A recent historic collaboration among groups who normally are not considered allies was memorialized in an MOU signed on August 24, 2020 at a renowned Florida ranch. The groups were brought together by the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Aurelia Skipwith to create this agreement. The seemingly disparate groups are the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), the Public Lands Council (PLC), Ducks Unlimited and the Safari Clubs International.
PLC and NCBA have a combined over 150 years of service to the livestock industry to foster a vigorous business climate for animal agriculture and to preserve, protect, and enhance ranching on federal and private lands across the United States. The two conservation groups have as their purpose creation, maintenance and preservation of critical wildlife habitat in all 50 states and internationally.
The purpose of the MOU is to develop a cooperative framework among these parties for conservation of wildlife through the management of resources and animals for the needs of wildlife and domestic animal habitat in a mutually beneficial way.
This signing event was a formal recognition there can be working farms and ranches and thriving wildlife populations because of the open space and habitat farms and ranches provide for their domestic and wildlife animal populations.
This is what the Ducks unlimited CEO, Adam Putnam said regarding this historic agreement: “DU members and ranching families alike know protecting wildlife habitat and working lands go hand in hand.” Likewise, the President of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Marty Smith said:” Cattle producers and sportsmen… share a commitment to being good stewards of the land.”
At first glance, this MOU might appear to have a very narrow scope and significance because it is so focused on the relationship between animal agriculture and wildlife habitat. However, nationwide as our population grows and development pressures for housing and commercial building continue to encroach upon the open space which provides significant wildlife habitat, perhaps this MOU can provide a model about how to do smarter development which accounts for the needs of growing communities but does not unnecessarily encroach and ruin places for wild things to thrive and give some relief to crowded urban and suburban dwellers.
As lawyers who represent diverse land use interests it is incumbent on us to use every tool in the tool kit to enhance opportunities for our clients while avoiding conflicts which just send parties to the courtroom.