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Cowboys, Coalitions and Land use and access

Range Magazine -- the place to enjoy and help preserve the way of life in the American West

Of Cowboys, Cows and Coalitions

By Del Albright, BlueRibbon Ambassador

Jesse sat in the old line-shack-turned-cabin, listening to the cows bunching up for the night. The evening air was filled with the smell of kerosene lamps, beans on the potbelly, and cows. He needed no electricity for his entertainment; out in the pine trees, the birds were signing their final goodnight songs.

He thought about how he was the third generation of his family to ranch these high Sierra Mountain meadows located along the border of California and Nevada. His granddaddy built the first fences and stock ponds. His dad had built the line shack. Jesse had made it a home.

Oh sure, he had a modern day home down in town, some forty miles away. But that was for winter and weekends when he needed a people fix. Mostly, though, he much preferred to be with his critters and tend to his stock.Now and then he’d visit with local four-wheelers, a few hunters and passing cowboys. But mostly he stayed to himself and enjoyed his land. He had enough acreage to run several hundred head, and nobody bothered him much.

Jesse’s cabin was located under some large pine trees at the end of a wide-spreading Sierra meadow, split down the middle by a meandering crystal clear creek. Spring wildflowers always filled the meadow, and the aspens surrounded him every October with fall colors. Living here was Jesse’s dream. Then it happened.

His world changed over night. Not having email, computers or TV, Jesse didn’t much keep up with events ‘cept when he came to town. And what he found out from a bunch of the boys down at the coffee shop made his cowboy blood boil.He didn’t understand it all. There was talk about Scenic Byways, the Endangered Species Act, and Wilderness Study Areas. There was talk about the County Board of Supervisors imposing restrictions on Jesse’s land and his cows. He even heard some ridiculous tale about a suckerfish of some sort that put several generations of ranchers out of their homes up north. He didn't believe it.

There was talk of some self-proclaimed environmentalist leading an effort to turn Jesse’s ranch access into a Scenic Byway. Heck some folks were joking that Jesse was eating endangered species for lunch and didn’t even know it!

But the bottom line was that all of a sudden a whole bunch of folks were looking to change Jesse’s life forever. If all these government restrictions took place, and if his access became a Scenic Byway, and if endangered species became more important than his third generation ranching operation, then Jesse was going to have a hard time raising cows. He might as well sell out and move back to the city.

Fortunately there is help for folks like Jesse. The answer is in coalitions and coalition building the joining together of unlike parts to make a better whole. It might be like putting John Deere parts on your Ford tractor, or a Chevy motor in your Toyota, but if it works to get the job done, WHY NOT?

Coalitions can help folks like Jesse. Ranchers throughout the west need to band together with other folks in the name of multiple-use the many uses we get out of the land. It is the only way we can beat down the well funded, extremely selfish, radical environmental groups that want to close down private property rights and access to public lands. Coalitions give us the united front needed to fight back.

Ranchers need to team up with recreationists and resource industry based groups in order to be more effective in keeping their ranch alive. Hunters, ranchers, four-wheelers, equestrians, fisherman, and anyone else that enjoys the great outdoors or makes a living off the land is endangered by the left-over Clinton-Babbit type thinking of “lock it up.”

The Bush administration made a real attempt at bringing some common sense back into government, but it’s a long road. Government at the local and state level is still run by bureaucrats who are a long ways from the influence of our great President. Sometimes the word doesn’t get all the way down to the ground level.

That’s not to say there aren’t some great local bureaucrats who take good care of the taxpayer and our lands. But there are many who need our constant attention. And that’s where coalitions come in very handy. Coalitions can be local, diverse groups. Or they can be national groups. The whole idea is to band together with other users so that your support base is stronger and more diversified.

The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is one such national outfit that benefits ranchers and farmers, along with recreationists and resource industry folks. The main mission of the BRC is to champion responsible use of our nation’s land and forests. BRC works with folks like People for the West, Alliance for America, forestry associations, local and regional multiple use groups, recreation organizations, and politicians to keep our land free.

Representing over 600,000 folks nationwide, the BlueRibbon Coalition is making an impact on all uses of our resources and lands. It is one place where ranchers and farmers can find some cooperation and help in the battles to preserve a way of life, or a form of recreation. It matters not what the coalition calls itself; the idea is to band together regardless of the name or organizational affiliation.

Whether on the local level, or on the scale of national multiple use, banding together and uniting our efforts is the only way we can stand up to the big bucks of those who oppose our way of life.

For more information on the BlueRibbon Coalition, please visit www.sharetrails.org, or or email Del. More on how to build a coalition here.

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