Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blue Ridge Berryessa National Conservation Area -Eco Babble of the first order.

For the life of me I do not understand why some people need to designate public and private lands as National Conservation Areas? I wonder if it has anything to do with getting a better seat at the table of power and better access to federal dollars, or is it an ingenious solution to a non existent problem. Just listen to this.

The Blue Ridge Berryessa Region is a mosaic of over 800,000 acres of public and private lands located in Solano, Napa, Lake, Colusa and Yolo counties. The public lands are managed by the Mendocino National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, California Department of Fish and Game, the UC Reserve System and local parks of various counties and agencies. Much of the private lands are large intact ranches that make up the working landscape.

The region is a result of plate tectonics with blind trust faults; steeply titled sandstones and shales that make up the Blue Ridge and Cortina Ridge; and a Franciscan m lange containing serpentine soils that were once part of the ocean crust. Putah and Cache creeks flow through this diverse place giving it life. Blue oak woodlands, chaparral plant communities, and the rare and endemic plants found on serpentine soils together with tule elk, black bear, mountain lion, bald eagles, falcons, osprey, river otters many more animals and birds that live in the oak woodlands make up this biological Hot Spot.

The large, active, private ranches and farms within the region represent our agricultural heritage. To protect that agricultural heritage we must protect the land and the water that they need; help to ensure their economic viability; protect an agricultural infrastructure; and train future ranchers and farmers. It is important to who we are as a People that we are successful in that effort. It helps to define our sense of place.

I'm not sure where to start. Just how will any government designation of a private citizen's land make more rain fall on his ranch? I know all about the Blue Ridge, the sun sets behind it every night, about three miles from my house. I have ridden the Blue Ridge on horseback, hunted on foot and driven almost every inch of the dirt roads and trails that snake along its spine.

The private land that makes up the area in question are cattle ranches, the water on these ranches comes almost exclusively from rainfall. Plain and simple, rainfall. Not Putah Creek or Cache Creek, just rain falling from the sky or maybe if you were luck enough to find ground water at the base of the ridge, you could put a small water well there. I would also like to know who is going to "train future farmers and ranchers", train them to do what, strap on Birkenstocks?

What Bob Schneider, president of Tuleyome, a local environmental group wants is access. He wants access to hike the Blue Ridge from one end to the other. From Berryessa to Cache Creek. There is only one problem, some of that land is private. Tuleyome has found one way to gain access to private land, they bought it.

Hooray for Mr. Schneider, really, I am all for it. Their group now owns the Ireland ranch. Hike to your hearts content. Just don't try to tell the people that their land needs some designation or it will be threatened by development. That is why we have local County zoning, the cattle ranches on the Blue Ridge will never be developed, its zoned Ag preserve and contracted into the Williamson act. Oh and its so steep that if you roll a rock off the top of the ridge it won't stop until hits highway 16.

For all Mr. Schneider's eloquence when it comes to writing about the Blue Ridge, just keep this is mind. He wants access to private land for his group's hobby.
This is straight from the Yolo Hiker website.

Aren't you getting just a little political in advocating trails and public access?

A: I don't think so...I think there is a big difference between politics and passion. I am really passionate about public access and trails. Public access to natural areas within our own watersheds adds to our understanding of the world and appreciation for where we live. For this, the Farm Bureau hates me. Well, that, and the fact that their leadership has exclusive use of the public lands on Berryessa Peak (vis-a-vis friends that own adjacent property), and they hate that I'm advocating for public access to the public lands. I take this as a compliment and sign I must be doing something right.

I also believe that people should work together to come up with solutions for public access and land purchases. If there were no advocates, there would be no trails! Politics is a fact of life, but rest assured, you won't see ranting emails with headlines like "Act now, or your mountains will be destroyed by evil capitalist pigs!" More likely you will see emails like "Hey, we are having a hike this weekend", or "Your input needed on planning effort".

Public access to public lands? More like public access to private land to get to other public land, and private landowners be damned.

If Tuleyome wants trails through the chemise brush on the Blue Ridge and money to buy land for access, Bob can hold a car wash, or bake sale.

This seems to be a familiar screed with me these days, but if you want to recreate, go do it, don't ask the rest of the tax payers to pay for it!

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