Point Reyes–Time to Remove Cows

62960-00806 Sunset over Point Reyes National Seashore, Drake’s Beach, CA. George Wuerthner.tif

Point Reyes National Seashore was established in the 1960s by the purchase of private ranches. The public paid fair market value for these lands. Livestock operations were to be removed over a 25-grace period. But time and again the ranchers refused to leave OUR property.

Surprisingly Representative Jared Huffman, ordinarily good on environmental issues, has sponsored legislation that would make the previous owners and their cattle permanent residents of OUR property. It is like buying a house, but the previous owners never move out, and a Congressman is going to make it illegal to remove them from your property.

Think about all the beautiful redwood parks scattered up and down California’s coast. Nearly all of these parklands were created by purchasing the land from private property owners, just like we the public bought the ranches that remained in Pont Reyes National Seashore. Now imagine that the previous landowners not only refused to leave our redwood parks but continue to cut down redwoods even after we bought the land and trees for preservation. That is precisely what is going on in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Would Representative Huffman be outraged if loggers were cutting trees in Muir Woods National Monument, or Humboldt Redwood State Park, or Redwood National Park? I would hope so. But he doesn’t seem to understand that domestic livestock is damaging OUR property and is inappropriate in a national park unit.

Privately owned livestock are polluting the streams running through OUR property. Indeed the livestock-polluted waters of Point Reyes National Seashore rank in the top 10 percent of U.S. locations most contaminated by feces indicated by E. coli bacteria.

Privately owned livestock are spreading exotic weeds throughout OUR property. Ranchers plant non-native species for livestock forage, helping to erode the native biodiversity of the park further.

Privately owned livestock are spreading Johne’s, a highly contagious digestive disease that spreads quickly through manure and contaminated water. It has infected park wildlife including Tule elk.

Point Reyes is one of the few places where native Tule elk are found in California. There are approximately 600 elk and yet more than 5000 cows in OUR park.  Isn’t there something wrong with this picture when domestic animals outnumber native wildlife species nearly 10 to 1 in a national park?

When you drive to Point Reyes, you pass dairy and cattle farms almost continuously. There is no shortage of cattle/cows in Marin County nor California as a whole. California is home to more than 5 million cattle–4th highest in the entire country. Why should we allow private individuals to graze domestic livestock, a commodity that is abundant on private lands throughout the state and nation, in a national park unit?

It’s time to remove domestic livestock operations from our property and dedicate Point Reyes National Seashore to the principle it was purposed initially—preservation of native plants and wildlife.


  1. Hiker Avatar

    Long past time.

  2. Jennie Richards Avatar
    Jennie Richards

    It really makes me sick that these politicians are siding with special interest – animal agriculture, and the meat and dairy industry, over the public interest and the tax-paying owners of the land. Plus, animal agriculture, specifically livestock cattle is a primary cause of the decimation of plant and animal species, our forests, our rainforests, our waterways, our land, our air — our environment. Just yesterday, another major research report was published by the United Nations, about how 1 million species are now facing extinction because of animal agriculture, fossil fuels, etc. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/05/06/one-million-species-face-extinction-un-panel-says-humans-will-suffer-result/?utm_term=.b8c8b8b3632b

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    The dairy farmers say they produce organic milk, and this might be true. However, the label “organic” does not mean an operation is environmentally friendly, worker friendly,animal friendly, or small.
    These operations seem to get credit with many local people by holding up and shining the light of PR on their organic status.
    Some of these are pretty big operations with a large footprint of not only cattle, but buildings inside the national seashore.

  4. Patricia Randolph Avatar

    With 60% of mammals on earth now livestock being churned through slaughterhouses as very young animals, 36% of mammals humans, and only 4% all the wild mammals left, and with dire and urgent warnings coming out of the 500 scientists reporting for the United Nations on biodiversity destruction – we must end the grazing of cows and sheep and other farm animals across the planet now. It is possible to end carcass consumption indoctrinated into the public for $ and bad health.
    60% of large mammals face extinction right now yet hunters still fund and control state agencies and USFWS and all these non-profits never educate that it is urgent to change the funding and demand democratic representation for the 90% of us who kill nobody and do not enjoy having our wildlife turned into heads on walls year after year after year – or mangled in traps for the Russian and Chinese bottomless markets.
    Climate change is caused 18% – 51% by animal agriculture. It is a crime against nature and all we have to do is stop eating them and their byproducts. And live healthier lives. Simple.

  5. Isabel Cohen, Artist/Environmental Activist Avatar
    Isabel Cohen, Artist/Environmental Activist

    The dairy farmers are among the worst and cruelest people on earth! They take the babies away before they have a chance to nurse. The males go into a tiny cage where they cannot move and are slaughtered for veal. The females are impregnated too young, forced to give them up and slaughtered at a young age, not being allowed to live out their lives! I gave up milk as soon as I realized how this worked!

  6. Rob Avatar

    To whom should we write to voice our opposition? I assume the NPS wants to see the cows gone and is a hostage in this mess.


George Wuerthner is an ecologist and writer who has published 38 books on various topics related to environmental and natural history. He has visited over 400 designated wilderness areas and over 200 national park units.

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George Wuerthner