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Public Lands Council Celebrates It's 50th Anniversary In Park City

Public Lands Council

The Public Lands Council is an advocacy group that represents the interests of cattle and sheep ranchers who graze on public lands. The organization is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and will do so in Park City.

Public Lands Council President Dave Eliason told KPCW what it is that the organization does.

“It joins the forces of the sheep industry and the cattle industry to deal with the administration, rules and regulations that come out of Washington. We also help public lands ranchers anyway we can. If they have problems with their Range Con’s or sometimes we even get involved in lawsuits when there’s something that we feel is not a fair action, we’ll get in and fight for them. We really are there to help the 22,000 public land ranchers in the country. That’s our sole purpose.”

Eliason is a rancher in Box Elder County. He says he’s excited to spend the Public Lands Council’s 50th anniversary in Park City.

“We’ve got all the heads of the BLM, and Forest and Fish and Wildlife they’re all going to be there, and we’ll be able to deal with those. We’re also celebrating our 50th anniversary so we’re going to have some of the past presidents tell a little bit of history about it. We’ve got some speakers that will talk about some of the different insurance we can carry on that, just anything really that has to do with public lands ranching. We’re going to take the gondola up onto the top of the mountain to have our annual President’s Banquet it’s going to be pretty with all the leaves are changing. Lots going on but we’re sure excited to be there.”

PLC works to change policies that impact those who depend on public lands for their livelihood. The organization supported the reduction of Bears Ears and The Grand Stair Case Escalante National Monuments.

“We fought for it because it has a great effect on grazing. When they become a national monument, different rules apply. Makes it a lot of times very difficult—the access is really restricted. Like with the Grand Escalante Monument down there, almost a third of the grazing was eliminated. It’s a beautiful place and ranchers take care of it. You know, it’s our livelihood if we don’t take care of the land it won’t take care of us. Also, the local population was all in favor to reduce that monument. Tourism comes in but many of those jobs pay minimum wage. For people who rely on the public lands for their livelihoods it’s not a good thing.”

The Public Lands Council also argues that allowing grazing on public lands helps manage and prevent wildfires.

“Take for example the Martin Fire in Nevada. Because of the Sage Grouse restrictions placed on that land, because it was in prime habitat, 400,000 acres—most of it—wasn’t able to be grazed in the last two or three years. So, the fuel load of that increased to two tons to the acre. So, when the fire started in there it burned like crazy. There was no stopping it. Just like the forest, we need to—there’s the saying goes you can graze it, you can log it, or you can burn it. Take your choice. That’s a very simple rule. Our grazing has been restricted, the logging has been restricted in these places too, so it’s just created kind of a tinderbox.”

Eliason refutes the idea that ranching is a dying occupation.

“Definitely not a dying occupation it’s very viable. It depends on the prices and the weather there’s a lot of variables but generally it’s a good way of living. We’re not getting rich but it’s what we want to do. We sometimes become asset rich and cash-flow poor but it’s definitely not a dying occupation. There’s a lot of strong ranchers and a lot of strong operations up in the Park City area as we now speak.”

The council will be celebrating their 50th anniversary Wednesday through Saturday this week in Park City.

KPCW reporter David Boyle covers all things in the Heber Valley as well as sports and breaking news.
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