California Ranchers Revolt After State Sets Aside 2 Million Acres For A Frog
California is known for it’s wacky legislation. After all, it is the state where Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a law specifically intended to regulate cow flatulence…no, really (see: Here Are Some Of The Ridiculous New State Laws That Will Take Effect January 1st – Happy New Year!).
As such, it will probably come as no surprise that the state recently set aside nearly 2 million acres (for those who have difficulty conceptualizing what 2 million acres looks like, it’s roughly 3x the size of Rhode Island) in order to protect a frog, the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog to be exact.
And while many will just dismiss this as the latest example of a far-leftist government gone mad, a group of California farmers and ranchers, who could very well be regulated out of business by this latest California law, are fighting back and have sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. More from The Sacramento Bee:
The California Farm Bureau and two ranchers’ associations sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Monday, challenging a year-old decision to designate more than 1.8 million acres of rural California as “critical habitat” for three species of frogs and toads that are protected by the Endangered Species Act.
Loggers and ranchers who harvest timber or graze cattle on public lands worry the new restrictions on land use will eventually make it more difficult – if not impossible – to make a living in the Sierra, said Shaun Crook, a Tuolumne County cattle rancher whose family also owns a logging company.
“It has the economic impact of putting you out of business is what that reality could be,” said Crook, president of the Tuolumne County Farm Bureau.
Even though the designation was made a year ago, Crook said federal officials haven’t yet told him how the protections will affect his cattle, which graze on federal lands. But he said he and other ranchers worry that major tracts of land will be put off limits or they’ll be required to install fencing around protected areas.
As local ranchers note, the “critical habitat” designation forces farmers and ranchers to contract out prohibitively expensive environmental research studies before they can use the land…studies that effectively render the land useless from an economic standpoint.
The critical habitat designation subjects farmers “to substantial regulatory burdens that impose, among other things, study costs, risk assessments, mitigation fees, operational changes, permit fees, and consulting expenses,” said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. “In some cases, these burdens put the rancher’s livelihood at risk.” The farm groups are represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento nonprofit that fights for conservative and property-rights causes.
Crook, the Tuolumne rancher, said that his concern is that the restrictions on land use to protect the frogs may someday extend beyond public lands into private property.
“Every ranch has springs and has ponds and, when you look at that map, it basically takes all of the foothills, and makes it habitat,” he said. “There’s a huge fear there as well.”
Meanwhile, to our complete shock, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity described the farmer and rancher effort to protect their livelihood as nothing more than a “mean-spirited attack against these really vulnerable frogs.”
“Other habitat management, like livestock grazing in some areas, has an impact, and of course climate change and drought can impact them as well,” said Jenny Loda, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. If land is overgrazed, the vegetation might not hide the frogs from predators, she said.
Loda called the farm groups’ lawsuit “a mean-spirited attack against these really vulnerable frogs and the toad.”
Of course, while farmers and ranchers are currently pursuing peaceful legal strategies to fight California’s environmentalists, this standoff has all the makings to turn into another Bundy Ranch style standoff as the financial livelihood of many California families will undoubtedly be threatened by this new law (see: Why The Standoff At The Bundy Ranch Is A Very Big Deal).