Environmental groups filed a complaint on Monday alleging that the Point Reyes National Seashore land management plan violates federal law.

The plan extends the length of time commercial cattle ranchers can lease land and allows staff to shoot some of the park’s elk. The trial was expected after the controversial plan was approved in September.

Three organizations – the Center for Biological Diversity, the Resource Renewal Institute in Mill Valley, and the Western Watersheds Project – filed the trial in Northern California United States District Court. Groups have opposed the plan for years and have pledged to challenge it after it is passed.

The organizations are seeking a court order to quash approval of the plan as well as to ban the park from extending ranch leases and hunting elk.

Deborah Moskowitz, executive director of the Resource Renewal Institute, described the plan as a “gift to the beef industry” and said it enables continued environmental degradation of public lands.

Environmental organizations want the park to completely eliminate private farming.

“What we were looking for was a plan that would restore the shoreline and a plan for the park to be a refuge for wildlife as it was intended,” Moskowitz said Monday. “We wanted there to be accountability and enforcement for the impacts of ranches in the park and water pollution, for example. But the plan doesn’t really address them.

Melanie Gunn, a park official, said the National Park Service would not comment on pending litigation.

Nona Dennis, a board member for the Marin Conservation League, said the park’s service plan, including checkpoints put in place by the California Coastal Commission and other agencies, would help resolve many impacts caused by livestock over time.

“In fact, litigants do not want the impacts to be resolved; they just want the ranches to go away! Dennis wrote in a statement Monday. “Once again, philosophical disputes will have to be resolved in court. “

the plan discusses how the park manages the 28,000 acres of dairy and beef cattle ranching on the 86,000 acres by the waterfront and in the nearby Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The pastoralists had asked for longer leases, saying the five- and ten-year terms were not long enough to provide financial security and to make the investments needed to improve water quality.

The park plan extends the terms of leases for the park’s private beef cattle and dairy ranches up to 20 years.

To prevent damage to ranches by tule elk, park staff are allowed for the first time to shoot elk in one of the park’s roaming herds – the Drakes Beach herd – to keep people going. to a maximum of 140.

The version of the plan approved by the Biden administration in September differed from what the Trump administration initially proposed in 2019. Park staff initially sought to limit the Drakes Beach herd to 120 elk.

Moskowitz said the move from 120 to 140 elk is questionable.

“It doesn’t appear to be science-based,” she said. “I think that’s kind of an underlying issue with the whole plan, is that it’s not really based on good science.”

Point Reyes is the only national park to be home to elk. Once thought to be extinct, the tule elk were reintroduced to the park in the late 1970s. About 600 elk live by the sea, nearly half of which are located in an enclosure that is not touched. by the park plan. In a separate lawsuit filed last year, environmental groups alleged the park service was negligent in the deaths of nearly 150 moose in the Tomales Point compound.

The remaining elk are part of two free-roaming herds known as the Limantour and Drakes Beach herds.

Under the revised plan, pastoralists also face new mandates to make specific plans and investments to protect wildlife, water quality and the environment. The plan also reduces the number of tule elk that park staff would be allowed to kill and limits the ability of ranchers to diversify their livestock.

A total of 2,580 acres of ranch land will be removed under the plan, 580 acres more than originally proposed.

All three environmental groups have litigation histories with Point Reyes National Seashore.

After the federal government decided not to renew Drakes Beach Oyster Co.’s lease in 2012, the US Department of the Interior ordered the parks department to develop longer leases for ranchers for terms of up to ‘at 20 years.

In response, the park released a management plan for the ranch in 2014. The same three environmental groups that filed the complaint Monday challenged the 2014 plan in a 2016 lawsuit. The groups alleged the plan did not assess adequately environmental damage caused by livestock activities in the park. They also called on the park to consider alternatives such as reducing or completely eliminating livestock activities.

The park department and environmental groups reached an agreement in 2017 where the park agreed to study these options. The result was the plan adopted in September.

All three environmental groups were in favor of a proposal to phase out ranching over a five-year period.

Lizzy Potter, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the park service “illegally prioritizes the commercial needs of ranchers over the natural environment and the public use and enjoyment of these majestic public lands” .

“The park service decided that the ranch should continue in perpetuity without fully disclosing its plans or the environmental consequences,” Potter said.