Western Legacy Alliance unites to re-educate the public on the forgotten role of public landsWritten by Echo Renner
WLA says their public education strategy lays the groundwork to respond to radical opposition of Coalition goals and potentially neutralize future efforts. They work to increase community awareness of issues and activities that hurt Coalition members and initiate legislative or regulatory “fixes” to address frivolous challenges to permits held on public lands. They also work to ensure protection of private property rights guaranteed under the Constitution, and provide education initiatives to encourage youth interest in agricultural and resource jobs.
While radical environmental groups pick up steam with the Obama administration and the rise of Democrats in Washington, this is a critical time for action, as many people expect laws and regulations to roll back to those of the Babbitt era.
Jennifer Ellis, a third generation Idaho rancher and immediate past president of the Idaho Cattle Association, chairs WLA’s eight-member Board of Directors. “The extremist voice keeps repeating the same misinformation over and over – the misinformation that is detrimental instead of beneficial to public lands. It is time to unite a diverse bunch of people to get out an accurate message. We don’t want the new administration to have that misinformation first and foremost all the time,” Ellis remarks.
“With the Obama administration’s appointments of Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior and Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture - who we hope will advocate for farmers, ranchers and rural communities - the climate is right for finding middle ground,” Ellis adds.
The recent media attention given to canceled oil and gas leases near Utah parks, the reduction of AUMs and closure of select grazing allotments in several states, and escalating issues between agriculture and fringe environmentalists demonstrates the need for stakeholders to find workable solutions.
The WLA says they are committed to protecting sustainable and responsible agriculture, as well as opportunities for sportsmen, oil and gas, forestry, mining, as well as recreation on public lands. They will also support the economies and families who depend on natural resources and working lands.
Jeremy Drew, a Nevada sportsman quoted in a recent WLA news release, says, “The land use issues we deal with aren’t new, but they do call for new strategies.”
One new strategy is a media campaign to get accurate information to elected officials and the public. WLA issues news releases on relevant subjects to the media and to groups with an interest or stake in public lands, such as sportsmen and hunting organizations, RV groups, and agriculture, oil and gas, mining and power companies. “Those news releases also go to the western caucus and western delegation, to get the facts out there and get those people talking,” adds Ellis. WLA recently came out in support of USDA’s Wildlife Services (WS), after a group of environmental organizations sent a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture to abolish WS to save animals and cut costs.
“We are going to be a clearing house of science and information gathered amongst the ‘user groups,’ to not only talk to the media about our plight, but be a ‘knowledge base’ for the western states. Our goals and mission will never deviate from say, the Public Lands Council, cattle associations etc., just implementing the ‘info gathering’ at a different level,” says Ellis. “What it comes down to is we have every intention of being able to counter misinformation instantaneously because of our proximity.”
WLA imparts that the future of agriculture and the rural west depends on engaging science, new systems and traditional practices to sustain and grow natural resource industries. By bringing attention to traditional industries and land use in the West, WLA says they will demonstrate how sustainable, responsible use of public lands benefit communities, the environment and the economy.
WLA is a member-funded and member-driven, privately held limited liability company.
Jim Magagna, Executive Vice President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association says, “We have tracked this effort from its beginning and commend their effort. We do not view it as an organization, but rather as an industry project. As such, we support it and will be forwarding financial support contributed by our members as it moves forward. I believe that it can complement the Public Lands Council efforts that began with the Ranching and Conservation Summit in Salt Lake (in late February).”