BLM seeks public comment of Environmental Analysis for Wild Horse Gather in Southeastern Utah

NOTE:  The link to documents in the BLM notice below isn’t working.  Here is a working link to the planning documents:  https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/planAndProjectSite.do?methodName=renderDefaultPlanOrProjectSite&projectId=93501&dctmId=0b0003e880e86803

News Release

Utah State Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 20, 2018

Media Contact: Lisa Reid  (435) 743-3128

BLM seeks public comment of Environmental Analysis for Wild Horse Gather in Southeastern Utah

Price, Utah—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Price Field Office is seeking public comment on an environmental assessment (EA) analyzing a proposed wild horse gather, removal and fertility treatment in the Muddy Creek Herd Management Area (HMA).

The Muddy Creek HMA is located in Emery County, approximately 20 miles south of Ferron, Utah, in the San Rafael Swell. It consists of approximately 283,400 acres of public and state lands.

The EA analyzes a proposal to gather and remove excess wild horses and apply fertility control between two and four times over a ten-year period. The EA, including maps, is available on ePlanning at: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front- office/eplanning/nepa/nepa_register.do; search for project name “Muddy.”

Written comments will be accepted by letter or e-mail until May 20, 2018. Special attention will be given to those comments that contain new technical or scientific information relevant to the proposed action. Comments should be as specific as possible. Comments that contain only opinions or preferences will not receive a formal response but may be considered in the BLM decision-making process. Please reference “Muddy Creek Wild Horse Gather Plan EA” when submitting comments.

Written comments may be mailed or e-mailed using the following:

Mail
BLM Price Field Office
Attn: Price Field Office Manager
125 S. 600 W. Price, UT 84501

E-mail
blm_ut_pr_whb@blm.gov

Those who provide comments are advised that before including their address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information, they should be aware that the entire comment – including the personal identifying information – may be made publicly available at any time. While those commenting can ask in their comments to withhold personal identifying information from public review, the BLM cannot guarantee that they will be able to do so.

For additional EA-specific information, please contact Mike Tweddell at (435) 636- 3600. Persons who use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) may call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339 to leave a message or question with the above individual. The FIRS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Replies are provided during normal business hours.

-BLM-

Follow us on Twitter @BLMUtah

Groups Rally for Public Lands, Protest Modesto ‘Range Rights’ Conference Featuring Ammon Bundy

Press Release from the Center for Biological Diversity

“Ammon Bundy and his fanatical followers are on a road show to incite division and hatred for our public lands…”

MODESTO, Calif.— Anti-government militant Ammon Bundy and other proponents of seizing federal public land from public ownership are scheduled to speak Saturday at Modesto Junior College as part of the annual Range Rights Symposium. Local residents will join members of the Center for Biological Diversity to rally for public lands during the event.

“Ammon Bundy and his fanatical followers are on a road show to incite division and hatred for our public lands,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Bundys are trying to grow a menacing fringe group that wraps itself in flags and cowboy hats to fool people into believing deranged and dangerous conspiracy theories. They’ve shown they’re willing to use force and intimidation to take what doesn’t belong to them.”

What: Rally outside Range Rights Symposium

When: 3 p.m., Saturday, April 21

Where: In front of the Ag Pavilion, Modesto Junior College — West Campus, Modesto, Calif.

Background
In 1998 and again in 2013, courts ruled that hundreds of the Bundy family’s livestock had been illegally roaming 750,000 acres of sensitive public land near the Nevada-Arizona line. The courts ordered that the cows be removed.

But when federal authorities attempted to remove the cows in 2014, the Bundys organized a dangerous armed standoff and intimidated the government into halting the operation.

Today much of the land the Bundy’s cows continue to occupy is protected as Gold Butte National Monument. Cliven Bundy, the patriarch of the family, owes more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees and fines, according to federal officials.

In January a federal judge in Nevada dismissed all charges against him and his sons related to the 2014 Bunkerville standoff.

In 2016 Ammon Bundy led an armed takeover and occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, which did significant damage to the refuge and divided the local community. Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants were acquitted by a jury in October 2016.

The Bundys and their followers have been emboldened by these recent court victories. They’re making appearances throughout the West to foment anti-public-lands sentiment and spread misinformation in an attempt to wrest control of public lands from the American people. The animals, plants and communities that rely on and cherish public lands are threatened if the Bundys’ radical ideology spreads.

