Friday, Feb 11, 2011
The National Park Service last month issued a draft environmental impact statement for dog management in Golden Gate NRA, marking the culmination of a nine-year planning process. Comments are being accepted until April 14th. The entire document, including summaries, maps and charts, is available on the internet at the “More Information” link below.
Golden Gate NRA was established in 1972. Despite a federal regulation (36 CFR 2.15) requiring dogs to be kept on a leash wherever they are permitted in a national park, Golden Gate has allowed off-leash dog walking in some park areas for many years. Golden Gate is at present the only NPS area where off-leash dog walking is permitted.
By the late 1990’s, increases in visitation at the park, public concern about visitor and pet safety, park resource management issues involving wildlife and vegetation protection, litigation, and general confusion regarding the rules on dog walking in the park, underscored the need for a comprehensive plan for dog management.
In 1999, the park closed a 12-acre section of Fort Funston to all use to restore habitat, reduce visitor safety problems, and protect geologic resources. The park was successfully sued to prevent this change in management; the court ruling required the park to undertake full public review and comment prior to initiating changes.
In 2002, the park issued an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, requesting public input on the park’s intent to develop a rule for dog management.
Between 2006 and 2008, the park enacted emergency restrictions and a special regulation for two specific areas to protect the western snowy plover, a federally listed threatened species.
In 2006 and 2007, the park participated in a negotiated rulemaking process for dog management, which brought the NPS and stakeholders representing a broad array of interest groups together to try and develop consensus on a rule for dog management in the park. After an 18-month effort, though, the negotiated rulemaking committee determined that consensus could not be achieved for a majority of areas opened for consideration by the committee. Soon thereafter, the park began to develop this draft environmental impact statement for dog management.
The DEIS evaluates the impacts of a range of alternatives, including a preferred alternative, for managing dog walking at 21 areas in Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties. This is a key step in establishing a new regulation for dog walking in the park.
“This is truly a defining moment for Golden Gate National Recreation Area,” said Superintendent Frank Dean. “After more than 30 years of conflicting uses and general confusion, today we are releasing the draft of a unified plan for dog management in the park. We believe the proposed plan offers clear, consistent, and enforceable management, and most important of all, it balances conservation and recreation."
The preferred alternative was selected as best for achieving the purposes of the plan, which are to:
- provide a clear, enforceable policy to determine the manner and extent of dog use in appropriate areas of the park;
- promote the preservation and protection of natural and cultural resources and natural processes;
- provide a variety of visitor experiences, improve visitor and employee safety, and reduce conflicts;
- maintain park resources and values for future generations.
During the review period, the NPS is seeking substantive public input such as issues or impacts the NPS may have failed to consider, inconsistencies in the plan. Following consideration of those comments, a proposed rule for dog management will be published for public comment. There will be no change in dog walking management in the park until a final environmental impact statement is completed and a formal rule on dog management is issued. This is anticipated to occur in late 2012.
“We know the passion surrounding dog use at the park,” said Dean. “We look forward to the thoughtful review and comment by the entire spectrum of park users to assure that our approach to dog management is ultimately wise and appropriate for this national park area.”