Western Landowners Alliance
That the message from The Western Landowners Alliance. The Alliance is renewing a call for policy makers and citizen groups to look at farmers and ranchers as their most important partners not their adversaries.
The Alliance’s Executive Director Leslie Allen says it is the success of agricultural lands that help sustain endangered species and natural resources. But agricultural margins are slim and volatile and a lot of working lands in the west are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Allen: “And we have to understand that the more downward pressure we put economically in terms of regulations in terms of outright mischaracterizations of landowners and their intent. The more of that downward pressure we put the more of that land disappears and the more of that habitat we lose. We need to think about our policies and our approaches to landowners in that context. We need to understand them as our first partner not as our adversaries. If they do something that helps a species that shouldn't then result in a regulatory penalty.”
Allen says there are some good things happening.The National Resource Conservation Service under the USDA has a number of programs designed to help landowners improve conservation practices.
In Colorado, the NRCS has partnered with The Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife to help pay landowners to provide critical winter habitat for elk and deer. Landowners are in some cases forgoing a cutting to leave a forage circle for wildlife.
The partnership between the Point Blue Conservation and the NRCS in California as a good example of private and government agencies working together to improve habitat.
However she says some of these programs require landowners to provide public access which then creates more risk and expense