Fence Lines: Signs at my house would say, ‘proceed with caution’ | RecordCourier.com
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Fence Lines: Signs at my house would say, ‘proceed with caution’

by Marie Johnson

Normally, I stay away from discussing politics to keep my marriage together. My spouse and I have very different outlooks on life, so we don’t put up signs. We would have to label them “his” or “hers” so as not to be associated with the “other’s” idea.

But Gisele, a woman I used to work with while an investment broker for a trust company, wanted to know how I was going to vote on the open space issue. We hadn’t visited together for more than eight years, yet she felt compelled to call me because she didn’t know any other ranchers to talk to before she voted. I figured she’s not alone, so I’m going public with my opinion.

I told her I see both sets of signs, too. The “Pave It or Save It” ones are pretty and glossier than the big white ones that say “Another Rancher Voting No.” But a third group of us out here don’t have our signs up, caution signs.

I don’t look forward to the fighting amongst neighbors if easement purchase money becomes available. The fight over land values and whose property is worth saving can get real personal. Will buyouts be politically connected? Does one sell for less than market value so as not to have to wait years for compensation? The pay per view idea makes me feel like the big-bosomed blonde whom people like to look at but nobody appreciates her work. I want respect and compensation for my work, but since no one is offering real market rates to cover beef production costs, I can accept recognition for my landscaping as a trade off.

I am voting yes, with a cautious eye, because even though some ranchers are voting no, they aren’t offering me a better alternative. What options are available besides the pay per view or selling large sections of land affecting the ranching operation? Ranchers don’t agree on the best cow, the best horse or the best time of year to calf, so you are not going to get them all to agree on much. But this open space initiative can offer some compensation for the restrictive zoning laws placed on our lands, even it it is not a perfect solution. I sure don’t envy the person who decide who gets to be a millionaire. We are very suspicious. But being suspicious doesn’t solve anything. Being mad about what has been taken away doesn’t offer too much of an alternative, either.

Life ranchers don’t like selling land. It compares to selling your own kids. The land is not just dirt, it is a family member, it has history, belonging. Our place has me break the first laws of financial advice I used to give clients. “Don’t fall in love with your investments. Sell when there is opportunity for gain. Move out of poor producing assets.” I’ve stopped being an investment broker. I am so attached to this place, I know it as well as I know my own children. Thinking of selling it is very troubling. But if we, or our kids, are forced to sell land because of aging, health or death taxes, I want as many options as possible. Selling the view, keeping the dirt could be an alternative.

Douglas County lost out when it scraped away the view leading into this Valley by putting box stores, stoplights and buildings on the hilltop. It is losing out as bright lights blot out night stars and roads scar pristine mountains. Are we asking ranchers to pay the price for this development with their land? What will you pay? Vote.

n Marie Johnson is a Fredericksburg resident and is married to Kent Neddenriep. They have two sons, Kyle, 11, and Bradley, 8. Her column, “Fence lines,” appears once a month.