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U.S. Capitol building, trees in front Photo: Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock
LOOKING AHEAD: New leadership in Washington should bring what many hope will be a more even-handed look at some tough Western issues, including oil and gas drilling and water management.

Emboldened out West by a new attitude

Commentary: With a new administration in place, farmers and ranchers are hoping for the best.

Accountability may be the most prominent word used in 2017. We have a new administration that has made a wide range of promises. These are big promises, and some have already been "hedged" by the new leadership. Yet, rural readers know who got this guy the new job, and they have to keep reminding him.

Perhaps the main concern is that we'll end up like the words in The Who song "Won't Get Fooled Again." You know: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

The resounding message is that a lot of people voted for significant change, and that's what they hope to get. Yet how do the farmers and ranchers of the West, who helped vote in this change, make the new leaders accountable?

That's where we turn to our farm organizations and make sure they keep politicians' feet to the fire. Our friends at the American Farm Bureau Federation definitely will do that, as will National Farmers Union and a host of others. And that's what's needed. There are some big lingering issues out there we need to overcome.

Waters of the U.S. over at U.S. EPA is perhaps the biggest. The promise of repealing, or eliminating, that measure, which remains over the heads of so many landowners, is enticing. And it should happen — how hard can it be to Executive Order that thing out of existence? Perhaps the new head of EPA, who has a long history of fighting the agency, will get approved by the Senate and get to work on that right away.

But back to that word "accountability." It's a word you may not have heard much about lately, since we've done little to hold Congress accountable for its fussbudget, slow-moving ways. But with a matching set from top to bottom — all Republican — it makes sense that they can work to make the change they want to see.

We'll have to make sure our farm groups are calling them out when they don't meet the higher standard they seem to be setting for their way of running the country. For the West, besides WOTUS, we have Endangered Species Act issues, oil and gas drilling opportunities and more to maximize jobs and the regional economy.

Looks like some good news is ahead on this front. A more commonsense approach to regulation and the environment will make a difference. Farmers and ranchers in the West have already proven time and again they can manage the rangelands and forests better than a Washington-based bureaucrat. And now we may get to again.

Of course, the road of accountability goes both ways. And this new administration will be watching, too. Time to get to work.

An added note
Last month in some editions, we ran an opinion column regarding GMO comments made by Pope Francis. A web link was inadvertently left out, however. Check out the pope's comments at

TAGS: Conservation
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