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Protected California seascape, ranching: litigation unsurprising

It's a nationally designated seascape that shouldn't be undermined by cattle that freely graze across thousands of its acres, say various environmental groups.

Far from being that, counter a number of families, the seashore has allowed for ranching and grazing for 150-plus years and is a congressionally recognized right that merits protection from outside challenges.

That stark difference of opinion has unsurprisingly led to litigation in a federal court brought by a host of environmental organizations alleging that the National Park Service is breaking federal law by allowing ranching to exist on approximately 18,000 acres of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Those groups contend that federal regulators contravene numerous statutory laws by administering the seashore in a manner that continues to allow for ranching grants. As noted in a recent media article discussing the Point Reyes environmental law battle, authorities have recently issued more than 30 leases that allow for ranching across one large area of the park. The plaintiffs in the litigation maintain that the leases were unlawfully granted based upon officials' reliance on an outdated management plan.

Unsurprisingly, more than a score of ranching families disagree. They urge a repeal of any limit on grazing livestock within permitted areas, a leasing system that allows for continued family inheritance, and designation of their properties as world heritage venues.

Park authorities began development of a new management system in 2014, which the plaintiffs say should be guiding strategy now, in tandem with a number of existing federal regulations. More than 3,000 people have weighed in with opinions on the new development scheme.

The matter is passionately debated on both sides. We will keep readers informed of material developments in the case.

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