The Coastal Post - June, 1998

Moo Town News

Pt. Reyes Farmland Protection Act Is A Pig In A Poke

The Real Facts About A Bogus Bill

By Judy Borello

Two-thirds of the ranchers within the zone that the Pt. Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act (HR1995) encompasses, oppose this bill.

Representative Lynn Woolsey, who introduced the bill in Congress, has stated that she has the support of the ranchers. Wrong! Her statement is that she believes in her heart of hearts that the majority of the ranchers support her bill, while these same ranchers have signed documents and letters opposing the bill. I am certain that the representatives in Congress, who have co-sponsored this bill, have been duped, as also have the media and the public at large.

The ranchers were also promised by Lynn Woolsey that if the majority of ranchers did not approve the bill, she would not submit it in Congress. Duped again.

Both Lynn Woolsey and Executive Director of MALT (Marin Agricultural Land Trust), Robert Berner have stated that the farmland situated in the boundary will not be parkland. Bamboozled again!

When a duck walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and has webbed feet-it is a duck!

Just the official title of the bill, the Pt. Reyes National Seashore Farmland Protection Act, should give you your first clue.

When Superintendent Don Neubacher of the Pt. Reyes National Park states at an April meeting in 1997 at the Tomales school that he would come on our land only if there was a problem, that's clue number two.

When you read the bill, such as the ranchers have done over and over again, and they are by no means dumb or illiterate, it definitely states that we are part and parcel to the Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

When the best legal minds in agriculture have stated through the Farm Bureau Federation that this bill is definitely park acquisition, it is not a good bill for saving agriculture, and intrudes on the rights of property owners.

This farmland bill is not voluntary! Once placed in the proposed boundary zone, the ranchers are forced into the park forever. "The Department of the Interior (Parks) will govern property purchased through the easements and may lease back the property into active agriculture." (Farm Bureau News, 1997).

Bruce Blodgett, Director of National Affairs and Research of the California Farm Bureau Federation stated, "This is a park expansion bill, plain and simple. Because the bill would incorporate land into the Pt. Reyes National Park, the land within, even that under private ownership, would come under the park designation, a sticking point with the Farm Bureau and opposed landowners. If the goal really is to preserve farmland, then you don't make it part of the park system. If we could get through the process where we're not talking about a park expansion bill but instead we are just trying to capitalize on the ability to get conservation easements to preserve farmland, we'd look at it completely differently." (Farm Bureau News, May 1997)

Robert Berner of MALT, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, and our own Supervisors, for that matter, who do not have the expertise in agriculture that the ranchers themselves have, along with the knowledgeable minds based in agriculture have stated, "This is not a good bill for agriculture." Marin and Sonoma County Farm Bureau, California State Farm Bureau, National Farm Bureau, The Cattleman's Association, and The Wool Growers Association have all opposed this bill. Then why are we being pretentiously told, "It's great for agriculture," when the finest minds in agriculture say No! Who is misled? Who are being hood-winked and by whom?

One of the foremost ploys that is being used against the ranchers in this situation is to frighten the environmentally concerned citizenry by stating, as Rep. Lynn Woolsey has, that we have to stop rampant development along the east shore of Tomales Bay. It's a scare tactic.

In conjunction with A-60 zoning, the Williamson Act (which restricts development on agricultural land) renews itself automatically every day for 10 years. By tomorrow it will renew itself for another 10 years. In the past five years, since this park bill has loomed over our head like a dark cloud, I haven't seen the ranchers rushing to Civic Center to file a development plan. MALT by definition is supposed to be an agricultural land trust, not MELT, an environmental land trust. MALT in original design was formed to protect agriculture, and 50 percent of its board of directors were supposed to be ranchers. Well-respected ranchers have offered to serve on the MALT Board only to be turned down for non-agricultural people.

We are all aware that this (rancher-friendly?) Marin Agricultural Land Trust needs funding, but it is going against the grain of agriculture to do it! To dive-bomb the majority of ranchers and their land to fund an agricultural land trust is ludicrous. Two-thirds of the ranchers oppose the bill that would do just that, even though Rep. Lynn Woolsey portrays us as a radical minority of ranchers who have been misled.

Of the 11 ranchers who hold MALT easements within this proposed park boundary, nine of them oppose the bill.

The ranchers, the dedicated stewards of the land (as acclaimed by notable environmentalists themselves), deserve a lot more respect than this. So, Lynn Woolsey, I say to you and MALT, "Get the monkey off our back!" (Try the Department of Agriculture on the $175,000,000 open-space funds in the Packard Foundation!) Packard money is for open space!

P.S. When Martin Pozzi and Gordon Thornton were President of Farm Bureau, the powers-that-be sought no end of ploys in the media and publicly to discredit them, and even resorted to character assassination. It was shameful! These two men, while in presidential position, did what their job and membership entrusted them to do: They had the duty and the moral obligation to support and uphold the decision of the majority of ranchers opposed to the park bill. Anything less would have shown a lack of integrity in leadership and a sell-out to most ranchers. They should be commended for withstanding the abuse and doing the right thing.

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