West Coast
Approximately 5700 cows graze national park lands at Point Reyes National Seashore. Photo George Wuerthner

CA - Point Reyes Management Plan Sued by Environmental Groups

A federal lawsuit against the National Park Service (NPS) at Point Reyes National Seashore was filed on January 10th by four environmental organizations. The lawsuit contends the National Park Service in a new management plan for the Park is putting the private interests of local ranchers ahead of the public interest.

Point Reyes is a spectacular landscape of open prairies and patches of woodlands home to 460 species, 876 plants, and many different marine and terrestrial mammals. In addition, the seashore harbors a hundred listed rare, threatened, and endangered species, an incredible diversity given the seashore’s relatively small size.

While the peninsula possesses unquestioned scenic value, Point Reyes National Seashore’s ecological significance is recognized by its designation as an international biosphere reserve, part of the UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere program.

California also gives the marine environment special recognition through its designations of the Point Reyes State Marine Reserve & Point Reyes State Marine Conservation Area, Estero de Limantour State Marine Reserve & Drakes Estero State Marine Conservation Area, and Duxbury Reef State Marine Conservation Area. In addition, some 32,000 acres of the seashore are part of the National Wilderness system.

The controversy over livestock grazing and ranching in the Park has existed for decades. The origins date back to the original creation of the Park in 1962 when the Enabling Act directed the federal government to acquire ranches, paying fair market value for their lands (around 100 million in today’s dollars). In an act of generosity, the Park Service even acquiring the property permitted ranchers to continue using their homes and ranches for 25 years or upon the death of the owner/spouse. However, when the 25 years were up, some of the ranchers used their political power to garner additional decades of continued grazing in the Park.

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