Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan Updates

March 2017 Update

National Register of Historic Places
Park cultural resources staff visited park ranches to complete the work needed to nominate them for the National Register of Historic Places. Park staff took photos, GPS coordinates, and measurements in the ranch cores and pastures. These final details are all that are needed to complete the nominations.

Tule elk
As part of our on-going efforts to explore management options for tule elk on park ranches, Point Reyes wildlife staff captured two female elk from the Drakes Beach herd in February and moved them into the Tomales Point Tule Elk Reserve. Both animals were fitted with radio-collars and we are checking their location several times a week. Additionally, we are monitoring the elk to ensure that they appear healthy following their capture and relocation, and to see how well they are integrating with the elk herds already present at Tomales Point.

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December 2016 Update

Range Program Update
The Range team completed annual Residual Dry Matter (RDM) monitoring in mid-October. The results of the RDM testing for the last two years are now posted as Updated Figure A.2 1987–2016 Residual Dry Matter by Key Area Transect (2,952 KB PDF) on the park’s Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan Background Information page. Additionally, there is also a bar graph Annual Percentage of Rainfall Compared to the 45-year Running Average from 1987-2016 (56 KB PDF) posted for comparison to RDM results.

As part of our 319 water quality grant, the Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) is working with David Lewis and Dr. Ken Tate of UC Cooperative Extension to analyze past water quality data in the Olema Creek Watershed. Additionally, the Range Program has also been looking at recent aerial photography with our geographic information systems intern to quantify shrub cover on PRNS rangelands.

As required by the grazing waiver issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, Range staff completed surveys and submitted annual certification forms for the ten ranches in the Tomales Bay Watershed.

Tule Elk Update
Since 2000, the Point Reyes National Seashore has produced an annual census report of the tule elk within the Tomales Point Reserve. PRNS has finalized the 2013–14 Annual Tule Elk Report, which incorporates information on the herds at Drakes Beach and the Estero Road/Limantour area. The report discusses the monitoring and management of elk on PRNS ranch lands, antler collections, disease surveillance, fencing, notable mortalities, and education and outreach efforts. The report can be accessed online at http://www.sfnps.org/download_product/5233/0. PRNS is now in the process of conducting the 2016 census.

In March 2015, we experimentally captured and moved three young tule elk from the Drakes Beach herd to Limantour. The two males that were moved returned to Drakes Beach within 10 days. In October 2016, we discovered that the young female elk that we moved had also returned to Drakes Beach. We do not know the path she took to return, nor do we know when she returned. Since her radio collar dropped as scheduled in August 2015, the female was only identifiable by a small ear tag, which can go easily unnoticed.

Fecal samples to test tule elk for Johne's disease continue every other month from the Drakes Beach herd. No additional necropsies to test for Johne's disease have occurred since early March 2016, and none are currently planned. To date, we have collected over 630 fecal samples. Recently we received results from our May 2016 samples from the Drakes Beach elk, and another male tested positive for MAP, the bacterium that causes Johne's disease. This brings a total of 6 positive tests from male elk from Drakes Beach. The May 2016 sample may or may not be from one of three male elk that tested positive on fecal samples collected in November 2015.

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January 2016 Update

Johne's Disease FAQs

 

December 2015 Update

Ranch Planning Next Steps
The Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan (Ranch CMP) will be in the alternatives development and impact analysis phase for the next several months.

Range Program Update
Annual residual dry matter (RDM) monitoring was completed in September. In addition to measuring RDM at key areas on each ranch, we also visually estimated RDM across approximately half of the ranches. With assistance from UC Berkeley, we've recently revisited our RDM monitoring and reporting methods. A report completed by UC Berkeley on RDM data collected by the Seashore titled "1987-2014 Residual Dry Matter Analysis Report and Updated Rangeland Monitoring Guidelines for Livestock Grazed Grasslands within Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area" is available on the park's website under the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan Background Information page. This is vital information to inform the Ranch CMP process and how we continue to evaluate and improve range conditions in the future.

Silage Report
Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory) has completed a study to estimate the impacts of silage mowing on breeding birds within the park. The report "Estimating Impact of Mowing in the Silage Fields of Point Reyes National Seashore on Breeding Birds "is now available on the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan Background Information page. The final report will help inform the ranch planning process. Thanks to B, H, I, and J Ranches for their support and assistance on this project.

