Future of Point Reyes cattle ranches at stake in National Park Service planning process

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The future of cattle ranching and herds of tule elk in the Point Reyes National Seashore is at stake in a policy-setting process that will culminate in four years and is already attracting thousands of public comments.

The National Park Service, which manages the sprawling seashore on the Marin County coast, has received about 2,800 comments on a list of six tentative management alternatives, including one that maintains the status quo for 24 families engaged in beef and dairy cattle ranching and three others that would eliminate or reduce ranching.

That trio of alternatives was required by a settlement agreement between the Park Service and three environmental groups that sued the agency nearly a year ago alleging decades of cattle ranching had trampled the seashore’s landscape and polluted its waterways, claims that the long-established ranchers and Park Service rejected.

Two other alternatives — including one designated the Park Service’s “initial proposal” — would continue cattle ranching under 20-year permits, replacing the annual permits currently being issued to ranching families. Under the one-year deals, the families cannot afford to pay or borrow money for maintenance, causing properties to deteriorate, ranching advocates say.

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