My Turn: Conservation Plan – The Devil is in the details… again!
Placer County Fifth District Supervisor
Fearing the taking away of property rights in the name of conservation, last year I reluctantly voted to send the Placer County Conservation Plan, back to a city-county task force to answer questions that citizens and I raised.
A year later the county staff inexplicably increased the number of parcels negatively impacted in my district from 295 to 1040. Then the staff added to the dangers of catastrophic wildfires by creating 300- to 660-foot conservation zones in streams.
By notifying property owners and fighting back, this last week, I again reluctantly voted for the plan process to continue on condition the 5th District parcels were removed from the plan. In addition, at my insistence the process will now include the recommendations of CalFire. Staff and members of the Board of the Supervisors also have promised to improve transparency and seek public input.
So what is the problem? As a California State Parks superintendent for 33 years, I created and protected open space. As a county supervisor, I have supported open space at Waddle Ranch in Tahoe area and Hidden Falls Regional Park. However, most of the 5th district is already public land protected by environmental law. Over 75 percent of Placer County is under government ownership.
The Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe quickly spread through a fuel-heavy stream zone acting as a wick. The Angora Fire raged up a canyon loaded with dead, dying, diseased and dense brush and trees. Over 250 families lost their homes and businesses. Recently, the Gladding fire near Lincoln was initially fueled on conservation land off Doty Ravine. An overlay of a CalFire map of the Gladding fire upon a Placer County parcel map shows the Gladding fires, starting at Gladding Road and Merrit Lane, swept through parcel 020-162-022 owned by the Placer Land Trust and overgrown with Medusa and tarweed with no firebreaks. It continued through blackberries in conserved wetlands owners believed they could not touch. This is why I insisted that CalFire participate in the county’s conservation plan process.
The county lacks adequate data and solid science, to prove the existence of the environmental resources on all the parcels designated purple, reserved. Many of the purple painted, reserve, parcels have no vernal pools, no salmon, no blue oaks, and likely none of 34 species. Additional parcels painted blue are twixt and between in a netherland of transitional parcels with uncertain future property use and value.
I believe citizens have a right to know when a government decision may negatively impact their life, liberty or property. County bureaucrats did not notify property owners of meetings on the county conservation plan. At my own initiative, I notified owners in my district, 295 properties in 2007 and 1040 this time. Some property owners were outraged, some in tears and near everyone happy to have been notified.
County planners still assert there will be no impact on property values. We know this is false. The 2007 report said, “the [conservation plan] reserve area (i.e., the ‘purple area’) would be managed in perpetuity as habitat for the covered species.” Clear enough? I believe future rights are threatened to make a living, build new homes and businesses, or give an inheritance to loved ones.
County staff has never answered whether there will be revised restrictions on the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, which may impact agriculture. Taking private property, not to build roads, bridges, schools and parks ” but to preserve wildlife habitat and to endanger human habitat is wrong. Last year, staff told me ‘trust us, it’ll work out’ and came back with a worse plan. The Sacramento Bee in 2007 said, “frankly we don’t care whether any given landowner is happy with the outcome or not” and calls the plan “revolutionary.”
Year after year county bureaucrats come back to spend other people’s money for projects the taxpayers do not want. The taxpayers voted not to fund Placer Legacy with a sales tax increase in November 2000.
Stay alert to the conservation plan. Make your opinion known. I have worked hard to remove District 5 parcels and to keep people informed and involved as they choose.