An open letter to the Board of Directors of the Feather River Land Trust
As an adjacent land owner to the Heart K Ranch in Genesee Valley and a founding member of FRLT I would like to address the Heart K Ranch having been turned into a long-term cattle ranch. By signing a long term lease with the existing cattle rancher and investing heavily in new shipping facilities, new corrals, holding pens for the trucking in and out of the cattle herd, I feel the land trust is abandoning its commitment to being a conservation organization and is headed to becoming a long term permanent cattle ranch.
When I gave Paul Hardy money towards starting the Land Trust it was always my intention that the property be used for wildlife. I would like to see the primary focus of the ranch be for antelope, elk, the Sloat deer heard and all other wildlife. The way things are now structured, wildlife is secondary to cattle. I personally would like to see the ranch used for wildlife and not cattle. I would like to offer some suggestions.
Here are some suggestion that I ask the board to seriously consider:
1. Establish a Conservation Committee exclusively for the Heart K Ranch. This group would have the authority to set policy for all operations on the ranch.
2. If the land trust really needs the money from the cattle operation I would suggest the board think outside of the box. I read in the High Country news years ago about a land trust in Colorado that was having the same issues. They needed the money for operating expenses but the donors did not like the cattle. Their solution was for the donors to subscribe the cattle off in the land. So for instance, if you make $10,000 a year off running 100 head of cattle, members could pay $100 and subscribe one cow off the land. So for $1,000, I could buy 10 head of cattle off the land. The members rose up and subscribed the cattle off the land. Happy ending! I/We would ask the board to expand their range of vision for the Heart K and consider the following:
3. Considered partnering with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to establish Elk in the valley.
4. Considered partnering with Ducks Unlimited to get ducks and geese back into the valley in LARGE NUMBERS. These valleys all used to be vast wetlands before the white man came in and trapped out all the beaver and drained the valleys for agriculture.
5. Considered planting part of the ranch in alfalfa and leaving it for the Sloat Deer herd winter range. Elk and Antelope could use it too. Geese will graze on the alfalfa too.
6. Consider leaving some fields fallow and letting the grasses and weeds go to seed? It would provide a seed bank for the turkeys, quail, doves and all the birds that travel through the fields looking for seeds. With Cattle eating all the grass, few seeds are left to mature for wildlife.
7. Consider introducing antelope to the ranch.
8. Consider introducing some type of seed producing plants; say, Oats, Wheat, Rye, Great Basin WildRye. Something that would be self perpetuating and not be grazed, left to seed out and provide seeds for the waterfowl and other wild birds.
9. Have you considered dividing the ranch into 6 or 8 sections? Each designated to accommodate different species of wildlife or other purposes?
I could go on, but my point is: have you seriously considered anything other than CATTLE for the ranch?
For the last 20+ years I have watched the decline of “The Ranch”. I feel that the FRLT is depleting the soil with their overgrazing of the land. Maybe it is time to INVEST IN “The Ranch”, instead of continuing to degrade the land. As things now stand, wildlife get the crumbs after the cattle have had their way with the land, leaving almost nothing for the wildlife.
Donald & Trish Aitkin, Genesee Valley