A drive to the coast from Solano County to Mendocino County provides a sobering look at land use in northern California, right up until you hit the ocean. For almost four straight hours I was bordered by grazing land.
When urban dwellers witness the open, undeveloped space of ranch land, we often naively consider it a good thing due to the refreshing change from concrete and high rises. Or in my case, having been raised in a desolate part of the country, seeing cows and the ocean together initially struck me as "being cool" because it was so different from what I was accustomed to. The reality is that we are witnessing a great land grab by organizations such as MALT and ranching associations. The use of this land is just a different form of destruction, a different form of land exploitation by humans for a different looking industry. The land was not left in its natural state nor does it provide desirable living conditions for native animals. This is not habitat, or wilderness, or nature. It's monocultured, over-grazed, abused land filled with invasive plants, cows, and a handful of surviving trees. You may not see the steel and concrete of a business center, but it is a business all the same.
As humans we need to wrap our heads around the concept that land still has value even if we aren't converting it into a money generator. Development and agriculture aren't the only choices. The creatures we share the earth with and that lived on that land prior to us claiming it would like us to consider a third option.
If you still need convincing watch the supplemental video below which consists of 44 straight minutes of footage demonstrating that for as far as the eye can see habitat has been converted to agriculture.
Filmed on highway 80, 37, 1, Point Reyes Petaluma Road, Nicasio Valley Road, Sir Francis Drake Blvd., etc. starting in Solano County and moving through Marin and Mendocino until hitting the ocean.
#nature #habitat #life #ranching #marin #destruction #protected
When I moved to California and first saw cows grazing along on cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean I have to admit I thought it was pretty cool. Where I grew was cow country, but it was a desolate, flat, treeless landscape filled with seemingly endless feedlots...there was literally nothing but dirt, cows, and their manure stretching entire expanses between each of the little farm towns. So, yeah, on my first drive down to Monterey the contrast of cows in a setting of green trees and the blue ocean left quite an impression.
It took the next 25 years before it occurred to me that cows and the coast wasn’t a rare or special sight; it was a common sight. Too common. In fact, now that I’m aware of the issue, I realize the grazing of cattle dominates my field of view both when I’m traveling on the coast and when I’m further inland, but for whatever reason I just didn’t really think much about it. It wasn’t until the Point Reyes National Seashore park service announced their plan of killing wildlife for the sake of ranching that I began to wake up.
Throughout the course of learning about Point Reyes this last year I heard over and over and over from the ranching community how “important and special” these ranches in the seashore were, which caused me to realize, “Wait a minute, I just drove through 2 straight hours of being surrounded by ranches on both sides of the road, and come to think of it, I was driving through grazed land on the main highways before turning onto these smaller roads as well!” And if not livestock then I was witnessing some other form of agriculture which then is only broken up when there’s a city or a park or the ocean itself. In the case of Point Reyes even the national seashore isn’t safe from cattle ranching.
Back in southwest Kansas where the terrain is suitable only to rattlesnakes and coyotes, the presence of land converted to feedlots was all I ever knew. In California we have forests, a wide variety of plant and animal biodiversity, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Although I now understand that the harsh habitat of where I grew up was still important to the animals that lived there, seeing California’s dynamic, beautiful habitat reduced to livestock grazing seemed especially egregious.
As an animal advocate and someone who highly values nature’s gifts I will never forget the day within the national seashore that I pulled over to verify what I feared I was seeing. I had just completed an incredible, fog-shrouded, mysterious hike to the end of Chimney Rock. All I could hear was the ocean, a few birds, and the occasional bellowing of elephant seals somewhere in the invisible distance. I was so thankful such a place existed. But as I was heading home I noticed the little, white isolation pens for the baby dairy cows that are removed from their mothers. Sometimes I wish I’d never gotten out to look, but I did, and the experience was crushing and life altering. What I witnessed didn’t belong anywhere in a compassionate universe, but it certainly had no place within a national seashore renowned for its beauty, scenery, and wildlife. It was like taking a black marker and scribbling all over the Mona Lisa.
Yet, not only was this nightmare prevalent inside the seashore, the wildlife of the seashore were going to be killed for the sake of of the private profits of that very same industry. That notion defied the realms of possibility for me, so I was then motivated to understand what was happening. I never wanted to make a film about Point Reyes, but once I started asking questions, sadly, I discovered a very deep well of horrific realities most of the public is completely unaware of.
