Our Own Backyard


A few months ago I saw a link to a movie shown on YouTube titled The Shame of Point Reyes by Skyler Thomas. The movie is very well done and all the information included is of public record.

I am a longtime Sonoma County resident and cannot understand how I was so unaware of this situation unfolding at Point Reyes National Seashore. Specifically, a proposed plan would allow ranchers to increase their leases to 20 years and the National Park Service to potentially kill the Tule elk due to “overgrazing.” This is the same native elk herd that was almost wiped out of extinction, and who are now thriving. So, which species will be next for the chopping block? If the ranches get their way and also introduce sheep and chickens, then probably the bobcat, coyote and fox. For sure, this will not end with the elk.

I learned that back in the 1960s the ranchland was purchased from the ranchers for $350 million. The ranchers were given 25 years to wind down operations and vacate the land. So, why are they still there?

I don’t think anyone would have noticed a small herd of cows, but greed took over—there are now 5,000 cows at Point Reyes National Seashore. They are degrading the land, wiping out wildlife habitat and native plants. The livestock-polluted water of Point Reyes ranks in the top 10 percent of U.S. locations most contaminated by feces indicated by E. coli bacteria. But even so, the National Park Service is still considering extending the leases.

The National Parks Service is to deliver its Record of Decision around spring, 2020. Once that decision is made, there will be no vote; our land will once again be at the mercy of the cattle ranchers. This is such an important issue, especially as a lot of residents depend on the agricultural industry. However, this is our land and it is an environmental and wildlife issue. Why can’t it be managed in a better way? Why can’t elected officials earn their pay by sorting this out, instead of giving in to pressure and the highest bidder?

I would encourage you to educate yourselves by watching The Betrayal of Point Reyes (a 13-minute version of the movie, The Shame of Point Reyes), then call Mr. Huffman and ask why he is complicit in giving away and destroying this spectacular part of the world.

Kay Wood

Santa Rosa

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  1. Yes, this is a real shame! I love the natural beauty of Point Reyes Seashore and cattle agriculture are heading us down the wrong path. We, as taxpayers, own this land cattle ranchers do not! The tule elk have been here for over 30 years, let’s protect them.

  2. Well said Kay, and thank you for bringing this issue to light. I will definitely be educating myself on this topic.

  3. Well said Ms. Wood. As a local I’ll make sure to see the film and tell friends and neighbors about it too.

    Many thanks for bringing this to our attention!

  4. Having hiked Pt. Reyes extensively and watched both of these film, I’ve also reached the appalling conclusion that our National Park Service has sold out our public lands to further private industry and that Jared Huffman is not only aware of this but is complicit in the fact that he’s cosponsored this deal to lengthen and extend the ranching activities. This is nothing short of a land-grab and I do not understand how self-purported ‘environmentally-friendly’ residents of Marin County are allowing this to happen.
    Further facts that cannot be disputed – all taken from public record:
    • Ranching actions and activities have decimated native plants, destroyed the landscape & severely impacted one hundred native plant and animal species listed as rare, threatened, and endangered.
    • Livestock are contaminating the watershed spreading disease and placing the waters of Point Reyes National Seashore in the top 10% of U.S. locations most contaminated by feces indi-cated by E coli
    • Privately owned livestock are spreading exotic weeds for livestock forage, helping to erode the native biodiversity of the park further.

    I believe we should reclaim this public land, let the ranchers continue their private businesses on private land as they were paid to do so many years ago and restore this place to its original purpose of preserving the natural landscape, environment and wildlife.

    Pt. Reyes is the only National Seashore on the West Coast of the U.S. – it is our duty to protect and preserve it for future generations.

  5. It is so important to save our wildlife. If the the elk need more space then some of the dairies should be encourage to relocate when their leases are done ,hopefully to west Sonoma/Marin.

  6. A deal is a deal, and these ranchers got a very good deal when they were paid for their land and given 25 years to come up with a Plan B, but they didn’t move. They should have been gone by the mid-80’s, but no, they just keep asking for – and getting – more extensions. Now they want a big extension and to expand their operations. What next – petting zoos? B&B’s? – in a national park!! Most people don’t want to see cows and chickens when they go to a national park. They much prefer to see wildlife, especially the beautiful Tule Elk. Dairy is NOT expanding in this country. One reads in the paper on a regular basis how dairy farms are failing as the public is endorsing plant based milks. It’s time for these ranchers to take their cattle and go. Jared Huffman – a former environmental law attorney – has gone to the dark side in supporting these ranches. One wonders why. Surely he doesn’t have any serious opposition in the next election. Shame on him.

  7. Who will benefit from continuing to allow ranching on public land? It will not be the ecosystem that includes water, native wildlife and plants—not to mention the grace that we have of being in unspoiled nature.

  8. Thank you for this important and critical letter Kay Wood and for bringing this issue the attention needed to address the National Parks decision. It’s sadly a decision based on money to the benefit of the cattle ranchers and is shameful for California. Here’s also to Skyler Thomas for her thoughtful and critical film on raising awareness of our national lands for all. Terrific letter Kay Wood.

  9. This is so disheartening. I too have heard about this. There is no reason our national park should be supporting a dairy ranch that is not sustainable and causing a detriment to our environment. We, our animals and the land deserves better.

  10. It’s just not a fair deal, why should the native Elk have to suffer?
    And what the dairy cows have done to our pristine waterways! Come on, California,
    we can do better and not have this legacy for OUR treasured national park!

  11. I’m so glad this important debate is getting the coverage it deserves – thank you Kay Wood for your insightful commentary. I for one think it’s high time that we value native species such as these enough to allow them the right to live natural lives, above the economic concerns of the cattle and dairy industries, whose practices contribute to the destruction of natural parklands. I would hope that local politicians would be moving more in the direction of supporting the natural ecology of places like Point Reyes.

  12. Ranchers always seem to get preferential treatment in this country. I used to go camping at Point Reyes years ago, its an incredible place and so close to the city. It’s a shock to me that in the Bay Area, a place that is usually so aware of our impact on the environment, that this is happening but it seems ranchers wield a lot of power and something about that needs to be done. Cattle do not belong on Point Reyes.


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