Part Two: Development and Cows
Shafer: The large expanses of land needed for raising cattle are fast disappearing in California. The states population growth eats up thousands of acres of agricultural land each year and the new residents want to be able to use the open ranchland. In the second part of our series on family farming, Robin White looks at how the new California is putting the squeeze on traditional cattle raising.
White: Its pretty hard in todays California to find ranching like it used to be before the growth of interstate highways and widespread subdivisions. (Begin to bring up Mooing - cattle drive SFX) In the Owens Valley, south of Bishop, Tom Noland and his family still drive cows on horseback into the eastern Sierra for summer grazing just like his grandfather did in the early part of the century.
(Cowboys...dogs... SFX in the clear)
Noland says the cows actually enjoy the drive.
Noland: if you were to just sit down there on the ranch and not let em go to the mountains they would just be upset and in fact some of them have to stay and theyre not very happy about it....
White: California was once a huge cattle ranch with no fences and no roads and scenes like this were common. But now cattle drives like the Nolands are a rarity. Theres just not enough open space. (Mooing and galloping SFX ) At one point a calf breaks loose from the herd and runs across the desert with two riders chasing it at high speed.
Noland: leave him alone... hey Fi! We wanna go real easy now cause that guy's woofed. Stay with him though! stay with him... don't let him out of your sight.
White: Its a dramatic moment and it highlights why ranching needs open space. If there were houses here the calf and riders would be running into them. But its the opposite thats happening on Californias suburban fringe where development is running into the cows. (Freeway SFX) Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Dublin hills east of San Francisco. In her house overlooking hwy 580, rancher Marie Cronin remembers her final drive in 1970.
Cronin: The real last cattle drive that we had here in Alameda County was from Sunol down to the slaughterhouse in Pleasanton. We had a chuck wagon we did it like we always did it...
White: ...but now the slaughterhouse in Pleasanton is long since gone and Cronins watched the population of Dublin go from 53 residents to 33,000. With the growth has come an explosion - of complaints - about cattle.
Cronin: Youll have the people complain they can hear the cows mooing on Sunday morning or the odors or they object to the farmer out there doing his fire breaks
White Some of Cronins new neighbors say they were drawn to Dublin partly because they thought the open space around the town was preserved. Morgan King lives in a house high in the Dublin hills.
King when we looked at some homes up in the hills we liked the fact there were some creeks and some trees and you could see the deer running through and it was a nice view - that sort of thing.
White But King and his neighbors soon found out the land around the houses wasnt preserved but was private land being used to raise cattle. To prevent further development in the area King wrote a ballot measure which passed in Novembers election. It should have helped ranchers by preserving the land for agriculture, but some say it makes ranching harder by setting limits on agricultural buildings and by forcing down the value of their land. King makes no bones about his ultimate goal.
King; My personal goal is to have the city of Dublin eventually acquire all of it, all 3200 acres and to be turned into the west dublin equestrian park and natural habitat...
White: This doesnt go over well with the ranchers like Marie Cronin whove run cattle on the land for generations.
Cronin: for me I would say Im stayin here. Youre meetin me at my gate with a pitchfork and Im not about to leave. If I leave its on my terms and Im not going
White: But Cronins son John has already moved his share of the family ranch to land in the Delta area and other local families have given up ranching because they say the return is not worth the hassle. Lynn Hutsinger, who studies rural land use at UC Berkeley says if too many stop ranching the open land could lose its appeal.
Hutsinger: A lot of areas have been grazed for a hundred years we take grazing off it we change em - were changing that area ecologically and that may have some consequences that we dont anticipate
White: Hutsinger says if cows are kept off places such as the East Bay hills the land could turn to brush and become a fire hazard which is something that the residents wouldnt want. She already sees signs of the ranchers and their neighbors working together.
Hutsinger: ranchers have told me that suburban people are helpful to them they tell them if they see a sick animal or if an animals out if they have a good relationship with the people around their land it can be quite helpful...
(Bring up cattle drive SFX and run under graph)
White The suburban residents of the East Bay are not likely to witness the wildness of a cattle drive any time soon. But some still hold out hope that the ranchers and the residents will find a way to peacefully coexist. For the California Report, Im Robin White in Dublin