Everyone is responsible for land use

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“Who’s responsible?”
This is the question many landowners will ask us at some point during their property ownership years. Who allowed this to happen? Why didn’t or doesn’t somebody do something about it?
Whether the problem occurs on their property or to an adjacent neighbor’s property, the old axiom screams out, who’s responsible?
At our office, and I am sure at most SWCD offices, we have all had phone calls or walk-ins spewing the question — who’s responsible?

Questions.

It goes something like this:
1. My neighbor is cutting down all their trees, it looks awful, how can that be allowed, can it be stopped?
2. There is an oil spill of some kind in the ditch near us, who do I call?
3. Someone at the horse farm nearby keeps shoving manure into the ravine in the back of their property, that’s not right, is it?
4. I think my water well is contaminated by the new oil and gas well they drilled next door, whose going to fix it?
5. The development that went in next to me is causing more water onto my property and it never did that before, who allowed that to happen?
6. My neighbor filled in his back yard with topsoil and now my water doesn’t drain away as fast as it used to Is he allowed to do that?
7. We just put in a new pond last year and my neighbor says we are causing him more runoff, can you tell him it really doesn’t do that?
8. The field next to us just got planted and after the rain storm we got a lot of sediment in our yard, can you make them remove it?
9. Our neighbor has a lot of manure and the flies are terrible around our house, can you do something about it?
10. We are thinking of buying a property and want to know if there are any wetlands on it, can you tell us if there are any?
11. The road culvert empties into a drain tile and it runs across my property and my neighbor’s to the outlet. It needs repaired and the outlet is on him, can you make him cooperate?
As you can tell, soil and water conservation districts are quite often asked to insert themselves in solving or directing landowners to a good solution. Sometimes they may not like the answer, because maybe, just maybe, they are responsible. Sometimes, they may like the answer because someone else is responsible.
Here is a novel idea!

Answer.

Maybe they could talk to their neighbor and have an across the property line talk. Who knows, maybe they’ll learn a thing or two like landowner stewardship is a two way street with each side retaining personal property rights in using their land in a responsible way. Hopefully, they haven’t already burned that bridge with some other crisis.
Many times we feel like a referee out there when it gets a little heated.
You know, people pointing fingers at each other. They can’t wait for us to throw the yellow penalty flag or blow the whistle or yell “safe or you out”.
We are good nudgers, suggesting or recommending solutions and actions.
In the end, when you boil it all down, the true answer is we are all responsible for our land use actions.
That’s who’s responsible?

About the Author

Jeff is the District Manager for the Medina SWCD since 2006. Before that he was an area representative with the ODNR Division of Soil and Water Conservation through out Northeast Ohio for most of his career. He worked closely with District Boards of Supervisors and staffs on programs and capacity building. More Stories by Jeff Van Loon

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