Friday, February 25, 2011

Rancher thanks lawmakers for eye on DFG

Etna, Calif., rancher Jeff Fowle penned an open letter of thanks to far Northern California's two state lawmakers, Assemblyman Jim Nielsen and Sen. Doug LaMalfa, for keeping some pressure on the Department of Fish and Game over its requirement of special irrigation permits in the Scott and Shasta valleys.

He observes:

For more than 30 years the farmers and ranchers of the two valleys have been voluntarily improving water efficiency, installing fish screens, replacing push up dams with permanent, fish friendly structures and incorporating bypass flows into their diversion structure designs. All of these actions were done proactively to address potential impacts to salmonids. In addition, landowners along the two rivers have installed fencing to better manage grazing in riparian areas and have voluntarily stabilized banks and planted native vegetation to improve the habitat.

In the 80’s, the Department wanted us to put in fish screens they designed and we did. Then they wanted us to replace our push up dams with permanent rock weirs and we did. They then requested a bypass flow at the point of diversion and we obliged. Then they wanted assurance we were diverting our adjudicated water right and we are water mastered. Now they want me to pay $200 a year for a 1600 permit and $10,000 to $15,000 for a 158 page permit that says I am diverting with approved mitigations and the Department can take my water when they want to? I say hell no!

The recent re-interpretation of the Fish and Game code 1600 is merely another attempt by the State to assume more control over small business, ignore private property rights and follow the beck and call of a few elitist activist groups whose desire is to see our two valleys depopulated and returned to a “natural” state. If the Department is successful in implementing the 158 page permit in combination with requiring a 1600 permit simply to exercise a water right, the repercussions throughout the state will have a devastating impact.

He writes later:

To think, this all started nearly 30 years ago with the listing of the Spotted Owl. The timber industry was shutdown, unemployment jumped, communities died, schools began to deteriorate due to the lack of a tax base, forests have become too dense, tree diseases are rampant, catastrophic wildfires have ensued, tax dollars are wasted in efforts to fight fires, forest wildlife no longer have quality habitat, evapotranspiration has climbed, surface flows have decreased due to increased evapotranspiration increased and tree density and so now, it is time to eliminate the farms and ranches, surely that will fix the problem.

It is time to stop this short-sighted nonsense and approach the management of our natural resources with common sense. Modern forestry, farming and ranching practices can and will return our county to one that is environmentally healthy and economically viable, provided the onerous regulations, misguided permits are eliminated. Further, the puppet strings that are controlling the Department, held by the elitist environmental groups, must be cut.

You can read his entire letter here.

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