National Park Service Hit with Lawsuit Over Point Reyes Ranching Decision – Legal Reader

A lawsuit was filed against the National Park Service earlier this week after is decided to extend agreements with dairy farmers and cattle ranchers at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The National Park Service was recently hit with a lawsuit over its decision to “extend agreements with dairy farmers and cattle ranchers at Point Reyes National Seashore.According to the environmental groups who filed the suit, the decision is a “giveaway to the cattle industry.” 

U.S. National Park Service Logo
U.S. National Park Service Logo; image courtesy of U.S. government, National Park Service via Wikimedia Commons,

The suit was filed earlier this week in U.S. District Court by the Resource Renewal Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Watersheds Project. According to the complaint, the “use of tens of thousands of acres for commercial agriculture at the protected national park is antithetical to the park’s purpose as detailed in the Point Reyes Act.”

The National Park Service announced a decision back in September to “extend leases for 20 years on 18,000 acres of the 71,000-acre park.” However, the environmental groups noted that the decision “conflicts with the vast majority of public comments on record, and will also continue negative impacts on the park’s dwindling tule elk herd.” When commenting on the matter, Deborah Moskowitz, president of the Marin County-based Resource Renewal Institute, said:

“This plan is a giveaway to the cattle industry…It perpetuates decades of negligence by the very agency charged with protecting this national treasure. The Trump administration fast-tracked the plan without regard for the climate crisis or the hundred rare, threatened, and endangered species that depend on this national park.”

Ranching is big business in the area and has been since the 1800s. Today, six dairies in the region that take up about 20% of the park. The ranching operations also have about 2,500 cows spread out over the area, causing an issue for environmental groups. In fact, the plaintiffs and other environmentalists often blame cattle ranching for contributing to watershed pollution and destroying “natural habitat for elk herds and other animals.” They also argue that cattle ranching causes climate change due to the methane emissions from cows.

Jeff Miller with the Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity said:

“The Park Service has long mismanaged Point Reyes by allowing ranchers to use and abuse the park for private profit…Point Reyes belongs to the public, not a handful of ranchers. It’s time to manage the park the way Congress intended when it passed the Point Reyes Act — for public benefit and protection of the natural environment.”

So far the National Park Service has pushed back against the allegations and cited “decades of Congressional support for beef and dairy ranching on lands.” It added that “ranching remains an appropriate use of parklands.”

In a similar suit, the National Park Service said “active ranchers help protect the pastoral character of the districts, which is consistent with the purposes of the park as articulated by Congress. Continued multi-generational ranching under the selected action will therefore have direct and cumulative beneficial impacts on cultural landscapes, historic districts, and historic structures.”


Environmental groups target Point Reyes ranching in new lawsuit

Lawsuit: Point Reyes elk, ranch plan violates federal laws

Related Articles