FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 13, 2021
National Park Service Folds. Ranching Reigns at Point Reyes National Seashore
Despite an urgent report by the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change that humanity has a decade to avert climate disaster, the Biden Administration today approved a controversial National Park Service plan for continued commercial ranching at California’s Point Reyes National Seashore, perpetuating the beef and dairy operations at the only national seashore on the Pacific Coast.
The approved plan remains virtually identical to the original version of the General Management Plan Amendment the NPS released in September 2020 that was met with strong public opposition from park advocates.
The ROD adds 7,600 acres to a newly carved out “ranching zone;” permits ranchers to diversify and increase livestock beyond the more than 5,000 beef and dairy cattle that currently graze the park; allows ranchers to grow commercial crops; permits mobile slaughter units on the cattle ranches and will proceed with killing native Tule elk. It also ensures future leases to the same ranching families who sold their land to the Park Service 60 years ago and yet continued to operate in the park under various short-term agreements ever since.
The high-profile decision comes amid the worst drought in more than a century and growing protests over the impacts of ranching and the exclusive deals the NPS provides the two dozen leaseholders who occupy 28,000 acres of these national parklands. The public submitted some 50,000 comments opposed to continued ranching and the killing of rare native Tule elk. Point Reyes Seashore is the only national park where Tule elk exist.
Other than assurances of stricter oversight by the NPS, the ranching plan does not directly address recent revelations, including water pollution from cattle waste at levels dangerous to public health; bulldozing of endangered species habitats, toxic dump sites on park ranches; inhumane working and living conditions for ranch workers; and the starvation of hundreds Tule elk that NPS confines behind a fence to prevent the elk from foraging on park land reserved for the cattle.
“In this business-as-usual plan, the NPS offers a few crumbs to the public while delivering the whole pie to a chosen few in blatant disregard of its own science,” said Deb Moskowitz, president of the Resource Renewal Institute, one of three organizations that sued the NPS in 2016. “With this decision, the Park Service has turned its back on climate change, social justice, and an opportunity to restore this national treasure.”
“Point Reyes National Seashore to too important to let this irresponsible decision stand unchallenged,” she said.
“Despite thousands of public comments in opposition, the final Park Service plan looks remarkably like the wish list ranchers submitted to the NPS before this performative planning process even began,” said Chance Cutrano, Director of Programs at Resource Renewal Institute. “The National Park Service will have to explain this inadequate plan to a federal court judge.”
The Resource Renewal Institute (RRI), Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Watershed Project sued the National Park Service for routinely permitting ranching without environmental review, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. A settlement agreement gave the NPS until July 14, 2021 to produce an amended management plan and Environmental Impact Statement for ranching. That date was extended to September 13, coincidentally the 59th anniversary of President Kennedy’s signing the legislation that enacted the Point Reyes National Seashore in 1962. The legislation established the Seashore to preserve the wildlife and scenery and to provide for public enjoyment.
Thousands of concerned individuals, including scientists, park users, animal rights and environmental justice advocates, as well as Coast Miwok tribal members, submitted written comments and oral testimony and continue to send letters to government officials, sign petitions and stage protests.
“The Seashore has been captive of special interests from the beginning,” said Moskowitz. “These ranchers have the inside track and receive preferential treatment. We are aware that the National Park Service has been in constant communication with ranchers, while the public struggles to have our voices heard.”
“This isn’t 1850s. The planet is warming, the Seashore’s springs have run dry, and the Point Reyes dairies are shutting down. We can’t afford to let politics overshadow science at the Seashore. When will these decision-makers learn that nature bats last?” Cutrano added.