Contacts: Ryan Beam, (928) 853-9929, rbeam@biologicaldiversity.org
Patrick Donnelly, (702) 483-0449, pdonnelly@biologicaldiversity.org

Wild Horse Hater Ryan “Dinkie” Zinke refers to himself as a geologist: That’s a job he’s never held

THE TRUTH #20 – National Park Service gives Mark Meyers of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue all of the wild burros in Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve

Wild Horse Freedom Federation issues THE TRUTH to share Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents and information with the public.  Be sure to subscribe HERE to Wild Horse Freedom Federation, so that you can receive email alerts.

THE TRUTH #20 – National Park Service gives Mark Meyers of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue all of the wild burros in Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve.

Wild horses and burros on National Park Service lands fell through the cracks on being protected when the Wild Free-Roaming Horses & Burros Act of 1971 was passed.

The National Park Service (NPS) is not paying Mark Meyers of Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue (PVDR) to remove all of the wild burros from Death Valley National Park and the Mojave National Preserve over the next 5 years.  NPS seems to just be signing a Memorandum of Understanding to give Mark Meyers/Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue an estimated 2,500 wild burros, the last remaining wild burros in this Park and Preserve, to do with as he will.  Mark Meyers has to come up with about $5 million to pay for this project.

NPS may have bypassed the U.S. Government’s contracting bidding process open to the public by just giving away the wild burros to Mark Meyers/Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue and only signing a Memorandum of Understanding.  However, in a 10/17/2017 email, Debra Hughson of NPS notes (in talking about Mark Meyers/Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue) “They appear to be worried about investing in this project and then us having someone come in and under cut them out of the process or directly competing with them.” 

Josh Hoines of the NPS initially contacted Mark Meyers about this project, but there was no mention in any of the FOIA records we received about any other burro rescue groups being contacted.

A rough draft of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is below, but it seems that this is still under review by the NPS legal team and is NOT a final version.  This is being posted so that the public can be aware of what is being considered at this point.

This MOU states “Upon capture, the NPS relinquishes any rights to the feral burros.”

Per this version of the MOU, Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue “Maintains detailed records of animals collected from the Park and Preserve.”  However, unless PVDR gives these records to the NPS, the detailed records, including the exact number of wild burros that are captured and removed, will not be available to the public with the Freedom of Information Act.

The bottom line is that the NPS is relinquishing any rights upon capture, and these burros become the property of PVDR.  The public will never have accountability regarding what happens to these wild burros down the line.

In an Aug. 3, 2017 email from Mark Meyers to Josh Hoines of NPS, Meyers states “Also, I have been contacted by a person that is interested in underwriting a large part of this project.  More details to follow.”

The big question about this is who would donate almost $5 million for about 2,500 wild burros, and more importantly, why?

Read the rest of this article and see the FOIA documents HERE.

 

Be sure to subscribe HERE to Wild Horse Freedom Federation, so that you can receive email alerts.

Read all of THE TRUTH and see other FOIA documentation HERE.

Donate here: http://wildhorsefreedomfederation.org/donate/

 

Feel Good Sunday: Benny the Therapy Donkey visits UT Law School

as published on The Statesman.com

“Leave it to the women of Wild Horse Freedom Federation to lead the way and shout volumes for the voiceless wild horses and burros.  Be it Debbie Coffey and her massive research and legal eagle stuff, Carol Walker out in the field documenting the beauty that is our wild equines, Terry Fitch behind the scenes keeping the books straight and donors informed to this week with our Director of Legal Affairs Dawn Reveley (also a law professor at the University of Texas) and our Director of Wild Burro Affairs, Marjorie Farabee…making news and ensuring that people, in this case law students, are getting the message.  Thanks to all of you for who you are and for what you do.  I am so privileged to call you my friends.” ~ R.T.


Click on Image to view video

Is the Government Destroying the American West Ecosystem by Favoring Cattle Over Wild Horses?

by as published on OneGreenPlanet.org

“Wild horses play a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem of the west balanced…”

Welfare Cattle herded into Antelope Complex as wild horses are being rounded up ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation


Imagine walking through a trail alongside the golden grasses of an open prairie in the Western United States when all of the sudden you are stopped frozen by the sound of a thunderous noise of hooves approaching from a distance. As you listen closely, you hear whinnying and soon, the herd is within your sight. With their power, grace, and majesty, horses can aesthetically make any landscape appear beautiful.

