New Study of Point Reyes National Seashore Reveals Management Strengths, Species Threats

Date:   January 30, 2002
Contact:   Courtney Cuff, NPCA, 510-839-9922; cell: 510-368-0115
Mark Peterson, NPCA, 970-493-2545
Roger Di Silvestro, NPCA, 202-454-3335

New Study of Point Reyes National Seashore Reveals Management Strengths, Species Threats

San Francisco - The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today unveiled the results of a year-long assessment of the natural and cultural resource conditions of the Point Reyes National Seashore, located 40 miles northwest of San Francisco. The study—second in a series of such assessments for parks nationwide—scored the park 60 on a scale of 100 for the condition of its natural resources and 62 for the condition of its cultural resources.

"Point Reyes, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, faces many problems and pressures that jeopardize its terrestrial and marine flora and fauna, which includes more than 1,500 wildlife species, many found nowhere else," said Mark Peterson, director of the State of the Parks project that produced the report. "Considerable work needs to be done to protect the park's magnificent cultural heritage, which includes nearly 300 historic structures and archaeological treasures dating back 5,000 years. In all, the park faces increasing external pressures that jeopardize its long-term health."

Point Reyes is home to nearly 15 percent of California’s plant species, 30 percent of the world’s marine mammal species, and 45 percent of North American bird species. The park also harbors 23 federally listed threatened and endangered species and 33 federally listed species of concern.

Factors that led to the score of 60 for the condition of the park’s natural resources include:

  • the invasion of non-native species that can kill native species and degrade park habitat;

  • the recent listing by the State Water Resources Board of a major estuary, Tomales Bay, as impaired because of nutrient loading and because of contamination by coliform bacteria and mercury; and

  • offshore oil spills, yearly shipwrecks, and over-fishing that jeopardize both the park's coastal ecosystem and its shoreline.

The condition of the park’s known cultural resources rated 62 because:

  • 35 of the seashore’s 293 historic structures are in poor condition, including four that are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places;

  • 463,357 archival documents from the recently acquired RCA transmitting stations have yet to be cataloged and are not accessible to researchers; and

  • many of the park’s 124 known archaeological sites need stabilization and long-term protection, and large portions of the park have not been fully surveyed.

Point Reyes’ stewardship capacity—its ability to protect resources—rated a higher 73 because:

  • the park has increased its volunteer force to more than 1,000 volunteers during the past five years and has received additional funding for cultural and natural resources;

  • the park has 54 research projects under way to help fill information gaps for science-based management; and

  • the park has developed a historic preservation team to complete important cultural resource projects systematically.

Several park actions will enhance resource protection. For example, during the next few years the park will restore 500 acres of coastal marsh, staff have begun planning to restore 15 miles of coastal streams to enhance coho salmon and steelhead trout habitat, and this year the park will complete a new storage facility to ensure long-term preservation of museum objects.

"Given current funding, the overall condition of Point Reyes natural resources is likely to deteriorate in the near future, primarily because of the effects of invasive, non-native species," Peterson said. "If staffing levels stay the same, no major changes are expected in the overall condition of cultural resources over the next ten years." However, the Park Service's capacity to address resource issues has increased in recent years, partly because of park fees and additional congressional funding through the Natural Resource Challenge, a nationwide initiative.

Major recommendations in the report emphasize the need to eliminate or control the spread of non-native invasive species, to catalog and safely store archival and museum materials, and to protect the park’s outstanding archaeological sites. Park managers also need to ban commercial marine fishing in the park and work with the State of California to establish a system of marine reserves that ensures fish survival. To accomplish such tasks, increased funding and staffing are essential. "If implemented, the recommendations in the report will help to ensure that Point Reyes remains a vibrant piece of our natural, cultural, and historical legacy," Peterson said.

The NPCA State of the Parks program, a cooperative effort with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is designed to assess the condition of natural and cultural resources in the parks, to forecast the future condition of those resources, and to determine how well equipped the National Park Service is to protect the park. The first such assessment ever undertaken for the National Park System, the program provides information to help policymakers and the National Park Service improve park conditions and ensure a lasting legacy for future generations.

Copies of the report can be obtained from contacts listed above and read online.


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