For 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.
The signers of the Point Reyes enabling legislation that created the Seashore did not envision this for the Seashore.
September 13, 1962. JFK signs the enabling legislation for Point Reyes National Seashore.
Photo by White House photographer Abbie Rowe.
The National Park Service (NPS) decided, after a years-long environmental review, to manage the ranch-leases on 27,000 acres in Point Reyes and the northern portion of Golden Gate National Recreation Area to allow ranches to continue beef and dairy operations with new 20 year lease/permits. Agricultural diversification and intensification was allowed, as well as culling of native Tule elk if they came into conflict with cattle ranching and dairying on these public lands.
But this does not mesh with the original enabling legislation that seeks to restore Point Reyes National Seashore.
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:
An important section of the Point Reyes National Seashore enabling legislation (see below) gives a generous amount of time for ranchers to buy private ranches and leave the park.
And importantly, the Point Reyes National Seashore enabling legislation directs that ranch-leases be managed so as not to impair the natural resources of the Seashore--the coastal prairies, salmon, Tule elk, snowy plovers, rare plants, water quality, marine life, and more. There is nothing in here mandating commercial cattle operations or industrial modern dairies. Cattle grazing and dairying have impaired the Seashore in significant ways, that we explore in this website. See below: