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.