This Pacific Coast region could be the Yellowstone of California if we, the public, push for it.
Despite the commercial ranch-leases on the Seashore, this park is currently a very popular wildlife viewing area. Bobcats, badgers, coyotes, and a huge variety of birds are the subject of visitor interest, wildlife-watching, photography, and nature sketching and study. Yet public access to the ranches is impaired by fences, lack of trails and access points, lack or parking areas, the presence of sometimes intimidating large cattle, and perceptions that areas are “private property.”
Point Reyes National Seashore was originally established in part for the purposes of public recreation, benefit, and inspiration. The National Park Service (NPS) has not fully considered the extent of livestock impacts to these National Seashore, and also the extent to which further leasing of public lands on Point Reyes National Seashore is incompatible with this primary mission of the NPS on this unit. By 2020, it is projected that more than 8 million people will live in the San Francisco Bay Area (Pawley and Lay 2013). As of the late 1990s, Point Reyes National Seashore was receiving more than 2.5 million visitors per year (Ferry and LaFayette 1997). The latest figures, from 2016, are consistent with this total. NPS should analyze how livestock grazing impairs the interests of millions of Americans on these public lands, to extend the for-profit interests of a dozen or so families who have already accepted payment to give up their former lands.
Equity and Inclusion issues with respect to making public lands more accessible to a wide group of people are increasingly important in society. The park should consider how the ranches are virtually privatized to a few commercial interests, and not widely publicly accessible to a diverse array of park visitors. Increased visitor access to the ranching zone is needed.
We agree with increasing trails and visitor facilities in the Pastoral Zone. NPS should not focus interpretation solely on working modern commercial beef and dairy operations, full of cows. Livestock need not be present to have National Historic Districts. Historic Pierce Point Ranch is managed without cattle as an historic site for visitor interpretation. Tule elk graze the grasslands around it.
This is your public lands and your park. We think the Seashore should be managed for wildlife, not for-profit livestock production.
Ferry, D., and C. LaFayette. 1997. Point Reyes National Seashore Visitor Use Survey. Sonoma State Univ., 59 pp.
Pawley, A. and M. Lay. 2013. Coastal watershed assessment for Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore. Natural Resource Report NPS/PWR/NRR-2013/641. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado.
River otter catching a fish in Drake's Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore. Photo courtesy Jocelyn Knight.