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Proposed Ranch Plan for Point Reyes Seashore Draws Public Fire

By Susan Ives

The National Park Service (NPS) at Pt Reyes Seashore is about to release its Final plan for ranching at Point Reyes National Seashore. In February the NPS released the trove of 7,600 public comments to its draft plan that, if adopted, will extend 20-year leases to ranchers and expand ranching in this popular national park.

An analysis by park advocates found that 91 percent of the public's comments opposed ranching and killing elk in the national park that ranchers complain eat grass reserved for their cattle. Comments in support of the NPS’s proposed plan totaled 2.3 percent, (179 of 7,627 total comments). “Neutral” comments (479)–those unrelated to ranching–totaled 6.3 percent. (Join the NPS’s mailing list to be notified of public meetings and opportunities to comment.)

The ranchers sold their land for millions of dollars to the NPS decades ago, but 24 ranchers continue to graze 5,500 beef and dairy cows on 28,000 acres of the national seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

“Ranchers and local politicians have long claimed that the public overwhelmingly supports cattle grazing in these parks but have never offered any evidence to substantiate that claim,” said Chance Cutrano, Director of Programs at RRI (Resource Renewal Institute). “The public comments wholly contradict that assertion. Thousands of people told the NPS in no uncertain terms they want to them to protect the park, the wildlife and the climate. They believe the park belongs to them, not to private ranchers.”

In 2016 three nonprofit groups—RRI, Western Watershed Project and Center for Biological Diversity— sued the NPS after it belatedly disclosed that more than 200 native Tule elk—about half the park’s herd–had died during the drought. The elk were confined behind a fence at Pierce Point to prevent them from reaching forage and water reserved for the cattle. Tule elk exist in no other national park.

A settlement agreement resulting from the federal lawsuit committed the NPS to produce a plan for ranching and, for the first time ever, an Environmental Impact Statement on the ranching, subject to public comment. In the draft plan, the NPS would allow ranchers to raise additional livestock and open B&B’s, event facilities and farm stores. The NPS plan also calls for killing up to 15 Tule elk a year. Cattle outnumber the native elk 10 to 1.

Ken Bouley, who worked on the comment analysis said, “All of the comments are, of course, public and I encourage anyone who wants to verify them, to read them for themselves.” The comments and analysis are posted online at

“The vast majority of comments ask the NPS to protect the natural values of the Seashore, save the Tule elk and other wildlife and increase recreational access to the Seashore, said Laura Cunningham, California Director of Western Watersheds Project. Visitors do not come here to see cattle.”

“Now, with the coronavirus forcing people to stay close to home, our parks and open spaces have taken on new importance in our lives and to our families’ mental and physical well-being.It’s time to end ranching and fully convey the national seashore to its rightful owners—the American people.”

If you would like a SAMPLE LETTER and information on how you can be part of the conversation on this topic - here is a link to contacts, materials, and details on the General Management Plan and Public Comments: STATUS: NPS develops Final EIS for GMP Amendment: anticipated Spring 2020 (in progress)

Resource Renewal Institute: 187 E Blithedale Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941 | (415) 928.3774

Restore Point Reyes National Seashore:

Western Watershed Project: 126 S. Main St, Ste B2 • P.O. Box 1770 • Hailey, Idaho 83333 Main: (208) 788-2290

Center for Biological Diversity: 1212 Broadway, Ste. 800, Oakland, CA 94612 (510) 844.7100

“It is no longer a question of whether or not we should set aside some more of the yet remaining native California landscape as ‘breathing space’. If we do not, we will leave our children a legacy of concrete treadmills leading nowhere except to other congested places like those they will be trying to get away from.” ~ Former Congressman Clem Miller Author of legislation establishing Point Reyes National Seashore

Read more on this subject: On the California Coast, It’s Cattle Versus Elk -The national magazine of the Sierra Club

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