Rep. Huffman introduces bill to switch Point Reyes priority from public enjoyment to industrial agriculture
For Immediate Release
August 31, 2018
Deb Moskowitz, Resource Renewal Institute, 415-928-3774
Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project, (307) 399-7910
POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. – This week, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA, 2nd Dist.) joined Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) to introduced a bill that would fundamentally reverse National Park Service management of Point Reyes National Seashore to prioritize the livestock industry over public uses and interests. The bill, H. R. 6687, would redirect the Secretary of the Interior to manage the National Seashore “to maintain working dairies and ranches on agricultural property as part of the seashore’s unique historic, cultural, scenic and natural values, and for other purposes” instead of prioritizing management of these lands for public recreation and benefit.
Rep. Bishop is a founder of the Federal Lands Action Group, a caucus of extreme-right politicians in Congress seeking to eliminate federal public lands by turning them over to the states. He led efforts to eliminate Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, and introduced a Utah Public Lands Initiative bill that ultimately died after it was roundly condemned by conservationists for its giveaways to the fossil fuel and agriculture industries.
“It’s shocking that Rep. Huffman would team up with anti-public lands zealot Rob Bishop to undermine the public planning process already underway at Point Reyes, hand these public lands over to ranch and dairy operations that have already been paid to get off the Park, and turn a blind eye to the ecological damage this land use is doing to this special place,” said Chance Cutrano, Director of Strategy at Resource Renewal Institute “This brazen scheme to transfer control of National Park lands to the livestock industry would make Cliven Bundy proud.”
Huffman and Bishop’s proposed rewrite of the enabling legislation undermines the original intention of Congressional creators of Point Reyes to buy-out and phase out ranching upon the expiration of the historic leases.
“This is a completely dishonest piece of legislation because Congress never intended to maintain commercial agriculture on Point Reyes National Seashore indefinitely,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “The original legislation provided for the buy-out and eventual transition of ranching to natural, native ecosystems on Point Reyes, and instead of managing these public lands ‘consistent with Congress’ longstanding intent,’ Rep. Huffman fully intends to reverse this by making fundamental changes to the law.”
The original Point Reyes legislation, passed in 1962, authorized the buy-out of all commercial beef and dairy ranches on Point Reyes, and ordered the new National Seashore to be managed “[i]n order to save and preserve, for purposes of public recreation, benefit, and inspiration, a portion of the diminishing seashore of the United States that remains undeveloped.” This legislation further specified that Point Reyes would be managed under the terms of the National Park Service organic act. After the lands were purchased, Congress generously allowed the ranchers to stay on the lands they had sold to create the National Seashore for the lifetime of the original ranchers. In 1978, supplemental legislation further extended the leasing of Park Service lands to ranchers for terms specified to last no more than 25 years.
“Representative Huffman’s bill is a cynical attempt to throw a wrench into this open and democratic process for the benefit of a tiny special interest group of dairy ranchers who have long enjoyed such preferential treatment as below-market land leases, taxpayer-supported services and exemptions from environmental requirements,’” said Deborah Moskowitz, President of Resource Renewal Institute. “It threatens and undermines the very purpose of our National Parks ‘to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
The bill orders the Park Service to eliminate herds of native Tule elk that have become established on Park Service lands where ranching and dairy operations occur. The legislation states, “In areas of agricultural property where Tule Elk present conflicts with working ranches or dairies, the Secretary shall manage the Tule Elk to ensure separation from the working ranches or dairies.”
“Tule elk are native to the original coastal grasslands of Point Reyes, and when abandoned ranches have turned over to Tule elk, the land heals and the native vegetation returns,” said Huey Johnson, Founder and Chair of Resource Renewal Institute. “Tule elk are extremely rare and they belong on Point Reyes, whereas cattle are a non-native, species that has no place in a native coastal grassland, and in fact converts healthy native plant communities to invasive weeds.”
The bill also circumvents the public process for the new General Management Plan currently under development at Point Reyes National Seashore, which is required by judicial order. This General Management Plan requires public input, must take a hard look at the ecological impacts of various land uses (including a number of severe impacts from commercial agriculture), and must consider a range of alternatives, including phasing out commercial agriculture. The bill’s language requiring the agency to issue 20-year permits to the ranchers at Point Reyes National Seashore ignores the broad public interest in protecting the lands for native wildlife, including Tule elk, and thwarts the opportunity for the Park Service to consider a range of management alternatives.
“Visitors come to Point Reyes seeking a wild part of the coastline of California, in order to view wildlife, walk on sand beaches, and tour dramatic ocean cliffs unhindered by private property and development, said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “They do not come here to see herds of cattle on overgrazed weed plots. The public needs to be included in decisions made about this National Park unit gem.”
Visit RestorePtReyesSeashore.org to learn more.