Idaho Press Club honors effort to teach state about ranchers
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission's efforts to tell ranchers' stories and educate the public on the contributions of ranching has received a tip of the hat from the Idaho Press Club.
The "Life on the Range" website took top honors in the public relations campaign category of the club's annual contest.
The website was launched last year to educate the public about what ranchers do, why they do it and how their efforts benefit Idaho rangelands, said Gretchen Hyde, the commission's executive director.
"Ranching is really complicated; there's no such thing as a typical ranch," she said.
Ranchers have their own unique way of doing business, protecting wildlife habitat, rangeland, clean air and water and providing recreational opportunity, she said.
People are interested in what ranchers do, she said.
The Internet is a great tool for presenting an in-depth and visual look into the lives of ranchers. It's simple to view and a simple way to distribute the information, she said.
"A 30-second TV ad just can't cover it," she added.
It's important to tell ranchers' stories in the face of growing regulatory pressure and environmentalists' increasing hold on public opinion, she said.
"Ranchers tell us, 'You just have to keep doing this because people don't know,'" she said.
The website has received positive feedback from both ranchers and the public, she said. It will soon contain a curriculum and activities for teachers to use in the classroom. Teachers can already use the website as a virtual fieldtrip, and students can use it for research.
The website offers articles, video and photos and is written, produced and managed by veteran Idaho journalist Steve Stuebner.
"We've gotten really great feedback. People love the stories," Stuebner said. "They seem to enjoy learning what's going on out on the range."
Ranchers and other folks profiled are unsung heroes in terms of their proactive land management, wildlife enhancement and stewardship activities, he said.
"It's really neat to bring those stories to life," he said.
The rangeland commission, along with local, state and federal agencies, also won second place in the club's public relations campaign category for the "Be Outside Idaho" campaign, which encourages children to take part in outdoor activities.
Awards were presented at the May 7 banquet in Boise.
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