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Park Management

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September 7, 2019 - The draft Environmental Impact Statement is out for public comment, on how Point Reyes National Seashore and the northern district of Golden Gate National Recreation Area will be managed in the General Management Plan amendment for the next 30-plus years. Stay involved in your parks! This is your public lands and your park. What do you think? Comment here to tell the National Park Service how you would like the Seashore and tule elk to be managed. 

May 12, 2019 - The National Park Service is revising how Point Reyes National Seashore and the northern portion of Golden Gate National Recreation Area are to be managed for the next 30 years. And the public can speak up and tell the federal agency how we want our public lands to be managed. We are waiting for the draft Environmental Impact Statement this summer, where we can comment again on the proposed General Management Plan amendment.

As part of the General management Plan revision, the park is proposing alternatives to analyze in its public environmental review process as it revises its General Management Plan for these park units. 

But there is ongoing controversy about what gets priority: native wildlife, elk, recreation--or cattle and commercial dairies and beef operations on park lands.

The laws governing how park resources are to be managed are very clear and precise.

 

The 1916 National Park Service Organic Act makes protection of natural resources the highest management priority in decision-making for all units of the national park system, including seashores and recreation areas: 

§100101. Promotion and regulation

(a) In General.-The Secretary, acting through the Director of the National Park

Service, shall promote and regulate the use of the National Park System by means

and measures that conform to the fundamental purpose of the System units, which

purpose is to conserve the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wild life in

the System units and to provide for the enjoyment of the scenery, natural and

historic objects, and wild life in such manner and by such means as will leave

them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

Equally important is that portion of the Point Reyes National Seashore enabling legislation which is similar to the Organic Act in requiring protection of natural resources as the Natural Park Service’s highest priority. The 1978 Point Reyes National Seashore amendment specifies the length of leases as no more than 25 years or the life of the original owner. This time has long passed.

From the Point Reyes National Seashore enabling legislation:

These generous life-leases of the ranchers have ended. They took over $50 million in buy-out payments from the taxpayers and agreed to these terms in the 1970s. Yet now they want to stay. And they are not helping to conserve park resources or contribute to the public enjoyment of this beautiful park unit. 

Why are commercial dairy operations still allowed in our unique Point Reyes National Seashore, after the ranches agreed to a buy-out? L Ranch hay feed lot on National Park Service land.

The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing many alternatives to manage the "Pastoral Zone" which includes 27,000 acres in Point Reyes and the northern portion of Golden Gate National Recreation Area (around Olema) that would allow ranches to continue beef and dairy operations with new 20 year lease/permits. But this does not mesh with the original enabling legislation that seeks to restore Point Reyes National Seashore. 

This proposal would also explore opportunities for ranch operational flexibility and diversification for commercial farming to increase in park lands, with row crops, chickens, and other agricultural activities. We want more wildlife, native plant restoration, and recreational opportunities, not more private, for-profit commercial agriculture.

Inside Point Reyes National Seashore, a black bull (dairy or beef?) looks at my camera, with four tule elk bedded down on a distant hillside. Whose park is this, anyway?

Our main concerns are the conservation of park biodiversity, the protection of remaining native plant communities such as coastal prairies, as well as consideration of further restoration of these native communities. We are also concerned with the management of native wildlife populations, including tule elk and other native species, in this popular National Park Service unit, a gem of public land in the Bay Area. Proper management and interpretation of historic cultural resources in the park, as well as sustainable recreational opportunities, are also of interest to us.

For far too long, the National Park Service has extended livestock grazing leases on Point Reyes National Seashore, far beyond the grace period graciously and generously provided by Congress, to the detriment of native ecosystems, of individual plant and wildlife species, and of public recreation and inspiration. Livestock grazing and silage crop cultivation on Point Reyes National Seashore continues to degrade native ecosystems, spread invasive weeds, suppress the recovery of native coastal grassland communities, interfere with the natural recovery of the region’s tule elk population, cause contamination of waterways and public health problems, cover the hills with livestock manure, and reduce and impair public enjoyment of these Park Service lands that were purchased with the intent of creating a National Seashore to be protected and preserved for the use and enjoyment of the people.

 

There are 335 million Americans who are the rightful owners of Point Reyes National Seashore, and 7 million of them live in the nearby Bay Area, an area starved for available public lands for recreation. The National Park Service should not continue to manage Point Reyes National Seashore for the private profit of 13 ranches, including large corporations, while neglecting the public interest to manage these lands for conservation and public enjoyment. It is time to end the extension of Park Service leases on Point Reyes for livestock grazing.

Tomales Bat seen from Point Reyes National Seashore, looking at the abundant private land used for cattle in Marin County across the bay.