“To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Organic Act of 1916 establishing the National Park Service

NPS Says Environmental Impact Statement on Seashore Ranching Due Out in July

The NPS says that it “anticipates” releasing its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the impacts of domestic cattle at Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) next month. An EIS is required for the General Management Plan Amendment (GMPA) that the Park Service is working on that will determine how ranching will be managed in the future, as well as the fate of Tule Elk at the national seashore.

A federal lawsuit over the NPS’s failure to update its 40-year-old General Management Plan before handing out 20-year leases to ranchers led to a settlement agreement in 2017. The settlement mandates that the National Park Service (NPS) update its management plan by 2021 and allowed ranchers to continue to graze cattle in these national parks in the meantime.

The purpose of the EIS is to assess the impacts of the beef and dairy operations to the park, including native plants, wildlife, air and water quality, and the visitor experience. At stake are a number of threatened and endangered plants and animals, and “species of special concern.”

The Park Service is under pressure to eliminate the herd of free-roaming Tule Elk that grazes near Drake’s Beach, adjacent to parklands leased to ranchers in the Seashore. The ranchers claim these free-roaming elk damage their barbed wire fences and compete with beef and dairy cows for grass. In addition to 20-year leases, the ranchers are seeking to expand their operations to include other chickens, goats, sheep and other livestock and to grow row crops. Rep. Jared Huffman wrote a bill last year that would have given the ranchers lifetime access to graze these national parks. Huffman’s bill would have short circuited the GMPA-EIS planning process and denied the public the opportunity to comment, but it failed to pass the Senate. Huffman recently signaled that he will try again if the Park Service doesn’t give the ranchers what they want.

The GMPA will guide the management of the Seashore and GGNRA lands for decades to come. By law, the public has the right to review and comment on the EIS and will have 45 days to do so once the draft is released. Learn more at go.nps.gov/pore/gmpa. Sign up for updates, and please submit your comments to the NPS when the Draft EIS comes out.

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In the midst of an urban population of more than 7 million people, Point Reyes National Seashore and its neighboring park, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, are unique fragments of wild California. Rare bunch grasses and wildflowers, Tule elk and spawning salmon are among more than 1,500 plant and animal species that depend on these national parks. Of these, more than 50 animal species and 50 plant species at Point Reyes Seashore are listed as rare, threatened, or endangered. Millions of visitors arrive annually to experience the wild Pacific coast, wind-swept grassy vistas, and landscapes that still hold remnants of what California looked like before European Contact. These national parks are at the center of a tug-of-war between public and private interests that soon will determine the future of these parks.

Ranching by the Numbers at Point Reyes National Seashore


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Parks in Peril

Political forces, climate change, pollution, and accelerating rates of extinction have converged to threaten the places we all own in common. The pressure is on to allow oil and gas development, mining, hunting, logging, and grazing in some of our most beautiful, biologically diverse, and historic places—national parks, monuments, wilderness, and recreation areas. Although we all support public lands through our taxes, private interests are increasingly emboldened to exploit them for private profit. To make matters worse, federal budget cuts have led to crippling staff reductions at a time when demand for outdoor recreation and visits to our national parks are at an all time high. How do we defend America’s heritage and ensure that national parks will be “unimpaired” for generations to come?

Read more about Threats to Parks and Public Lands


Why Restore Point Reyes?

Urbanization, livestock grazing, logging, and agriculture have fragmented California’s native landscapes. Less than one percent of California’s grassland is still intact today. Remnants of once-vast coastal prairies still exist at Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with the potential to recover the rich biodiversity that has been lost to decades of cattle operations. To provide refuge for wildlife; restore habitats for threatened and endangered species; improve water quality; provide educational and volunteer opportunities; sustain cultural traditions of native peoples; preserve America’s natural heritage—is this not what our national parks were created for?

Read more about the Benefits of Restoration

Overgrazed pasture at Point Reyes Seashore
Speak Up for Your Park

Does ranching further the purposes of the national seashore? Are park ranchers who sold their land entitled to permanently profit from it? Who benefits from ranching? Do those benefits outweigh impacts to the climate, land, wildlife, and public enjoyment of the national park?

We all are have a stake in the future of our public lands. Polls show that the public favors greater protection for national parks and monuments. But agricultural interests have opposed the scientific analyses and management planning that the Seashore needs and the public deserves. They are working behind the scenes to change the law rather than risk that a concerned public will derail their plans for the Seashore. That’s why it’s crucial to stay informed and to take part in the planning process.

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Tule Elk
What and Who are Parks For?

Private ranching on 28,000 acres at Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is heavily subsidized by taxpayers. Impacts from the 6,000 beef and dairy cows at these parks are well documented: soil erosion, water pollution, invasive plants, declines in fish and bird populations, conflicts with wildlife, loss of public access to public land. Native Tule elk, the iconic symbol of Point Reyes Seashore, are found in no other national park. Most of the elk are confined behind an 8-foot-high fence to keep them off parkland leased for cattle grazing. Now, ranchers at the national seashore are pushing to “diversify” their operations. They want to add more livestock like sheep, goats, and chickens, and grow row crops. This calls into question the purpose of our national parks.

What—and who—are our parks for?

Take Action

Under a 2016 court ruling, the Park Service must analyze the impacts of cattle to natural resources, wildlife, and recreation at Point Reyes Seashore and the adjacent Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The Park Service is required to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and update the Seashore’s 40-year-old General Management Plan (GMPA). The planning process gives the public a voice in deciding the future of these national parks. The articles, studies, and historical record assembled on this website are intended to inform and empower you to take action. Your comments are crucial to regaining the ecological balance and abundance of our national parks that are every Americans rightful heritage.

Join the NPS’s mailing list to be notified of public meetings and opportunities to comment.

Read more about the General Management Plan and view Public Comments to the initial scoping document.

Young naturalist