In the wake of one of the most challenging days America has ever seen and an election season that divided the country, I have been inundated with calls, texts, and posts from friends, neighbors, and colleagues.

To say emotions are at an all-time high is an understatement. While we are still in the beginning of the year, I have heard statements and opinions that I never would have never believed would come from our agriculture community. While it’s tempting to give into the emotions of the day or the political wave of the moment, we must remember that these things do not change, the core beliefs and the standards of conduct we all grew up under. We must remember that our way of life has endured for generations, and while hard times are ahead, we are prepared to put our shoulders into it and push forward.

While sorting through the emotional statements and challenging political headwinds, I found myself focused on a simple question: “how can I best represent these people”? How do I represent those who have such different operations, different political points of view, and different levels of emotion about the direction this country is going? 

The Public Lands Council and Congress have something in common. PLC leadership and the Board of Directors is made up of people who were picked to represent the folks back home, just like those who make up both houses of Congress.  Regardless of the group or entity, anyone who is picked to represent others has the responsibility to work with the other representatives to find the common ground on as many issues as possible.  At PLC, this means sitting down with representatives from all the western states to find common principles, common challenges, and desired outcomes that represent the industry’s collective needs. No one ever goes home with everything they wanted, but we work hard to make sure the paths we take represent as many as possible with the best possible outcome.

Now more than ever, we must band together behind shared goals and positions. There have been many efforts in the recent days to divide us - both as an industry, and as a country. If we don’t find common ground, if we don’t find a way to work together, everything our families and neighbors have worked and fought for will be lost.

PLC and the ranchers we represent have the high ground. We have sound stewardship of the range and environmental science on our side. We have a long history of support in rural communities. We have a long legacy of producing the finest protein and fiber in the world. And we have strong relationships with Congress, agencies, and every administration that has ever taken their direction from a resident of the White House. In each of those areas, we might not always agree with the person on the other wide of the table, but we know they will listen when we bring out shared goals and priorities to them.

Nothing in politics – or in ranching – is all or nothing. We can’t, and shouldn’t, “throw the bums out” whether they’re lambs, calves, or elected officials. We work with them, show them a better path, and hold out hope that with the right encouragement and the right information, they will be stay the course. We are now in the early days of the 117th Congress and the Biden Administration. Now is the time to convey our priorities and build relationships based on fact, civility, and the knowledge that at the end of the day if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

Niels Hansen is a third generation rancher from Rawlins Wyoming, the family ranch is a cow/calf/ yearling operation operating on the high desert of Wyoming.

Working cooperatively with the University of Wyoming and the BLM the ranch has collected over 20 years of monitoring data that supports the benefits of good land and livestock management for the livestock, the wildlife and the community.

Niels served as Chairman of the Wyoming State Grazing Board and President of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association. In 2000, the ranch received the BLM Rangeland Management Stewardship Award and in 2004 was co-winner of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Stewardship Award.

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