserve to closing areas to grazing where appropriate.”

Other thoughts

Magagna also noted concerns with some of the numbers utilized in the plans. 

“It is disturbing that the BLM proposed a six-inch stubble height for nesting and brood rearing areas, in the draft plan, then increased this to seven inches in the final plan to conform with Forest Service plans, stating that this ‘was requested by objectors.’”  

While there is recognition in the plan that a seven-inch stubble height isn’t attainable range-wide, Magagna is concerned that anywhere it isn’t met will be challenged, leaving BLM to prove that it isn’t attainable.

“The same concern occurs with requirements on nesting and brood rearing,” he added. “There are some places that a requirement for those conditions to be met across 80 percent across the landscape could be a huge challenge.”

In Wyoming, the Forest Service’s land management plans apply to approximately 2,600 acres of sage grouse habitat on the Bridger Teton National Forest. 

Magagna observed that the Forest Service plan appears significantly less deferential to Wyoming’s Executive Order.  For example, the plan does not distinguish “improper grazing.”

Implementation

“The future of the sage grouse depends on the successful implementation of the federal and state management plans and the actions of private landowners, as well as a continuing focus on reducing invasive grasses and controlling rangeland fire,” said the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “Fish and Wildlife Service has committed to monitoring all of the continuing efforts and population trends, as well as to reevaluating the status of the species in five years.”

Magagna offered that implementation is where many of the unknowns lie.  

“I wouldn’t say the plans themselves offer flexibility,” he said. “They dictate, depending on the type of sage grouse habitat present, the requirements that need to be met.”  

Nevertheless, BLM has committed to be adaptive to circumstances and to work on the implementation of plans with Wyoming’s Sage Grouse Implementation Team.  This is particularly important in Wyoming as the BLM plan amendments follow Wyoming’s core area strategy in significant ways, Magagna commented.

Looking forward

Magagna also noted that the implementation of plans will occur over the next several years.  

Forest Service specifically states that they intend to implement their plan over a two- to three-year period. On the Bridger Teton, it will be implemented for the 2017 grazing season. They indicate that for the National Grasslands, implementation may extend into 2018. 

BLM has not indicated a specific timeframe, instead promising to utilize the proper procedures and work toward positive progress in implementing plans.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..