Western ranchers focus on ESA listings, wildfire management at meeting

Western ranchers focus on ESA listings, wildfire management at meeting

Public Lands Council annual meeting topics include sage grouse, invasive species and wildfire management

The Public Lands Council hosted its annual meeting in Cody, Wyo., last week to discuss issues critical to the western ranching industry, including the Endangered Species Act, sage grouse, invasive species, wildfire management, water rights issues, and management of wild horses.

Related: Sage Grouse ESA determination forthcoming; populations have risen

The discussions drew a wide attendance and speakers from national affiliate organizations including the Western Governors' Association, Western Resources Legal Center, Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Sage grouse are seen with cattle on grazing lands in the West. Photo: USDA/Ken Miracle

According to Dustin Van Liew, PLC executive director, nearly 22,000 ranchers utilize grazing permits to graze on federal lands equating to nearly 40% of western cow herd and 50% of the nation's sheep herd spending some time on federal lands.

Sage Grouse ESA listing pending
The potential listing of the Greater Sage Grouse under the Endangered Species Act was top of mind, as the habitat improves and even thrives, specifically in properly-managed ranching areas.

James Ogsbury, executive director of the Western Governors' Association, stressed the importance of individual state involvement in land management decisions such as the potential listing of the Sage Grouse.

PLC says the listing could harm the ranching industry and potentially halt the conservation programs already underway by ranchers and the states.


Animal law
Western Resources Legal Center Executive Director Caroline Lobdell also discussed emerging issues in animal law. One particular issue of concern being tried in the courts, she said, is attributing human rights and personhood onto animals and livestock.

The Public Lands Endowment Trust allocated nearly a half a million dollars to invest in the protection, enhancement, and preservation of the western ranching industry, including a continuation of the communications project that serves to educate policy influencers and the public on the beneficial uses of grazing on federal lands.

Related: Report: Rancher participation key in Sage Grouse Initiative projects

Since inception four years ago, the Trust has distributed over $1.3 million to projects across the west.

"Grazing continues to represent a multiple use that is essential to the livestock industry, wildlife habitat, open space, and the rural economies of many western communities," said Van Liew. "This meeting always fosters insightful conversation about the future of the industry, and we greatly appreciate those who sacrifice their time and energy to join the meeting to shape the direction of our industry."

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