Good News for Point Reyes National Seashore!

14th of Jul 2017

A Win for the West’s Only National Seashore
National Park Service agrees to complete a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement and update its General Management Plan for grazing on Point Reyes National Seashore.

Two years ago, Advocates for the West was approached by Huey Johnson of Resource Renewal Institute (RRI), a longtime environmental leader in California, who has long been upset about damage caused by ranching and industrial dairy operations at Point Reyes National Seashore – the West Coast’s only designated National Seashore. Located in Marin County, it is a popular destination for hikers and wildlife enthusiasts who enjoy sighting resident herds of native tule elk.

Huey Johnson was closely involved in helping raise money for the National Park Service to buy out all the ranching properties at Point Reyes in the 1970’s. Yet since then, the Park Service has been allowing ranch and dairy operations on 18,000 acres of the 71,000-acre Seashore without conducting any environmental analysis of grazing impacts to the land and natural resources, or to recreational values. In addition to damaging the scenic landscape, cattle have been competing with elk for food and water as a result of severe drought caused by climate change.

Advocates for the West responded by investigating and developing a federal court lawsuit, which we filed in February 2016 on behalf of RRI and long-time partners Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity. We were fortunate to recruit one of the country’s top law firms, San Francisco’s Keker, Van Nest & Peters, to co-counsel this high profile case with us.

After months of confidential negotiations, we just reached a settlement agreement with the National Park Service and local ranchers to improve management of this unique and beloved national treasure. The agency agrees to conduct a comprehensive environmental review to study impacts of ranching on the Seashore, and determine whether (and to what extent) beef and dairy operations will be allowed at Point Reyes in the future. This will be a public process and must determine whether ranching is compatible with the overriding requirement that environmental and recreational values not be impaired.

“Ranching conflicts with the natural environment of Point Reyes presents one of the most visible and contentious public lands issues that I have seen,” says Laird Lucas, Executive Director and one of the lead lawyers on the case. “This settlement is a strong step forward toward resolving those conflicts and protecting one of our nation’s treasures, the Point Reyes National Seashore.”

Our sincere thanks to Jeffrey Chanin and David Rizk of Keker, Van Nest & Peters, who partnered with us to represent RRI, Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project in this case.

Learn more about this precedent-setting case from one of the many recent articles to hit the news:

Los Angeles Times
Conservationists, National Park Service and Point Reyes ranchers reach settlement on disputed land

The Press Democrat
Granting of Point Reyes ranch leases halted in lawsuit settlement

San Francisco Chronicle
Ranchers allowed 5-year extension to graze cattle in Point Reyes National Seashore

Marin Independent Journal
Point Reyes ranching threatened in lawsuit settlement