For western landowners, conservation & economics go hand-in-hand

Clockwise: (1) Jeff Laszlo, Montana rancher and WLA board chair; Kelly Beevers, Topos & Anthros; and Zach Brown, Montana State Representative. (2) WLA’s Amber Smith and Erin Kiley, Women in Ranching program coordinators; (3) Perri Jacobs, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance; (4) Joel Bernstein, rancher and WLA board member; (5) WLA’s Cole Mannix moderating panelists George Boody (Land Stewardship Project), Holly Fretwell (Property & Environmental Research Center) and Jason Shogren (University of Wyoming).

The American West is unique in the amount and continuity of land and habitat it provides. Spanning across private and public boundaries, western working lands feed, water and fuel the nation while sustaining up to 80 percent of the region’s wildlife species.

The next era of conservation must shape economic conditions and policies that actively foster healthy landscapes, rural livelihoods and wildlife.

As western landowners, we understand that maintaining healthy soils and diverse wildlife habitat does not have to cost us our livelihoods. On the contrary, good grazing management is as good for our bottom line as it is for the landscape and the many species that depend on it. Or, as the saying goes, “what’s good for the bird is good for the herd.” Economics and ecology can—and must—go hand-in-hand.

At WLA’s Land and Livelihoods conference, over 150 landowners and manager, nonprofit staff and agency personnel sought to establish shared values surrounding land health and livelihoods, identify strategies to better align policies and economics that facilitate our values, showcase on-the-ground successes and identify needs and opportunities for scaling up place-based collaboration. We set the stage for ongoing, true collaboration based on a shared love for the land.

Many thanks to all of you who traveled to Billings, Montana from places near and far to participate in this meeting and engage in these important discussions. All of us at WLA feel humbled and inspired by the work you do to keep our lands and communities healthy and resilient.

For those of you who were unable to join us in person or online via Facebook, we captured several of our talented speakers on Facebook Livestream, now archived on WLA’s Facebook page. You can also visit our conference website.

Let’s keep the conversation going! Email us your thoughts and comments. Read our blog, watch our landowner films and let us know if we can call on you to tell your story, write op-eds or share photos of your work on the land.


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