Thursday, January 27, 2011

GGNRA Proposed Ban on Off-Leash Recreation at Crissy Field and Ocean Beach


The DEIS just put out by the GGNRA, at least insofar as it concerns the proposed closures of the east and west beaches at Crissy Field, and 2.2 miles of Ocean Beach, due to the presence of the Western Snowy Plover, is without any scientific basis.

When the Federal Government moves to ban a single class of people from public land because of who they are, not anything they have done, they better have solid scientific evidence that the move is absolutely necessary. That is not the case here. Claims of "disturbances" of plovers by off-leash dogs are anecdotal. Reports are based on observations with no attempt to address or correct bias in the people making the observations (Golden Gate Audubon Society). The reports are based on commonly repeated assumptions that have never been put to the test. The GGNRA is moving to ban people with off-leash dogs from two large areas on Ocean Beach and Crissy Field solely because of who they are -- people with off-leash dogs -- not because their dogs have done anything. Other user groups that cause similar (and possibly greater) "disturbances" to the plovers are not banned. Without undisputed, solid evidence that proves off-leash dogs cause signficant "harm" to plovers, the GGNRA should not adopt a discriminatory ban against this single class of people -- those with off-leash dogs.

Some talking points to consider:

1) There is no scientific consensus that off-leash dogs have a significant impact on bird and wildlife populations.

A recent study by Forrest and Cassady St. Clair (2006) (see below for citation information) studied diversity and abundance of birds and small mammals at 56 sites in urban parks in Edmonton, Alberta. To their surprise, they found that whether a site was on-leash or off-leash had "no measurable effect on the diversity or abundance of birds and small mammals." Indeed, they said, "wildlife, particularly birds, in suburban and urban areas exist there because they are fairly tolerant of moderate levels of human activity."

2) The GGNRA's own studies indicate that dogs have no significant negative impact on the population of snowy plovers at Ocean Beach.

The November 15, 1996 report of snowy plovers by GGNRA staffer Daphne Hatch found that there was an increase of more than 100% in the number of snowy plovers in the years after the 1979 Pet Policy went into effect (allowing off-leash dogs on Ocean Beach and elsewhere). There was no negative relationship between the number of dogs and the numbers of plovers on the beach at the same time. Indeed, the 1996 Hatch Report says: "Factors other than the number of people or dogs, possibly beach slop and width, appear to exert greater influence over Snowy Plover numbers on Ocean Beach."

3) The GGNRA's own data indicate that there was no negative impact on plover abundance after the court rulings reinstated the 1979 Pet Policy allowing dogs off-leash on Ocean Beach. Indeed, the numbers actually increased.

A follow-up 2006 Hatch Report considers effects on the numbers of plovers after two Federal Court rulings reinstated the 1979 Pet Policy, allowing off-leash dogs back on Ocean Beach. According to the study, the maximum number of plovers ever recorded was in 1994, at a time when there were no restrictions on off-leash dogs on Ocean Beach. Numbers of plovers have varied since then (from a low of 14 in 2000 to 35 in 2005), but there is no correlation between when numbers of plovers were low and when dogs were allowed off-leash. Over the same time period, similar changes in plover populations have been seen at Half Moon Bay State Park. At that beach, there was once a maximum of 60 plovers, but there are currently only 25-30 present. This decrease cannot be blamed on dogs since dogs are not allowed on the beach at the state park at all, even on-leash. Clearly any decreases in plover populations in recent years are unrelated to whether off-leash dogs are present or not. Indeed, data from the 2006 Hatch Report posted by the GGNRA on its website actually show an increase in plover numbers in 2005, the year after the decision in United States v. Barley. The annual mean of snowy plover numbers (total number of plovers observed during all surveys in a year, divided by the number of surveys done that year) show an increase in plover populations after the Court rulings (from 26.55 in 2004 to 31.30 in 2005). The annual snowy plover median listed (the number of plovers counted in a single survey, with half the surveys counting more plovers than the median number and half the surveys reported less) is 28 for 2004 and 33 for 2005.

4) People without dogs pose an equal "risk" to plovers, yet there is no attempt to restrict their access to the plover areas.

