Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Audubon Society Accused of Fraudulent Land Grab By Ranchers
A group of California families are accusing the National Audubon Society of whiting out parts of maps to swindle them out of their best land. This is property that in some cases has been in the families’ hands since the 1920s. The Cervieres brothers, immigrants from France, came to California in 1895. By 1924 they had money to buy beautiful plots of land high up in the Mayacamas Mountains, towering over Sonoma wine country in northern California. They wanted a place of retreat and refuge for what they hoped would someday be a large and extended family of Cervieres. Their descendants became five families who bought even more land in the Pine Flat area of these mountains. And they did form a tradition across the decades of enjoying almost every major family occasion, summers and holidays in this mountain paradise. They built five homes they collectively dubbed “the ranch.” “The ranch was like the lifeblood, the glue that held the family together,” said Lea Raynal, now one of the extended family’s matriarchs. But a fire swept through in 2004 and burned down three of the houses. “Torched this whole thing,” Lea’s son Mike Raynal said, looking up at a bare chimney that’s all that’s left of one home. “We lost everything.” Family members felt horrible but fanned hope by deciding to rebuild as quickly as possible. Then came another devastating blow from a surprising source. A neighbor had bequeathed thousands of acres next door to the National Audubon Society, best known for its love of birds and conservation. To rebuild, the families would need to upgrade the roads leading across Audubon land to accommodate their heavy construction equipment. But after decades of everyone sharing these roads, Audubon said no and then hit the families with yet another bombshell: It said it had proof their very best acres, the flat ones where their houses had been, were actually Audubon land. “It was like being hit in the stomach, the wind knocked out of you,” Lea recalled. Audubon representatives showed the family survey maps that appeared to bolster Audubon’s claim, maps that years later family members would find had parts whited out by Audubon. According to the family’s lawyer Peter Prows, the reps gave them an ultimatum: “We’re not going to let you rebuild your homes unless you agree to the boundary as we’re claiming it to be on our drawings.” In court documents later, Audubon insisted it believed its claim that it truly owned the best acres of its next-door neighbors. And since it was legally bound to preserve the wilderness acres bequeathed it, the company said it couldn’t just hand those acres back to the families if it really owned them. Audubon said it held meetings and bent over backwards to work out a deal with the families. But here’s what Phil heard from an Audubon representative at one of those meetings: “This property has never, ever been yours. Get over it.” “That haunts me. I tell you what, that haunts me every day,” he said...more