The “cultural importance” of what I consider a disgusting cultural practice is one of the main arguments for keeping ranching in the seashore. Celebrating an industry like that rather than removing it is disturbing enough to me, but this can be swept into the category of personal opinion. Yet opinion-based arguments are really all that exist regarding keeping the ranches, because there are no fact-based arguments for the ranches staying. Ranchers claim that the local economy will suffer greatly and that Marin County itself will be adversely affected, not to mention supposed “importance of local food products”. Well, these arguments never made sense to me logically. If we desperately need the land of that peninsula in Point Reyes in addition to already using the rest of Marin and surrounding counties to get by financially and for food production then we are screwed, because human demand is only going to get worse. If we can’t spare one little strip of seashore for fear of collapse and hunger what does that say about our future? Fortunately, none of those arguments are true.
It turns out that these were the exact same arguments that were being used in 1961 when the ranchers fought the creation of the seashore. Yes, you read that correctly. The ranchers fought the creation of the seashore and today are using the same arguments they used 57 years ago. The economy will collapse, the dairy industry will collapse, the area that depends on the dairies for food will suffer, etc. etc. Two of my favorite arguments from the testimony claimed that the cows would not be able to produce milk because tourist vehicles in the seashore would disturb them from their busy days of eating and resting. Wow. My other favorite argument was the attempt to convince Congress that the seashore wasn’t special and no one would want to go there.
None of the claims came to be true. Quite the opposite, in fact. The reality is that the seashore has brought an incredible source of tourist-driven income to the area that today the locals wouldn’t know how to survive without. If we want to get honest about the value of nature VS. the value of the ranches, force the locals to choose only between money generated from the peninsula’s dairies or the money generated from tourists attracted to the seashore itself.
The proranching side will be rather upset by what I’m writing here and they will respond with the same typical noise consisting of emotional, but not factual arguments. They will talk about culture and tradition and even talk about America and patriotism in order to get their way, but my side of the story, by contrast, is based in reality. Unfortunately, for them, I documented everything. Everything. And I’ve conveniently placed it all one one website, ShameofPointReyes.org. I DARE readers to go to the documentation section of the website. The Congressional testimony against the creation of the seashore - it’s there. The use of today’s excuses in the 60’s - Also there. Financial statistics comparing the value of the dairies to that of tourism. Proof that the park service ignores public surveys on how to manage the park. Park funded studies that show Point Reyes to be one of the worst managed lands in the country. Rancher lease violations. How much taxpayer money the park service spends on private ranching affairs. Ranchers harassing wildlife. Ranchers overstocking. The park service cowering to the ranchers. The park service killing elk on request of the ranchers. Studies proving the negative effect of ranching activity on native wildlife. Studies proving the negative effects of ranching on the soil and water. Proof of a long history of Jared Huffman and other politicians trying to influence the park service to support ranchers above the wildlife. It goes on and on.
And if the documents weren’t proof enough, there is the visual evidence...Hours of heartbreaking footage of what the ranchers have done and are still doing to the seashore. You’re going to hear sob stories from the ranchers about how they protect and contribute to the habitat, but it’s just not true. Period. And I’ve provided all the proof you could ever need.
The ranchers have gone through a great deal of effort hiring lobbyists and electing pro-ranching politicians to make their overstayed presence in the seashore seem legal. But the fact that they are trying to change the original legislation should be proof enough that they were never meant to stay, otherwise why would they need to change it. But more importantly, I believe we are too distracted by arguments over interpretations of what people have written to see the plain and simple truth; the ranches are bad. What I discovered is that even if they were legal, they need to go. What they have done in the seashore as tenants is grounds for eviction on any level. The reality of ranching activity in Point Reyes National Seashore is shameful.
But if the park staff, charged with preserving the natural state of the seashore, feels the dairies that destroy that same seashore are culturally important enough to protect, maybe they should go all out and add some plaques to other cultural practices that come at a direct cost of nature. Maybe a plaque about seal clubbing? Dolphin hunts? How about a statue in honor of the greatest elk trophy hunter in the west’s history? How about an annual wildlife killing contest right in the seashore? (yes, killing contests are actually considered a cultural practice). Maybe we could serve shark fin soup at the visitor center. It’s all culturally important.