Unable to prove any impact on plover population numbers, the 1996 Hatch Report argued that dogs "disturb" plovers. However in the entire 1.5-year study, only 19 out of 5,692 dogs -- less than one-third of one percent -- were observed deliberately chasing plovers, and none was reported to actually catch or harm a bird. The report adds that on another 15 occasions, at least 100 additional plovers were "inadvertently disturbed" by dogs, comparing this to the 48 plovers inadvertently disturbed by people without dogs, implying dogs inadvertently disturb plovers at least twice as often as people alone. But a closer reading of the report shows that the disturbances from people were noted in about half the recording time (24 hours of observations) as that devoted to studying dogs (40 hours). Had the two groups been observed for equal amounts of time, the number of disturbances would have been nearly the same. Yet there are no proposed restrictions on people without dogs who walk or run through the plover protection areas.

Note that in the 2006 Hatch Report, an incident is classified as a "disturbance" when, in response to an off-leash dog, a plover lifted up its head and looked around. This overreaching and misuse of the term "disturbance" illustrates the bias inherent to the Hatch observational studies.

5) The Federal Government cannot make policy decisions (such as this proposed closure) that are based on assumptions that have no hard data to back them up.

The assumption that any disturbance of plovers or other shorebirds causes significant problems for the birds is repeatedly stated as fact. However, even the 1996 Hatch Report says that "Little research has been conducted on the energetic effects of disturbances, and on whether individuals can compensate for this lost energy intake and increased energy expenditure." One recent study, conducted as part of a Senior Research Seminar at U.C. Berkeley did test the commonly repeated assumption that recreational disturbances changed the feeding behavior of snowy plovers. Megan Warren (2007) found no significant relationship between feeding behavior and direct disturbance by people recreating on the beach. "The Crissy Field study did not provide any relevant results, however, the data from the two Point Reyes study sites do not support the hypothesis that western snowy plovers in more heavily disturbed areas devote less time to actively foraging and more time to being alert." What other often-repeated assumptions about the effects of disturbances on plovers and other shorebirds will be similarly disproved when studies are done that put them to the test? Do we really want to restrict an entire class of people based on unproven assumptions?

6) The studies of off-leash dogs in the GGNRA do not consider "real" threats to plovers from natural predators like ravens.

Off-leash dogs may be more likely to chase ravens, a natural predator of plovers, because the ravens are so large. Thus the presence of off-leash dogs may keep ravens away from plover areas. This is one possible explanation for why the numbers of plovers increase when off-leash dogs are present.

7) If the GGNRA was sincere about protecting plovers, they would put up "temporary" fences to keep ALL park visitors out of the plover protection areas, not just people with offleash dogs. To restrict only one class of park users and not others who have similar "effects" is discriminatory.

8) The GGNRA has not taken any other action to protect plovers, despite clear opportunities to do so.

During the recent Cosco Busan oil spill, the GGNRA quickly erected floating booms to keep oil from entering the Crissy Field lagoon at the eastern end of Crissy Field, yet made no attempt to similarly protect the plover area at the western end of the beach. The oil posed a significant risk to the plovers, yet the GGNRA did nothing to protect them from it. Indeed, oiled plovers have been reported in the GGNRA. The GGNRA has allowed sporting events like the 2006 Turkey Trot to proceed, with the result that at least 1000 people (more likely 1500) walked or ran through the plover protection area on Ocean Beach. Park rangers routinely drive four-wheel drive cars and trucks through the Ocean Beach plover protection area while pursuing people with off-leash dogs. During Fleet Week, the plover protection area at Crissy Field is filled with people watching the air show, with no restrictions or protections in place. Dead sea mammals are left on beaches, encouraging natural predators of plovers like ravens to come to the beach.

9) The GGNRA should focus enforcement on off-leash dogs who actually do chase plovers. Banning an entire class of people (those with off-leash dogs) from the area because of the actions of a very few is discriminatory and does not offer the plovers any significant increase in safety.

