“Hopefully, they’ll not feel like they’re isolated and that they don’t have any help,” Parker said.
One issue that was discussed is the discrepancy between federal officials and how they administrate lands.
“We’d like to see some more continuity, there is already enough uncertainty in this industry,” Parker said. “There is a lot of frustration.”
One of the keys to delivering continuity to grazing in the state is the development of county land use plans, said Redge Johnson, county liaison for Utah’s Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office.
“By law, county and state plans have to be taken into consideration,” Johnson said. He said some counties, such as Garfield, are already well on their way to developing land use plans. The plans have to be science based — not wish lists. Once all 29 counties in the state have plans, they will be rolled into a state plan, Johnson said.
“We can use it to our benefit,” Johnson said. “They will need your institutional knowledge.” He said ranchers should participate in public comment periods as well as the development of land use plans, because they have on the ground knowledge of the land.
“Through grazing, biodiversity has been allowed to flourish,” Johnson said. He said grazing, when done properly, is actually a world’s first “green industry.”
“Look at your product,” Johnson said. “You take an inedible biomass and turn it into a high quality protein.” He said ranching is the economic driver in many rural communities.
The state of Utah has a grazing resolution group, which is designed to help ranchers regain some of what has been lost, Johnson said.
“We’re looking at a great water year,” Johnson said. “How many of you have gotten calls from your local BLM [Bureau of Land Management] or Forest Service office to tell you that there’s more AUMs [animal unit months] available?”
After no one in the theater of the Sevier Valley Center raised their hands, Johnson said that AUMs are often suspended during drought years, but not reinstated when there’s plenty of water and extra forage.
Johnson said another issue is keeping access to lands open. Some operations that have been “trailing” for 150 years are finding routes shut down, making it impossible to access the areas they need to in order to manage their cattle.