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NCBA, PLC denounce administration's wilderness designations

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President Biden's proclamation calls for increased utilization of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and Public Lands Council (PLC) have denounced the administration's elevated focus on federal wilderness designations as an overly broad tool for reaching climate goals and targets laid out under the America the Beautiful conservation campaign.

President Biden's proclamation named September 2021 as National Wilderness Month and outlined the president's clear support for expanded use of the Wilderness Act of 1964. Designations made under this act prohibit the use of motorized vehicles or mechanical tools, in many cases effectively banning the active management that is necessary to curb the risk of catastrophic wildfire, eradicate invasive species, maintain healthy habitat and water sources for wildlife, and more.

"President Biden's proclamation calling for increased utilization of the Wilderness Act of 1964 is incredibly out of touch at a moment when catastrophic wildfires are threatening populations across the West and 4.8 million acres have already burned this year," said NCBA Executive Director of Natural Resources and PLC Executive Director Kaitlynn Glover. "Since the America the Beautiful campaign was announced, we have worked with the administration in good faith to educate on the dangers posed by hands-off, overreaching prohibitions and preservation-focused designations that prevent active conservation of our natural landscapes. We appreciate the President’s support for the open, wild spaces that are conserved by cattle and sheep producers every day but holding wilderness areas up as the gold standard for natural landscapes is misguided.”

She continued, “When federal agencies prioritize blanket designations over targeted, active conservation, they send the signal that they only care about the name of the area — not the condition of the resources. Conservation is an action verb. Public lands ranchers have a wealth of skill and knowledge in successful conservation, and we welcome continued opportunities to work with the Biden Administration to share that knowledge."

NCBA Vice President of Government Affairs Ethan Lane said the call for increased designation of wilderness areas was “troubling for a variety of reasons, not the least being that it won't actually result in improved land health.”

"The White House cannot acquire, designate, or prohibit their way into nationwide conservation,” he said. “If they pursue this approach, they will not be able to achieve the goal of truly conserving 30% of lands and waters, and they will alienate agricultural producers who make up the bulk of Americans actually performing conservation work every day."

Both NCBA and PLC have actively engaged with the White House and federal agencies on the America the Beautiful Interagency Working Group to make clear what ranchers support, what they oppose, and how ranchers' extensive knowledge and experience on the ground is critical for the administration to reach their conservation goals.

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