New group to protect access to public lands

Feb 27, 2009
by WLJ
New group to protect access to public lands

The Western Legacy Alliance (WLA), a newly formed coalition, announced its kickoff to bring together likeminded organizations from various backgrounds to advocate for responsible and sustainable access to public lands. As the nation finds itself becoming more urban and losing the history of the West, it is important that we stand up for the rural and agricultural industries that shape the American West. Local economies and families depend on natural resources and working lands, and WLA is committed to protecting these resources.

“The land use issues that we deal with aren’t new, but they do call for new strategies. The WLA is bringing together voices from diverse backgrounds to advocate for successful and sustainable use of public lands,” said Jeremy Drew, a Nevada sportsman. “Many different recreation, wildlife, forestry, agriculture and resource interests use public lands. It’s time we all work together.”

The recent media attention given to canceled oil and gas leases near Utah parks and escalating issues between livestock operations and fringe environmentalists demonstrates the need for WLA to bring together stakeholders in the West to find workable solutions. “With the Obama administration’s appointments of Ken Salazar as secretary of the interior and Tom Vilsack as secretary of agriculture, who we hope will advocate for farmers, ranchers and rural communities, the climate is right for finding middle ground,” said Jennifer Ellis, WLA chair and Idaho rancher.

“The Western Legacy Alliance looks forward to working with secretaries Salazar and Vilsack and the administration to identify and implement solutions that will preserve the working landscapes and lifestyles of the American West,” said Ellis.

“Strong working landscapes and healthy ecosystems go hand in hand.” Statistics show that agriculture is vital to the U.S. economy. In 2007, the market value of agricultural products sold in the U.S. was nearly $300 billion, according to the “2007 Census of Agriculture Economics Fact Sheet.” The future of agriculture and the rural West depends on engaging science, new systems, and traditional practices to sustain and grow natural resource industries.

By bringing attention to traditional industries and land use in the West, WLA will demonstrate how sustainable, responsible use of public lands benefits communities, the environment and the economy. The coalition also aims to educate youth about agriculture and resource job opportunities that are available to them, ensuring that lessons learned from past generations are carried forward into the future.

A member-funded and member-driven organization, WLA aims to bring all parties to the table to identify challenges and solutions, eliminating reactionary and piecemeal solutions to issues that threaten the working landscapes and lifestyles of the West. New members are being added to the coalition daily. Individuals or organizations that would like to become a part of WLA are encouraged to call 208/206-7309 or e-mail westernlegacyalliance@ — WLJ