Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Response To Marin IJ Op Ed Piece: "An Accomodation, Not a Dog Ban at GGNRA"

I offer the following as a rebuttal to the April 24, 2011 Op-Ed piece by Betsey Cutler, Amy Meyer, and Gordon Bennett:

"A Dog Ban, Not An Accommodation"

It is astonishing that Betsey Cutler, Amy Meyer and Gordon Bennett submitted such a pack of misrepresentations regarding the state of off leash recreation in the GGNRA.

As one of the defendants (and attorneys) in the 2004 and 2005 litigation over off leash recreation in the GGNRA, this pack of lies needs to be exposed for what it is: an attempt to justify a ban on dogs, not an accommodation.

Incredibly, the authors never so much as mention the 1979 Pet Policy, yet were involved in its promulgation. This came after two years of negotiations with groups such as the Sierra Club, who would now rewrite history.

The legality of the 1979 Pet Policy was put to test when three individuals cited for off leash recreation were charged criminally under federal regulations, notwithstanding our compliance with the 1979 Pet Policy. Two federal judges found that, despite the federal regulation banning pets from being off-leash in national parks, the 1979 Pet Policy (which allows off leash recreation in less than one percent of the GGNRA) was legally implemented and adopted by the GGNRA, and illegally rescinded by the GGNRA. (See, United States v. Barley, et al, at Accordingly, despite the statements of the authors, the 1979 Pet Policy is the law of the land as respects the GGNRA. (Yet in the DEIS, it is referred to as a "Draft" policy.) It cannot be changed absent a legally proper "rulemaking" process, which is what the DEIS attempts to do. Yet, curiously, the 1979 Pet Policy is not even offered as alternative in the DEIS. Indeed, the so-called" "no action" alternative includes illegal closures at Crissy Field and Ocean Beach in 2006 for the alleged protection of the Snowy Plover, yet a few months earlier, in federal court, the GGNRA's attorneys stated that such closures were not legally justified This the authors never even attempt to explain because their goal is to hide the truth.

The 1979 Pet Policy provides ample protection for the environment: anyone whose dog is not under voice control, is bothering other dogs or people, or disturbs wildlife, is subject to citation. The Policy has served the Bay Area very well for decades. The attempt to change the Policy so dramatically is not about the environment, it is about philosophy. As Brian O'Neill (who twice was found to have violated the law in closures of GGNRA managed land) said: "I will not have dogs running loose in MY park." "Beloved"? Don't tell it to the dogs and their owners.

The authors also claim that there is a legally mandated 8 year planning process behind the DEIS. This is sheer nonsense and made without any support. The GGNRA remains empowered to make the 1979 Pet Policy a Section 7 Special Regulation, yet even after years of wrangling, litigation, and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars, it refuses to do so. Why? Because the DEIS is yet another GGNRA attempt at completely banning off leash recreation from the Park. Under its "preferred" alternative, for example, Muir Beach would be completely on-leash. An "accommodation"?

The authors' citation to the purpose of the GGNRA could not be more perverse. The GGNRA was established in part through a campaign in 1970 by Secretary of Interior Walter Hickel "to bring parks to the people", putting the National Park Service in a movement to increase outdoor recreation in urban areas. (U.S. Department of Interior News Release, September 14, 1970.) Congress established the GGNRA on October 27, 1972 "to preserve for public use and enjoyment certain areas of Marin and San Francisco Counties, California possessing outstanding natural, historic, scenic, and recreational values.” (16 U.S.C. Sec. 460bb.)
In addition to this generic statement of purpose appearing in most national park statutes, Congress included two "specific provisions" unique to the GGNRA. First, the park was established "to provide for the maintenance of needed recreational open space necessary to urban environment and planning." (Emphasis added.) Second, the GGNRA statute imposes a unique limitation on NPS's discretionary power for "management of the recreation area" by providing that the "Secretary of Interior...shall utilize the resources in a manner which will provide for recreation and educational opportunities consistent with sound principles of land use planning and management." Why do the authors completely fail to mention these controlling statements of purpose?

When voting for Charter Section 7.403-1(a) authorizing the transfer of nearly 60% of the City parklands, the citizens of San Francisco were told that "the transfer of these lands is a technical resolution allowing the City and County of San Francisco to transfer city lands to the Golden Gate National Recreation area…a national urban park established in 1972 by Congress to preserve 34,000 acres of land and water in San Francisco and Marin for recreational use by all citizens." Aware that certain unique restrictions were included in the enabling statute requiring the NPS to maintain "recreational open space necessary for urban environment and planning", San Francisco adopted the "technical resolution" authorizing the transfer of City parks for "recreational use by all citizens." Allaying concern over the transfer of the property, the NPS promised the City that "historical recreational use" would be continued.

The authors make no mention of these significant facts because they are part and parcel of the GGNRA attempt to ban dogs from the Park. That is plainly and simply the purpose of the DEIS.

There is a universal jury instruction that states, in essence, that if you find a material part of a witness' testimony to have been false, you may disregard the entirety of that testimony. That is an apt way to look at what was written by these authors.


Anonymous said...


JB said...

Well done indeed


Flanaghan the Newfie said...

Well said!!!!

Anonymous said...

Bloody brilliant