Monday, September 21, 2009

Endangered Species Act: Are We In Need Of Protection Now?

The Endangered Species Act is in dire need of reform. Hopefully, the recent coverage by Fox News and Sean Hannity, of the Water Crisis in California’s Central Valley will bring about the attention needed to wake up Washington and bring about necessary change.

Being from Siskiyou County, located on the northern border with Oregon, I have seen the devastation resulting from an antiquated act. Regulations resulting from the listing of species, without consideration of social and economic impacts have been devastating to rural economies and California business. Resulting listings also trigger additional regulations through various state resource agencies. Even though environmental impact studies are required to be conducted prior to regulations and restrictions being imposed, socio-economic impacts are rarely addressed and beneficial uses are regularly weighted towards single species. Failure to adequately address the socio-economic impacts of regulations and assessing all beneficial uses then results in economic hardship on land owners and rural economies and often has negative impacts on other species due to a lack of foresight and holistic approaches.

There was the listing of the Northern Spotted Owl that all but eliminated the logging industry and resulted in mass closure of mills throughout Northern California. This resulted in the loss of revenue for rural counties and schools that received funds from the receipts of timber sales, a loss of local jobs, and a reduction in family owned businesses in rural towns. The irony behind the listing was that the scientists that conducted the population surveys looked for the owls in “old growth forest” where the “literature” said they would be found. In reality, the owls also reside in new growth pine forests, non-conifer forests and structures, such as barns. Subsequent surveys in the owl’s actual habitat indicate a healthy population, but delisting has not occurred.

Then there was the listing of the fall run Chinook salmon and Coho salmon. Further restrictions and regulations were placed upon forest management, farming and ranching. Most of the mitigation measures, to minimize negative impact on salmonids, were reasonable: fish screens, permanent rock weir dams, creation of cold water pools, bank stabilization and riparian habitat enhancement. However, the encroachment on water rights and private property rights is inexcusable. With the listing of salmonids, came an assumption of guilt on all private land owners. Failure to recognize the impacts of natural precipitation, predation and ocean conditions placed all responsibility for recovery on the private sector with little to no mitigation for impacts not associated with private landowners.

Now we are seeing the impact of the listing of the Delta smelt, water being taken from farmers in the Central Valley. Pumps at the Jone’s Pumping Station and the Federal Fish Collection facility are operating, sending a nearly full canal flowing through the very area that has lost use of the water. Ironically, there are few, if any, Delta smelt even being collected at the Federal Facility, as they are not in the south Delta, and several municipalities are still being allowed to send their minimally treated sewage directly into the Delta. Further, the “two-gate” project, which would minimize the smelt’s ability to enter the take-out to the pumps, has been stalled by the government yet again, why?

Certainly, some past practices from the early 1900’s through the 1970’s were not exactly “environmentally friendly.” However, science and technology have changed practices and management styles to be beneficial to both resource managers and the environment. It is in the best interest of resource managers to ensure that the land is healthier and able to support future generations. Yet, the Endangered Species Act and a host of state agencies are now ignoring the benefits of modern resource management and the symbiotic relationship and dependency that exist between forest managers, famers, ranchers and the environment. Short sighted implementation of regulations that place onerous financial burden, force public policy on private land, tread on liberty, take private property, encourage development and negatively impact habitat and unintended species continue to plague the west. Is it any wonder that species do not recover and that California has become a business killer?

Curtailing logging has led to the highest density of forests in the history of the Pacific Northwest, resulting in elevated evapo-transpiration rates. Couple that with low snow pack and drought level precipitation and you have less available total surface flow available for fish, wildlife, municipalities and agriculture. Additionally, we have seen a higher number of catastrophic wildfires costing states and the federal government (tax payers) millions upon millions of dollars. Would it not be beneficial to harvest timber, generate local revenue, increase potential flows and save money from fighting fires?

Current recovery strategies are at odds with each other. One plan calls for creating Coho habitat which negatively impacts Chinook. Another plan calls for all banks to be stabilized and eliminate erosion, which negatively impacts the habitat for bank swallows. Yet another plan only allows for prescribed burning during the time of year with the highest risk of fire. Short sighted planning must be stopped. The government and agencies are only causing more problems than they are solving. Environmental extremists have pushed the envelope too far. It is time for reason to return to regulation.

Common sense tells us there is a need for balance. Allow logging to resume utilizing modern practices, increase available surface flows, improve available habitat and provide the necessary water to farmers and ranchers. Build more water storage facilities, do not remove them. Modify existing structures to accommodate for fishery needs, green power and irrigation, do not take them out. Acknowledge that agriculture, including timber, is potentially the biggest positive contributor and enhancer to salmon and wildlife habitat when allowed to operate with modern technology and management practices. Continued regulation and restriction will only exacerbate the existing problems. The Endangered Species Act must be reformed to recognize the value of timber operations, farms, ranches and local economies in BALANCE with nature.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Responsibility: Producer & Consumer

This post is in response to a blog posted by @zacharyadamcohen

We have had several civil discussions over the past few months finding areas that we agree and other areas which we agree to disagree. This post is in no way an attack on him, nor do I want any of my followers to be rude or attack him because you may disagree with his statements. I post this response with respect and in answer for his request for farmers and ranchers to respond.


I respectfully disagree with your assessment that farmers are to blame for the publics decisions on what to eat, how much to eat and what type of lifestyle to lead that leads to obesity. It is a philosophical difference between your ideology and mine.

I believe that as individuals we are responsible for all of our actions and the decisions that we make on that which we have control. We have control (minus the good Lord above, Mother Nature and government interference) over what happens on our farms, ranches, homes and personal lives, not the farm next door, the chef at the restaurant in town, or the consumer living across the state or country.