In order to ticket people with off-leash dogs in the plover protection areas, Park Rangers will have to be present at the sites. They could, therefore, easily cite people whose dogs chase plovers (the few) and leave those people whose dogs ignore the plovers (the vast majority) alone.

10) Even if the restriction is justified, the area closed at Ocean Beach is much too large.

The plovers are located down by Noriega Street, and yet the area closed begins near Lincoln, nearly six city blocks farther north. A similarly large buffer zone is claimed at the southern end of the plover area. The buffer zones are too large and should be shortened.

In short, the proposed closures are based on arbitrary and capricious "science". Tell the GGNRA (via a template on the Ocean Beach DOG website) to keep the 1979 Pet Policy as the law. The federal government has no business in our backyard!!!!!


Scientific Citations:
1) "Effects of dog leash laws and habitat type on avian and small mammal communities in urban parks," Andrew Forrest and Colleen Cassady St. Clair, Urban Ecosyst (2006) vol 9, p. 51-66
2) "Recreation Disturbance Does Not Change Feeding Behavior of the Wester Snowy Plover", Megan Warren, UC Berkeley Environmental Sciences 196, Senior Research Seminar, May 7, 2007

Monday, January 24, 2011

Shedding Light on M. Bruce Grosjean


A few years ago, one Bruce Grosjean wrote a very angry letter to Ocean Beach DOG. In it, he emphasized that he was a very private man, and did not want anything about him published on the website. He said, if memory serves us correctly, that he had nothing against off-leash recreation in the GGNRA, but just wanted to stay out of the public eye.

Was he telling the truth? In today's San Francisco Chronicle, he appears loudly against off leash recreation. He claims (in a letter to the Editor) that banning dogs from the GGNRA will serve "the National Park Service . . . mandate to preserve and protect our previous park resources."

Well we know he wasn't telling the truth a few years ago, but is he telling the truth now? Does he have the slightest clue about the GGNRA's unique legislative mandate for recreation-first?

Here are some facts Bruce Grosjean should ponder:

In 1973, San Francisco voters were asked to give the National Park Service (“NPS”) jurisdiction over local parks. In return, the voters were promised that recreation opportunities would not be limited. In fact, the public was assured no one would even notice the change. To address concerns from city officials and citizens over the release of this land to the federal government, certain unique restrictions were inserted into the enabling statute. In particular, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (“GGNRA”) was established for “maintenance of needed recreational open space necessary to urban environment and planning.” (16 U.S.C. Section 460bb.) Relying on this language and representations by city officials that this was merely a “technical resolution” that would not affect “recreational use by all citizens,” the people of San Francisco approved in 1973 a Charter Amendment Proposition F, which permitted the transfer of these city parks to the federal government. The use of these parks specifically for off leash recreation was further addressed during the hearings before the United States House of Representatives, and dog walking was an enumerated activity in the U.S. House Report (H.R. Rep. No. 1391 at p. 4854.)

To formalize those needs as to off leash dog walking, extensive public hearings were held, culminating in the 1979 Pet Policy. At that time, the public was assured that off leash dog walking would be respected and preserved. And for well over 20 years, the recreation needs of the community have by and large been honored, with wildlife and recreation coexisting peacefully within what is now the GGNRA. In the early 1990's, to oversee the expansion of the GGNRA with the transfer of control over the Presidio, a new influx of NPS staff arrived. That's when the trouble started....

Since 1991, the National Park Service has closed over forty acres of Fort Funston’s best, most coveted recreation space. Combined with unilateral “revocation” of off-leash dog walking at Lands End, Fort Miley, Marin Headlands, parts of Ocean Beach, the Presidio and elsewhere throughout the GGNRA, NPS staff have not only broken promise after promise with park users, interested parties and even government officials, the NPS has also violated its own regulations, U.S. Department of the Interior policies, federal law and undermined the role of the Citizens Advisory Commission (“CAC”).

Since 1992, NPS staff has justified the conversion of recreational park resources to native plant habitats under the guise that such action is the national park mission. The mission of the GGNRA, however, is embodied in statute and legislative history creating the park. Indeed, the NPS’s own regulations and management policies underscore the importance of the specific language contained in the enabling legislation establishing each national park. Each park has a specific purpose unique to the cultural and ecological setting where it is located.

