Our members are families who have owned and operated small ranches within the pristine landscape that is now the Point Reyes National Seashore. These families’ history working their ranches spans back to the 1800s and they are proud to have partnered with the National Park Service to create the Point Reyes National Seashore in the 1960s. This partnership has provided our community with the unique opportunity to experience the thriving relationship of traditional animal husbandry, local food production, and undeveloped California coastline.
In February 2016, three special interest groups brought a lawsuit against the NPS which halted the NEPA process and threatened the rights of PRSRA families to continue to farm, live in and earn responsible livelihoods producing dairy and meat in the Seashore. We, as individuals rather than the Association, intervened on the side of the Seashore Superintendent Cicely Muldoon and the National Park Service in the case RESOURCE RENEWAL INSTITUTE (ET AL.) V. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.
We are pleased announce as of July 12th, 2017 that a settlement agreement has been reached with respect to the lawsuit (RESOURCE RENEWAL INSTITUTE (ET AL.) V. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE). In a temporary win for the 24 farming and ranching families who live and work the land in the Seashore, the settlement requires the National Park Service to issue five-year leases to the farmers, enabling them to continue their agricultural operations in the Point Reyes National Seashore (Seashore).
“I am encouraged that the ranchers, the plaintiffs, and the National Park Service have come together on a settlement that sets the stage for much needed long-term planning in the Point Reyes National Seashore,” said David Evans, a 4th generation organic & grass-fed beef rancher in the Point Reyes National Seashore and CEO of Marin Sun Farms. “Today, my ranch provides habitat for several threatened California native species including the California Red Legged Frog, is home to several native grasses, and provides pastoral habitat for an extremely diverse ecosystem. Issuing five-year leases, while still too short term to truly secure the viability of small scale ranching, is a step in the right direction towards long-term security for the families who, for generations, have made their livelihood growing food for our community and maintaining habitat for wild species here in the Seashore. I am also pleased that this agreement requires the National Park Service to complete the General Management Plan in these next five years. We look forward to the support of the general public through the review period of the planning process, and to securing at least twenty-year leases after this planning phase, thereby confirming the critical role that ranching plays in maintaining our thriving and beautiful working landscape.”
The multi-generational farming families of the PRSRA produce roughly 20% of Marin’s agricultural products, supplying cheese, milk, pastured eggs, meats and other valued local foods throughout the Bay Area and Northern California to customers including chefs, restaurants, food service, independent retailers and groceries throughout the region. Iconic local products dependent upon continued farming in the park include Marin Sun Farms, Straus Family Creamery, BN Ranch, Pt Reyes Cheese Company, Cowgirl Creamery, and more. The majority of PRSRA farmers practice organic agriculture and all are important contributors to the local, sustainable, farm-to-table food movement that is so valued by the people of Northern California, serving as a national model for responsible food production in sensitive environmental habitats.
In recognition of this, in late 2012, Ken Salazar, Secretary, US Department of the Interior, directed the NPS to “pursue extending permits to 20-year terms” for the PRSRA farms. The Director of the NPS then directed the Seashore to engage in a process pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to analyze farming activities. In 2014, the Seashore began the Comprehensive Ranch Management Plan Environmental Assessment, a public process intended to consider 20-year leases. At this point, the Seashore began issuing only 1-year term authorizations to PRSRA farm families.
The NPS has historically issued only 5-year leases to family farms at Point Reyes. However, longer term permits are necessary for continued good land stewardship, investments into capital projects such as fences and farm building repairs and the ability for the next generation of young farmers to be able to carry on the farming tradition.
The farmers and ranchers were key to the establishment of the Seashore in the 1960’s, with many families choosing to transfer their inherited land to the NPS to ensure it would remain protected from development. In return, upon the Seashore’s establishment, Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association families received rights from the federal government to remain on and operate their farms. This was in recognition of the families’ long and vital contributions to the historical, cultural, agricultural, and environmental attributes of the working landscapes at the Seashore. Since that creation of the Seashore, Association farmers have honored this relationship by working with the National Park Service (NPS) and the public to maintain the historical, cultural, and environmental qualities of Point Reyes for the visiting public’s enjoyment.
Public participation in the GMP update process will be key to the survival of Point Reyes Seashore family farming and to the protection of local food production. The farmers ask that local food advocates and any one who respects traditional family farming engage in the NEPA comment process to inform the National Park Service of their support of the continuation of farming in the Seashore.