I am responsible for producing a safe product for the next person in the food chain, whether that is the horse owner, cattleman or dairy that buys my hay or grain, the commercial cattleman that buys my replacement heifers or bulls, or the people down the road that buy a steer to put in their freezer.

If that horse owner feeds a ration that leads to their horse colicing, or the dairy feeds an imbalanced ration that causes their cows to bloat, that is their responsibility, not mine. If the commercial cattleman, that bought replacement heifers from me, breeds them to a bull with excessive birth weight EPD’s, thus ending up having to pull the calves, that was his decision, and his responsibility, not mine. If the cattleman that bought a bull from me takes him home and puts him in a pen with other bulls, he runs the risk of getting him hurt. If that bull gets injured, that is his responsibility, not mine. Once the family that bought the steer from me to eat, they decide how to cook it, what seasoning to use, what portions to eat, not me. All of the “consumers” listed above make decisions based on their own knowledge and the information that they chose to access and are responsible for the resulting outcomes of their actions.

As a farmer I made an educated decision on what crops to grow based on the region that I live in. That includes my elevation, the length of the growing season and availability of water. I then take annual soil samples each spring to assess the nutrient levels of the soil and determine if any nutrients need to be added for the upcoming year. Moisture meters help me determine how often and how much water to apply. All my decisions are made using the best available information in order to produce a healthy crop that is safe to consume and keeps the soil healthy.

As a rancher, I made an educated decision on what type of cattle operation to run and what breeds to utilize, based on region as well. Having irrigated pasture, and limited acres, I decided to be a seed stock producer and optimize my production by producing a product for commercial cattlemen, bulls and heifers. I also elected to raise Angus and Hereford cattle, as we live at a higher elevation, with cold winters and both tend to be more efficient in those climates than European breeds. Pasture rotation is based on quality and condition of forage and helps increase the health of the pastures and enhances habitat for native wildlife. Regular conversations with our local veterinarian determine the health and nutritional plans that I utilize. Supplements of minerals, protein and carbohydrates are provided as needed by the cattle, depending upon the stage of the production. Once again, I make educated decisions that allow me to provide a safe and healthy product that is also beneficial to the environment.

Every decision that I make is based on my knowledge and research that I do so as to arrive at an outcome that is desired. If the outcome is not positive, I gather more knowledge and do more research to modify my management to arrive at an outcome that yields a high quality, safe product at a profit.

The public is just as responsible for gathering their own information to guide their own decisions and actions and are just as accountable for their own respective outcomes and modifying their behavior to change outcomes that are not desirable.

We live in a country that is based upon personal Freedom, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Sadly, some people make choices that do not result in positive outcomes and so they “blame” someone else for their misfortune without accepting any personal responsibility, but they had the Freedom to make that choice as an individual.

I do not have the right, or the ability to control how you live your life, what you buy at the store, how much you eat or how much you exercise. You have that right, you have that ability, and you have that responsibility. That is what makes living in the United States of America so special, we are FREE to choose.

Do I think it is unwise for people to smoke? Yes, but I support their right to make that choice.

Do I think it is unwise for parents to let their children watch TV and play video and computer games for hours on end? Yes, but I support their right to make that choice.

Do I think it is unwise for parents to feed their children regularly at fast food establishments and reward with candy bars? Yes, but I support their right to make that choice.

The bottom line is that some people make poor decisions. That is life. Thank God we live in a country where we can still make our own decisions, whether they are good or bad. However, people must stop blaming others for their own misfortune and start looking inside to resolve their own issues. My grandfather told me to look at my hand when I pointed at someone to pass blame and see that three fingers were still pointing at me. Responsibility and change starts with self. And, as President Ronald Reagan said, “All great change in America starts at the dinner table.”

Are there areas within the existing food system that can be improved? Certainly, but until we as a society start accepting responsibility for own choices, our own actions, the outcomes resulting from those actions and modify our own behaviors, those changes will never occur.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Help Keep the Family Together

The link at the end of this blog will now work for everyone, not just Californians.  Thank you for your support.

America’s family farms, ranches and businesses face a serious ultimatum upon the death of a parent or grandparent whose name is on the title. When we lose that loved one, we then have to make some very difficult decisions, particularly on how to meet the estate or inheritance tax for the property that is to be handed down to the next generation. This is not just an agricultural issue; this directly affects rural economies, environmental sustainability and food production.

H.R. 3524, The Family Farm Preservation Tax Act, would allow families to pass the farm or ranch, and assets, to the next generation, exempt from estate taxes. This bill was introduced by Representative Mike Thompson and Representative John Salazar and would also exclude land that is enrolled in a qualified conservation easement.

Some would suggest doing proper estate planning and securing ample life insurance would alleviate this problem, however, what they do not understand is the following. The tens of thousands of dollars, spent on legal bills and insurance could be spent reinvesting in the farm or ranch. Reinvestments that would make the land more efficient, beneficial to wildlife, and have the potential to expand and benefit the local economies by hiring employees and generating demand at local businesses.

Being able to keep the family farm or ranch in the family is also a major benefit for the environment. When farms and ranches are split up and sold off, often times it goes under development, eliminating valuable habitat and placing even more regulatory pressure on the portions of the ag land that remain in production.

Furthermore, as more and more agriculturally productive land is split off and sold to cover estate and inheritance taxes, less and less land is available to produce food. Couples the reduction in productive land, with regulatory restrictions and Mother Nature and you have a recipe for potential food shortages and higher food prices.

Please voice your support for agriculture, and family farmers and ranchers by going to the following link , join Farm Team and send your support and or estate tax story to Washington D.C. Voice your support for H.R. 3524 and the American farmer and rancher.

About Me

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Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.