Ventana staff photo
Under a new Emergency Ordinance passed in July, farmers and ranchers throughout Monterey County can erect fencing as high as 8 feet around their fields without environmental review or a public hearing. This hurried action is ostensibly to address concerns about E.coli contamination of agricultural products, but an unintended consequence is a threat to deer, elk, and other wild animals. Even worse, the harmful actions are being taken without evidence of the source of E.coli threats.
Eight-foot fences could impede river access for wildlife and may trap them during periods of flooding. Eight-foot fences can disrupt wildlife passage impacting procreation, migration, and ultimately survival. Eight-foot fences can prevent wildlife from escaping predators.
The Western Growers Association "best practices" agreement does not automatically recommend fencing off lettuce fields and other leafy greens. Rather, it sets forth a process of specific activities including documentation of animal encroachment into a field and evaluation of both domestic and wild animal activity. So in addition to the lack of CEQA review, a rush to erect fences skips these important assessment steps and is not science based.
"This rush to build high fences appears to be the result of pressure from major produce buyers who are eager to show strong measures are being taken. However, only actions which are based on facts will constructively address the problem."
Jumping to conclusions and erecting high fences without knowing if it is an effective action means that the real sources of contamination could be overlooked and effective actions delayed. Additionally, resources could be misdirected, and time and money wasted on fruitless actions. The unintentional harm to wildlife could be devastating.
The Ventana Chapter is urging the Board of Supervisors to reverse this poorly-thought-out policy and instead support the research needed to find the real cause of E.coli contamination so a real solution can be implemented.
Read our letter to the Board in HTML or PDF.