Dear Speaker Pelosi,
We are writing to express our concerns about the General Management Plan Amendment under consideration for Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), two national parks in Marin County, California.
Designated an International Biosphere Preserve by the United Nations, the Point Reyes National Seashore and adjacent GGNRA serve as vital refuges for more than a hundred federally listed species. Under pressure from this pro-industry Administration, politically connected ranchers, and the impacts of climate change, these unique and biologically important public lands may be lost to present and future generations they were meant to serve.
The National Park Service’s (NPS) proposed plan, now pending, would instate 20-year leases to the benefit of 24 commercial ranchers at the expense of wildlife, vital ecosystems and some 2.5 million annual visitors who seek recreation and renewal in these rare and beautiful coastal lands.
Ranchers in the park pay token rents, discounted grazing fees and no property taxes, giving them a competitive advantage over ranchers outside the park. Despite being heavily subsidized these ranches struggle to be viable. A surplus of milk and lower demand for beef has led the ranchers to push the NPS to allow them to diversify—growing commercial crops and raising sheep, pigs, chicken and turkeys in the park, in addition to cattle—livestock certain to create conflicts with wild predators. Cougars, coyotes, bobcats, badgers and raptors are among the native wildlife in the park.
Ranching and dairying in the parks contributes $16 million to the local economy, compared to $100 million annually generated by tourism in the Seashore.
The only national seashore on the West Coast, Point Reyes was acquired for millions of public dollars six decades ago with the understanding that the ranchers would leave the park after 25 years or the death of the rancher or spouse. The park has withstood continuous cattle grazing since it was purchased by and for the public. The Secretary of the Interior has the discretion whether or not to allow these public lands to be leased for commercial ranching operations.
Climate change, the accelerating loss of species, diminishing fresh water supplies, polluted marine environments, and decreasing demand for beef and dairy products deserve careful consideration before recommitting some 28,000 acres of national parkland to private, extractive use. The need for close-to-home outdoor recreation has grown, stoked by a deadly pandemic; as has awareness of unequal access to parks and recreation by minorities.
The public has submitted more than 7,600 comments to the Park Service’s plan for ranching at the Seashore and GGNRA. More than 90 percent of these public comments oppose ranching and killing native wildlife—rare Tule elk—to make cattle ranching profitable.
Decisions now will determine the future of our national seashore for generations to come. We ask that you resist pressure to advance any legislation that will benefit the privileged few who claim ongoing entitlement to the public lands for which they were generously paid, and instead restore the Seashore to the public purposes for which national parks were created.
Thank you for preserving our national parks and wildlife.