Johne's Disease Testing
Surveillance for Johne's disease in the free-range elk continues. To date, the Johne's disease testing has yielded all negative results. We have collected 487 fecal samples and have received results from 457 samples. The samples take 8 weeks to culture, so we are awaiting results on the additional 30 samples. In consultation with the Johne's Testing Center at the University of Wisconsin, we are no longer collecting samples from the Home Ranch/Limantour wilderness group. Collections at D Ranch will continue every other month.

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August 2015 Update

Passages
We were all deeply saddened by the loss of park rancher Joey Mendoza last month. The standing-room only turnout at his memorial service was a testament to the lives Joey touched and the deep impact he had in this community. The place isn’t the same without him, but he certainly leaves a deep and lasting legacy here at the Seashore.

Ranch Planning Next Steps
It has been a busy summer in ranch planning, focused on working through the information assembled through our meetings with park ranchers, other interested groups, and the public at large to develop a range of alternatives. Thanks everyone for your active and continued engagement.

Johne's Disease Testing
Monthly surveillance for Johne's disease in the free-range elk continues. To date, the Johne's disease testing has yielded all negative results. We have collected 409 fecal samples and have received results from 352 samples. The samples take 8 weeks to culture, so we are still awaiting results on the additional 57 samples. We are scheduled to visit and sample elk in the Limantour and Estero Road areas this month.

Check out the new additions to the Tule elk at Tomales Point Frequently Asked Questions.

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May 2015 Update

A reminder on where we are in the planning process: we are working with the contractor to distill information gathered during scoping, and putting the alternatives together for the ranch plan. This work will go on over the next several months, and involve more discussion with interested parties. While we had hoped for a fall release of the plan, we now expect to release the plan in early 2016, due to staffing changes.

New to the webpage: Tule elk at Tomales Point Frequently Asked Questions.

Experimental Elk Relocation
In early March, we radio-collared and relocated three young elk (a yearling male, a two year old male, and a yearling female) from D Ranch to the Limantour area. This effort was done in collaboration with elk experts from both California Department of Fish and Wildlife and NPS wildlife staff from Fort Collins, Colorado. Both of the males returned to the D Ranch area within 9–11 days of relocation. We donot know the precise path that the elk used to return to D Ranch, because the elk were fitted with radio collars and not GPS collars. The relocated yearling female has remained with the elk in the Limantour area, most consistently within the Glenbrook drainage. We have plans to relocate at least one more young female from D Ranch in the coming months.

Johne's Disease Testing
To date, the Johne's disease testing has yielded all negative results. We have collected 356 fecal samples since May 2014 and have received results from 287 samples. The samples take 8 weeks to culture, so we are still awaiting results on the additional 69 fecal samples. In addition, we were able to take blood from the three elk that we captured for relocation and tissue samples from four deceased elk (one on Mt. Vision Road and three near D Ranch). All of the blood and tissue samples came back negative for Johne's disease.

Range Program Update
The San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board has been active lately with Conditional Waivers of Waste Discharge Requirements. There is a waiver for grazing lands in the Tomales Bay Watershed, and a separate waiver for dairy operations.

Under the Tomales Bay grazing waiver, Water Board staff conducted inspections of two park ranches in April. During the inspections, we highlighted the many grazing management practices that have been completed or are planned on park ranches, and helped Water Board staff calibrate their eyes to conditions typical on a working ranch. Formal feedback is forthcoming in the form of an inspection report. Ranch operators in the Tomales Bay Watershed will also be receiving a letter from the park which outlines what we've cooperatively accomplished so far in meeting waiver requirements and what we can do to ensure compliance moving forward.

On dairies, the Water Board recently announced a comment period for their proposed Renewal of Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Existing Dairies. All dairy operators within the Seashore were notified of the comment period and sent a copy of the park's comment letter. For your information, the Water Board will consider adoption of the Conditional Waiver during a June 10, 2015 public hearing.

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March 2015 Update

Interest in ranch planning remains high from all quarters. There are a couple new items on the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan web pages to check out: all public comments from the November workshops and the lease/permits for ranch operations.

Experimental Elk Relocation
In early March, the NPS radio-collared and relocated three young elk (a yearling male, a two year old male, and a yearling female) from D Ranch to the Limantour area. We will be monitoring their location and movements, and update this website with what we learn. This effort was done in collaboration with elk experts from both California Department of Fish and Wildlife and NPS wildlife staff from Fort Collins, Colorado.

