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Leave us Alone

A lot of ranchers, especially public lands ranchers and those involved with all types of livestock, are starting to get that dazed look in their eyes these days.
First, they all realize that spring and its accompanying busy times are getting nearer, as soon as we get through winter. There are enough issues to deal with on the home front without watching the evening news or reading the Roundup and finding news we’re not happy about. We’re kind of immune to finding good news from Washington, D.C., even though our President talks about jobs and cutting costs now that he knows he has to swing toward the center to have any impact. Many of us hope he follows Jimmy Carter and only last four years, because he has certainly done enough damage in his first two years to set us back for many to come.
Two issues that agriculture is faced with today are the old issue of animal welfare and a new issue that just recently jumped up – “Wild Lands” policy. The bad part is that both are moving targets, but the good part is that we’re learning to live with and manage the animal welfare issue and there are ways to combat the wild lands issue.
The Department of Interior (DOI) and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar have really blindsided the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with this issue of ‘wild lands.” Even the Wyoming BLM was caught off guard by the action, which was brought on by those who want more wilderness areas in the west but couldn’t get them done under current practices – namely, that wilderness should only be designated by Congress, period.
Years back, some BLM areas of the state were placed under potential wilderness status. They didn’t get the pure wilderness status, but the BLM has managed them as wilderness. There were also a number of areas that really didn’t meet the wilderness criteria but, in the eyes of some, needed protection. The funny part is that many people who are in favor of this recent action have most likely never been to Wyoming and live in the East or along the West Coast. Now the DOI plans to manage these select areas by a land use plan that can restrict multiple uses like energy development, and even grazing.
I first thought this action wouldn’t hurt Wyoming, but I was wrong. The whole West is vulnerable through any BLM lands states might have. As with animal welfare, we have to recognize the issue, realize its weak points and also realize these issues will never disappear – they have to be dealt with.
Around this time of the year we’re all just saying, “Leave me alone, I just want to chase cows or sheep,” but our world today will not allow it. We have some great friends in Congress, and especially in the U.S. House after the last election. If someone pushes something through without Congress’s approval, Congress can always vote against funding it.
As always, we need to be our own spokesperson as we live with the issues.     
Dennis