Tuesday, September 29, 2015

OVERDRAWN in Fort Worth....Our Mitigation Banks

I have attached a link to a story about mitigation banks on the east side of Fort Worth which was recently reported about in the newspaper….not the Star Telegram, but the Houston Chronicle.  I wish the Star Telegram would do more investigative reporting. 
What is mitigation banking?
Mitigation banking is an agreement between a property owner and federal regulatory agencies to preserve, enhance, restore, or create a wetland area for the purpose of compensating for the inevitable destruction caused by construction in another area. Mitigation bank owners sell credits to government agencies and private developers who need permits to destroy other areas of wetland.    
I hadn’t heard of mitigation banking until gas drilling became widespread in our neighborhood and I became more aware of the properties around me. I was happy to learn there were two very large mitigation banks near my home. I was comforted by the thought that at least the land would be preserved and safe from the careless gas drilling practices I had personally witnessed in our area.
But the "preserved" land was drilled anyway!  
I learned the US Army Corps of Engineers is the primary regulatory agency for mitigation banks and responsible for their oversight.  The Corps approves the activities of the mitigation bank, determines how many credits a mitigation bank contains, and decides when there are no more credits available.  
I also learned that in 2008 the EPA and Corps implemented new guidelines and cited mineral exploration as an “incompatible use” of mitigation banks.  So why was the mitigation bank owner in our neighborhood allowed to drill?   
Unfortunately, the 2008 guidelines included a little clause which gave each Corps District Office the authority to approve acceptable uses on a case-by-case basis. It also included a grandfather clause for existing mitigation bank owners.
Why would the Corps allow the un-preservation of preserved land? Isn’t that why mitigation bank owners are paid millions of dollars, to keep their land as is and not develop it for profit? Maybe a refund is in order by mitigation bank owners who destroy the land they agreed and were paid handsomely to preserve.  
So what can we do to preserve our wetlands? My suggestion is to shine the light on this practice by contacting the Mitigation Section of the Corps Fort Worth District Office (817-886-1306). Let them know you read the Houston Chronicle article and have concerns about how the Corps allows certain mitigation bank owners to change the designated use of preserved wetlands. Ask this regulatory agency to please step up their monitoring of local mitigation banks.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Those dang east side cops are.....

My heroes! Especially these 2 officers!

The police officers on the east side of Fort Worth are the bravest, most patient, and most versatile officers of the Fort Worth Police Department.  East side officers never know what they're going to be doing next.  The east side of Fort Worth is truly a unique part of town. In a blink of an eye you can go from inner city to wild and western.

My husband Larry and I run about 35 head of cattle on the east side of Fort Worth on a couple of hundred acres of land in what old timers refer to as the river bottoms. It's a lot of work, but worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears.  Fort Worth is still cow-town after all.

One of our biggest challenges is maintaining fence lines and keeping gates closed.    There  are a lot of fence line and gates in a couple of hundred acres and we have to check these regularly.  Trees fall on the fence, flooding knocks out stretches of fence, disrespectful fishermen cut our fence in order to get to the river to fish (respectful fisherman place a blanket over the barbed wire and pass through it), disrespectful people on 4-wheelers cut our gate locks so they can ride all over the hay field we keep plowed and sowed with wheat, oats, and hay for our cattle, and gas drilling companies are notorious for leaving gates open while they're working or mowing right-of-ways.

When you drive down Randol Mill Road, it's not uncommon to see this in our front yard or in the hay field on Precinct Line Road.  It's a peaceful sight!

But at rush hour, at the intersection of Randol Mill and Precinct Line Roads, this is not such peaceful sight!

The other day, my policemen heroes responded to a call reference a herd of cattle in the road. And while the cows technically weren't in the road, they definitively were a distraction to drivers.  

The policemen were quick to respond and within seconds had the traffic under control while my husband paraded part of the cattle down Randol Mill Road as if it was the Stockyards.  The other group of wayward heifers were spooked by all of the attention and suddenly remembered the exact location from which they had made their escape and returned home. The disrespectful fisherman had struck again.....more fence line had been cut by the Precinct Line bridge.

Here are the girls cooling off in the river after their adventure.


I can't thank the officers enough for being so professional, safety-minded, understanding, and helpful.  I think we too often take our police for granted. They place their lives on the line every second they're on duty working to serve and protect us; and now their lives are at risk even when they're not on duty because of a few bad cops. I strongly believe that if a cop goes bad and for whatever reason doesn't get what's coming to him on this earth, he sure will get it, and then some, when his time on earth expires.

As for our east side neighbors who were inconvenienced by our cattle, please accept our apologies.  Y'all really are the best neighbors! Like the police, you are patient and tolerant of the challenges associated with living near a working farm in the city.  You call, text, and come by the house to let us know when a cow is out, you slow down as you drive by the farm, and you smile and wave as my husband slows down the traffic on his tractor with his hay equipment. Strangers have become neighbors and neighbors have become friends. 

East side neighbors and police are the best!!!

 Mary Kelleher