But horses also have a much greater purpose, as they help to physically maintain and benefit the health of prairie ecosystems. Millions of horses once roamed free in the Wild West. Unfortunately, by the time the first federal wild free-roaming horse protection law was enacted in 1959, the mustang population had already been drastically reduced. This law only prohibited hunting horses with the help of motor vehicles.

While the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is now the primary authority that manages wild horse populations. However, the BLM favors cattle interests over that of the wild horse which has lead to the steady decline of the wild horse population. Wild horses play a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem of the west balanced.

Managing Horse Populations to Benefit Cattle

In certain locations, natural horse predators, such as wolves, are now scarce and as a result, the BLM is “concerned” with regulating horse populations to avoid competition with land for domestic cattle. To manage the horses, the bureau issues roundups of wild horses to transfer them to a captive lifestyle. Their methods are often considered inhumane. For example, in 2014, the BLM poorly planned a roundup of approximately 800 horses from private and public lands. Ten died in the process, including four foals and the horses all experienced immense stress and discomfort (not to mention they lost one of the most valued ideals of America – freedom). Approximately 270,000 horses have been removed from U.S. land since 1971.

Furthermore, supply has exceeded demand for selling captured horses for an adoption fee of $125 and most horses end up at auction where they can be purchased for any use the buyer the wishes … sadly most of the time this means they are sold to slaughter for meat.

In order to validate their actions, the BLM has claimed that horses are overpopulating, while destroying critical habitat. Where is this evidence? Nobody knows … We do, however, have ecological evidence of how horses benefit their environment.

Horses Versus Cattle: Benefits of Horses for the Environment

While the BLM is concerned with avoiding grazing competition between wild horses and domestic cattle, there seems to be lack of attention toward addressing the impacts cattle are having on the environment. The ratio of cattle to wild horses on public lands is fifty to one. Wild horses are critical architects of the western ecosystem, so rather than wasting tax dollars funding roundups, if the BLM is really concerned with protecting public lands they should instead focus on protecting horses.

To illustrate the benefits of the presence of the wild horse, let’s look at comparison to how horses affect their ecosystem versus cattle.

1. Maintaining Grass 

While cattle do not have upper teeth and use their tongues to wrap around grass to pull it from the roots, horses only graze the tops of grass blades, allowing grasses to regrow in a healthier state.

2. Improving Soil Quality

Unlike cattle, horses are not ruminants and therefore, do not have four sections of their stomach. This means that their waste contains more nutrients. When horses defecate, they give back to the land through enhancing soil quality. Cattle operations often cause water pollution due to waste containing hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals, ammonia, and pathogens. Many animals depend on horse manure to help maintain soil moisture to prevent brush fires.

3. Use of Water Resources

While cattle enjoy chilling out by water sources, horses are respectful of their ecosystem. Instead of causing erosion and scaring away species diversity (like cattle do), horses tend to drink and move on, leaving minimal impact on stream habitats.

4. Grazing Habits

Since horses are travelers and cattle prefer to just hang out, horses do not exhaust grazing areas like cattle do. Horses are also picky about what they eat and avoid consuming pretty flowers, allowing wild flowers to survive. If a horse consumes seeds, they can still germinate after being passed and thus, horses act as important sources of dispersal for plant species.

5. Lending a Hand to Other Species

In cold climates, many animals will follow the path of horses in order to find access to food and water. The powerful hooves of a horse have the ability to break through ice, making streams once again potable for other animals. Furthermore, horses can make their way to grasses through deep snow, allowing other animals to also graze where horses have been.

Grazing cattle, on the other hand, pose a threat to 14 percent of endangered animal species and 33 percent of plant species as they encroach further into their territory.

Stop Roundups to Save Horses

Cattle are given priority over land because ranchers pay a tax to the BLM for every head of cattle they graze on public lands. The myth that the wild horse poses too much competition to cattle is a simple lie used to justify their systematic removal. It would not be far off to say that cows have become an invasive species in the West, leading to the downfall of keystone species who help to keep the native ecosystem healthy.

Brazil Debates Fate of Millions of Idled Donkeys

APODI, Brazil—The dependable donkey once did it all here in northeast Brazil, from hauling in the harvest to carrying children to remote schoolhouses. Now so many of these ubiquitous beasts of burden populate this vast swath of rural Brazil that they have become a problem—and for some, an opportunity.

Modernity and the skyrocketing sale of motorcycles have demoted the burro from its long-held status. Once cherished here for their hardy load-carrying, donkeys are increasingly seen as a nuisance as they saunter into traffic or munch greenery in people’s yards.

