Lawsuit Challenges Cattle Ranches at Point Reyes National Seashore

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Some families operating ranches at Point Reyes have histories on the national parkland that date back to the 19th century. (Poppy/Wikimedia Commons)

The ranches that have long been a part of the landscape at Point Reyes National Seashore are now the target of a lawsuit that argues the cattle operations are causing serious environmental damage and that federal officials aren't doing enough to stop it.

"It's a question that comes down to whether we should have farming and agriculture in national parks," said Paul Rogers, KQED's managing editor of Science, who wrote about the lawsuit in the San Jose Mercury News.

Three environmental groups -- Mill Valley's Resource Renewal Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project -- are challenging a National Park Service plan to grant 20-year leases to Point Reyes ranches without first studying their impact.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, the groups say National Park Service documents show that ranching operations are having adverse effects, including impairing resources like water quality, wildlife and recreational uses.


The ranchers argue that they are an important part of Point Reyes history, with some families having worked on the peninsula since the 1860s. They point out that when the national seashore was established in 1962, there was an alliance between the ranching families and environmentalists who sought to prevent development in the area. Now that alliance seems to be over.

A National Park Service representative expressed support for continued ranching on Point Reyes.

"Ranching is here to stay at Point Reyes National Seashore," Melanie Gunn, a spokeswoman for the park, told Rogers. "It's an important part of our history and an active part of the seashore. The seashore wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the ranchers."