by Jesse Juen

The Salt Lake City annual PLF meeting and Board discussion was productive, informative, and fun.   I first want to thank PLF’s Bill Lamb and his team for all their hard work, and it clearly paid off with a highly illuminating meeting and Board discussion.  And, of course, a thank you to Beau McClure for keeping it all together and moving forward.   A special thanks to George Stone for leading us through our technical inadequacies and helping us to see some light at the end of the social media tunnel.  And to Dwight Hempel for his behind the scenes expertise which keeps PLF’s finances in order.   Then there is Mike Ferguson for planning our next Student Congress and assuring it will be a meaningful experience and huge success.  He has great plans for the upcoming Student Congress in 2018 in Baker City, Oregon.  Thanks to Elaine Zielinski for keeping the history project alive, with hopes for an end in sight.  And Van Manning for leading the fund-raising effort and the development of a strategy for us.  My thanks to Tom Allen who brings his trademark expertise and knowledge to addressing the perpetual problem of an unsustainable Wild Horse and Burro program.  In addition, we had tremendous outside partners, who lent valuable perspectives and expanded our horizons for the future:   Leslie Duncan, Public Lands Program for Pew Charitable Trusts (Washington, D.C.); Joel Webster, Director, Center for Western Lands for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) (Missoula MT); Johnny Hodges of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees; 2017 George Lea Founder’s Scholarship recipients Kate Gille and Kaitlyn Williams; and 2016 Student Congress Board representative Mackenzie Case.

The list of speakers at our Thursday meeting was stellar.   At a time of transition and change, I thank Mike Nedd who came to our general session while many changes, charges and topics are being addressed in Washington, D.C.   I thank Ed Roberson and his full team in the Utah State Office and the West Desert District (including District Manager Kevin Oliver and staff) for taking the time to host our field tour, give us perspectives on local issues and concerns, and being open on how they are working with local communities, interested public and agencies in dealing with them.   Our primary topic was the wildland urban interface, but the meeting also addressed the ever-present concern of keeping public lands in public ownership.  As you might have guessed this issue quickly becomes black and white at a politician’s level.  However, at the field level, everyone is working together quite well to manage the issues while sustaining public lands in public hands. This entire group provided a broad analysis of the unique politics of public land retention and use in Utah, and gave context and meaning to what is in the papers and circulating through social media.   Thank you:  Mike Styler, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources; Pat Shea, former BLM Director; Dayne Barron, Advisor to the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy; Sheldon Wimmer (ex-line manager and Fire Management Officer for Utah BLM; and Tom Adams, Director of the Utah Office of Outdoor Recreation, in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.    All of their comments and candor were appreciated by the attendees, as reflected in the questions and answers provided.

I also had the tremendous honor of recognizing Geoff Middaugh as PLF’s Volunteer of the Year and Lifetime Service Awards for Ray Brady and Jeff Holdren who retired from the BLM’s D.C. office.  I can say, without a doubt that we had a successful annual meeting with the help of many folks.  Thank you all for attending, participating and engaging to make our session such a success.

Great meeting, and we will look forward to Montana in 2018!