Landowners have until March 30 to apply for access tax credit program

Landowners have until March 30 to submit applications to Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks for enrollment in a new program called Unlocking Public Lands that may qualify a landowner for up to $3,000 in annual tax credits. Through this program, a landowner who enters into a contractual agreement with FWP to allow public recreational access across private land to reach a parcel of otherwise inaccessible state or federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or United States Forest Service (USFS) land is entitled to receive a $750 annual tax credit per contract, with a maximum of four contracts per year.

The Unlocking Public Lands program is a product of the 2015 Legislature, which expanded a program called Unlocking State Land passed by the previous legislature. While Montana contains nearly 31 million acres of BLM, USFS, and state land, much of this land requires landowner permission to cross private land to reach the state or federal land.

“Offering a tax credit in exchange for allowing public access across private land to reach public land is a unique and innovative way to increase public access,” said Ken McDonald, FWP wildlife division administrator. “We hope these new opportunities and incentives may appeal to landowners throughout the state.”

More information about the program, including enrollment criteria and the application form, can be found at http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/hunterAccess/unlockingPublicLands/.

Montana Range Days Havre Montana

Montana Range Days Coming to Hill County

Montana Range Days Havre Montana2014 marks the 38th year of Montana Range Days and the final time this premier range education event is coming to Havre. It’s not very often when your four year old can become a buckaroo for the day; your 13 year old can become a wrangler; and parents get a taste of the rancher division and learn about one of Montana’s most important resources: Range.

Montana Stockgrowers Association Research and Education Endowment Foundation, Montana Cattlewomen, and Montana Association of Grazing Districts are proud to sponsor Montana Range Days.

This year’s event begins Monday June 23rd in Beaver Creek Park, the Nation’s Largest County Park. Having Range Days in this part of the state introduces new grasses, forbs, trees and possibly weeds, both noxious and introduced, that perhaps participants haven’t seen before. The first day will be an opportunity for those serious about the competition to get onto the practice site and begin studying plants that may or may not be in the contest. Those interested in weed control can tour Dalmatian Toadflax biological control plots in the area.

Tuesday, June 24th is full of activity, with workshops for all ages going on at Camp Kiwanis, Beaver Creek Park. The 4 to 6 year old (Buckaroos) will learn about rangeland environments with lots of hands-on activities. The 7 to 8 year olds (Ecosystem Explorers) will learn about range and our ecosystem through fun games and activities. For the 9 to 11 year olds (Superstarters) they get a little more serious and begin to learn about plant anatomy and identification to prepare them for the contest on Wednesday. The Wrangler division is for those junior high age students who want to learn about proper grazing, stocking rates, plant anatomy and identification. There are also the Open and FFA Divisions for 14 to 19 year olds to learn about the many aspects of range. While the kids are learning, the adults can be participating as well in the Rancher / Open Adult workshops or attend the tour slated for Tuesday. Tuesday’s tour includes: The Blaine County Wildlife Museum, the Blaine County Historical Museum and the Bear Paw Battlefield.

Montana Range Days Havre Montana WorkshopsWednesday, June 25th is the final day of Montana Range Days and also marks competition day in which teams of 3 or 4 members will compete on what they learned the day before in such areas of plant ID, soils, anatomy, monitoring and range management. There are several awards like Top Superstarter, Top Wrangler, and the Top Range Hand award of the event. Those participants who are too young to participate in the competition can take part in an educational program put on by the Montana Cattlewomen’s Association at Camp Kiwanis, while adults can tour Havre Beneath the Streets and the Wahkpa Chu’gn Archeological Site.

Montana Range Days is open to all families, all ages, and all skill levels. Come be a part of an event that has been going on for more than 30 years and has encompassed more than 15 communities in our great State and learn about this wealth of nature that covers nearly 70 percent of Montana better known as Rangelands.

Find the online electronic registration form at https://adobeformscentral.com/?f=lYj8Z7FSQjJx4OYCe8-ASA.

For more information you can call Jennifer at the Hill County Conservation District at 406-265-6792 ext.101 or email Jennifer.kenck@mt.nacdnet.net or go the website at www.montanarangedays.org.

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House Passes Water Rights Protection Act

WASHINGTON – The Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association hail the passage of the Water Rights Protection Act (WRPA), H.R. 3189, by the U.S. House of Representatives by a 238 to 174 vote. Introduced by Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), the legislation reiterates the limits to federal agency jurisdiction of water.

