The wildfires that choked the Bay Area this month are a painful reminder that climate change is an urgent crisis and we must do all we can to protect and regenerate our ecosystems. Ranching in California is completely at odds with this goal and yet we continue to prioritize private interests over our ecosystems, wildlife and the common good by allowing ranching and dairy farming to take place on public lands.
Right here in the Bay, a third of the land of Point Reyes National Seashore is leased to private cattle ranches. The park is meant to be a “fragment of wild California”, but instead ranching has led to soil erosion, water pollution, invasive plants, declines in fish and bird populations, and conflicts with wildlife, especially the native Tule elk.
Point Reyes National Seashore recently sent out a notice inviting the public to tell the Park what it should consider and look at when they do their Environmental Impact Statement. It is urgent that we prevent cattle ranches from becoming permanent, so please take a moment to comment and share this information. Comments are due this Friday. Instructions on submitting comments are on the last page of the linked document.
Sample comment: ”I am a Bay Area resident and I strongly oppose allowing ranchers to graze cattle on our public lands. This is an outdated model and a giveaway to cattle ranchers, it has no benefit to the public and is a detriment to the wildlife on these lands. It is time for the Bay Area to show an enlightened way forward. Now, more than ever, we need to regenerate our ecosystems and protect wildlife habitats, and this precludes grazing livestock. It is a no win for the public to continue to give away the public commons to select private interests. Please let California stand for prioritizing the environment over private commercial industry.”
Despite the well-documented destruction caused by grazing both worldwide and locally, ranching is enjoying a moment of popularity with environmentalists. Indeed, while they rightfully advocate for a transition away from industrial agriculture, they equate ecological farming with traditional forms of animal husbandry, especially grazing. Sadly, many environmentalists have become mouthpieces for ranchers.
I recently participated in a discussion on ranching and sustainability hosted by In These Times. My article was the third in a series that featured both a pro- and anti-grazing stance, and I sought to unpack this grazing craze and show that we can and must transition to farming systems that are both ecological and vegan. Read it here: Whatever Cows Can Do, Elk Can Do Better.
The future is vegan, and in the Bay Area, we can no longer afford to wait.