Lawless

The picture at right is a pack of matches from the local casino found in the airport hangar on San Lucas Ranch after it had been broken into, window smashed, again last week. This is the third time that we have had to repair the damage. What kind of people are we attracting to this valley and why are they coming here?

In all the years I have lived here, I have never experienced such vandalism. In fact, in three generations we have had only one break-in and it was determined to be an inside job.

In the last five or six years since we have attracted so many more “tourists,” we have had drug parties in our pastures, dozens of cars through our fences, cut fences where livestock were present which was just malicious, graffiti on our bridge, graffiti on the highway itself and countless trespassers everywhere.

Through all of this, we have counted on local law enforcement to help us to deal with the miscreants. In almost all cases they have been helpful – from highway patrol, Sheriff’s Department and Fish and Game personnel. We are very grateful for their assistance as we take our job of raising healthy livestock seriously.

On Father’s Day, however, we found a very different situation. We had trespassers in the river and we first called the Fish and Game warden. There was no answer, so we left a message. We never received a call back so our next alternative, as instructed, we called 911. Astonishingly, there also was no answer.

I don’t know what is going on with our budget cuts, but this is ridiculous! This is also irresponsible of whoever is accountable for the funding, which is what I expect is the excuse for no answer. Why was there no one to answer the phone? How are valley residents supposed to feel safe here when there is no emergency service available? I and other residents want to hear some answers about what has happened to our emergency services that we pay for with our tax dollars? Are we to expect this level of service in the future? It’s clear that with the type of some of the visitors to our valley that we need more law enforcement, not less!


The future of agriculture

One of the primary reasons I purchased this newspaper was because I believed that important issues to the agricultural community and thus all of us were either being misrepresented or ignored altogether in all of the other media. In California and Santa Barbara County, agriculture is an extremely important income producer, aside from creating many jobs, vital products and tax dollars. It is also not subject to fads, trends or most forms of terrorism like many other industries. We all use the products created by the Ag industry every single day.

Over the years, we have endured repeated assaults by various levels of government and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) curbing our ability to practice our livelihood and have sufficient income to survive. We have suffered through an ill-fated program that for more than 10 years has unsuccessfully tried to create a river full of steelhead, when that never occurred before the dam was built in the first place except in years when we had flooding.

Then we lost the value in our properties if we had old subdivision map overlays. Whether we planned to develop those or not, we had the right to and it increased the value of the property. The county Board of Supervisors wiped that out with no compensation in a lowering of taxes.

Next they tried to control all aspects of our properties by the Resource Protection Ordinance. The Ag community walked out of those meetings after realizing that the county simply wasn’t interested in keeping agriculture viable but would place such onerous restrictions on the use of our lands that we would not be able to continue. Instead they placed the same restrictions in each of the community plans in their usual backdoor fashion.

Then because some new vineyard had removed a large number of oak trees even though they planted many more hundreds of trees in their place, an uproar was artificially created by the “environmental” organizations and so our privately owned oak trees became subject to new regulations requiring permits to take trees down of a certain size. You can bet many seedlings disappeared after that! What is really a shame is that the requirements were so poorly planned by people who simply don’t understand the life of an oak tree that it has halted any effort to keep our oak forest healthy, since they are growing old and falling down.

We are routinely losing trees every time the wind blows or we have a heavy rain. It is a shame that the new regulations make it impossible for us to properly manage our beautiful trees for generations to come. Under current rules, the trees you see now will steadily die out and there will be no replacement, where if some were selectively removed, new ones could be grown under suitable conditions as opposed to how too many are being planted along our highways, too close together, to suck up hundreds of gallons of water we can ill afford. How different it would be if knowledgeable people could determine these rules, if they are even necessary instead of being the ideas of the “environmental” groups who we are being held hostage by.

Just last month, all small water companies received a lengthy document from the county making it mandatory now that we report our water usage on a yearly basis, by month and location, rather than every three years as it has been in the past. Actually, all of this has occurred since the year 2000 as before my father’s death, we never had such regulations that I was aware of. Here we have one more “reporting” we have to gather information for and give to some agency. The good I can see coming out of the increase in reporting is that we will all have to find the money to pay another person to complete the forms, as there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the work on a farm or ranch that occurs daily and fill out all these forms as well. Guess this comes from people who spend all their time at a desk!

It hasn’t been just the local governments making outrageous claims on our livelihoods and time: The state and federal governments have been working overtime making new rules for us to follow. I am not saying that all laws are bad, but some of the most sweeping are devastating agricultural industries across the country.

When the EPA ran out of Superfund sites, even though they didn’t actually clean them up very well, they turned their attention to agriculture. Most likely with the help of the “environmental” organizations, the outcry began about how farmers and ranchers were polluting our water supplies. They weren’t just ruining the groundwater, but they were somehow responsible for whatever was in the water flowing down mountains, and what was coming out of their sprinklers.

The farmers got hit first. Because I raise some hay, I was approached to participate in their program where farmers are divided into three tiers according to a variety of criteria. They have to produce a “farm plan” revealing everything from where they get their water, to what they grow to where everything is located. They have to report on a regular basis what they are doing. They have to attend 15 hours of “education” on farming, when many of them have been in the business a lot longer than those who pretend to teach them. And where is the data to show that it is the farmers polluting every drop of water on the planet?

I got the feeling that this was another hoax being perpetuated by people who don’t like us independently minded folks, so I have not become part of the program. I have lost income because I can no longer sell excess alfalfa, it being an irrigated crop that qualifies for inclusion in the program. I feed it to my cows instead.

Now there is an effort to blame water pollution on range land animals such as cattle or horses. According to recent documents I have read, the California Regional Water Control Board is now trying to coerce ranchers into hamstringing themselves by identifying each parcel on their ranch where they have, might have or have had animals grazing. According to reports, even the water that drops from the clouds is supposed to be “drinking water quality.” Now that is going too far! Farmers and ranchers have no control over the rainfall, but perhaps the county does as they seed the clouds with silver nitrate! Do they measure for that?

And that, in fact, is the main problem here. Regulations are being imposed on farmers and ranchers that have incomplete if not completely false premises being used as the reason for them. These rules are being produced behind closed doors with no proper input from the public who would be affected by them. In the six double-sided questionnaire for the Ranch Water Quality Plan, there is one question about what wildlife might exist on the property. There are no quantitative opportunities to discuss the impacts of highways (potty stops), county parks with 900,000 annual visitors, casinos with 15,000 daily visitors, car washes and all manner of wildlife such as deer, bear, lions, wild pigs, skunks, possums, raccoons, gophers, squirrels, bats, birds, fish and who knows what else. Where is the accounting for all that, and is it really the responsibility of the rancher to pay the price for state-owned wildlife or the fishermen peeing over the side of the boat at the lake who may or may not be creating a problem? Is there really a problem, or are we just trying to justify our jobs?


Our valley

It is very important that you read the latest information here and on the P.O.L.O. website (polosyv.org) about what is happening with the potential 6.9-acres parcel under fee-to-trust application. A ruling has been issued, finally after years of waiting, and will require response from citizens and the Board of Supervisors. You have until Thursday, July 12. I will have more discussion of what is happening and how you can participate next week. Check it out, as it has profound implications for the future of our valley.