To begin this discussion, we all need to know that the property is zoned Exclusive Farm Use. Seems pretty clear. No housing subdivision, no teen-age tennis resort (sorry, Jenny); just cows and alfalfa or filbert orchards. So far, so good.
The property has been operating under what’s known as a Farm Tax Deferral Program. This means that, given a threshold income from farming practice on the land, the owner’s taxes are “deferred” on a ten-year revolving schedule. Don’t ask. But the difference between maintaining the farm activity and not amounts to about $8-9,000 per year. That has gotten our family treasurer’s attention.
But seriously, those cows? They are so cute and funny, but they are also cows, producing quantities of cow fertilizer daily, stomping down the fields, and destroying the riparian quality of our own Big Muddy. Hmm. As I pointed out earlier, shifting to sheep would bring new problems. Lease out the land so another farmer could plant and harvest some crop? Really don’t want to go there. And what about cross-fencing? Big expense, big deal.
Yesterday Larry burst into my office with great news. (Yes, he really did “burst” into my office!) We can go Wetlands and Wildlife Habitat Deferral instead! ! ! Huge news.
Remember I told you earlier that we had this dream of reclamation and restoration? Farming cows really wasn’t there, but this? OMG. ODFW, as we’ll call it from here on, will come onto the property, assess the possibilities, provide plans, and, get this, offer financial help in executing said plans. Manage invasive plants. Improve the wetland area, which has already been identified by the county, so this idea sounds feasible, do-able. They are already working on the land immediately to our east, on the other side of Muddy Creek, and are familiar with our piece.
Must curb our enthusiasm, to borrow a phrase. What if they identify some rare plant on which an endangered butterfly lives, and thus find that we can’t build on the property? What if they say I can’t plant a few apple trees? This is the government, after all, and do we want to invite that wolf in the door?
Probably, but we are pretty excited at this moment to think we can realize both my silly little dream of house-with-apple tree, and Nature Conservancy type reclamation.
Now I’ve brought this narrative up to the real today, July 1, 2014. Larry sits in his office waiting for news from the land-use lawyer to discover whether or not the county will issue us a confirmation of her evaluation of Measure 47. Stay tuned!