 
Three images taken in early March 2015 during an experimental tule elk relocation project. NPS staff use a sled to move a young tule elk male to a horse trailer in order to relocate the animal from the Drakes Beach Road area to Limantour. (Click on this image for a higher resolution image.)NPS staff release a young tule elk male from a horse trailer at Limantour as part of an experimental relocation project. (Click on this image for a higher resolution image.)NPS and California Department of Fish and Wildlife staff prepare to move a spike male tule elk captured adjacent to Drakes Beach Road to Limantour. (Click on this image for a higher resolution image.)
 

Johne's Disease Testing
To date, the Johne's disease testing continues to yield all negative results.

Frequently Asked Questions
Public Access: We've had a number of questions recently related to public access on park ranches. Visitors are allowed to venture throughout the Seashore, both on and off trail. Those relatively few visitors who leave the signed trail system have a chance to enjoy wildlife, livestock, and some of the most spectacular vistas in the Seashore. We ask that visitors respect the privacy of residents and not to disturb animals or disrupt operations. Additionally, visitors should leave gates as encountered: if closed, please close the gate behind you; if open, please leave the gate open.

Lease/Permit Terms: Until the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan is complete, the terms of signed ranching and dairying lease/permits remain in effect. As lease/permits expire, the NPS is issuing letters of authorization consistent with the last signed lease/permit.

Residential or Grazing Subletting: Subletting is not authorized in ranching and dairying lease/permits. Article 28 of the lease/permit states that "Lessee shall not assign this Lease, in whole or in part, or any property on the Premises (excepting Lessee's Personal Property), and Lessee shall not sublet the Premises or any part thereof or any property thereon, nor grant any interest, privilege or license whatsoever in connection with this Lease without the prior written approval of the Lessor." Grazing permits have a similar provision designed to ensure that the NPS has a direct relationship with those that are using federal lands for ranching or residential purposes. This does not affect lease/permit holder's the ability to provide housing for ranch employees.

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February 2015 Update

Ranch Planning – What's Next

Big thank you to all who participated in the ranch planning workshops In November 2014. Active participation in groups around the room for both workshops was key to their success. This was the first time we tried the small group format and we're really pleased with the attendance, active participation, and productive discussions. We will post the summary from the workshops online this month (posted 2/27/2015), and look forward to continued dialog throughout this important planning effort. The National Park Service planning team will incorporate the information provided through scoping, workshops, and other meetings to develop and analyze alternatives as proscribed by the National Environmental Policy Act. As a reminder, the next formal round of public comment will come with the release of the plan later this year, likely in the fall.

Elk Population Update

Based on our field counts, these are the final elk numbers for 2014:

Tomales Point: 286 (168 cows, 23 calves, 10 spike males, 85 branched antler males)
D Ranch: 92 (45 cows, 17 calves, 7 spike males, 24 branched antler males)
Limantour Road/Estero: 120 (69 cows, 15 calves, 4 spike males, 32 branched antler males)

Johne's Disease Testing

Working with the Johne's Disease Testing Center at the University of Wisconsin, park staff have collected elk fecal samples for testing each month, alternating between the D Ranch and the Limantour herds, starting in May 2014. About 25 samples are collected each month and a total of 222 samples have been collected since sampling began. We've received results for 137 samples, collected between May 2014 and October 2014, and all 137 samples tested negative for Johne's disease. We will continue to update you on the status of this as new test results are received. We are encouraged by the results so far, and are in active discussions with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) staff regarding next steps.

Experimental Relocation

We are moving forward with plans to experimentally relocate 3–4 elk from D Ranch to Limantour. We are finalizing our capture and transportation protocols and are scheduled for our first capture attempts in March with CDFW.

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Last updated: March 16, 2018

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Mailing Address:

1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

Phone:

(415) 464-5100
This number will initially be answered by an automated attendant, from which one can opt to access a name directory, listen to recorded information about the park (i.e., directions to the park; visitor center hours of operation; weather forecast; fire danger information; shuttle bus system status; wildlife updates; ranger-led programs; seasonal events; etc.), or speak with a ranger. Please note that if you are calling between 4:30 pm and 10 am, park staff may not be available to answer your call.

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