Natural Heritage 2020 out to pasture but still kicking
Natural Heritage 2020 has been put out to pasture but is far from dead. The part of NH 2020 that will have the most far-reaching effects is the large “scientific” database that has been collected and made very well organized. This is the type of material that lawyers and controlling bureaucrats salivate over. It is rather obvious that if you take a piece of land and clear it and build a house (or a vineyard or ranch), that you are going to grossly affect the natural habitat. Now, lawyers (pitting neighbor against neighbor) and bureaucrats are going to be able to “prove” that the natural habitat has been disturbed. This is a hypocritical ploy for preventing growth.
I call it hypocritical because the real pressure for development in Nevada County is the statewide population explosion. Immigration (mostly illegal) coupled with high birth rates for first-generation arrivals has placed intense pressure on every county in California. We are a landing strip for flight from over-crowded and over-priced urban areas. California has gone from 17 million to 38 million in just 35 years, and 95 percent of this increase is directly attributable to immigration. We will most likely be at 50 million by 2010. Proponents of NH 2020 could never just come out and say “we are tired of all the people and development coming to our county”- that would smell too much like violating the Fifth Amendment and being too “anti-people.” Instead, (unconsciously I believe) they wrap themselves up in “environmentalism” and demand that the “natural habitat” is too beautiful and valuable to disturb.
The population battle was lost in 1994 when Pete Wilson put up Proposition 187 (which limited public benefits for illegal aliens) and was approved by a two-thirds majority. Then, a moronic federal judge from Los Angeles named Mariana Pfaelzer decided to totally ignore the democratic process and do some legislating from the bench. She tossed the whole proposition out. The statewide Republican Party has been reeling backward ever since and the magnet of welfare and free public services have kept the immigrants coming.
So if growth is inevitable, it seems to me that subdividing land and building quality homes under existing zoning for those wishing to escape the overcrowded urban areas, is smart. Building and real estate is the business of Nevada County. It brings us prosperity.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I understand the goals of NH2020 and the environmentalists in general. I believe in clean air, water, beautiful forests and wild streams. The enormous state and federal forests and national parks should be protected and treasured. Robber baron, clear cutting, tree farmers like SPI should be reigned in. If willing landowners wish to sell their land to the public for more “open space,” that’s wonderful. However, they should be properly compensated and not be coerced by threats of making their land useless because of endless “natural habitat” issues from some gargantuan “data base.” Small private land owners in this county should be regulated by zoning and all the other traditional building requirements and not burdened with the quagmire of possible “red tape” that may eventually come out of the NH2020 data base. Huge Roseville-like housing tracts will not be allowed in Nevada County because the politicians, on a case-by-case basis, will simply not allow them. Yes, growth is inevitable but let the local “good old boys and girls” develop their land and direct this growth. Is it smart to give up more and more control of private property to government? As times change, there will always be a moving line between where government controls stop and private property rights begin. At least for smaller individual property owners, it’s time to freeze that line for awhile. Izzy Martin is Ms. NH2020. I have much respect for her energy and ambition, but I think she let her environmental idealism run roughshod over common sense and political reality.
Finally, my last column criticized the 55-year-plus unconditional support the U.S. has given Israel. I questioned our close and expensive partnership with a religious state that has dehumanized the Palestinian people and created a stateless and desperate people scattered all over the Middle East. I abhor violence on both sides and offered a common sense peace plan fair to all. Columnist Stan Gottlieb and a supporter responded in The Union by insinuating that I was anti-Semitic and a Nazi sympathizer. I have many life-long Jewish friends and greatly admire the momentous contributions that Jewish Americans have made to the prosperity and success of America. Einstein and Feynman are my modern heroes. My father and uncles all fought the evil and ruthless Axis in World War II. These types of insinuations are grossly unfair and show blind, misdirected hostilities that need to be exorcised before any rational discussion of the modern history of Palestine can take place.
Michael Schwalm, a resident of Penn Valley, writes a monthly column.
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