Yesterday I went to a farm in Northwest Augusta County to talk to the manager of a farm about fencing his cattle out of the most polluted river in the county – Middle River. The farmer was very receptive and expressed a need to fence them out not only to help improve the quality of the water but to keep his cows off the neighbor’s property. We drove over the whole farm and talked about where we would place new livestock watering troughs. He said the landowner shouldn’t have a problem with the plan and that they would both come to my office to sign up for our program.
The farm is owned by an affluent, educated person. It is several hundred acres in size and has about 8,000 feet of river frontage all of which is accessible by his cattle.
Today the call came. The farm manager said that the owner was not interested in putting an electric fence along the river because of the debris that would accumulate after a flood…
I couldn’t believe it. Here the farm manager was willing to do all the work and clean up after a flood but the affluent, educated owner was not interested. It’s usually the other way around. I found out later by an adjoining landowner that their cattle had damaged not only his property but at least two other properties as well. The cattle cross the river onto other properties and graze their land, eat their corn and destroy wildlife habitat.
I can understand the concerns of real farmers who are reluctant to fence their livestock out of streams but I have a real problem with affluent, educated landowners that won’t step up to the plate and help us clean up our streams. Land ownership comes with a lot of rights and I lament…that it doesn’t also come with responsibilities.
It should be a responsibility of land ownership to not damage the natural resources on that property or to infringe on the rights of others – especially those downstream.
Keeping your cows on your property is a responsibility and keeping their manure on your property and not in the stream is also your responsibility. There should be consequences for landowners who destroy the natural resources on their land or adversely affect the well being of others by their actions.
Everyone has a responsibility to care for the land, the soil, the water and the air so that future generations can share the same bounty and beauty that we once had – especially those that are privileged enough to actually own land. After all, landowners may only have it for a mere lifetime.