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Steps taken to mediate the future of ranching in Point Reyes National Seashore

Cattle at Point Reyes National Seashore
Emily Mathews
Wikimedia Commons
Cattle at Point Reyes National Seashore

Out in Point Reyes National Seashore, ranchers and environmentalists were once collaborators in protecting the expansive area from real estate development.

In 1962,ranchers sold their properties to the federal government— under the agreement that they could lease back their land. That agreement is the core contention of this debate.

The Point Reyes National Seashore hosts one of the only mixed-use land models that allows private commercial cattle ranching on federally protected land.

The battle between public and private escalated in 2022, when environmental groups like, — Marin’s Resource Renewal Insitute and the Western Watersheds Project — launched a federal lawsuit against the seashore. Their aim? To challenge ranch operations-- many of which have been running for more than a hundred years.

The groups cited a wide range of negative environmental impacts, like water pollution, damage to native wildlife, and groundwater consumption. The lawsuit has limited ranches from receiving long-term leases. Instead, ranchers were granted two-year leases— set to expire in September of this year.

As anxieties over the peninsula increase, the Nature Conservancy has stepped in to facilitate negotiations. The Conservancy has required all parties to sign a nondisclosure agreement and a standard mediation gag order, as reported by thePress Democrat. Their involvement may signal the end of this long-standing battle. But for now, the future of cattle ranching in Point Reyes National Seashore remains under lock and key.

Leenah Najeiah Bassouni is a 2023 Audio Academy Fellow. She is a Libyan archivist and open source investigator. Her work centers on Islamic dream theory, surveillance, and subversive radio histories. She is interested in the silences of the archive, dreaming new futures, and rugs. In her free time, you can find her digging for textiles or road-tripping.