MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924
Moo Town News
BY Judy Borello
"PARK is Just a Four-Letter Word"
I wish to commend Steve Kinsey and the Board of Supervisors, Agriculture Commissioner Stacy Carlsen, and Marin County Farm Bureau President Dominic Grossi for acting expeditiously in declaring an agricultural emergency in Marin County, making it possible for federal drought funding to come our way.
On another subject, acting expeditiously and showing common sensibility are definitely not virtues of our National Park officials. Over the past couple decades, a number of ranchers with operations in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore have discovered the dreary realities of having the Park for a landlord. In the latest case, Ted and Rhea McIsaac have tried desperately to renew their lease permit on Rancho Tocaloma, with their 25-year Reservation having expired on May 18th. At the same time, they've tried to persuade the Park to agree to an additional short-term lease that would allow their cattle access to grass on a fallow ranch adjacent to theirs, without which, in this drought, they'll be forced to sell off much if not their entire herd.
In May letters to Golden Gate National Recreation Area Superintendent Brian O'Neill and to US Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Ted McIsaac, whose great grandparents began ranching at Pt. Reyes some140 years ago, described in great detail how mismanagement and stonewalling on the part of Superintendent Don Neubacher is threatening his family's farming operation and its very livelihood.
McIsaac explains how, in anticipation of the lease expiration, he diligently initiated the process for renewal nine months earlier. His description of Neubacher's irresponsible actions, false information, missed deadlines and generally giving him the run-around would be comical if it weren't so pathetic and frightening. McIsaac laments that his bankers are "furious" with his "inability to obtain our permit on a timely basis." He says the "lack of business certainty is a major obstacle to the very continuation of our ranch," causing an extreme emergency.
As for the adjoining ranch, Park officials have responded that environmental regulations preclude them from allowing cows there. It should be an environmental priority that the field be grazed! In actuality, grazing will reduce the fire hazard and remove many of the invasive plants that are overwhelming the endangered species there. But, according to Park officials, the National Environmental Policy Act requires a public process and a lengthy EIR before they could allow such grazing.
My take on this is that Ted McIsaac has done everything possible to get the ball rolling on his dilemmas, and the Park has deliberately shunned him by putting him off for so long. Time is money for McIsaac, and the Park is stalling him into economic disaster.
It leads me to believe that in a calamity or a state of emergency the Park's dilly-dallying and abundance of red tape concerning simple decisions will lead to more calamities. It's these microscopic environmental issues that go on ad infinitum, and result in a job that should be done, but won't be done. Nero fiddles while Rome burns, and the tune he plays is called, "Over-Exaggerated Environmental Concerns."
With the ongoing horror stories about the plights of ranchers in the Park, of their difficulties with permits, their struggles to get their leases renewed, their reluctance to improve their ag infrastructure - or their inability to convince their bankers to finance any improvements because of the uncertainties in their futures, it's no wonder that they are questioning the wisdom of being under the control of a heavy-handed federal bureaucracy. Even Ted McIsaac, when asked if he would still choose to be in the Park if he was able to go back to when the National Seashore was created, he emphatically stated, "Absolutely not."
P.S. As the Park ranchers continue to take a beating, those of us on private ranchlands on the east shore of Tomales Bay and beyond should truly appreciate and respect the fact that 10 years ago we fought the good fight and defeated Lynn Woolsey's so-called "Farmland Protection Act," which truly was a Park expansion scheme that would have subjected all of our agriculture to the restrictive control of the Feds.
P.P.S. Cows don't eat red-legged frogs.
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