Op-Ed | Don't Favor Cattle Over Wildlife At Point Reyes National Seashore

The first time I drove to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, I was horrified to see large cattle ranching operations on National Park Service lands. The adverse impacts of ranching on soils, water quality, vegetation, wildlife and visitor experience were undeniable: piles of manure, muddy trails, accelerated erosion, weed-infested pastures and gigantic heaps of rotting vegetation called silage (pasture plants are mowed and then fermented to feed livestock when there is no grass available). During the four years I worked at Point Reyes, I never drove past the ranches without shaking my head.

The ranched lands at Point Reyes are largely coastal prairie, which historically occurred from northern Los Angeles County into Oregon. More than 90 percent of this plant community has been disturbed or lost to development. In other words, the coastal prairie, as well as the plants and wildlife it supports, is rare and deserves full protection and restoration.

My co-workers understood that the ranches were “grandfathered” in under the national seashore’s enabling legislation. The government had purchased the ranches, and was to allow ranch operations to continue under leases for 25 years, or until the death of the ranch owner or his or her spouse.

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