GREAT FALLS — The 51st annual Public Lands Council conference will kick-off in Great Falls on Wednesday, bringing hundreds of ranchers to town.
“We rotate to a different state in the western United States every year and this year is Montana. We’re excited to be in beautiful Great Falls for the week,” said Ethan Lane, PLC executive director.
“It’s a chance for the leadership of western cattle and sheep associations from all over the west to come together and talk about policies that impact federal land’s grazing industry,” Lane said.
Those in the PLC spent the days leading up to the conference touring Great Falls.
On Tuesday, they spoke with North Middle School students.
“It’s critically important to our industry that we keep that younger generation engaged, help them understand those opportunities that are available and also put to rest some of the fears that they may have about staying in their family’s agriculture operation or looking towards a career in agriculture,” Lane said.
Lane says it’s great to see such an interest in PLC for our younger generation.
“For years, we’ve been a lot of communities lose that base of kids that want to stay plugged in to the family operation. We spend a lot of time engaging with the next generation, helping them understand the opportunities and the responsibilities that they are going to have as they assume control of those operations and preserve it for the next generation after them,” Lane said. “We’re in the fifth, sixth, seventh generations in the west that have been running these ranches. We’re at a point now that it’s really critical to keep these kids engaged.”
He adds that a key point he hopes to get across to the students is that these conversations are happening right in their backyards.
“Hopefully a little bit of interest will be sparked in just how close they are to these issues. They are growing up at ground zero for a lot of the debates for how we use land in the west, how to make sure to balance public need with some of those existing rights that have been there for years, and how we find solutions to those problems. A lot of those solutions are being crafted right here in Montana,” Lane said.
North Middle Schoolers who are a part of “Griz Biz” made leather coasters with the PLC logo on them. Lane says they plan to present them to guest speakers, public officials and state representatives during the conference.
North Middle School 8th grader Devon Bogden says he is honored PLC went through Griz Biz for their prizes.
“It means a lot to us. It means so much that they know about us and we can help them out,” Bodgen said.
The PLC conference runs through Saturday, September 28. Click here to visit the website for more information.