The Coastal Post - September, 1995

This Land Is My Land

This land is my land, this land is your land, but only if the government has the purchase power to acquire it. So say the ranchers along the east shore of Tomales Bay.

In November of 1992, right after Gary Giacomini's re-election, there appeared in the Pt. Reyes Light the novel idea of a Pt. Reyes National Seashore Buffer Zone. It would consist of approximately 40,000 acres ranging from West Marin to Southern Sonoma, and also proposed that the park expansion would be funded by $30 or $40 million in seed money from the U.S. Government with Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), acting as agent, who would buy development rights from any interested party within the boundary. Four properties were targeted for outright purchase, the Millerton Point Subdivision, the Borello Ranch Quarry, part of Marconi Cove and the Marshall Boat Works

What sounded the alarm for this proposed Buffer Zone was the fact that Web Otis and a small group of developers had cut in Sheep Ranch Road to their sub-divided land right above Millerton Point.

Sitting next to the Millerton Point project is the Borello Ranch. Two weeks prior to the Pt. Reyes Light heralding the news of the proposed Buffer Zone, my late husband Robert Borello was killed in a freak car accident in Nevada. A one-time past president of the Farm Bureau and one of the longest-serving directors of the Farm Bureau, he was always aware and fought passionately for the land use rights of ranchers.

When ag land in the early seventies was changed from A-2 to A-60, he was angered because it devalued ranchland 30 times what it had been, and he thought ranchers should be compensated for this downgrading of their land-use potential. When the Williamson Act was first proposed, and most ranchers were joining it because it would cut taxes to a minimum, he advised against it and would not join it, believing that "once you bite the federal carrot, you get the federal noose."

Not wanting restraints or constraints from the Federal Government, he went on about his business developing his quarry, and at one time when being pressured by environmentalists, he had planned to take his development rights and merge with the Millerton Point properties, creating an even bigger subdivision.

After Robert's death October 25, 1992, I was personally gratified to hear of Giacomini's proposed Buffer Zone to the National Seashore. Personally, I felt almost as excited as Gary did to see it move along in Congress. But as luck would have it, in 1994 the Republicans took over Congress and much to Gary Giacomini's chagrin, "the ball was going nowhere fast." And so it went for ten months and many of us thought it was dead in the water.

All of a sudden in the last month, there's been a resurgence of the proposed Park Expansion Bill. Only this time it has one major drawback the distinct possibility of no funding.

If that is the case, it puts all of us within the boundary in a very precarious position. We don't want the federal government controlling and having the power to muck around with our private property rights with boundaries, trails, restrictions, rules and regulations without financial compensation.

The bottom line is that we are not opposed to a park expansion, if there is guaranteed money to back it up, and not have to wait 20 years down the road as some ranchers have waited and are still waiting to be bought out by the original Park Bill.

Of course, the environmentalists are salivating to see our lands put under restriction in a "protected" park zone, but without purchase power and fair compensation, we will not package our private lands up and tie the bundle with a big red bow and hand it over as a surprise Christmas present. I've often wondered why the environmentalists who lust after our lands don't go to the Sierra Club, as wealthy as the federal government, to get money to save the environment, rather than hit up the hard-pressed taxpayer all the time.

Of course, many environmental zealots need the millions to obstruct ranchers and road-building to protect the marsh mouse, the kangaroo rat, the red-legged frog and the flying yellow zonkers. Don't get me wrong, as Toby Giacomini would say. There's many a good environmental cause out there, such as protecting the whales, restricting the Japanese from strip-mining the ocean, and trying to stop the mass devastation of our rain forests. And many an environmentalist practices good common sense along with the sensibilities of justice and fair play, but sometimes the chosen few create misguided havoc within their own environment.

So sorry to digress, but back to the subject at hand: A quote from the IJ (August 3): "The new majority has made it clear that they [Republicans] are not allocating funds for park expansion at this time. In order to keep the expansion moving in this climate, it makes sense to set the boundaries first, then seek funding to purchase the development rights in a more friendly Congress," said Rep. Woolsey.

Wrong! We can't afford to wait for a more friendly Congress, because in reality that will probably never happen, at least in my lifetime, if ever. Both parties are talking fiscal responsibility and cutbacks.

Without funding directly tied to the Buffer Zone Bill, it renders us, the ones trapped inside the boundary paralyzed to use our private property rights and clouds our entitlement to sell to an outside source and is confiscatory in nature.

We are opposed to being roped into this Boundary Only with a No Bucks Deal.

P.S. Aside from our legal rights which constitute "a taking," there is moral virtue in one of the Ten Commandments: "Thous shalt not covert thy neighbor's goods." Amen!