In fact, courts look to the enabling statute and legislative history establishing the specific park unit to ascertain the scope of activities permitted in each park. (National Rifle Assoc. of America v. Potter (D.D.C. 1986) 628 F. Supp. 903, 911, reviewing U.S. House of Representatives Report to determine if GGNRA permitted hunting and trapping.)

NPS management policies also specifically provide that, “Congress has stated in the enabling legislation of most units of the national park system that they have their own particular purposes and objectives.” (National Park Service Management Policies, at p. 2.)

Much of the San Francisco unit of what is now the GGNRA was originally city parkland donated to the federal government after the park was established. To address concerns from city officials and citizens over the release of this land to the federal government, certain unique restrictions were inserted into the enabling statute.
In particular, the GGNRA was established for “maintenance of needed recreational open space necessary to urban environment and planning.” (16 U.S.C. Section 460bb.) Relying on this language and representations by city officials that this was merely a “technical resolution” that would not affect “recreational use by all citizens,” the people of San Francisco approved in 1973 a Charter Amendment Proposition F, which permitted the transfer of these city parks to the federal government.

Legislative history and “land use planning” events developing the general plan and natural resources plan further confirm that the NPS understood that off- leash dog walking was a “recreational” activity “necessary to urban environment.” The use of these parks specifically for off-leash recreation was addressed during the hearings before the United States House of Representatives, and dog walking was an enumerated activity in the U.S. House Report. (H.R. Rep. No. 1391 at p. 4854.)

NPS management policies further advise that,
Park managers should ascertain park-specific purposes and management direction by reading the park’s enabling legislation or proclamation and determine general management direction, not inconsistent with the enabling legislation...
Wide variations exist in the degree to which the laws and proclamations creating the individual units of the national park system prohibit or mandate specific guidance on particular management actions... (Id.)

Other NPS policies mandate the same analysis:
The purpose of a park, program or central office is usually defined in, or derived from, the unit’s enabling legislation and from other legal documents providing for its establishment.... Purpose statements represent the government’s commitment (Congress’ expectation) to the public how an area will be managed for the public benefit...
Purpose statements provide the foundation for everything that a park staff does in a park, and everything that is done by a program or central office. These purpose statements set the parameters for how a park should be managed and used, and provide the standards and rationale against which the appropriateness of decisions can be tested. In other words, purpose statements put sideboards on what activities are appropriate in the park, or for a program or central office, and define how the park’s resources should be managed and what types of visitor experiences should occur...
Purpose statements are usually presented in the form of an infinitive statement: “To protect...” or “to preserve and interpret...” and “to provide...” Purpose statements are what you would answer a congressional committee if asked “Why does your park (program or central office) exist?” (Field Guide to National Park Service Performance Management, May 1998, emphasis added.)

Why does the GGNRA exist? It is not to create fenced native plant habitats off limits to the public. As evidenced by its name, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a recreation center, surrounded by a heavily populated urban environment. And it is the GGNRA’s recreational value that was of the utmost importance to the Congress that established this great urban park. In their words, the GGNRA was to be a “new national urban recreation area which will concentrate on serving the outdoor recreation needs of the people of the metropolitan region,” and its objective was “to expand to the maximum extent possible the outdoor recreation opportunities available in this region.” (H.R. Rep. No. 1391, 92nd Cong., 2nd Session (1972).)

Contrary, therefore, to any allegations by the NPS that dog walking is a “privilege,” subject to the “discretion” of the Superintendent which can be “revoked” at any time, public use of the land for recreation generally, and off leash dog walking specifically, is an important community right, which this Commission—like the Courts—can, and should, defend. That mandate is the government’s covenant with the people.

Perhaps now Bruce Grosjean will shut up before he purports to state what is and what is not the mandate of the GGNRA.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Open Letter to Howard Leavitt of the GGNRA


Dear Mr. Leavitt:

You do not seem able to tell the truth, so we are writing to set your lyin ass straight. You have continuously stated that with respect to the 1979 Pet Policy, "If you ask 100 people in this park, not one of them could tell you what the rules are on dogs".