The natural wonders of the seashore are rare. Humans exploiting animals and the planet for profit is not. Recognition of this fact is the very reason this seashore was created. The ranchers weren’t paid millions of dollars for their land just so they could continue to stay on that sam land. Let it sink in just how absurd that notion is. Get the ranchers out of there, restore Point Reyes National Seashore to its full potential, as was Congress’s intention for the seashore, and then you’ll truly see the value this amazing place has to offer. Point Reyes, as great as it is, is currently only a shell of what it could be. The potential for future tourism and public enjoyment crushes anything ranchers could ever hope to provide to the economy. But don’t let anyone voting for the ranchers today have a piece of the cash cow that nature will provide tomorrow.
On the April 25th I participated in a guided botanical walk in Point Reyes National Seashore, led by paleontologist and author, Laura Cunningham. We were joined by by the likes of members of the California Native Plant Society, Marin Environmental Action Committee, Parks Commission, pro-ranchers and anti-ranchers.
In the presence of such a knowledgeable and diverse collection of people our eyes beared witness to undeniable land damage and a shocking overtake of invasive species of plant directly related to ranching activities and grazing. Native plants were found almost exclusively in non-grazed areas, but the introduced plants were spreading to these areas as well.
At one point Laura commented, "The management of land here in the seashore is worse than any public lands I've ever seen". The crowd responded with shocked silence until one pro rancher stated, "Yeah, but it's not illegal."
As the tour continued, every disturbing scene we witnessed, every statistic that was provided, was countered with, "but the ranchers have a waiver for that, but legislation says they can do that, it's up to the park's discretion to address the issue," etc. The conversations quickly turned to debates over whether the ranchers were even still on the land legally and if Congress's original intent was for ranching to be permanent in the seashore.
It seemed that the ranches would be defended no matter what atrocities we saw that day. But what really resonated with me was a final conversation of the day, in which I was advised "to be careful, don't push the ranchers too far or something bad might happen". 'Something bad', vague and ominous...what was this, a mafia of some sort? I reflected on the rumours I had heard of death threats going around during the legal battle that ultimately led to the shut down of Drake's Bay Oyster company, owned by one of the Point Reyes Ranchers. I then thought of my own recent experience in which our film festival encountered hostile actions, such as tearing down signs promoting the event and even a threat of blackmail to the venue, stating that they would lose funding from the local community if they chose to host the event. Following the event, the festival organizer suffered discrimination from the local veterinarian who withdrew his services to her sanctuary animals due to her affiliation with dairy alternatives. Most people I approached in the making of my film, even those passionately against the ranching, were reluctant to speak on the record, siting that things could get difficult for them since they lived in the community.
So I went ahead and asked it, "What do you mean by something bad?" He replied that, "They would flex their financial power in Congress." Considering how horrific the Huffman bill was I felt like they had already flexed their power and I wondered how much worse it could get.
Exactly who were these people? According to agriculture-friendly media, these were just small, honest, family businesses struggling to make a living. So...small, struggling families were flexing their muscles in Congress, hiring lobbyists, forming associations and trusts, had their own PR firm, and intimidating locals into silence?! It didn't add up. And I was to get a taste of this myself a month later, when I was seen filming the silage harvest in Point Reyes, and a rancher tracked me down in the South Beach parking lot and attacked me.
Seems like I've been hearing about the struggling farmer who deserves our empathy since I was a child growing up in the midwest, but now that I think about it, even then they were the richest people in town. Embedded deep in our psyches is a notion not to say anything that could be considered offensive or seen as an attack on farmers and even now I feel awkward suggesting that we might possibly need to reconsider all this. Why is it that an industry that is so unsustainable that it requires billions in government subsidies each year, is the leading cause of planetary habitat destruction and greenhouse emissions, all while exploiting animals, can simultaneously be the industry we're all supposed to fall over backwards to make sure survives?
The rest of us are expected to adapt to challenges, to change with the times, to make sacrifices. We have to go back to school, take a second job, change careers, move to an affordable location we don't want to move to, etc....but not ranchers. For some reason the industry that kills our wildlife, reduces wild habitats to barren pastureland, and produces food we shouldn't even be eating while costing this nation billions in tax dollars each year, is the industry we bow to.
One of many lies the ranchers spread is that they worked hand in hand with government and park service to create the seashore. Reality is they fought it every step of the way, including testifying in Congress against it.
