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Public Lands Council

Public Lands Council

An important environmental debate is currently focused on the use of public lands by livestock owners, particularly owners of cattle and sheep. Historically, the federal government has sold leases and permits for grazing on public land to these individuals at very low prices, often a few cents per acre.

In recent years, many environmentalists have argued that cattle are responsible for the destruction of large tracts of rangeland in the western states. They believe the government should either greatly increase the rates they charge for the use of western lands or prohibit grazing entirely on large parts of it. In response, livestock owners have claimed that they practice good-land management techniques and that in many cases the land is in better condition than it was before they began using it.

The Public Lands Council (PLC) is one of the primary groups representing those who use public lands for grazing. It is a nonprofit corporation that represents approximately 31,000 individuals and groups who hold permits and leases allowing them to use federal lands in 14 western states for the grazing of livestock. Twenty-six state groups belong to the council, and in addition, the council coordinates the public lands policies of three other organizations, the National Cattlemen's Association, the American Sheep Industry Association, and the Association of National Grasslands .

The PLC also represents the interests of public land ranchers before the United States Congress. It lobbies and monitors Congress and various federal agencies responsible for grazing, water use, wilderness , wildlife , and other federal land management policies that are of concern to the livestock industry.

The council was founded in 1968 for the purpose of promoting principles of sound management of federal lands for grazing and other purposes. The council obtains its funds from dues collected by state organizations and by contributions from other organizations it represents. It has two classes of membership. General members are those who belong to a state organization that contributes to the PLC or those who make individual contributions. Voting members are elected by the general membership of each state, which may have a maximum of four voting members. Voting members meet at least once each year to establish PLC policy.

The PLC maintains a 500-volume library at its offices in Washington, D.C. It also publishes a quarterly newsletter, as well as news releases on specific issues, and regular columns in various western livestock publications. The council has also sponsored workshops and seminars on issues of importance to users of federal lands.

The American Lands and Resources Foundation has been established as an arm of the council for the purpose of receiving charitable and tax-deductible contributions to be used for the education of the general public about the benefits of using federal lands for livestock grazing.

[David E. Newton ]

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