• California Fish and Wildlife Persecutes Ranchers Over Water Rights

    On June 10th, 2015, a dozen or more neighbors, in a small valley, located in far northern California, helped some ranchers gain access to their water rights, which dates back to 1863.  We went into the river and moved rocks.  Rocks displaced by a spring flood event, in order to get the water to flow toward the fish screen, at the mouth of a one hundred year old irrigation ditch.  Our neighbors needed help.  They had applied for a permit some six months earlier. They watched the river levels dropping, wondering why it would take more than half a year to get permission to do such a small job.  Finally, out of desperation, in order to put some water on the crops which provide for their families, more than a dozen of us answered the call for help.

    We acted collectively knowing the state would have to make a decision to prosecute all of us.

    California Fish and Wildlife is deciding whether to go forward with that prosecution.  Cal Fish and Wildlife contends that every surface water user must ask permission prior to turning water onto their crops.

    Fish and Wildlife has an agenda.  California, using this agency, intends to gain control over all surface water rights in California.  Water rights are real property rights in California.  There is a priority system to ensure the rights are used under the “first in time, first in right doctrine”.  California’s executive agencies have been locked in a battle with farmers and ranchers for decades trying to gain control over all surface and subsurface water rights in our state.

    To give an idea of the ridiculous nature of this persecution, one of the potential charges contemplated against us, is the act of “unlawfully entering a wet area.”  I never knew it to be a crime to step in the water.  There are State Senators, County Supervisors, State Assembly people and at least one Congressman now involved in our heinous act of making a leaky ten foot long rock dam.  Oh, and unlawfully entering a wet area.  The reason so many of us entered the wet area to help our neighbors get their water?  Because we know the Department of Fish and Wildlife is looking for someone to prosecute for failing to ask Big Brother’s permission to use adjudicated water rights.  Our community is not willing to allow our friends and neighbor go this alone.  Fish and Wildlife will either take all of us, or take none of us!

    The open question for the people of California, as well as the rest of the United States is as follows; when is a right, not a right?  A property right is not a right when it requires permission or a permit.  I am reminded of Ben Franklin when he said, “Property must be secure or Liberty cannot exist.”  When permission is required, permission can be denied.   Fees are always involved.  The State is in a position to price people out of their property rights.  When does the Bill of Rights or the Charter of Rights in our State Constitution enter the process?

    Article one; Section one, of the California Constitution declares that all people are free and independent by nature with certain inalienable rights.  Among them, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property.  Why bother to have Constitution when the agencies of the executive can ignore the Charter of Rights, or the Bill of Rights?  Why are we forced to ask government every time we want to water our crops, provide drinking water to our animals, in order to provide decent lives for our children?  If we are not to be denied Life, Liberty or Property, without due process, how is the executive branch of government allowed to dictate to the people they are supposed to serve, when, where and how, property can or cannot be used and how much it will cost you to use the  property you own.

    The people of our watershed are waiting for the other shoe to drop.  We wait to see if the government of, for, and by, the people will choose to persecute us for using water we have the inalienable right to use.  We will not submit.  We will not abdicate our property rights to executive branch of the State of California or to any agency of that branch.  To do otherwise would be to admit that we have become subjects of the Monarchy called California.  Tyranny rarely fixes itself.  We must all ask ourselves whether our creation, (yes, people created government, not the other way around), has become our master?  This is the primary reason eight counties of California have signed Declarations and Petitions to withdraw from the State of California under Article 4, Section 3 of the United States Constitution, to form the 51st State.  The State of Jefferson.  Rural Northern California has no representation.  We must act to restore the inalienable rights to Liberty, and Property for ourselves and for generations to come.

    Mark Baird

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