Farmers the best stewards of the land

Agassiz farmers take offense to letter by local biologist

With amazement I read the letter by Mike Pearson Ph.D, R.P.Bio in The Observer (April 20), and I cannot help noting the insult he heaps on us (handful of local landowners). Perhaps his academic background prevents him to recognize, where in reality a reality check needs to be placed.

The quote “A distressing number (of farmers), however, seem to feel entitled to degrade public water und fisheries resources for their own gain”, shows just how extremely biased and in fact wrong he is. These drainage ditches in question are not public. They are on private property. In fact they cannot be found on any maps nor are they mentioned in the land titles. Property owners dug them for drainage purposes exclusively on their own land; just as the town’s people’s storm sewers that eventually wind up in local waterways were installed for the same purpose.

Of course road ditches along the highways have the same purpose, even though different levels of government, without public complaints, tend to salt the roads in winter. Forget about the oil and other chemicals that accumulate every year on our roads and no doubt find their ways into pristine waterways.

If I read Dr. Pearson’s letter correctly, he accuses local farmers of willfully polluting waterways with manure and milk house waste, raping the country by having livestock trampling waterways and cutting the last trees and shrubs, and so on and so on. In fact farmers respect nature and strive to create a sustainable environment. They could not operate for any length of time otherwise.

Dr. Pearson’s claim that farmers spread manure, fertilizers and herbicides into the water is uncalled for. Dr. Pearson who examines these ditches on a regular basis and was able to find all these frogs and small fish species must realize, that the lands in question have already been farmed for more than a hundred years, which surly indicates good stewardship by land owners.

It is my understanding that besides the severe restrictions in regards to ditch cleaning Dr. Pearson advocates, and directs his efforts to declare and establish a strip of natural habitat one hundred feet wide on either side of all drainage ditches, existing or even being dug in the future. There, farming will be restricted at will and vegetation of any kind will be protected.

Just think about it! Most residential lots in subdivisions are fifty to sixty feet wide, and here we are talking about a strip of two hundred feet. Doesn’t this somehow sound like expropriation? I hardly need to mention the small properties and houses located less then one hundred feet from such ditches, there must be more then a hundred in Agassiz and Harrison alone, who due to their locations become nonconforming, meaning structures could neither be built, altered or replaced. Dr. Pearson’s comparison with a robin’s nest in a maple tree in somebody’s backyard is at best limping. If that particular tree falls down in a storm, is the owner required to leave it there until it rots. I think not.

I first encountered Dr. Pearson in town some years ago at a meeting of an urban group called “Smart Growth”. At that time that group’s goal was a better and smarter town planning and the enhancement of our beautiful valley. Property owners were asked to give permission to have trees planted, mainly cedars and firs, in areas along ditches that were not useful for farming. All was to be strictly voluntary with no strings attached. In fact as an inducement the interested people were told, that in time during Christmas seasons cedar bows could be harvested and sold for a little profit.

Nothing at that time was ever mentioned of massive plantings of shrubs and weeds and salmonberries and the like. This project attracted quite a few volunteers; I among them was there and gladly helped with the early plantings. Oh, how we were deceived!

The sad consequence is, that due to Dr. Pearson’s actions, where compromise and cooperation is needed, confrontation, hatred and stubborn resistance has been created, where neither the farmers nor the environment are being served.

Hermann Grau

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