SEIS/DEIS for the 2014 GGNRA Dog Management Plan
FORT FUNSTON
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"I have met elderly women who come out with their own children with and without their dogs. I really feel without their trusted pets they still feel and know this is/was one of the brightest times of their lives and it is/was Fort Funston's off leash and freedom their four pawed friends experience at Fort Funston give/gave them quality of Life they will always cherish...."  --Thomas Roop (November 2013; Fort Funston)

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GGNRA 1979 Pet Policy contrasted with the 2013 Pet Policy (SEIS Preferred Alternative)

Fort Funston - Can We Get Our Access Back?

 

Overview

 

Although it may seem discouraging to be fighting for access with our dogs to Fort Funston (FF) yet again, we want to let you know that the facts and the law are on our side.  It's always important to communicate on a personal level the importance of access to FF for ourselves and our dogs, but our comments must be specific in several regards so as to address the unlawful aspects of the GGNRA's proposed Dog Management Policy (DMP), DEIS and SEIS.  We will substantiate the points listed below later on in this web page.  For those of you who need a quick explanation, the points you need to make are as follows:

 

The GGNRA's Dog Management Plan/DEIS/SEIS asserts that the change in Dog Management Policy is essential to protect the resources of the GGNRA. The DMP/DEIS/SEIS is unlawful and must be set aside (thrown out) because:

 

      The enabling legislation and Memorandum of Understanding with SF require the GGNRA to exercise "sound principles of land use, planning and management.”

 

      GGNRA management is in persistent violation of the enabling legislation, the Memorandum of Understanding with SF for this park property, and NPS Rules, Regulations and Policy because they have failed to perform "vital monitoring" which NPS considers an essential element of sound principles of land use, planning and management.

 

      GGNRA management can provide no monitoring report to substantiate visitor use patterns or conflicts,  no documentation of degradation of the Recreation Area resources due to the presence of dogs nor their guardians, as well as no documentation as to whether resource degradation is inevitable or under the control of management prior to proposing these management changes.

 

      Federal law requires site-specific, peer reviewed studies to justify and guide changes in management of National Park System resources. 

 

      The SEIS acknowledges the GGNRA has no such site-specific, peer reviewed studies for the impact of dogs and their guardians on water quality, vegetation, soils and wildlife in the GGNRA.

 

      There are no plant species which are endangered or threatened on Federal or State registers that have designated "critical habitat" in the GGNRA.  Displacing recreation to enhance the growth of any of these listed plants is not required by the ESA and violates the enabling legislation for the GGNRA.  However, we see that GGNRA management has displaced recreational access to plant these plants with regularity, the most egregious location being Fort Funston.

 

      The Monitoring Based Management Strategy is again a poison pill.  This proposed compliance strategy  has a measure of compliance that is totally subjective, with the GGNRA making all the decisions.  Further, short or long term (permanent) closures could be triggered by any number of conditions totally under the purview of the GGNRA.  It appears the language is designed to allow the GGNRA to make most or all of Fort Funston a native plant restoration/habitat, despite the fact that this is inconsistent with the enabling legislation and MOU with SF.

 

      Federal Law prohibits agency actions which are arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.  Accordingly, this agency action, findings and conclusions should be set aside as prescribed by the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 706 (2)A.

A brief post WWII history of Fort Funston (aka Doggie Disneyland)
 
Post WWII, Fort Funston (FF) was pretty much abandoned. In the 50’s and early 60’s, FF was a fabulous habitat - but not for wildlife. Rather, FF became a favorite hangout for seedy S.F. and Daly City gangs, drug dealers and users, sexual predators, off road recreation vehicle enthusiasts and a few off-leash dog walkers. Parents in nearby neighborhoods forbade their children from playing at FF due to its reputation for being unsafe. Tired of being harassed/harangued at other city parks, the dog community soon recognized the value in FF. It was clear that FF provided them an opportunity to recreate with their dogs off-leash in a beautiful seascape without any of the hassles presented at the other parks. No longer would they have to be inundated by the claims that they were infringing on the enjoyment of the city parks by adults and children who were afraid of dogs and complaints about dog waste.
 
