I was fortunate enough to be awarded the Nick Theos Scholarship from the Public Lands Council and attend its legislative conference in Washington D.C. last week. I was proud to represent the University of Idaho College of Law as well as the Idaho Agriculture Law Society and the State of Nevada. In addition, I would like to thank the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association who was nice enough to let me tag along throughout the course of the week. It was a terrific experience.
My first day in Washington D.C. went a little something like this: I shuffled into a small room. Surrounded by cowboy hats and cowboy boots, I found a seat at a table and settled in. I was running on a few hours of sleep, 4 cups of coffee, and an excitement that made the exhaustion worth it. There was a sense of urgency in the air as I sat down. I looked across the table to see a man and a woman from the federal government. We’re here to discuss Sage Grouse and other issues facing ranchers in the West. The Sage Grouse is a species that has caused considerable debate in our Nation’s Capital. For ranchers, this discussion is crucial. The rancher’s way of life and continued use of the public lands is directly related to how this bird is managed. The stakes are high, but everyone is willing to listen, I guess that’s a start.
As the day rolls on I can feel the lack of sleep and jet lag start to hit me, but once again my excitement pushes me forward. Every once in a while it hits me that I’m in this amazing place and I’m a part of the solution. I’m helping ranchers maintain their voice in this crazy city. I came to law school to help ranchers, and here I am, fulfilling “my purpose.”
I can feel the excitement and hope in this town. The excitement is fueled by the recent election. A new administration means a new way of doing things. A new way of doing things means that there’s hope for the American cattle rancher and his/her continued goal to utilize the public lands in order to raise beef for the American public and the world. On the second day we were visited my Secretary Zinke, the Secretary of the Interior. His message left the entire room of cattle ranchers, students like myself, lobbyists, and advocates, full of excitement and wonder. Feelings that the public land ranching industry hasn’t felt in a long time. There’s a chance for a positive change and that fuels our hope.
Not everything is perfect though. Among this blanket of hope I can feel the skepticism. We’ve all been promised things in the past and those promises, while most likely given with the utmost sincerity, didn’t come true. I can’t help but feel the skepticism too. After all, even I know that if it sounds too good to be true it just might be. But I dismiss this skepticism as soon as I can. I want to believe that ranchers can accomplish everything we desire to achieve. I know the people around me are motivated by a sincere desire to improve the lives of each individual rancher in our country. It feels better to be hopeful rather than skeptical so I go with it and dive head first into the conversations we are having about making lasting changes. Changes that will last my entire lifetime and beyond.
I’m writing this from a hotel lobby just a few blocks from the Capital Building. Cabs are flying down the street next to me and busy people with busy agendas hurry by. Everybody here as something to promote or advocate for. I’ve put in my time this week and I’ll be leaving for the airport soon. After that, I’ll leave this town. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I do know that when I do come back there will be work to be done. Perfection is an unattainable goal. However, with a little hope and a whole lot of determination we can take positive steps forward.
I sincerely appreciate the people who make their living advocating for others in this crazy place. The hustle and bustle has left me exhausted and ready to return to the West where things are slower and less crowded. My experience isn’t going to be forgotten. I’ll return home and continue my schedule as a law student with peace in my heart. I know that sounds corny but it’s true. Law school can be grueling; this trip has reaffirmed my desire to help the American rancher. It’s not that I had doubts about my career path before this trip, I knew what I wanted to do long before I came here. My passionate desire to help ranchers has always been lit inside me, but the woes of day-to-day life, coupled with the fact that I spend all of my time in a library and not at home on the ranch, tends to make that desire flicker. This trip turned my flickering passion into a full-fledged bonfire.
“I could make a difference.” By just realizing that simple statement, I might be able to motivate myself enough to change someone’s life. But “could” and “might” aren’t good enough for me anymore. So I’ll leave you with this phrase instead: “I will make a difference that will make a positive change for each and every American rancher, you can count on it.”