Trump’s fix is in on Point Reyes

Ranchers seeking to extend grazing leases at Point Reyes National Seashore have found a new ally in Donald Trump.

At a signing ceremony for two Executive Orders at the White House earlier this month, Point Reyes rancher Kevin Lunny was a featured speaker. He used his 30 seconds of broadcast fame to complain about the termination of his Drake’s Bay oyster farm, which conflicted with the Wilderness Act, and to ask the president to find ways “that family farms and ranchers can benefit and survive these procedures” in the context of a General Management Plan currently under development for the National Seashore. Who knows what was said when the cameras weren’t rolling?

Much of the local public and conservationist groups, including Western Watersheds Project, are seeking to end commercial ranching and dairy operations and their environmental impacts on National Seashore lands, to allow the area’s rare tule elk population to thrive unimpaired by cattle conflict and to restore the natural coastal grasslands that existed before livestock ranching converted much of this land to non-native weeds.

The new Executive Orders require federal policies to go through public comment and be posted for public viewing in the Federal Register. But they also give special access and influence to “regulated parties,” in other words the private corporations and individuals that make their profits by extracting natural resources from public lands.

It’s odd that Trump tapped Lunny as a featured speaker at all, given that the closure of the Drake’s Bay Oyster operation was involved in extensive litigation and ended in a settlement between the “regulated party” and the Department of the Interior, and thus would be exempted from the Executive Orders that were the topic of the signing ceremony. It remains unclear whether the current revision of the National Seashore’s General Management Plan would quality as a “guidance document” subject to the new executive orders, but it is obvious that the Point Reyes ranchers are laboring to have some political influence over the process.

Furthermore, the executive orders grant commercial users of public lands the right to be notified every time their operations might be regulated, and the opportunity to contest agency decisions. This is designed to have a chilling effect on agency professionals charged with managing the environmental impacts of private, for-profit operations on public lands.

Viewed in this light, Trump’s executive orders portend the kind of back room deal-making and corruption that is the very opposite of government transparency, putting regulated industries in the driver’s seat of compliance (or noncompliance) with environmental protections. At a time when the American public seeks stronger environmental protections, Trump seeks to abolish them.

President Trump sounded eager to profess his sympathies for ranching on Point Reyes, stating, “So, I have to say, Kevin, I really — I know what you’ve been through. I read a little bit about it. And I’ve heard about it, also. And it’s very sad. … No American should ever face such persecution from their own government — except, perhaps, your President.” Trump went on to promise, “We’re going to have somebody right here in the White House looking at it, Kevin, so this doesn’t happen to other people,” and further stated, “Today’s action is just the latest step in my administration’s tireless fight to curtail job-killing, soul-crushing regulations.”

This episode puts Point Reyes ranchers in the company of the Bundys, the Hammonds, and other anti-public-lands extremists who seek to subvert America’s public lands to the whims and control of private interests, with Trump as their champion. “Unleashing American enterprise” may soon become the directive for Point Reyes National Seashore, rather than the congressional requirement to protect and preserve, for the use and enjoyment of the people.

Between the well-connected ranchers and President Trump, the fix may be in to attempt to lock in the environmental damage that cattle are causing on Point Reyes National Seashore. But Western Watersheds Project and our conservation allies will be watching like hawks.

Erik Molvar is a wildlife biologist and is Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring watersheds and wildlife throughout the West. Visit our website at







  1. Helen Avatar

    Some historical background. When I was a teenager, in the 1950s, I lived in Marin County, which includes what is now Point Reyes National Seashore. At the time there weren’t ranches–there were numerous dairy farms. Accommodating the dairy farms was a necessary concession to creating the Point Reyes National Seashore. Now I guess almost all dairy cows live in sheds. Presumably when dairy farming was abandoned, it morphed into ranching.

  2. Kathleen Hayden Avatar
    Kathleen Hayden

    The importance of this interview is the basis for amending deficient resource management plans..failure to consult and mitigate accumlative effects.

    Our Unprotected Heritage: An Interview with Tom King › video-guide › video-interviews › 1…
    About Tom King: He is best known for his work with indigenous groups and local communities, using U.S. historic preservation laws to insist that their cultural places and concerns be considered in planning projects that threaten them.

  3. Gail Avatar

    Right here:

    “ Furthermore, the executive orders grant commercial users of public lands the right to be notified every time their operations might be regulated, and the opportunity to contest agency decisions. This is designed to have a chilling effect on agency professionals charged with managing the environmental impacts of private, for-profit operations on public lands.”

    Commercial users should never have been permitted to earn a living off of public lands. Maybe someone will introduce the idea that if they do, they will be compelled to share the rewards with the American public.

  4. Bruce Bowen Avatar
    Bruce Bowen

    The battle to protect public lands is on going, largely because of the “concrete” republican mind set. They only believe in what they only believe in. They will surely strip public lands of all resources at public expense and then try to sell the land cheap to their corporate masters. They must hold onto to their corporate connections to maintain power-even if it destroys the nation.

    Back in the dark days of the Roman empire philosophers used to say that “where the Roman legion goes, they leave behind a desert”. The American system of government is very Roman, hypocritical and hierarchical in character. One our federal legislative buildings in D.C. has a bust of the Roman emperor Justinian I. He is supposedly an inspiration to our form of government because he codified Roman law. Few people know he was responsible for the deaths of around 100,000 people because the people of the province of Samaria refused his edict to be forced into Christianity. Justinian also presided over public executions by drowning.

    As Gregory “Pappy” Boyington once said “show me a hero, and I’ll prove he’s a bum”. Maybe Trump is the reincarnation of some old Roman emperor. He only see’s corporate connections and the brutality of the present form of capitalism as being important. He plays golf while America “burns” and disintegrates.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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