Declaring, "It's time to put our money where our mouths are," Garfield County Commissioner Tom Hatch is urging his county's ranchers to monetarily support the Western Livestock Producers Alliance.
The alliance is launching an educational campaign about the positive role of livestock grazing on public lands and its benefit to society. The group is a coalition of livestock representatives, led by the Public Lands Council, who graze their animals on the public forests and range lands.Hatch said individuals who depend on public-lands grazing in their livestock operations have been asked to contribute 10 cents per AUM to the fund that is managed by the coalition. An AUM, or animal unit month, is defined as the grazing of one cow or five sheep for one month. "I am convinced that if we are not willing to help ourselves, we will have no one to blame but ourselves," the county commissioner said.
Hatch said livestock owners are concerned about the current grazing formula that is being attacked by opponents. A measure proposing a 500 percent increase in the federal grazing fee was narrowly defeated in the most recent session of Congress, and legislation has again been introduced in the present lawmaking body.
A letter Hatch received from Joe Etchart, president of the Public Lands Council stated, "We cannot allow the legislative arena to be clouded by emotion and misperception." Etchart said stockmen are facing a battle over grazing fees that threaten their existence, accusing opponents of using "incorrect information and emotionalism to promote their efforts." He concluded that education through presenting the right information "is the key for us to positively solve this problem."
The coalition's campaign will educate the public and elected officials about how public lands and grazing permittees make integral contributions to the economy and environment of the West, Hatch noted. It will include tours for members of Congress and grass-roots visits that will involve producers, congressmen and media representatives.
Only a small percentage of the vast lands in Garfield County are privately owned, and the county's economy is highly dependent upon the livestock industry and grazing on public lands. All of Southern Utah's counties are rural with sparse populations and depend to a significant degree on livestock and sheep production.