Ag, conservation partner on open spacesWritten by Christy Hemken
Increasing the volume of the ranching and conservation cooperation message was the focus of a late-February two-day summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, which involved members of both the agriculture and conservation communities. According to a PLC press release, more than 120 people attended, representing more than 40 agricultural, government, agency and conservation organizations.
“Are we going to agree on every issue?” asked Krebs in his opening address. “Of course not, but we agree on 95 percent of the issues and we’re not going to let the other five percent eat up our time.”
The process of pulling together the gathering began a year ago with Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, who is involved with PLC leadership.
“To the ranching community it doesn’t seem like we get fair media coverage, and we don’t always get portrayed in a positive fashion,” said Krebs. “It was Jim’s idea that we should be more proactive. Somehow our story and the positive things we do don’t always get told – the fact that good ranching practices benefit wildlife, watersheds, local communities and the economy.”
Krebs said the whole western landscape is intertwined with public and private lands, and ranching, wildlife and conservation. “They’re all a part of a working relationship, and removing any part of it affects all the parties out there,” he said.
The gathering focused on building relationships, establishing trust and finding common ground the groups can agree upon. Ultimately, the desired outcome is to get a commitment from different groups with common interests who want to join together on public relations, legislation and litigation.
The first day of the summit focused on public relations and getting an accurate message out to the American public about the environmental benefits of ranching, while the second honed in on litigation and legislative issues.
“We all agree the meeting went well and demonstrated there is some good potential to work together,” said Magagna in a follow-up interview. “But that was really only a beginning.”
Magagna said some of the group’s early energy will likely focus on a new website that would highlight the positive aspects of ranching. “Beyond that, I know that PLC intends to get back in touch with the groups that expressed interest to put together a steering committee.”
“Maintaining open spaces and keeping ranchers on public lands makes our Western landscapes vibrant, healthy, and productive,” said Krebs in a press release. “In that sense, ranchers have a great deal in common with groups dedicated to conservation and environmental protection. The partnerships created at this summit will help us make progress on shared goals.”
“This was an incredibly productive meeting,” said Krebs. “When groups like the World Wildlife Foundation and livestock associations sit down at the same table, you have the potential for a really unusual, powerful and effective cooperation.”