H.R. 3189 comes as a means to combat the Federal Government by way of the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from seizing water rights in exchange for land use permits, without just compensation. An issue that arose in a USFS directive applicable to ski areas was seen by industry as an issue that could threaten all water users, including ranchers, as they depend on water rights on public and private land to keep their businesses viable.

“With 40 percent of the western cow herd spending some time on public lands, the ability to have secure water rights is imperative, not only to producers but to the economy,” said NCBA President Bob McCan, a rancher from Victoria, Texas. “This legislation is a commonsense bill that provides certainty to ranchers and leaves water management to the states where it belongs. The federal agencies must be accountable to citizens and the states and cannot, at will, circumvent state water laws at the expense of landowners.”

The legislation will prohibit the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture from requiring the transfer of water rights without adequate and just compensation. Additionally, the bill supports long-established state water laws, clarifying that the federal government does not have jurisdiction.

“Our members face the same threats as ski companies do—perhaps with more at stake as they are individuals and families depending on these water rights for their livelihood”, said PLC President Brice Lee, a rancher from Hesperus, Colo. “It is important to include all industries that may be impacted, to keep our rural communities thriving. Rep. Tipton’s bill accomplished the purpose of protecting all water right holders, including ranchers.”

PLC and NCBA supported an amendment by Rep. Tipton that made revisions to the legislation which clarified the intent of the bill. We opposed an amendment by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) that would have severely limited the legislation to become applicable only to ski operations, eliminating the efficacy of the bill for ranchers.

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Sage Grouse Habitat Montana

Sage grouse, farm and ranch succession planning among topics at 2014 Winter Grazing Seminar

MILES CITY, Mont. – An in-depth discussion of sage grouse conservation and management – including a panel of ranchers who are currently managing sage grouse on their lands – is one of several topics on the agenda of the 2014 Winter Grazing Seminar, to be held Jan. 29-30 in Miles City, Mont.

The first day of the seminar will feature representatives from the Public Lands Council. Executive Director Dustin Van Liew will speak on multiple issues in agriculture. Montana Executive Director Jay Bodner and federal grazing permitee Lon Reukauf will also join the discussion. Next Tim Griffiths and Dr. David Naugle will give a presentation on Sage Grouse. To conclude the first day of the seminar a producer panel including Robert Lee from Forsyth will speak on a rancher’s perspective of sage grouse management on rangelands.

That evening, a social hour and banquet will be held at the Town & Country Club in Miles City. Northern Ag Network’s Haylie Shipp will be the Master of Ceremonies for the banquet. Range Leader of the Year Awards will be given to the winners of the rancher and professional categories. Governor Bullock is invited to give the keynote address. Bill Rossiter will be the evening’s entertainment with cowboy poetry and music.

The second day of the seminar will begin with Kevin Spafford, founder of Legacy by Design, with his presentation on Succession Solutions for Farm Families. The seminar will conclude with presentations from Fort Keogh researchers Dr. Andy Roberts on Heifer Development and Dr. Mark Petersen on Water Quality.

The seminar will be held at the Sleep Inn of Miles City. Registration is $30 per person before January 15 and $35 after. You may attend the banquet for $25 if you will be joining us for the meal.

There is no charge for those who would like to see Bill Rossiter for entertainment at the banquet.

This year’s Winter Grazing Seminar is proudly sponsored by the Custer County Conservation District, Prairie County Conservation District and USDA-ARS Fort Keogh LARRL, and in cooperation with the Rangeland Resources Executive Committee (RREC).

For the agenda and registration form please visit: http://dnrc.mt.gov/cardd/ConservationDistricts/WinterGrazing/default.asp

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Public Lands Council Logo

Senate Committee Passes Grazing Improvement Act

Public Lands Council Logo

(The following is a press release from the Public Lands Council)

WASHINGTON (November 21, 2013) — The Public Lands Council (PLC) and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) hailed the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for passage of S. 258, the Grazing Improvement Act of 2013.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) comes as a means to codify existing appropriations language — adding stability and efficiency to the federal grazing permit renewal process. The bill passed by the Committee will extend the term for grazing permits from a minimum of 10 up to 20 years, providing for added permit security. The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have consistently — for more than a decade — carried a backlog of grazing permit renewals due to overwhelming and unnecessary National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) assessments. This bill provides sole discretion to the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture to complete the environmental analysis under NEPA while allowing for an analysis to take place at the programmatic level.

