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Montana Ag Network: Montana artist captures the heritage of public lands ranching

Since 1968, the Public Lands Council (PLC) has represented the more than 22,000 cattle and sheep producers who hold public lands grazing permits across the nation.

To commemorate the organization’s 50th Anniversary, the group enlisted a Montana artist to capture the spirit and heritage of the West.

The group commissioned artist Steven Oiestad to create a piece of artwork to showcase their 50 years of advocacy. Oiestad, who calls Fort Shaw home, knew he was up to the task to pay tribute to the nation’s ranchers.

“Having grown up on a ranch near Big Timber, I can appreciate the landscape as well as the cowboys and ranchers that work it,” said Oiestad. “That’s my inspiration. I admire what they do as far as taking care of the land. I understand that ranchers take better care of the land than most people.”

For the PLC, it was important to choose an artist with ties to the west who also understood ranching. 

“We wanted a custom commemorative painting, which featured cattle and sheep,” said Allie Nelson, PLC Manager of Operations and Affiliate Outreach. “Both cattle and sheep graze on public lands. We wanted to feature the heritage and culture of western ranching. Who better to partner with than Steven Oiestad out of Fort Shaw.”

The creative inspiration for the oil pastel painting came from across the Big Sky State.

“I look for a beautiful background,” said Oiestad. “The ranch that is in the background of the painting is down by Red Lodge. The painting is a compilation of four or five different things. The dog came from one picture. The horse and rider came from another. The background of the mountains, everything comes from different places in the state.”

For Great Falls native and PLC employee Allie Nelson, having a Montana connection in producing the artwork was a way to support other Montana businesses.

“We also partnered with Advanced Litho Printing out of Great Falls to do all our printing,” said Nelson. “We wanted it to be produced in Great Falls, so Steven could go into the print shop and check out the proof and make sure the colors and specs are exactly what he loves. This is one thing we are so excited for in celebrating our fiftieth anniversary. This is truly a priceless piece, and we are so excited to give these to registrants as a thank you for celebrating our public lands ranching heritage.”

The Public Land Council’s 50th Annual meeting will be held September 26-29 in Park City, Utah. Artist Steven Oiestad is looking forward to attending the event and mingling with ranchers from across the nation.

“It’s something I’m really looking forward to,” said Oiestad. “I’m looking forward to meeting all the PLC members, which should be exciting for me. It could be a great opportunity to create contacts for future work, which would be great!”

For more on the commemorative artwork and ranchers interested in attending the 50th Anniversary meeting, please visit the Public Lands Council’s website.

-Reporting by Lane Nordlund

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