“Today, a donkey is born and nobody wants it,” lamented Eribaldo Nobre, 53, whose family used donkeys to lug fresh water home when he was a child. “Progress made this animal worthless.”

Enter China, where soaring demand for protein has put donkey meat on the menu. But Chinese consumers hanker after more than just the meat. They also have a growing craving for ejiao, a gelatinous substance made from boiled donkey hides, which is said to boost health, reverse aging and serve as an aphrodisiac.

Brazil, with 1 million donkeys and world-class slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants, is now looking to cash in. The plans to do so have touched off an emotional struggle between those who see donkeys as animals to exploit, even to consume, and those who want to protect what they see as a steadfast emblem of Brazilian rural life.

The front line of that fight lies here in the northeast, where 90% of Brazil’s donkeys can be found meandering among small farming communities.

“Donkeys are a symbol of Brazil’s northeast,” said Geuza Leitão, president of an animal-rights group in Ceará state north of here and author of “Your Excellency, The Donkey,” a book eulogizing the humble burro. “We want them to leave the donkey alone.”

A slaughterhouse focusing on donkey-derived exports to China is being built here just outside of Apodi, a town of 36,000 where donkeys often impede the very cars and motorcycles that made them obsolete. It will be the second donkey abattoir designed with the Chinese market in mind, after a facility in Bahia started small-scale donkey slaughtering last year in a pilot program that Brazilian and Chinese officials hope will soon expand.

“We want to open the door to this market as soon as possible,” said Luis Rangel, an official at Brazil’s Agriculture Ministry who oversees safety standards and has been working with Chinese officials to further exports. “We’re looking for new agricultural products, because we’re already champions in the traditional ones,” he added, referring to Brazil’s huge cattle industry.

Brazil hasn’t yet issued the sanitary licenses necessary to enable regular shipments of donkey products to China, nor has China approved the import of products from the two donkey slaughterhouses. But both sides are so confident that shipments of donkey products to China will begin later this year that they are already hatching joint plans to go beyond the current feral or semi-feral population and genetically improve donkeys, which have long gestation periods and don’t lend themselves to large-scale production like cattle.

The Chinese government and Dong-E-E-Jiao Co., one of the country´s largest ejiao producers, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In some parts of the world, China’s appetite for donkey meat and hides is viewed with revulsion. Several African countries that had been big providers of donkeys have recently prohibited donkey sales. According to a report by the Donkey Sanctuary, a British animal-rights group, those animals were often stolen before their skins were shipped to China.

The demand for ejiao has caused China’s own donkey population, once the world’s largest, to fall by nearly half to 6 million animals since 1990. More than 1.8 million donkey skins are traded annually, according to the Donkey Sanctuary, which estimates a market for some 10 million hides a year.

Some here see northeastern Brazil filling the void, but there is ample resistance to the notion in a place where people have a special place in their hearts for the burro. Singers have dedicated ballads to them in this region, where donkeys, not dogs, are considered man’s best friend.

José Sena de Lima, who is 96, still keeps three donkeys on the ranch where he lives near Apodi. When the family house was built in the 1930s, he said, his father had the help of two donkeys and a mule.

“If you didn’t own a donkey, you would often have to carry stuff on your own back,” said Mr. de Lima, who still talks about the animals with gratitude.

Adailton Torres Filho, 53, remembered how his baby sister, suffering from a nutritional deficiency, got stronger when their parents fed her donkey milk.

But there are also cautionary tales about the out-of-control population. Geneclayton de Gois Almeida, 40, a veterinarian, said his father was killed 20 years ago when his car hit a donkey lying on the road after having been hit by another vehicle. “In the northeast, we all know someone who was involved in a car accident somehow related to a donkey,” he said.

 Those hoping to save the animals from the slaughterhouse are seeking ways to make them worth more alive than dead.Adroaldo Zanella, a professor at the University of São Paulo veterinary and animal-science shool, is working with a student researching the viability of milking donkeys, with an eye taking advantage of the liquid’s high nutritional content and pleasant flavor to help infants with special nutritional needs and children who have trouble digesting cow’s milk.

“Donkey milk is very close to human milk in terms of nutritional value,” Mr. Zanella said, adding that it sells in Europe for 15 to 20 times more than cow’s milk. Given that donkeys can be had for free here, Mr. Zanella said, a startup farm to produce donkey milk could work in Brazil, too.

