To the editor:
Scholars who study land use have a name for areas with lots of confined animal feeding operations: “sacrifice zones.” Like neighborhoods with chemical factories, landfills, and strip-mining, these are areas where we are willing to accept long-term environmental degradation and declining property values.
Sacrifice zones don’t improve over time. In fact, they generally get worse because similar operations tend to cluster in the same area. They have been written off – casualties in the nation’s pursuit of other goals.
Now it would appear that Nevada and Fernald are headed down the road to becoming yet another sacrifice zone, with a pending proposal for not one but three hog confinements in close proximity to these towns. I won’t rehash the case against CAFOs – we all know that they have profound environmental, economic, and public health costs. But what I do want to do is to ask our elected officials to stand up against this encroachment. Every time a CAFO is proposed in Story County, we are treated to the same tired half-truths. We are told that no one can do anything about it because the final decision-making authority rests with the DNR.
Well, that’s simply not the whole truth. County officials have a clearly defined role in the process. They are to determine the facts, score the application and make a recommendation. That recommendation can be “no.” It is time for them to do their jobs and use their power to recommend against this abusive proposal. Their recommendation may be overturned by the DNR, but at least they will have indicated that they stand with the residents of Nevada and Fernald. If they can’t do at least that, we have to wonder who they represent in this process.