You are full of shit. There are three pages that the GGNRA continues to hide from the public to justify this lie. The two pages of the 1979 Pet Policy state where dogs may be off-leash and subject to voice control. The one page 1986 Compendium Amendment thereto added a few additional sites, and specifically defines "voice control". It is very simple and has worked very well. But you and the rest of the GGNRA will continue to lie because your are liars and your goal is to completely eliminate off leash recreation in the GGNRA. Why not just attempt to tell the truth you jerk.

That is all (for today).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

GGNRA Draft Environmental Impact Statement: The Poison Pill


The 2,400 page GGRNA Draft Environmental Impact Statement purports to offer its proposed alternative (almost everywhere on leash or no dogs at all) and then several alternatives. However, buried deep within the document is the GGNRA's poison pill, which itself demonstrates that the alternatives are illusory - nothing more than a default to the GGNRA's desired change:

"In order to ensure protection of resources from dog walking activities, the dog walking regulations defined in action alternatives B, C, D, and E would be regularly enforced by park law enforcement, and compliance monitored by park staff. A compliance-based management strategy would be implemented to address noncompliance and would apply to all action alternatives. Noncompliance would include dog walking within restricted areas, dog walking under voice and sight control in designated on-leash dog
walking areas, and dog walking under voice and sight control outside of established ROLAs.

If noncompliance occurs, impacts to resources have the potential to increase and become short-term minor to major adverse. To prevent these impacts from increasing or occurring outside of the designated dog walking areas the NPS would regularly monitor all sites. When noncompliance is observed in an area, park staff would focus on enforcing the regulations, educating dog walkers, and establishing buffer zones,
time and use restrictions, and SUP restrictions. If compliance falls below 75 percent (measured as the Executive Summary xiv Golden Gate National Recreation Area
percentage of total dogs / dog walkers observed during the previous 12 months not in compliance with the regulations) the area’s management would be changed to the next more restrictive level of dog management. In this case, ROLAs would be changed to on-leash dog walking areas and on-leash dog walking areas would be changed to no dog walking areas.

This change would be permanent. Impacts from noncompliance could reach short-term minor to major adverse, but the compliance-based management strategy is designed to return impacts to a level that assumes compliance, as described in the overall
impacts analysis, or provide beneficial impacts where dog walking is reduced or eliminated."

A ruse by any other name is still a ruse!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

GGNRA Hellbent On Elimination Off-Leash Recreation On Bay Area Beaches


The following article appears in today's San Francisco Chronicle.
Another prolonged fight for our rights is underway with the despots who would ban our dogs (particularly our water rescue dogs) from the beaches and waters.

Thursday, January 13, 2011 (SF Chronicle)
Federal Plan Would Ban, LeashDdogs In Many Parks
(Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer)


"Dog owners in the Bay Area will get their chance Friday to chew over a
voluminous management plan for man's best friend on Golden Gate National
Recreation Area land - a proposal that would require dogs to be leashed in
many areas where they once ran free and would ban them entirely from other
areas.

The preferred alternative outlined in the new 2,400-page document says
park officials should keep dogs out of parts of San Francisco's Crissy
Field, Ocean Beach and Fort Funston. They would be banned entirely at Muir
Beach, a decades-old hound haven in Marin County.

The exhaustive plan, which at 14.7 pounds weighs twice as much as a
Chihuahua, was deemed necessary in large part because past efforts to
restrict off-leash dogs infuriated pet owners, who say there is no way to
give a canine adequate exercise on a leash.

Protests, civil disobedience and court challenges ensued, and at one point
San Francisco supervisors threatened to take back parklands from the
federal government if off-leash rights were revoked.

Leash laws were eventually implemented on portions of Ocean Beach under an
emergency order to protect the snowy plover, a federally protected bird,
but a 2005 U.S. District Court decision prohibited controversial changes
in the recreation area's 1979 pet policy unless the park completed a
lengthy public rule-making process. Balancing needs of users

Frank Dean, the superintendent of the Golden Gate National Recreation
Area, said the proposal is an attempt to balance the needs of all the
users while protecting natural and historic resources.
"The status quo is not really tenable," Dean said. "It's confusing where
you can go with your dog, and some people are not comfortable with dogs.
... Our goal here is to bring some clarity to it. It will remain the only
national park where you can take your dog off-leash."

