Thanks for supporting Valley ranchers
January 13, 2017
As the great parodied line goes, it was a dark and stormy night. People were gathered, missing their supper. Uncomfortably sitting in chairs. Most were dressed in worn denim, heavy boots and greatly-used winter jackets. Some stomachs gurgled from hunger, others from anxiety, some with frustration. All waiting — some folks for four hours to voice their three minutes of concern about the county's planning department taking yet more from the agricultural community.
Douglas County is an interesting place to live. One elected community member once described an area within it as a place where folks circled their wagons and shot at each other. We don't really.
On the whole most people in the county live here peacefully. Some are even said to enjoy the agricultural influence so much they believe it is their right to limit what goes on the land they look at. They want the grass green, the land free of weeds and the cattle cute. Birds of prey are welcome, but not coyotes, mountain lions or bears.
All this is understandable. Who doesn't like a nice place to stay nice? But who has to take care of all this "nice" stuff? Who irrigates the hundreds of acres of land people like to look at? Who works to keep their share of water flowing, ditches clean, grass growing and cattle cute?
Usually it is the men and women who own those hundreds of acres. And at times the county tells those people they must keep their land in agriculture, stay ranching, and the ranchers ask "Why?" Sometimes the most beneficial use of their land is not agricultural production.
A decade ago county-wide workshops, meetings and planning presentations were held. Lots of folks voiced what they wanted in the county. Some were given what the county felt at the time was fair. Some were not.
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Over time a compromise was reached with the ag community allowing a reduction from having to take almost 20 acres out of production if wanting to "develop" a parcel, to a 2-acre parcel, but only once every five years.
The county agreed to heritage parcels for people with holdings of more than 100 acres. A 2-acre parcel instead of a 19-acre parcel, allowed every five years. Or three parcels, then waiting 15 years to do any more 2-acre parcels. Fine. The ag community was happy with the compromise after years of the county taking development rights from ag landowners.
Jan. 3 most of those same ranchers/farmers who sat through hours of meetings a decade ago sat again to voice their concern. Asking the county commissioners to please stop the taking. No more restrictions. No added burdens to be argued over again. Please remember the intent of a poorly written, unclear code, even wrong in one paragraph.
The Board of Commissioners willingly listened to the people who stood up to share their knowledge. The board allowed time to hear the complexity of the issues. And asked the county to work, once again, with the ag community to keep 2-acre zoning on qualified acreage without encumbering other property.
And to every hungry rancher and frustrated farmer who sat, waited and spoke, thank you for your time, a precious commodity on a dark and stormy night with cattle to check and flooding ditches to clear. Thank you. Thank you.
Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher