11-20-14 West Marin Citizen: Chilling Parallels [PRNS and Santa Rosa Island]

“The EAC scoping letter should be read very carefully…..

For example, the group’s comment letter asserts that EAC “supports the incorporation of BMPs (Best Management Practices) into the 20-year leases. How will the Seashore measure success of each BMP? One management practice that is necessary is to transition cattle out of the wetlands and headwaters of all the bays of Drakes Estero. These sensitive areas should be fenced off to maintain water quality and only allow flash grazing as necessary and based on set protocols.”

On what basis does Amy Trainer, a lawyer/activist with no natural resource management credentials, claim authority on the topic of ranching Best Management Practices? What drives her certainty that “flash grazing,”  or any other specific rangeland management practice, is “necessary”—even before the Ranch CMP is completed?

Trainer’s call for fencing off “sensitive areas” brings up memories of Santa Rosa Island, where a first step toward eliminating ranching was the fencing off of cattle from Snowy Plover habitat.

According to an article in Range magazine, this fencing action was justified by one instance in which one cow might possibly have stepped on one bird.

In the Range article, former Santa Rosa [Island] Park Superintendent Tim Setnicka describes this unnecessary fencing as one of the “jackhammer” tactics used by the Park Service against the ranchers.

Another tactic he discusses is the “good cop/bad cop” technique, in which the Park Service leaked information to other agencies and environmental groups—information that then showed up in lawsuits against the NPS; suing the Park Service rather than the ranchers, provided NPS with political cover for its actions against the ranchers.  Citizen readers know all too well how that story ends.

“…baseless concerns about ranching impacts, seemingly unlimited government funds, cattle exclusion without ecological rationale, failure to consider a truly collaborative approach that could benefit both the cultural and natural resources of the park;  the parallels with Santa Rosa Island are chilling.

Let’s not let it happen here again.”

Opinion

Chilling Parallels

by  Sarah Rolph

 

In her opinion piece in these pages last week (“EAC Supports 20-year agricultural leases in Point Reyes National Seashore,” November 13, 2014), Amy Trainer contends that the organization she works for, the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (EAC), supports the ranching community on Point Reyes. As evidence, she cites excerpts from several letters to the editor, and from the EAC public-scoping letter about the Ranch CMP.

The EAC scoping letter should be read very carefully.

Even the snippet included by Trainer in her op-ed—presumably the strongest example she had—qualifies the group’s support, saying, “EAC strongly supports a Ranch Plan, and resulting 20-year leases, that strikes this important balance.”  That’s the “balance” between “historic ranching and dairy operations” and the protection of “national park resources and wildlife.” With this seemingly benign statement, Trainer declares her commitment to maintaining the dysfunctional duality that has defined resource management policy at PRNS since its inception.

The EAC scoping letter is full of such platitudes, reflecting a fundamental lack of understanding of the unique ecosystem management opportunities PRNS has squandered for over half a century.

For example, the group’s comment letter asserts that EAC “supports the incorporation of BMPs (Best Management Practices) into the 20-year leases. How will the Seashore measure success of each BMP? One management practice that is necessary is to transition cattle out of the wetlands and headwaters of all the bays of Drakes Estero. These sensitive areas should be fenced off to maintain water quality and only allow flash grazing as necessary and based on set protocols.”

On what basis does Amy Trainer, a lawyer/activist with no natural resource management credentials, claim authority on the topic of ranching Best Management Practices? What drives her certainty that “flash grazing,”  or any other specific rangeland management practice, is “necessary”—even before the Ranch CMP is completed?

Trainer’s call for fencing off “sensitive areas” brings up memories of Santa Rosa Island, where a first step toward eliminating ranching was the fencing off of cattle from Snowy Plover habitat.

According to an article in Range magazine, this fencing action was justified by one instance in which one cow might possibly have stepped on one bird.

In the Range article, former Santa Rosa [island] Park Superintendent Tim Setnicka describes this unnecessary fencing as one of the “jackhammer” tactics used by the Park Service against the ranchers.

 

Another tactic he discusses is the “good cop/bad cop” technique, in which the Park Service leaked information to other agencies and environmental groups—information that then showed up in lawsuits against the NPS; suing the Park Service rather than the ranchers, provided NPS with political cover for its actions against the ranchers.  Citizen readers know all too well how that story ends.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the Ranch CMP public scoping comments, and the good cop/bad cop routine is exactly what comes to mind.

The seemingly conciliatory letter from the EAC suggests they are playing the Good Cop role here—for now. (So, apparently, is the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), an organization that’s known for its lawsuits against the Park Service, and which has in the past taken positions against ranching in Point Reyes.* The NPCA didn’t send an independent scoping letter about the Ranch CMP, it sent excerpts from the EAC letter. Strangely, the Park Service’s comment analysis report nevertheless attributes nine topics to the NPCA, eight of which are redundant with the topics attributed to EAC, which looks like double-counting to me.)

The Bad Cop role is being handled—for the moment—by a handful of groups from outside the community, including the Center for Biological Diversity, which is openly calling for an end to ranching on Point Reyes, and which apparently orchestrated a large number of very similar public comments that echo that call.  (For details, see my piece Weaponizing NEPA, published in the Citizen October 2, 2014.)

Jackhammer, Good Cop/Bad Cop, baseless concerns about ranching impacts, seemingly unlimited government funds, cattle exclusion without ecological rationale, failure to consider a truly collaborative approach that could benefit both the cultural and natural resources of the park;  the parallels with Santa Rosa Island are chilling.

Let’s not let it happen here again.

 

*For examples, see Dr. Laura Watt’s recent op-ed in the Point Reyes Light

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