Western Landowners in Action
Spring 2017 Newsletter
As a nation, we find ourselves at a delicate moment. On the political front, we seem to be a people deeply, even dangerously divided. Yet when we turn the TV off, put our smartphones down and inquire more thoughtfully, we find that people have much more in common than not. The confusion and uncertainty between these two perceptions is evident almost everywhere.
As the old saying goes, "united we stand, divided we fall". We need to take our nation back, but not from "red" people or "blue" people. We need to take it back from what some have aptly termed the "polarization industry."
Political and special interest organizations have gotten very good at generating votes and donations by inflaming our fears and passions, by dividing rather than uniting. This is tearing our communities and even families apart.
The truth is, there will always be issues on which we disagree. Yet it is not the issues themselves that will define our future, but the way in which we engage on them together.
The West's collaborative conservation movement is instructive in this regard. Rooted in the rural landscape and often led by ranchers and farmers, it has evolved over the past several decades as a way to resolve long-standing conflicts over resource use. Successful and multiplying, place-based collaboratives build trust and relationships based on the things people agree on, enabling communities to more effectively address challenges together.
As a nation, we need to support political leaders and organizations committed to doing the same. Here are three things each one of us can do today:
1) Call or write your Congressional representatives today and tell them we need leadership that unites rather than divides;
2) Support organizations bringing diverse interests together to find common ground solutions;
3) Get involved locally with collaborative efforts to address community challenges and help them to be successful.
Together, we can improve public dialogue, find common ground and shape a positive shared future. It's up to us to make this happen.
WLA releases 2017 federal policy recommendations
Bringing landowner voices to the table, WLA has put forward to Congress and the new federal administration a set of general principles and detailed recommendations designed to help improve the health and economic success of working lands and rural communities in the West.
WLA is also participating in the Western Governors' Association's National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative (led by Governor Bullock, MT) and Species Conservation and the Endangered Species Act Initiative (led by Governor Mead, WY).
Property tax initiative aims to keep New Mexico's land, water and communities intact
What should happen to open land that is not in agricultural production? This is the question that New Mexico faces as rising property values put non-agricultural landowners in a tax bind. Some of these landowners once farmed or ranched but have now retired and wish to remain on their land. Other landowners are investing heavily to restore forests, rangelands and watersheds. These open lands provide tremendous value to local communities and the state. In fact, virtually every county land-use plan in the state prioritizes keeping land in open space, particularly along scenic corridors, in watersheds and for wildlife habitat. However, New Mexico's property tax policy currently limits landowner options to keep this land open and intact. If you can't graze it or farm it--often a challenge in an arid state--property taxes can become unaffordable in many of New Mexico's most treasured landscapes. When land is forced into development, the state loses its cultural heritage, most productive land and agricultural water.
This situation has reached the point of crisis in some communities. In response, WLA worked with stakeholders to propose an alternative property tax category in the 2017 legislative session. The measure passed the Senate but ran short of time in the House. WLA will continue to advance this important initiative in the next session.
Above: Aerial view of New Mexico's rare irrigated land (left) and a zoom in of development in the irrigated corridor (right).
Welcome Cole Mannix and Virginie Pointeau
Cole is a working lands entrepreneur and 5th generation rancher from Montana’s Blackfoot watershed. He will be based in Helena, Montana and serve as WLA’s membership and advancement officer.
Before joining WLA, Virginie spent five years with the Quivira Coalition, a Santa Fe, New Mexico-based non-profit dedicated to building economic and ecological resilience on western working landscapes. Virginie will serve as WLA’s project manager based in Santa Fe.
2017 Stewardship in Action tours and webinars examine private land forestry
Managing for healthy forests can present a challenge and significant expense for private landowners. WLA recently hosted a webinar to explore objectives, barriers, and opportunities in private land forestry. A second webinar on April 11th will continue the discussion with a focus on a practitioner exchange around the use of prescribed fire as a management tool on private land. Register here.
WLA staff are hard at work organizing the 2017 Stewardship in Action policy and stewardship tour series. This year’s series will include tours in several Western states and focus on topics related to private land management and working forests. Stay tuned to our website and newsletters for dates and locations in the coming weeks.
WLA knowledge network provides online resource for landowners and managers
Do you have a question related to land or water management and want answers from other landowners and managers? Would you like to be part of a network and connect directly with your peers? Do you have knowledge to share with others that could help save time and money?
Land ownership and management can be demanding and expensive, particularly for those learning lessons the hard way on their own. As part of our effort to facilitate a network of land stewards across a broad geography, WLA's new knowledge network provides an online forum where WLA members from around the West can directly interact with each other, ask questions and share their experiences and lessons learned on key land, water and other management issues. The knowledge network is just getting up and running with discussion topics such as funding for wildlife-friendly fencing and solutions to lack of management on adjacent public lands.
Interested in being a part of this network? Join WLA today to get started. Already a WLA member or have questions about this service? Contact us to learn more and receive a registration link. Already registered for the knowledge network? Login here to see the latest.
WLA and members in the news
WLA has recently been featured by a number of media sources, including the Denver Business Journal, The Washington Post, E&E News and Casper Star Tribune. WLA members across the West have also been in the news for everything from wetland restoration to jaguar recovery to the Mexican border wall. Read more at the WLA in the News section of our website.
WLA's Latest Film
If you haven't seen it yet, enjoy the latest episode of "Stewardship with Vision" featuring the Ute Creek Cattle Company in New Mexico (below). These films are produced in partnership with Montana State University’s graduate program in Science & Natural History Filmmaking. Earlier episodes are featured at the bottom of this newsletter and keep an eye out for Episode 5, currently in production.
Stewardship with Vision: Ute Creek Cattle Company
A Primer on Oil and Gas Leases
Written by Dan C. Perry, an oil and gas attorney and Western Landowners Energy Council member, this is a must read resource written specifically to inform landowners about oil and gas leases and surface use agreements. The first section walks landowners through three different potential situations related to oil and gas development on their land including 1) mineral owner does not want to lease its land, 2) accepting a proposed oil and gas lease without any negotiation, and 3) negotiating an acceptable oil and gas lease for your particular land. The second section provides information on and three examples of surface use agreements.
Drilling done right?
A High Country News Article describing “ecologically sustainable energy development” at Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico.
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