No More Totebags

No more tote bags or coffee cups 030211
Opinion from the Fringe

Mugs from TNC Marketplace

The discussion after the adopting the Independence Lake resolution at Tuesday’s SC Board of Supervisor’s meeting was sobering and disappointing.  It gave this editor pause.

The entire The Nature Conservancy incident has been demoralizing.  TNC cloaked itself in Aquatic Invasive Species to keep out motor-boaters.  It was distant and intractable.

Now, after hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars of Friends of Independence Lake resources, and after involving the Sierra County Board of Supervisors and burning up valuable staff time, they have finally agreed to be reasonable.  They are going to have public meetings which will give all users a chance for input.  They’ve hired a consultant and everything.

This is something they could have done over a year ago, something everyone knew they would eventually have to do.  It is what a reasonable group of people would have done from the start.  Indeed, a benevolent dictator would have changed nothing for that first year, except to instruct existing staff how to look for aquatic invasive species, cautioned people not to use felt soled waders, and maybe collect a couple of bucks.  
Instead, they replaced the people who knew the lake well with people who don’t know much.

Through the last ten months or so one question arose often in discussion of the Lake: Is Chris Fichtel stupid, is he ornery, or is he just locked in such a bureaucratic straight jacket that he can’t make any moves except what his corporate masters designate.  That’s a question that remains unanswered.  Perhaps we’ll see a new Chris Fichtel, and maybe we’ll even see him working well with local yokels.  I’m always willing to let a pilgrim find redemption.

Indeed, it might be that the problems will find an end.  Invitees to the meeting Tim Holabird (from Congressman McClintock’s office) set up with TNC at Sierra Nevada Conservancy suggested that TNC might just have been slow to get properly started.  This is the inevitable problem of a bureaucracy.  These witnesses report that TNC recognizes that it might have done better.  I join others in seeing the Truckee-Donner Land Trust as a key to proper management of the lake for motorboat fishing and paddle boating.  

The best, and most obvious, solution has always been a rule: no outside watercraft in the lake.  TDLT or another local non-profit could administer the rentals.  Even so, it is possible this “no outside craft” rule should come from someone other than TNC because they have no authority over the lake or the fish.  They simply control the land around the lake.

According to reports, TNC is willing to allow motorboats, after it checks with its funders.  What horse-crap this is.  Why should anyone object to motorboats?  Why should anyone object to allowing people who either have a lot of kids, a disability, or other compelling reasons use of the old campground?

The County tried to maintain a highly focused role in the process.  Tim Beals tried to bring parties together to resolve the disagreement.   He also attempted to keep the answers he brought to the board focused on what it had purview over: county roads.  He disappointed a lot of people by doing that, but he also performed his job correctly.  If the county doesn’t have records which strongly evidence ownership, it is liable for lawsuit if it tries to take control of a road.  There is still a lot of doubt about the true location of county roads 350 and 351, but the gate has been up for a long time, and there is no doubt the private owners maintained control over access.  

Is the road a public road?  The gate tells the story.  It could, perhaps, be a “public road” but not a county road, but such roads are becoming rare.  There is liability with road ownership, and that alone has driven private and government road owners alike to assign some kind of ownership.  If FOIL wants to demonstrate that, they’ll have to go to court, and TNC has billions in assets.  In court, and everywhere, money talks.

I’m left with a bitter taste, and a growing doubt.  They spring from the way TNC has, on the one hand, decried private ownership of  natural lands, and at the same time claimed private property rights.  I’m very unhappy to hear people talking about “private property” that was purchased with public money.  TNC is just another Forest Service, claiming to act in the best interests of everyone, but in truth largely and negatively impacting on a few and always the most local to the resource.  

The Valley Ranchers were well represented in the room, and the Board spoke loudly and clearly about protecting “private property rights”.  The terms regarding land purchased with public money have vanished.  This is because valley ranchers are often living off of public money in the form of conservation easements.  The last thing they want are squatters on their land.  I sure don’t blame them for that.  But this is a different issue.  This isn’t an easement, it’s an outright purchase, with the expressed purpose of holding the land in public trust.

Personally, this has been one of those “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” experiences.  TNC and their ilk maintain that special places have to be protected from private ownership, but is that really true?  I’m dubious.

Owning land used to be an asset.   A person used to be able to buy a chunk of land and use it as she or he saw fit.  That hasn’t always worked out well.  But over the last 40 years the number of restrictions has increased dramatically, and the number of groups willing to feed a lawyer to prevent private property owners from using their land have spawned like ticks and spread across the land.  It’s worth your ass to try to use a piece of property in any way that doesn’t complement and enhance its ecological value.  Do we really need non-profit organizations gobbling up land and property rights?   Four years ago I would have enthusiastically said yes!  I would have imagined all the pristine and special places being saved from the bulldozers just in time.  That really isn’t so.

I’m done supporting groups like TNC, done buying the trendy tote bags and coffee mugs.  I’m done voting for public money to purchase private lands.  Companies have arisen to take advantage of the public dollars, and not everyone is benefiting from these transactions.  What is being saved and who is it being saved for?

From now on, I'll be more careful whose mug I buy!
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