In Ceará state, where the road department spends nearly $1 million a year to collect burros and other animals wandering on roadsides, road superintendent Igor Vasconcelos Ponte said he was considering creating a visitation center for veterinary students and others interested in researching the animals on the ranch near Santa Quintéria where they are kept.

The ranch could even become a tourist attraction, he said, having noticed how Brazilians from other parts of the country like to pose for pictures when they see the donkeys here.

“It’s as if they were in Australia and found a kangaroo,” Mr. Ponte said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/brazil-debates-fate-of-millions-of-idled-donkeys-1523098801

Criticism grows over Ryan “Dinky” Zinke’s pick to head wildlife service

“”Putting Combs in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service is like appointing an arsonist as the town fire marshal,”

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is appointing a top critic of endangered species protections the head of the agency charged with protecting the critters, while moving to remove protections from nearly 300 animals.

Susan Combs was supposed to serve as Zinke’s undersecretary for policy, but because of holdups in the Senate, he has chosen to appoint her as the acting head of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The decision was taken last month, but news outlets began pointing out her hostility toward the Endangered Species Act on Wednesday. The Washington Post cited a statement in which she likened an animal being placed on the endangered list to a “Scud missile” — the weapon of choice of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Interior Department said Combs will serve as the acting assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife, until a deal can be reached to confirm her as the agency’s top policy official.

But that didn’t stop conservation groups and activists from pointing out Combs’ lack of compatibility with the goals of the Endangered Species Act.

“Putting Combs in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service is like appointing an arsonist as the town fire marshal,” said Stephanie Kurose, an endangered species specialist with the Center for Biological Diversity.

The group is suing the Trump administration for the harm posed to species by President Trump’s proposed border wall.

The group on Wednesday used the media attention gathering against Combs to underscore a proposed rule that it argues would remove protections from almost 300 species.

The proposed rule was sent to the Office of Management and Budget on Monday for preliminary review. The rule would remove the blanket application for the Endangered Species Act’s section 4(d) decisions, which are used by the Fish and Wildlife Service to designate a species as threatened. The 4(d) designation is typically one step away from listing a species as endangered under the law.

“The Trump administration just issued a death sentence to nearly 300 threatened species,” said Noah Greenwald, the conservation group’s endangered species director. “If enacted, this rule could be the end for iconic wildlife like the northern spotted owl and southern sea otter.”

Welfare Ranchers Get More Grazing Flexibility With New Program

as published on KUER.org

“More flexibility is code for relaxing or eliminating environmental safeguards and standards that are mandatory…”

Following Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke‘s repeated calls for more management of public lands, this spring the Bureau of Land Management is giving certain ranchers more say and options in grazing their cattle on public lands.

Say there’s a spring with lots of rain and the grass is long and lush into June. A rancher might want to let his cows graze on those lands longer than in a dry year. Right now, the rancher probably can’t do that. But in test projects in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado that’s changing.

“We get so tied up in rigid format and regulation, that we just couldn’t respond like we needed to,” said Ken Crane, a field manager with the BLM in Burley, Idaho. “It would frustrate everybody.”

Crane says flexibility is especially important after wildfires, when cows may need to be moved around.

But some environmental groups are skeptical.

“More flexibility is code for relaxing or eliminating environmental safeguards and standards that are mandatory,” said Erik Molvar with Western Watersheds Project.

The BLM is working with 11 ranchers across the West to pilot the program.

http://kuer.org/post/ranchers-get-more-grazing-flexibility-new-program#stream/0

The Sad Truth of Using Public Lands for Cattle Grazing

as published on The Hill

“There is no shortage of severe damage from livestock overgrazing on public lands in my home state of Wyoming…

Thanks to a legal settlement between conservation groups and the National Park Service, Point Reyes National Seashore has now stopped blindly rubber-stamping long-term dairy and beef grazing leases on public land, and the agency will write a general management plan that hopefully will guide this cattle-bitten area toward a more environmentally sustainable future. Today, about one-fourth of the National Seashore is committed to intensive, industrial-scale agriculture on public lands that by law is supposed to be managed for “public recreation, benefit, and inspiration.”

There is no shortage of severe damage from livestock overgrazing on public lands in my home state of Wyoming, but when I first visited Point Reyes a year ago, I was appalled to find that livestock operations have completely converted the native coastal prairies to closely-cropped lawns of European annual grass on the lands where they operate. In the Intermountain West, one can at least find remnant patches of native vegetation; on Point Reyes pastures, non-native grasses dominate.