There are 188 pages of transcripted testimony fighting against the seashore at this link. http://bit.ly/ranchertestimony
This does provide a source of humor, however. Just like today, in 1961 the ranchers claimed the dairies would collapse because of this "invasion" and the local economy would follow suit. "The proposed park will bring economic ruin to West Marin."
Today's reality is that the park has brought more money to the area than the local businesses ever dreamed, completely dwarfing money generated from the dairies. If you want to see a collapse, close tourism to the park and let the locals survive on just the Point Reyes Dairies.
I'm going to share a few gems from this testimony over the next few weeks, starting with this humorous one about the "chores of cows eating and resting". Lol
"The Point Reyes Peninsula is prime dairy country and the main reason is its isolation. Little traffic disturbs the herds as they graze in the field. Processions of family cars and trailers will create diversions which will distract the cows from attending to their daily chores of grazing and resting and producing the essential food product that makes this industry indispensable to Marin County and to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ah yes, we've all seen how much the cows are disturbed by our cars as they labor away "eating and resting".
"In short, the leaseback proposal is completely unworkable. If the park goes in the dairy industry will be destroyed."
Each of today's quotes are from Bryan McCarthy, testifying in Congress against the seashore.
A man wrote into the Marin Independent Journal decrying the efforts of one person to who wrote in trying to shed light on what ranchers are doing in our national seashore. His words are below.
"Ms. Susan Ives has written before. She was against the oyster farm, the golf course and now ranchers. She is nihilistic to say they least and an environmentalist. I stopped reading her letter after she cited the United Nations about cows and global warming. Ms. Ives, the UN are a bunch of communists who want to spread the wealth around the world. Using the lie of global warming is a way to do that. They try to shame rich countries into believing we have caused the poverty in third world nations. The Paris Accord is one such fraud. The US was required to pay the UN $30 billion dollars over 10 years so they could spread that among the poor nations. It was good Trump saw the lie of this accord.
But not all think like Ms. Ives and thank God for that. Cows make life better for most people as do chickens and other eatable animals. Grazing is good as is logging and oil drilling. It creates jobs but more importantly it gives us wood for homes, cheaper oil for our cars and cheaper heating for our homes. But Ms. Ives sees the National Seashore as her property and her right to only "look at it". Most people don't agree with her but this paper does so that is why she gets the ink.
We can and do have a balance between preservation and use. That oyster farm that the environmentalists got rid of was an abuse of those owners rights. One oyster farm was too much for the environmentalist. But thank God for Trump. He is doing more drilling and making life better for most Americans. As far as the National Seashore is concerned, it is a excellent meeting of both our needs and maintaining the beauty of the Seashore. A ride to Pt. Reyes is enjoyable and the scenery is very beautiful. In fact, the cows add to the rural and beauty of it. The shore belongs to all of us, not just environmentalists.
Robert A. Casper, SR
San Rafael, CA."
Let's take a look at his words.
How Robert Caster's ignorance represents everything wrong in Marin County.
Robert Caster...oh where to begin with this person. It is with great despair that I know he isn't just one nut job floating around out there, but actually represents a powerful group of people who have had their way for such a long time that facts, the state of the planet, and reality in general, mean very little to them. Indeed, Robert has a tenuous grasp on reality at all from reading his words.
But he does a magnificent job of representing the cancerous population of his kind starting right out of the gates by self declaring his choice of ignorance and denial when faced with information that opposes his own beliefs. "I stopped reading Susan's letter when she said..." Yes, well, Robert, that's not surprising. That's what Trumpsters do; ignore information and shout the same ignorance speeches they've been shouting for generations.
As our nation crumbles from within and the planet falls to its knees, this man actually says, "Thank God for Trump, drilling and making lives better. Grazing is good as is logging and oil drilling. It creates jobs but more importantly it gives us wood for homes, cheaper oil for our cars and cheaper heating for our homes."
This man embraces and praises three of the worst things currently taking place on this entire globe and tops it off by explaining why, which can be summarized into one word; Money. Cheap oil. Cheap heat. Jobs. Yummy animals. Saving a buck and exploiting life. Anything for money. Anything. Even our very future. That's the moral core of people like Robert.
