Every season has its own flavor or nuisances. The fall on the farm is about harvest and putting things to bed. We have had a good summer; the winter storage crops are looking great and our fall plantings are solidly on their way. Now it is time to prep the farm for a winters rest, because, dare I say, the winds of change are noticeable!
Without all the chauffeuring between school, practices and games, the fall also seems strangely quiet. I even went fly-fishing the other day, mostly just clearing my head, but it was with another dad who I would normally be busy coaching his son on the soccer field. We both had a few extra minutes to take a break from our businesses and get out on the water. That would be a real luxury in most years, but now it is at least plausible.
The river for me is the nexus for a lot of my work, relationships and hobbies. When I am not running a farm and helping with the home delivery company (Alaina is doing a great job doing that) I am thinking about ways to improve farming and habitat on the Stillaguamish River. For me it is even bigger, because I believe that we are called to be stewards. As a steward, my farm goals are to live with nature, work with nature and when it is time to move on, to leave this farm in better condition for the next generation of farmers.
One of my latest endeavors on the Habitat/Farming spectrum is to work on a better solution. In a nutshell, the natural resource community are developers. They don’t build houses for people, but they do build and engineer habitat. We have the Shoreline Management act, the Growth Management act, Critical Area Ordinances and EPA buffers, but these tools are not easily enforced and still rely on a landowner to engage in the process.
Another factor limiting restoring some important habitat is that the public has an affinity for farmers, and it makes it politically hard for an agency to implement changes – good, bad or neutral, if it will impact the farming community. I have led and sat in hundreds of hours of meetings with lots of talking and little action. Given the political realities, I have been thinking about a different solution to the Salmon/Habitat/Farming conundrum.
Zoning! I think zoning is the solution. Instead of regulating mandatory buffers or implementing habitat plans on farms, let’s just create a “riparian short plat” concept on the rivers and streams that mirror the intended buffers. By creating these narrow natural resource lots we could accomplish more and save taxpayers a lot of money.
Here would be the outcomes. The landowner would have a new lot that they could sell, lease or farm. The new lots would be less expensive to purchase for the natural resource community because they would not have to buy the entire farm to get control of the buffer. It would protect farmland from being purchased because the most valuable part to the natural resource community is now a separate lot and as mentioned earlier could be sold, leased or farmed. This solution in essence could remove the unfavorable climate around regulating farmers and make available valuable habitat pieces and save farmland. Wish me luck as I try and move this idea forward.