On Point Reyes, the Park Service allows ranches to plow under the grasses across thousands of acres of National Seashore land to plant invasive weeds, wild mustard and white charlock, as “silage” to feed the cattle. Ground-nesting birds use these silage fields for nesting, and when they are mowed during nesting season, these birds and their chicks are often killed. Silage weeds spread from the fields where they are planted to invade the surrounding grazing lands, and even lands that have been closed to grazing.

And throughout the grazed pastures, mounds of invasive milk thistle spring up everywhere like clumps of contagion to put the sickness of the land on full display.

These pastures serve as supplemental feed for open-air feedlots that accumulate piles of manure taller than a basketball player on Park Service lands. The manure is then liquefied and sprayed all over the tops of the bluffs, where the sea breezes waft the pungent sewage scent throughout the National Seashore.

It is a well-known fact that livestock operations produce significant amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Converting deep-rooted perennial grasses native to the region to shallow-rooted annual grasses from Europe in livestock pastures also depletes the land’s ability to sequester carbon. While ranchers claim they’re trying to reduce their carbon footprint, in reality livestock removal is a far more effective option from a climate change standpoint.

Meanwhile, the rare tule elk has been reintroduced at Point Reyes, and is starting to make a comeback. But the main population is imprisoned on a 2,600-acre spit of land called Tomales Point behind an eight-foot-tall fence, designed to keep elk away from the livestock operations. While there is plenty of fog on the central California coast, rainfall can be scarce at times. Drought conditions between 2012 and 2014 caused mass die-offs of elk at Tomales Point due to lack of available water (and perhaps dietary deficiencies due to the absence of diverse soil types on this small peninsula), in which 250 elk perished.

Add this problem to E. coli contamination of streams, estuaries, and even beaches, throw in miles of fences that entangle wildlife, and top it all off with the loss of threatened and endangered plants and wildlife from the coho salmon to the Myrtle’s silverspot butterfly, and commercial livestock operations are revealed as completely incompatible with the conservation requirements of the National Seashore.

The livestock industry is now scrambling to try to characterize modern beef and dairy operations as “historic ranches” that should be protected. Though they get some credit for being organic, they are still doing a tremendous amount of environmental damage to the lands, waters, and wildlife of the area.

Between 1962 and 1978, every single one of the private ranches on the National Seashore was bought up at fair-market value by the National Park Service, with the intention to phase out commercial agriculture. Beef and dairy operations were paid a total of $57.7 million to sell their lands to make way for a National Seashore, and in 2018 dollars, that’s an average of $12.5 million apiece. The Park Service even offered a bonus to sweeten the deal: “life estates,” which allowed the former ranch owners to stay on in houses owned by the Park Service, and run their livestock operations on leased National Seashore lands for a 25-year period.

Today, almost all of the life estates have run their course, and it is time for the agricultural operations to live up to their end of the bargain. Private lands abound in the surrounding region, making it relatively simple to relocate a ranch operation. It must be hard to give up the highly privileged lifestyle of living in National Park Service housing by the sea. But it’s time to phase out ranching and phase in the native grazers — the tule elk — just as the Park Service committed to do in its 1998 Tule Elk Management Plan.

Meanwhile, the fate of the one real historic ranch on the National Seashore — the Pierce Point Ranch — offers hope for a better future. Here, livestock were removed in 1973, never to return. These lands became the Tomales Point elk preserve. On the elk preserve, the rare native coastal prairies are returning, bringing an abundance of wildlife with it.

In place of stinking, degraded pastures dominated by invasive weeds, visitors now can enjoy a natural coastal landscape. It’s a gorgeous contrast to the degraded livestock zone, and provides a glimpse of what a recovered National Seashore will look like.

Point Reyes National Seashore is within an easy day’s drive of 7 million local residents, and already receives more than 2 million visitors a year. The agriculture industry controls the lands that are the gateway for most recreational visitors. In one of America’s most densely-populated regions, public lands with high recreation value are in short supply. We can no longer afford to saddle scenic National Park Service Lands with ugly, smelly, and high-impact agricultural operations. By tearing down the fences and returning these livestock-damaged lands to nature under the new General Management Plan, Point Reyes can take its rightful place as a second Yellowstone along the California coast, and a jewel in the crown of the National Park system.

Erik Molvar is a wildlife biologist and executive director of Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit conservation group working to protect wildlife and watersheds on western public lands. Western Watersheds Project was a plaintiff in the case that resulted in a settlement preventing long-term livestock leases on these Park Service lands and requiring a new Point Reyes General Management Plan.