Our nation’s public lands are an important part of our American heritage and play an essential role in the livelihoods of many industries, including ranching. This is especially true in the West where over 90 percent of our nation’s public lands are located. The relationship between ranching and public land management is often symbiotic and as stewards of our public lands, ranchers are a cog in the wheel that helps manage the long-term health of our resources.
Those who are opposed to grazing on public lands often overlook the important role it plays in the management of our land as well as its support of our local and rural economies. As chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees public lands, I am often amazed when critics appear before the committee to tout fuzzy statistics claiming that cattle are destroying our public lands. Their evidence almost always contradicts the points they are trying to make, further illuminating the cost effectiveness and other benefits of having ranchers and cattle helping to maintain our public lands.
One point I often find myself making, particularly to radical special interest groups opposed to public lands grazing, is that ranchers serve as surrogates who help with fire suppression and mitigation, protection of endangered species, watershed restoration, and many other important components that keep our lands viable for years to come. Through this continued partnership we likely save the federal government quite a substantial amount of money each year.
At the local level, public lands ranching plays an important role not only in the management of our resources, but also as a significant contributor to the stability of local and state economies. For many western states, where one out of every two acres is owned by the federal government, private land ownership is scarce at all levels, from small single family ranches to large cattle operations. As a result, our public lands must be accessible in order for them to provide economic support for local economies. Inability to utilize these lands renders them useless and only further depresses economies that already suffer from the overwhelming presence of federal lands and subsequent lack of tax revenue, which is why I, along with other members of Congress from the West continue to fight for multiple use of our public lands. For many rural communities, ranchers are among the biggest employers and their industry serves as an important economic multiplier for the local economy—in fact, they are often the primary economic driver.