Soon the word got out in the dog community and in the mid-late 60’s FF realized a huge spike in the number of dogs and their human companions. It was these people who became the true custodians of FF. They were the ones who turned it into a real park. They took pride in their park. They kept it clean and safe. In fact, because of the significant presence of dogs and their humans, the criminal element soon left FF in search of a new refuge where they had control and would remain unchallenged. Many went to Golden Gate Park. Truth be told, the criminals were afraid of the dogs. And the dogs, being the good judge of people that they are, didn’t like the criminals. Yes, it was because of the dogs, and only because of the dogs, that FF was now a VERY desirable park. This did not go unnoticed by the National Park Service.
 
When SF deeded FF in 1972 to the NPS/GGNRA, they inherited a spectacular park that was safe and well taken care of by its true custodians - the dog community. In return, the GGNRA promised via its enabling legislation to respect the historical usage of FF which included off-leash dog walking. This promise was codified in the GGNRA 1979 Pet Policy which officially designated FF as an off-leash dog park. In the early 1990’s a new management philosophy permeated the GGNRA where conservation would now trump everything else in this national recreation area. Most notably, it would trump recreation. In 2000, after several illegal closures at FF, Fort Funston Dog Walkers sued the GGNRA and won. In 2001 the GGNRA arbitrarily and capriciously wiped out 30 years of promises and promulgations and voided the 1979 Pet Policy (see Fort Funston Forum  for details). This action was reversed in 2004 in Federal Court and then again in 2005 in Federal Appellate Court. The 1979 Pet Policy was reinstated as the law of the land and remains that way today (also see GGNRA Pet Policy History). Presently, we are embroiled in a process, i.e., the 2013 GGNRA Pet Management Policy SEIS, which assures us that the GGNRA will once again remove off-leash dog walking from all of its recreation/park spaces.

The GGNRA'S Proposed 2013 Dog Management Plan

 

It was at the conclusion of the latest legal battle wherein Federal Judge William Alsup reinstated the 1979 Pet Policy, over the objections of the GGNRA/NPS/DOI, that a statement was made by the Judge that became the impetus for initiation of the planned changes in Dog Management in 2006.   The June 2005 decision by Judge Alsup cited in this SEIS noted that the court’s action “in no way restricts the authority of the Superintendent to ‘protect the  resource,’ including the protection of endangered and threatened species."

 

The GGNRA/NPS/DOI asserts that the change in Dog Management Policy (DMP) in this SEIS is intended to protect the resources of the GGNRA.  A Freedom of Information Request was made for the data, documents, and/or Staff Report which substantiated the GGNRA’s claim that there was controversy over the dog policy, compromised visitor and employee safety and resource degradation which warranted the change in Dog Management Policy (DMP) and DEIS.  The GGNRA’s response merely stated:  The Staff Report and other documents you seek do not exist at this time”. [emphasis added]

 

There is no mention in the DEIS or SEIS of the judge's additional admonition that "Congress has committed the proper balance of resource protections and recreation to the park professionals.  Their judgments should be respected by the courts absent a violation of the law." [emphasis added]

 

The GGNRA has violated the law by ignoring the fundamental legal underpinnings provided by the enabling legislation, NPS Laws, Rules, Regulations and Policy. The GGNRA has demonstrably violated the enabling legislation and the Memorandum of Understanding with the City by failing to meet their requirement to utilize sound principles of land management.

 

The enabling legislation states specifically: “In the management of the recreation area, the Secretary of the Interior (hereinafter referred to as the ''Secretary'') 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.”

 

The MOU with the City states:  “The 1975 agreement for the lands transfer from the City of San Francisco to the NPS states that ―The National Park Service, acting through the General Superintendent, agrees to utilize the resources of GGNRA in a manner that will provide for recreational and educational opportunities consistent with sound principals of land use, planning and management..”

