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David Stares. Goliath Blinks: NPS Postpones State Review of Pt Reyes Ranching

For Immediate Release, January 9th, 2021

Deborah Moskowitz, Resource Renewal Institute, (415)-928-3774,
Chance Cutrano, Resource Renewal Institute, (312)-403-3702,


David Stares. Goliath Blinks. 
Coastal Commission Receives Thousands of Comments Opposing Park Service Plan
NPS Postpones State Review of Pt Reyes Ranching


MARIN, Calif. – A week before its public hearing before the California Coastal Commission, the National Park Service (NPS) withdrew its application seeking Commission approval for a controversial General Management Plan Amendment (GMPA) for ranching at Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation. The hearing has not been rescheduled.

The plan to extend 20-year leases to 24 beef and dairy ranchers on national parkland was in the final approval stages when the Park Service withdrew it from the Commissioners’ agenda.  The NPS had previously rejected a request by the Coastal Commission staff for more time to review the complex plan.

Over the last four years, the Trump Administration has badly weakened environmental regulations and fast-tracked leases for oil and gas, logging, mining and grazing on public lands. The NPS has been without a Director for most of Trump’s presidency. The NPS had insisted that the Commission’s review of the proposed Point Reyes plan, required by state law, be completed before January 20, 2021—the day the Trump Administration leaves office, creating the perception that the plan was being rushed to satisfy favored special interests.

In recent weeks, the Coastal Commission received more than 20,000 public comments critical of the NPS plan and its timeline, which appeared intended to deny the Commission sufficient time to analyze the impacts of commercial ranching on the State’s coastal resources.  In addition, more than 100 national conservation and environmental justice organizations signed a letter asking the Coastal Commission to withhold its approval of the plan pending further analysis.

The NPS had asserted that extending ranching operations on 28,000 acres at Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is “consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the California Coast Management Program.”

But Commission staff had raised concerns about “spillover” impacts from the ranches affecting wildlife and habitats in the Coastal Zone. Water quality at the National Seashore is among the worst in California due to agricultural runoff.  Commission staff had recommended conditioning approval of the NPS ranching plan on compliance with water quality standards before the NPS could issue any leases to cattle operators.

Scientists who commented on the plan cited lack of analyses of other possible impacts to coastal resources. The NPS had deferred providing “programmatic details” to the Commission on plans for diversifying livestock, planting crops and permitting other commercial activities in the park.

Ranching has been ongoing since the NPS bought the ranches more than 50 years ago to create Point Reyes National Seashore. Nearly 6,000 cattle graze the park. Historically, the NPS routinely handed out leases to the ranchers without public input. A lawsuit by environmental groups in 2016 required the NPS to prepare the first-ever Environmental Impact Statement on ranching, subject to public comment.

The NPS received more than 7,600 public comments to its draft plan last fall. 90 percent of comments opposed commercial ranching in the park and objected to the NPS’s plan to kill native elk that ranchers complain eat grass reserved for their cattle.

“Ranchers have powerful political allies and have long dominated management priorities at the Seashore, said Chance Cutrano, Director of Programs at Resource Renewal Institute, the local organization leading the effort to restore the park for wildlife and the public. “Documents show that the White House meant to expedite this process, so this postponement of the plan until the next Administration takes office is a victory for us. We will continue to fight to see that this national park will be unimpaired for future generations, as federal law intends.”

“The Trump Administration and decades of NPS mismanagement have taken a toll—ignoring climate change, accelerating extinctions, and exploiting public land,” said Deborah Moskowitz, president of Resource Renewal Institute. “This park belongs to 380 million Americans and coastal resources that belong to 40 million Californians. Point Reyes National Seashore is one of a kind.  It’s our line in the sand.”


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