Tag Archives: national parks

Trump rethinks America’s best idea

Tom Molanphy, SF WEEKLY

Nearly 98 percent of 2.4 million people surveyed told the government to leave our national monuments alone.

As soon as President Trump signed his executive order in April to review 27 national monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had his summer travel plans booked. Zinke would fish, kayak, and hike through our nation’s most beautiful landscapes to determine if they were better off being felled, drilled, or fracked. Six of the monuments set for review are in California: Berryessa Snow Mountain, Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequoia, Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and San Gabriel Mountains. But the Feds are not touching these Golden State treasures without a California-sized fight.

“This has been nothing short of a cynical assault on our country’s shared value of protecting our public lands,” Victoria Brandon, Chair of the Sierra Club’s Redwoods chapter, tells SF Weekly.

Any reduction — or in some cases, elimination — of these nearby monuments would affect the Bay Area.

Read more at: Trump Rethinks America’s Best Idea – By tom-molanphy – August 10, 2017 – SF Weekly

Filed under Habitats, Land Use

Op-Ed: An assault on our national parks

Jacques Leslie, THE DAILY WORLD

To learn what most endangers national parks, on the occasion this month of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, look no farther than Mojave National Preserve, a vast swath of exquisite desert panoramas halfway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. These days, national parks struggle with all sorts of urgent threats, such as climate change and deteriorating services and infrastructure as a result of underfunding, but Mojave’s biggest menace isn’t what’s happening inside the preserve, it’s what increasingly surrounds it.

Three industrial-scale solar farms adjacent to the preserve are already in operation, the Interior Department has approved a fourth, and a wind farm proposal is getting serious consideration. One of the solar farms, Ivanpah, made news recently for frying birds and setting itself on fire.

Soda Mountain, the solar project approved for construction on Bureau of Land Management land next to the Mojave preserve, would be the largest industrial site within 100 miles. It would isolate and possibly doom a portion of the desert’s depleted population of bighorn sheep, and like the other energy projects, it would be visible from the preserve. By generating enough renewable electricity for 86,000 homes, the project would address one environmental problem, climate change, while creating others: It would show that an energy project can be renewable without being green.

Read more at: Commentary: An assault on our national parks – The Daily World

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Land Use, Wildlife

Groups ask judge to halt Point Reyes National Seashore farm leases 

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Three environmental groups have asked a federal judge in Oakland for an order to halt the process of granting long-term leases to the cattle ranches operating on government-owned land at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The Resource Renewal Institute in Mill Valley, Oakland-based Center for Biological Diversity and the Idaho-based Western Watershed Project contend the National Park Service is moving to grant 20-year leases to the ranches without completing an assessment of their impact on the 71,000-acre national seashore, a popular wilderness destination visited by 2.5 million people a year.

The original lawsuit, filed in February, rattled ranchers whose families have been working on the windswept peninsula for generations.In the request for a court order filed last week, the groups said the Park Service intends to “short circuit” the case by completing a ranch management plan and issuing the leases, thereby denying the groups “any chance at meaningful relief.”

“The Park Service cannot simply predetermine that ranching should continue long-term at the national seashore without any public input or environmental study,” Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a press release.

The park is currently operating under an “antiquated plan” prepared 36 years ago with no environmental impact statement, the release said.

The environmental groups contend that decades of cattle grazing have trampled the seashore’s landscape and polluted its waterways. Huey Johnson, a former California secretary of resources who now heads the Resource Renewal Institute, has called the Park Service’s management of the ranches a travesty.

The Park Service, ranchers and their allies contend the agriculture and wildlands can coexist side by side. When the seashore was established in 1962, preserving the peninsula from development, it specifically included the historic ranches, marked by signs along the seashore roads.

Read more at: Groups ask judge to halt Point Reyes National Seashore farm leases | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use

Point Reyes ranchers at center of debate over nature of national parks

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Storm clouds shadowed Ted McIsaac as he shifted his battered 1994 Chevy pickup into four-wheel drive and bounced along a muddy track over hills cloaked in brilliant green grass.

His border collie Rollin trotted alongside while McIsaac made a morning recon of his 2,500-acre Point Reyes ranch to scan the slopes near and far for his 160 head of pure black cattle. To the west, the dark spine of Inverness Ridge framed the horizon, and 2 miles beyond winter surf pounded a wild coastline.

“You rely on Mother Nature. She rules your day,” said McIsaac, 65, a lean, sturdy man with a creased face and square jaw. A fourth-generation rancher, he’s accustomed to the vagaries of weather, especially spring rains that can make or break a cattleman.

But a much larger storm now hangs over the remote Point Reyes peninsula, where a legal fight triggered by three environmental groups has profoundly unsettled life for McIsaac and 23 other families who operate ranches on the federally protected landscape.

Theirs is a way of life often as rough as the relentless waves crashing at the edges of this timeless headland. And they believe the future of ranching is at stake in the 71,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore, where pasture for beef and dairy cattle exists side by side with wilderness, both shielded from development in a unique preserve established by the federal government at the ranchers’ behest more than 50 years ago.

President John F. Kennedy, convinced it was some sort of charmed West Coast Cape Cod, created the national park after ranchers and environmentalists fearful of intense development pressures banded together to stop the encroachment of subdivisions on Point Reyes.

As part of the deal, the ranchers insist they were made a promise specifically designed to endure: They could remain as long their families were willing to work in the wet, cold and wind of an unforgiving landscape.

Point Reyes National Seashore is now at the center of an unfolding dispute that ultimately seeks to define the nature of America’s national parks: Can the treasured public scenery accommodate the country’s ranching tradition?

Read more at: Point Reyes ranchers at center of debate over | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, Sustainable Living

‘Oyster War,’ what really happened to Drakes Bay farm

Leilani Clark, PRESS DEMOCRAT

The phrase “Save Our Drakes Bay Oyster Farm” was all over west Marin County in 2013. Hundreds of hand-painted signs were posted in shop and residential windows, along roads, on bulletin boards, and in and around Point Reyes, a rural coastal enclave 30 miles north of San Francisco. Spearheaded by west Marin’s Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture, the “Save Our Oyster Farm” campaign gave voice to neighbors and local organizations who wanted the family-owned farm in Drake’s Estero to remain open, at its historic location inside the boundaries of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Back then, the farm accounted for nearly 40 percent of California’s oyster production, and operated the last oyster cannery in the state. Notwithstanding legal proceedings litigated by a Koch Brothers-backed attorney, and support from Michael Pollan, Alice Waters, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the National Park Service did not extend the farm’s 40-year lease, and Drakes Bay Oyster Company closed in late 2014.

Journalist Summer Brennan stumbled onto the Drakes Bay Oyster Company fracas after being hired as a staff writer for the Point Reyes Light, a nearby local paper, in 2012. In short order, Brennan, a Point Reyes native who now lives in New York, was embroiled in the controversy, working late nights to discern fact from fiction, and clumsy science from sound policy.

“I found myself wedged between the National Park Service, wilderness advocates, and their defenders on one hand, and the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, the local agriculture, community and their supporters on the other . . .” she writes in her new book “The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America.”

Written in a style reminiscent of Rebecca Solnit — the San Francisco environmental writer with a keen ability for melding the poetic and the political — “The Oyster War” makes for a fast-paced and dramatic read about a messy situation with no clear-cut “bad guy.”

Read more at: ‘Oyster War,’ what really happened to Drakes Bay | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Land Use