attack Gaviota proposal: Landowners speak up
for property rights
Santa Barbara News-Press
Barbara, CA - 8/20/02 - About
200 people, most of them private landowners,
attended a forum in Buellton on Monday to
discuss how to save ranching on the Gaviota
coast while keeping the National Park Service
In Marin County, they learned, a private,
nonprofit land trust of ranching
families is buying up development rights,
conserving wildlife habitat while
generating family income.
Sam Dolcini, a director of the Marin
Agricultural Land Trust, said his group
was more successful in helping ranchers to
the Park Service, which runs the nearby
national seashore at Point Reyes.
Agricultural land within the seashore
boundaries has remained in grazing, Mr.
Dolcini said, while land trust participants
outside the park boundaries can
put in vineyards and olive orchards and build
"In Marin County, the term is, 'Show me
the money,' '' Mr.
Dolcini said. "We are doing a much better
job of keeping agriculture growing
and continuing to produce food for a growing
Monday's forum was organized by the Santa
Barbara Region Chamber
of Commerce to provide alternatives to a
national park on the Gaviota
coast from Coal Oil Point to Point Sal.
At the request ofCongress, the Park Service is
preparing a study to determine
whether the area merits designation as a
national seashore, preserve or
A draft is due to be released in January for
public review and hearings.
Many in the audience on Monday said they would
like to prevent it from coming
"What is the difference between the
National Park study and stealing?" asked
Lompoc resident Lorin Bronson.
Mr. Dolcini replied, "A feasibility study
is the federal government
casing out your home by driving down the
street and taking a look
Lynn Scarlett, assistant secretary of the U.S.
Department of Interior,
told the crowd she "inherited'' the study
and could not stop it, but would
make sure it included the landowners' views.
Only one of three Park Service
studies results in a park designation, she
"I have a commitment to the ability of
folks to pursue their dreams on their
property," Ms. Scarlett said.
"Really what this nation needs is the
self-motivation of private stewards. ... We're
deeply committed to local
Michael Feeney, executive director of the Land
Trust for Santa Barbara
County, said that a voter-approved tax measure
would be needed to provide
funds to buy up ranchers' development rights
on the Gaviota coast.
"I don't think any of us wants to see the
Malibu coast here," he said.
But during the past five years, only three
Gaviota coast landowners
have negotiated with the Land Trust for the
sale of their development rights.
The California Rangeland Trust, run by cattle
ranchers, has not completed any
deals on the coast.
On Monday, many speakers from the audience
seemed more interested in
attacking the Park Service than in getting
information about saving land.
Among them were several landowners from
Hollister Ranch, a private enclave on
the coast that has been excluded from the
The ranch owners spend about $150,000 per year
lobbying against Park Service
involvement on the coast.
"What are the environmentalists bringing
to the table, besides a
mask and gun to steal property?" Bob
Duncan, a Hollister Ranch
property owner, asked.
The only Park Service representative to speak
on Monday was Diana
Maxwell, a partnership program manager, who
said the agency often
works well with landowners, bringing funds and
scientific expertise to the
"I've seen a lot of distrust and anger
and bad feelings today, but I want
people to know that it is possible for the
federal government to be a good
partner," Ms. Maxwell said. "There
are resources there that local people
But the ranchers were not persuaded.
"What I see as the growing threat to the
Gaviota coast right now is those who
want to save it," said Nancy Crawford,
president of the
Santa Barbara Cattlemen's Association.
"Who's going to give up what? What are
we going to get in return?"
Outnumbered at the forum, a smattering of
spoke briefly about the march of urbanization
westward from Coal Oil
Point -- the Bacara Spa & Resort, a
proposed golf course, and the plans for
dozens of homes at Naples.
Diane Conn, a member of Citizens for Goleta
Valley asked, "What
do you do with the people who own the land and
want to develop it? What do
you do with the next generation that doesn't
want to farm?"
Mike Lunsford, president of the Gaviota Coast
Conservancy, and one of the
last to speak, told the audience that he was
the "negativity" he had been hearing
"I think it's a shame that we're so
centered on ourselves and our
personal interests," he said.
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