“The act is vital for ensuring the fate of our producer’s permits — livelihoods are depending on the efficiency of the system — which undoubtedly needs restructuring,” said Scott George, NCBA president and Wyoming rancher. “Not only will the bill codify the language of the decades old appropriations rider, it will also allow categorical exclusions from NEPA for permits continuing current practices and for crossing and trailing of livestock. Additionally, it will allow for NEPA on a broad scale, reducing paper pushing within the federal agencies.”

The bill that passed was an amendment in the nature of a substitute which included troubling language, creating a pilot program which would allow for limited “voluntary” buyouts. These “voluntary” buyouts are not actually market based, due to outside influence. Where voluntary relinquishment of a rancher’s grazing permit occurs, grazing would be permanently ended. New Mexico and Oregon would be impacted — allowing for up to 25 permits in each state, per year to be “voluntarily” relinquished.

“PLC strongly opposes buyouts — voluntary or otherwise,” said Brice Lee PLC president and Colorado rancher. “Ultimately, buyouts create an issue for the industry due to the wealthy special interest groups who work to remove livestock from public lands. The language in the amendment addresses ‘voluntary’ buyouts; however, radical, anti-grazing agendas are likely at play. Litigation and persistent harassment serve as a way to eliminate grazing on public lands—and could force many ranchers into these ‘voluntary’ relinquishments, unwillingly. There can be no ‘market based solution’ in which any given special interest group is able to ratchet up ranchers’ cost of operation, and artificially create a ‘voluntary’ sale or relinquishment.”

Nevertheless, both Lee and George agree the bill is a strong indication that Senators from both parties recognize the current system is broken and must be fixed to provide stability for grazing permit renewals; despite the buyout language.

“Passage out of committee is a feat in itself — we applaud the efforts of Senator Barrasso and we are hopeful the bill will continue to improve as it advances in the Senate,” George said.

PLC has represented livestock ranchers who use public lands since 1968, preserving the natural resources and unique heritage of the West. Ranchers who utilize public lands own nearly 120 million acres of the most productive private land and manage vast areas of public land, accounting for critical wildlife habitat and the nation’s natural resources. PLC works to maintain a stable business environment in which livestock producers can conserve the West and feed the nation and world. 

45th Annual PLC Meeting Addresses Industry’s Challenges and Opportunities for 2014

DEADWOOD, S.D. (Sept. 9, 2013) – Public Lands Council (PLC) this Saturday wrapped up its 2013 Annual Meeting in Deadwood, S.D. Over 100 ranchers with public lands grazing rights in states across the West gathered to discuss matters affecting their industry and to consider projects and policies that will guide the organization’s future activities.

“Since 1968, PLC has been the voice in Washington, DC for ranchers who operate on public lands,” said Brice Lee, PLC President and a cattle rancher of Hesperus, Colo. “Each year, leaders of our industry meet in order to set priorities and discuss strategies that will help PLC provide a stable business environment for our members. This is important work: at stake is the health of the economies and landscapes of the West.”

The meeting kicked off on Wednesday evening with a welcome barbecue featuring guest speaker South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture, Lucas Lentsch. Over the following two days, attendees interacted with industry experts, congressional staff, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service officials. The BLM also presented its Range Stewardship Award to the Beyeler family, who ranch near Leadore, Idaho. PLC’s Executive Director, Dustin Van Liew gave an update on PLC’s efforts promoting priority legislation such as the Grazing Improvement Act, fighting damaging new regulations and defending grazing in the courts. On Friday afternoon, members passed new policies and updated existing policies.

Also an important component of the meeting was the board of directors’ approval of projects to be funded by the Public Lands Endowment Trust. The Trust was established in 2011 to protect, enhance and preserve the public lands grazing industry. This year, seven new projects were approved, ranging from research projects; to development of software to improve resource planning; to providing PLC with new resources crucial to the expansion of the organization.

Lee, who continues in the second year of his two-year term as PLC president, was joined in leading the meeting by PLC Vice President and Idaho rancher, Brenda Richards and PLC Secretary/Treasurer and Utah rancher, Dave Eliason.

“To me, this year’s meeting revealed a turning point for our industry,” said Lee. “Thanks to the hard work and foresight of our staff and some of our industry’s leaders over the past few years, we have opportunities available to us that we’ve never had before—and it’s generating a can-do, optimistic attitude. I was very pleased with the 100-plus turnout, and can see that PLC’s influence is growing. I want to thank those individuals who took the time to come. Their impact on our industry’s future cannot be overestimated.”

–PLC Release