But he continues with his Trumpster antics, blabbing complete lies as though they are the truth because it makes him (and his kind) feel like it is the truth as long as they can only hear their own voices. "Most people don't think like her...the seashore is for everyone, not just her." Well, in both cases what he actually means by "most people" is ranchers who think like he does and that the seashore belongs exclusively to the desires of ranchers, public land be damned. ONLY people who financially benefit from destruction; ranchers, loggers, drillers (you know, Robert's kind) support ranching in the seashore. They keep the horror of what's happening to OUR public land quiet while holding rallies and meetings in their tight nit community as to how to keep everything exactly as they want it. People like Susan Ives disrupt this by trying to let the rest of the state and nation know what's happening. The spreading of the truth is a threat to those who profit from lies and destruction.
People like Robert have been telling themselves the same BS for so long they actually believe it. How deluded do you have to be to claim that the cows add beauty to the landscape? When I first moved to California I admit that seeing cows with the ocean behind them was quite a sight, but not because it was beautiful, because it was unexpected. I certainly wouldn't trade the chance of seeing bison, elk, coyotes, or God-willing, a bear against the backdrop of the ocean in exchange for seeing cows. Even if people did like seeing cows, guess what, you can see them EVERYWHERE...E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. That's what ranchers have done to this country...they've turned the entire thing into one big, degraded, cow pasture, unless that land was taken before they could snatch it up. And if it is public land, they graze it anyway.
No, cattle and ranching is not beautiful. It's what death looks like. It's what a few privileged people making money at the cost of the rest of us looks like. Other ranchers echo Robert's claims that a drive through the seashore is beautiful, as though they are responsible for it. Yes, the seashore is undeniably beautiful. A few parts of it in particular are beautiful, the parts where ranching is not allowed. The rest is what natural beauty looks like while trying to survive the parasitic effects of ranching sucking the life out of it.
Robert said one thing that was correct, that the seashore belongs to all of us. So why is it being handed over to a private businesses?
Trumpsters don't deserve the beauty of land they are dedicated to destroying
#Trump #Trumpsters #Dairy #Ranching #Parasites #Denial #GlobalWarming #PointReyes #Marin #MarinIndependentJournal #pointreyesnationalseashore
We often hear about the struggles of feeding a growing population of humans, but the sad reality is that humans don't grow food in order to solve hunger problems; they grow it to make money in any way the market trends can make use of their products. The idea that we can't give up farmland lest we forever suffer the consequences of not being able to use that land to "feed people" is built on lifetimes of us hearing false information. If it were true it would simultaneously mean we are already doomed, for we've already converted nearly half the land in United States to agricultural use while still hearing that we're struggling to feed people. Continuing this trend alongside a shocking population growth that will soon eclipse our current population would indicate we have no choice but to use 100% of the earth to grow food within the near future just to survive. What a beautiful sight! Nothing but human crops and housing structures with none of the original wonder that was once planet earth remaining.
How was it that this planet, before humans set to killing everything that wasn't us in order to raise our own exclusive food, once supported massive numbers of every species in existence all while remaining a healthy, beautiful, thriving system? No, our approach to food and the necessity of dominating the landscape just to survive is completely flawed.
But speaking of exclusivity, any crops grown in Point Reyes (or anywhere for that matter) represent direct conflict with the animals there, for once again, this is not about eating, this is about profit margins. The wildlife that live there will try to find ways to survive as we continue the human trend of taking their habitat and turning it into exclusive human crops. As these creatures "dare to try to eat" they will in so doing become enemies of the farmers, just as the handful of elk are already declared enemies just for eating grass. If this is how we respond to the elk foraging on grass imagine the response to animals invading crops? And imagine how many more species of animals, well beyond just elk, will potentially be attracted to these crops? So, next comes poison. Next comes pesticide. Next comes trapping. Next comes shooting. Much of this won't officially be allowed, but it doesn't mean it won't happen. Think that's an overreaction? I'm already told by Point Reyes locals who are too afraid of the ranching mafia to speak publicly, that the ranchers currently kill wildlife within the seashore. And as the park service continues to hand power to the ranchers what was once not allowed will soon be accepted.
It saddens me that it seems inconceivable for people to even consider the possibility of giving some of the earth back to its non-human inhabitants. Lord knows they treat it better than we do.
Still frame from video of an 18-wheeler hauling hay into the seashore as supplemental feed for cattle...not feed for humans. #pointreyes