Thank goodness Fall has set upon the Central Valley –I hope everyone is as happy to be rid of the heat as I am! Farm Bureau has begun the calendar setting for 2014, beginning with several robust safety trainings in January and February to ring in the New Year. Please keep up with our website to find out more information on whether or not your operation is in compliance with Cal OSHA, Cal DPR, and Cal EPA regulations, www.maderafb.com , and how you can bring yourself or your employees up on all the new 2014 compliance regulations.
During the month of September, I was fortunate to take a brief vacation from the office, only to find myself traveling from the crisp clean air of the central coast, back to a smoke laden valley, heavy with heat lingering from our long hot summer and eventual particulate matter settling in the Valley from the Rim Fire in Stanislaus National Forest. Then I got the call –almost 200 of my family’s 400 Herford cattle were missing around the pasture we permit near Hetch Hetchy. They had found the other 200, but feared the worst when it came to the others. So I headed to the ranch, grabbed my horse, as many buckets and a shovel and headed up to the mountains to meet my family.
Pasture-to-pasture permits up in the mountains on U.S. National Forest land are a rare thing these days, typically grandfathered in over decades of I-O-Us or other such inhospitable decorum. My family was allotted our permit back in 1946, in large part because my great grandfather engineered pieces of Hetch Hetchy Dam, and then the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (formerly the U.S. Reclamation Service) didn’t have the money to pay him for his work. These permits are coveted and a blessing –often allowing the cowman ample feed and space to run multiple herds throughout the year, without the cost of purchasing more land and feed. So it was with great dread, that I approached the southern piece of our property to see a wall of flames engulfing its boundary, most likely lost was feed for multiple generations of cattle.
After several days and nights, along with brave assistance of Cal Fire, dozens of rescue workers, and most of all, the blessed neighbors we have on horseback, we were able to recover all but 4 of the adrift Herfords (although their charred ID tags imply they met only one fate). Thanks to the generosity of farmers, ranchers, Valley folk and the like, our herd –along with dozens of others, was provided shelter, food, and vet aid. A touching scene for the Sierra mountain cowboy, one we should all remember indefinitely when we start to fight over property lines and other miniscule things.
The fallout of the Rim Fire has yet to really set in for the Central Valley. Although made very real through the thick smoke haze and terrible air quality, the repercussions that are going to be handed down will be significant. For example, every day the valley floor was out of compliance and in a critical “non-attainment” designation, Federal funding was cut for programs like the CARB diesel emissions removal effort, greenprint and blueprint endeavors, and other notable green initiatives. For every day that the fire raged on, (and has yet to be classified as 100% contained), the National Park Service got paid for it. This stripped funds from critical fire subvention efforts statewide. At this point, short of a rain dance, here’s to crossing our fingers that another fire doesn’t break out in our National Forests.
The Rim Fire does have the opportunity to teach us some important lessons in forestry management. Every time the U.S. Forest Service desires to do a controlled burn for fire management, it must undergo a CEQA and NEPA review to do so. In the past decade, the Stanislaus National Forest has undergone 1 such environmental review, and 1 subsequent controlled burn. The Governor, however, has had the opportunity to allow the U.S. Forest Service to forgo CEQA 6 times through 6 different legislative endeavors –yet because San Francisco’s water supply was critically threatened around the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, he had to declare a State of Emergency in response to the fire. I’m not often the sharpest tool in the shed –but I hope that some conclusions can be made around responsible forest management moving forward. I’ve mailed the burnt out Herford I.D. tags up to the Capitol to make my point.
Wishing everyone out there a fruitful harvest, productive fall livestock sales, and a prosperous start to our speculative incoming year!
Anja K. Raudabaugh