 

The National Parks Omnibus Management Act of 1998 established the sound principles for land use, planning and management.  This Act provided the framework for fully integrating natural resource monitoring and other science activities into the management processes of the National Park System. The Act charges the Secretary of the Interior to "continually improve the ability of the National Park Service to provide state-of-the-art management, protection, and interpretation of and research on the resources of the National Park System", and to "assure the full and proper utilization of the results of scientific studies for park management decisions."   Section 5934 of the Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to develop a program of "inventory and monitoring of National Park System resources to establish baseline information and to provide information on the long-term trends in the condition of National Park System resources."

 

 NPS policy specifically states:  “Natural resource monitoring provides site specific information needed to understand and identify change in complex, variable, and imperfectly understood natural systems and to determine whether observed changes are within natural levels of variability or may be indicators of unwanted human influences.”

 

In short, site-specific, peer reviewed studies are required to justify and guide changes in management of National Park System resources.  Clearly, the failure of GGNRA management to conduct any consistent monitoring or study of the resources in the GGNRA is a violation of Federal law.  This SEIS highlights the fact that GGNRA management is in persistent violation of the enabling legislation for this park property.  GGNRA management can provide no monitoring report to substantiate visitor use patterns or conflicts,  no documentation of degradation of the Recreation Area resources, as well as no documentation as to whether resource degradation is inevitable or under the control of management prior to proposing these management changes.

 

In fact, the DEIS asserted dogs negatively affect water quality in the GGNRA. Those assertions have been omitted in the SEIS with the following explanation on page 28:

 

 "Although water quality monitoring currently occurs at GGNRA, no site-specific, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted at the GGNRA sites to document impacts to water quality specifically from dogs. It is also difficult to discern what is causing an impact to water quality, especially in a large metropolitan area where water quality may already be degraded. The literature review found very few investigations or peer-reviewed, scientific studies that document the isolated effects dogs have on water quality in recreational settings. Water quality has therefore been dismissed as a resource topic in this document due to lack of literature." 

 

Further, the SEIS on pages 373 and 376, admits the following:

 

"Site-specific, peer-reviewed studies have not been conducted at the GGNRA sites for the sole purpose of documenting impacts to vegetation or soils from dogs.... Very few site-specific, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted at GGNRA for the purpose of documenting impacts to wildlife as a result of dogs." 

 

Without the site-specific, peer reviewed studies, the GGNRA is left to argue that potential damage will be done should they fail to change the DMP.  This is not sufficient to justify a change in the DMP by the standards set by the NPS itself.

 

The GGNRA has also embarked on a mission to create native plant habitats where no habitat previously existed.  GGNRA management alleges this is a part of their obligation to “preserve” the park for future enjoyment, however, this is NOT what they are doing.  When you read the overview for Fort Funston (in our full Comment text), it is abundantly clear that they are creating these native plant habitats, and in doing so they are destroying parts of the park that existed long before the GGNRA took control.  This process is not preserving anything.  Additionally, this is in violation of their authorizing directive, as they insist establishment of native plant areas requires the exclusion of humans from the site, eliminating all recreational activity in the area.  Essentially the GGNRA is creating habitats adjacent to heavily used recreational areas, and then subsequently utilizing the habitat as a means to eliminate the recreational area.

 

If you read the Affected Environment section carefully, you will learn that there are no plant species which are endangered or threatened on Federal or State registers that have designated "critical habitat" in the GGNRA.  Based upon the ESA and the enabling legislation for the GGNRA, it is a violation of the law to displace recreation to enhance the growth of any of these listed plants in the GGNRA.  However, we see that GGNRA management has displaced recreational access to plant these plants with regularity, the most egregious location being Fort Funston.

 

Conclusion

 

It is time to stake our claim and stand firm on Fort Funston as the off-leash recreation area set forth in the 1979 Pet Policy. The aforementioned points need to be made to local and federal government officials. Therefore, we ask that you contact your S.F. Supervisor, submit a comment to the GGNRA and sign the petition requesting Congressional oversight of the GGNRA Dog Management Plan. Otherwise...

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ACCESS DENIED! - the GGNRA desperately wants to make these barricades permanent