Point Reyes pits farms against National Park Service

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In an epic battle that features 24 dairy farms, many ranches and the National Park Service, it’s anyone’s guess how, when, and even if, it will end. Point Reyes National Seashore is a 70,000 acre national park on California’s Point Reyes Peninsula. Here a battle has been brewing since 1962, when a Marin County Congressmen wrote the bill to establish the park that now welcomes nearly 2.5 million visitors per year. The park opened in 1972, purchasing dairy farms and cattle ranches, but then leased land back to the farm families.

The park, home to tule elk, harbor seals, and a viewing area for gray whales, is also a prime location for oyster farming and dairying. But the oyster harvest ended in 2012 when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar didn’t renew a 40-year lease to the Drakes Bay Oyster Company. The battle over the oyster farm remains in court.

Rare situation

There aren’t many other cases of commercial operations remaining within National Park Service (NPS) land. The difference at Point Reyes is that agriculture was supposed to stay, according to Congress. The L.A. Times reports that while farmers do have a lot of paperwork and red tape, NPS charges just $7 a month per cow/calf pair for grazing, though nearby private land ranges from $16 to $25 per pair. But currently, farming rights within the park must stay in the family.

But, despite the assurances, many Point Reyes farmers are convinced that the NPS employees want the farms to go extinct. The still lingering oyster case only adds ammunition to their thinking.

The few hundred elk on the peninsula now make their way into pastures reserved for cattle, but with the oyster dispute nearly behind them, the Times article says the park employees will now focus on building stronger relationships with the farmers and ranchers. But the farmers say they will wait to see if the park employees are worth trusting. 

Source: L.A. Times



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