The combination dog management plan and draft environmental report
analyzes five alternatives for dog walking in 21 areas of the 75,000-acre
park, which encompasses parts of San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin
counties.

Dean said the goal of the draft plan is to come up with a policy that is
fair to everybody, but many canine fanciers have long been skeptical. They
believe the recreation area simply wants to rescind the 1979 policy, which
set aside about 1 percent of the park for people to romp free with their
furry friends. No day at the beach.

The recreation area's preferred alternative is likely to curl a few more
lips, particularly in San Francisco and Marin.
Among other things, the plan would prohibit dogs on or off-leash at East
Beach, the most popular off-leash area at Crissy Field. The wildlife
protection area and tidal marsh at Crissy Field also would be off-limits
to dogs. Off-leash dogs would be allowed on Central Beach, a long section
of beach just west of the artificial tidal inlet, and in the central
grassy portion of the Crissy Air Field, according to the proposal. Ocean
Beach, Fort Funston

On Ocean Beach, off-leash dog walking would be allowed only north of
Stairwell 21, which is closest to the Cliff House. No dogs at all would be
allowed south of that area on the beach.

Fort Funston dog walkers would be limited to unleashing their pets south
of the beach access trail and north of the main parking lot. Battery
Davis, the Sunset and Horse trails and the bluffs overlooking the beach
would be off-limits. The parking lot, sand ladder and other trails would
require dogs to be on leashes.

All off-leash areas in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area would
require dog owners to have their pets under voice control.

The proposed ban at Muir Beach is sure to upset Marin County dog owners,
who have been among the most frequent beach visitors for 40 years,
especially on cold, windy and foggy days. The most galling aspect for the
dog-owning beachgoers is bound to be the fact that many of them supported
the restoration of the adjacent Redwood Creek tidal lagoon, which is now
being used as the primary reason for banning their four-legged companions.

Dog lovers in Marin won't be getting any breaks elsewhere if the park's
preferred alternative is selected: Of the six Marin County portions of the
national parkland where dogs currently run off-leash, including numerous
trails, only two would still permit off-leash dogs. Large increase in
visitors

Rover would still be allowed unleashed on the largest part of Rodeo Beach
in the Marin headlands, but not on the narrow southern portion, or South
Rodeo Beach. Oakwood Valley, which is often crowded with dog walkers,
would still allow unrestrained pooches, but only on a fire trail. The
lower section of Oakwood Valley Trail, which is used by dog walkers to
complete a hiking loop, would prohibit all dogs. The trail up to the ridge
that connects to Alta Trail would require leashes.

Most areas in the Peninsula would continue to require leashes, but the
proposal would prohibit all dogs on Sweeney Ridge.

The dog issue is a hot topic at least in part because of a dramatic
increase in the number of people visiting the recreation area over the
past two decades. As complaints about dogs and poop increased, bird lovers
started campaigning against what they called "domesticated predators."

Some conservationists say dogs trample native vegetation and disturb many
of the 75 protected species that live in or are dependent on the
recreation area for migration.

Stephen Sayad, who successfully fought a ticket for walking his dog
off-leash and is a member of the San Francisco Dog Owners Group, said
former San Francisco Mayor Joe Alioto deeded Ocean Beach, among other
areas, for use only as recreation areas. Reversion provisions that would
allow the city to reclaim the beach were included, he said, in case the
Golden Gate National Recreation Area tried to block such recreation,
presumably including dog walking.
"Rest assured that a reversion action will be brought upon the first hint
by the GGNRA of any change," Sayad wrote in a recent e-mail.

The dog management plan will undergo a 90-day public comment period
starting Jan. 14. A final decision is not expected until 2012.

Public hearings on plan
See the plan or comment beginning Friday at parkplanning.nps.gov/dogplan."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jet Goes To The Park






With Uncle Satchie on the Lookout