By Don Canestro
I’d like to share some more thoughts on, and thanks to, Louis Fiscalini, who died Aug. 16.
After reading Susan McDonald’s tribute to Louis Fiscalini (Sept. 2, “So long to a classic cowboy”), I wanted to add my thanks to Louis and his family for their contributions to the Cambria community and bordering lands.
As director of the University of California’s Ken Norris Rancho Marino Reserve, I have had the pleasure of working with Louis and his son David, as I have used their cattle to help with vegetation management here on the reserve.
Last April, as part of a historical study of California’s landscape history, I accompanied a UCSB history professor and his students when they interviewed Louis and Betty for their class project. The family’s management of the land over time has contributed immensely to the current landscape and environment that surrounds Cambria and makes it the amazing place that we all enjoy.
Louis spoke of how he used to ride from Santa Margarita to his ranch and know all of the ranchers along the way. He talked of the rough wagon rides to San Luis Obispo with his dad, before they had a car. He even showed us the wagon that has since been restored. He was also very thankful that, to date, mountain lions had not developed a taste for calves.
As his son David pointed out, the family uses cattle grazing in an effort to optimize the growth of grass. The cows are merely a means to convert the grass into a marketable item. If they don’t manage the land wisely in terms of their grazing practices, there is little hope to keep the family farm intact and functioning. Trying to make a living and maintain the landscape, in the face of ever-changing weather and market conditions, invasive weedy plants and government regulations, is a never-ending challenge.
Forever etched in my mind will be the image of Louis riding his horse here only a couple of months before he passed away.
To help keep Louis’ vision of maintaining the natural beauty of the land’s surrounding Cambria:
1. Go see the Cambria Historical Society’s “Ranchers as Stewards” display at the Bianchini house.
2. Support any reduction in federal estate taxes. For example, Senators Dianne Feinstein’s and Barbara Boxer’s Family Farm Estate Tax Deferral Act of 2010 (S. 3664) which would provide an exclusion for certain farmland from the estate tax on the condition that the property continues to be used for farming.
3. In addition, support legislators and legislation that support the State of California’s Williamson Act (California Land Conservation Act of 1965). This act reduces the property tax on ranchers if they commit to keeping the land in agricultural use. Otherwise they will be taxed at the land’s “highest and best use” (as developed property), which is unaffordable when the land is earning agricultural income.
In the meantime, when you look out over the lands south of Cambria, think of and thank Louis for his lifelong contributions.