RIVERSIDE (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors Tuesday authorized the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Office of the Agricultural Commissioner to create an “agricultural pass program,” intended to provide ranchers, growers and their appointed representatives with permission to enter disaster zones and evacuation areas to tend to their animals.
The program is based on state legislation approved in 2021 that was designed to grant authority to livestock owners and commercial crop growers to care of their animals and products during or immediately after large-scale explosions, earthquakes, wildfires, floods, major storms or other “naturally occurring or manmade events,” according to a sheriff’s statement posted to the board’s agenda.
Agricultural passes will be issued following an application process that has already been tentatively established jointly by the sheriff’s department and the Office of the Agricultural Commissioner.
Applications are expected to be made available via the sheriff’s web portal in the coming weeks.
“Agricultural owners … and their agents applying for registration understand that (they’re) requesting access to restricted areas subject to official road closure and not otherwise accessible to the public,” according to the proposed wording of an application. “In so requesting access, agricultural owners and their agents acknowledge the inherent risks and hazards caused by recent catastrophic fires, including the existence of declared local health emergencies, which extend to the restricted areas.”
Applicants will be required to sign waivers vowing to hold the county harmless for any liabilities or adverse circumstances, including injuries, that may arise as a result of their seeking access to areas declared off-limits to the public.
According to documents, the main purpose of the pass is to remove barriers ranchers and others might otherwise encounter while “administering veterinary care to their livestock, or sheltering, moving, transporting, evacuating, feeding, or watering their agricultural products, or their livestock.”
Prior to approval of a pass application, property owners will need to provide documentation showing they’re involved in some type of commercial agricultural activity, and qualifying applicants will have to undergo a four- hour training session regarding how to safely contend with hazards in an evacuation zone or disaster area.
Once a pass is approved, the holder’s information will be added to a county database and an identity badge issued by the sheriff’s department.
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