Coastal Voices: Whose access denied?

Adam Spencer, The Triplicate

I found the Sept. 15 front-page article, "Access Denied: Parkland, not farmland," by Anthony Skeens to be extremely disturbing and filled with incomplete information.

Dairy farmer Blake Alexandre is represented as a victim of the state parks by supposedly having his access rights taken away. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Until state parks terminated his grazing lease this month, Mr. Alexandre was a leasee and business partner with the state agency for the sole purpose of aiding the recovery of the Aleutian cackling goose. He was contracted by the state to manage Tolowa Dunes State Park lands adjoining his property in order to create more forage for the geese while at the same time removing pressure from the birds feeding on his pastures.

Mr. Alexandre entered a unique and unprecedented business

arrangement with California State Parks managing hundreds of acres of

public parkland under the Aleutian Goose Recovery Plan. He has

subsequently had the privilege of grazing his cows and cattle for at

least 10 years on these same lands. During this entire decade, these

"public" lands were fenced off to contain his cows and access to the

general public was denied. Neither I nor anyone else could go through

his fences and walk in the fields among his stock.

As a former organizer of the Aleutian Goose Festival, I am very

familiar with the economic challenges that our local dairy farmers and

ranchers once faced when the entire goose population of over 40,000

descended on Del Norte County and foraged on their green pastures. This

once federally endangered little goose has since made a complete and

full recovery and is, in fact, now a game bird that can be hunted on

private land, including Mr. Alexandre's.

Not reported in the article is the fact that 90 percent of the

current population of over 100,000 geese no longer even visit our

county. We're lucky if we see 8,000andndash;10,000 during their spring

migration. The rest have relocated to Arcata and Eureka.

Isn't it ironic that Mr. Alexandre - whose lease helped with this

recovery - was also allowed to use aggressive hazing methods to chase

the geese off his fields and drive them onto the parklands? I would

conjecture that this successful hazing campaign done by him and his

neighbors contributed to the birds' relocation to Humboldt County.

Thanks in some small part to Mr. Alexandre, and in larger part to

the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and

Game, and California State Parks, the little goose - once thought

extinct - is now wonderfully recovered.

I will admit that it saddens me that they no longer visit us in the

great numbers they once did, when we could watch them rise off Castle

Island at dawn or congregate in Del Norte's pastures.

Mr. Alexandre needs to recognize that his work is finally done and

it's the time for him to graciously return the land back to the public

where it belongs so that it can now be restored as habitat for other

wild species. And it's also the time that the rest of us - not just he

and his family - can visit and have access to it.

Although Crescent City no longer has a festival to celebrate

Aleutian geese, some of us still rejoice that a once endangered species

did actually make it back from the brink of extinction andhellip; a rare

occurrence in today's world.

Susan Calla is a Crescent City resident.

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Thursday October 27, 2016

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