The Coastal Post - September 1999

Ranchers Nee Help From Being Protected To Death By Woolsey

By Roxanne Thornton

On June 15, 1999, California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Marin/Sonoma Counties) introduced H.R. 2202, the Point Reyes Farmland Protection Act. This legislation marks the fourth attempt by Representative Woolsey to place special status on private lands adjacent to Point Reyes National Seashore making it possible to expand the park. The majority of affected landowners have consistently opposed Congresswoman Woolsey's proposals.

Point Reyes National Seashore was established by an act of Congress in 1962. Acquisition of private lands was necessary to fulfill the purposes of the Act, and $14 million was authorized for the land purchases. There were 27 family dairies and 6 beef ranches in operation within the newly created PRNS. The 1962 legislation specifically excluded those private parcels of 500 acres or more that remained in a natural state or were used solely for ranching or dairy purposes.

Over the past 37 years, amendments have been made to the Point Reyes National Seashore authorizing legislation. The PRNS boundary has been revised several times and today the PRNS covers over 70,000 acres of what was once prime agricultural land at a cost of over $57 million dollars. The "500 acres or more" exclusion was repealed in 1970. There is no privately owned land left today. PRNS employees have destroyed ranch buildings and removed evidence of past human habitation.

The farmers and ranchers have an alternative. The USDA Farmland Protection Program (FFP) is a voluntary program that helps farmers keep their land in agriculture. The FFP provides funding to entities with existing farmland protection programs to purchase conservation easements. Program criteria stipulates that the farmland to be protected must be threatened by development, yet located near agricultural infrastructure and markets to ensure future viability.

The California Farm Bureau Federation is currently drafting legislation, amending the existing USDA Farmland Protection Program, to make available $60 million to Sonoma and Marin Counties. To find out how you can stop Woolsey's park expansion bill, and to learn more about the Farmland Protection Program, go to the Website at: home.earthlink.net/~dbpage or contact the Citizens for Protecting Farmland, P.O. Box 144, Tomales, CA 94971 (707) 766-9028 or email them at [email protected]

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