The National Park Service (NPS) has started their General Management Plan Amendment (GMPA) process for the Point Reyes National Seashore (Seashore). In October, NPS released the GMPA Newsletter that provided the public with information on how they propose to integrate changes to ranching in the pastoral zone of the Seashore.
The proposed Concepts range in land-use intensity and natural resources management including: no ranching, limited ranching, continued ranching with removal of the tule elk, and no changes. The Conceptual Alternatives provide limited information about best management practices, creation of resource protection buffers, management of tule elk, diversification, operational flexibility, visitor carrying capacities, and improved visitor experiences. Some of these terms need to be expanded and explained in further detail. In addition, the Concepts propose various modifications to the type and amount of ranching acreage occurring on NPS lands. Ultimately, this leaves room for more questions than answers.
EAC's Guiding Principles:
EAC remains committed to our guiding principles to ensure the protection and preservation of natural resources, restoration of degraded habitats and park resources, and maximum public access to parklands. The General Management Plan Amendment must protect, restore, and preserve park resources using ranch leases that ensure multi-generational, environmentally sustainable ranching is complementary to the natural resources and visitor experiences within the park. This may be achieved through a comprehensive public planning process that balances the unique qualities of the park resources within the pastoral zone.
EAC understands that the Concepts presented by NPS to the public marks the commencement of a process to engage public feedback and ideas. Therefore, the public should not be constrained or feel pressure to support a specific Concept.
EAC advises our members to use this comment period to seek clarification, question the choices in the Concepts, present information that is missing, and offer your thoughts on how things could be done. Below are a few of EAC's concerns and suggested questions for each topic.
1. Protection of Natural Resources:
Based on NPS management policies, what criteria and processes will the Seashore utilize to ensure the preservation of natural resources and the prevention of habitat degradation in the pastoral zone?
Diversification is an inherently confusing term that needs to be defined so that the public understands that it could bring a dramatic shift of commercial land use within the Seashore. Without a definition or context it is difficult to comment on what this term means. EAC understands ranching operations are limited to dairy and cattle ranching as intended by the enabling legislation. Therefore, EAC does not support the commercial conversion of pastoral land to uses other than dairy or cattle ranching.
3. Tule Elk
The Seashore is the only national park with a native population of tule elk. The Elk have been prevalent in the Bay Area and Marin for thousands of years, long before their extirpation in the 19th century. The Elk are park of the Seashore's natural resources, just like the seals and whales, and are an important part of the ecosystem. Considerations to manage Elk populations should be made based on the context of park policies that manage other natural resources. The Concepts all reference some type of "management" strategies for the Elk herds. EAC does not support culling the herds.
4. Climate Change
Climate change will impact park resources in the near future in many ways: to mention a few, sea-level rise, average temperature changes, changes in average rainfall totals, and distribution of native species. These impacts will alter the Seashore. For example, areas that border beaches and estuaries will experience increased flooding and migration of boundaries into the pastoral zone. This includes marine wilderness areas like Drakes Estero and Abbotts Lagoon that will eventually migrate into the pastoral zone. How will the Seashore manage these changes?
- Remember, the Concepts are not limited by what NPS has suggested.
- You do not need to support a specific alternative at this time. Some important items and definitions are missing. In fact, you can propose a new alternative they may not have considered.
- This is the time to ask NPS questions, including their criteria for determining what is included and why.
- Finally, if you don't like something explain why you do not like it.