Dog groups bark for joy as Park Service permanently ends efforts to restrict access for people with dogs in GGNRA

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 19 – Save Our Recreation and local dog groups celebrated today’s National Park Service announcement that it has permanently ended a planning and rulemaking process intended to restrict where you can walk with a dog in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).

“This is a huge victory for the people of the Bay Area,” said Save Our Recreation’s Andrea Buffa. “For years we’ve been telling the Park Service that dog walking is an important form of recreation for us – it’s part of our way of life. Now, finally, they were forced to listen.”

The NPS announcement followed a ten-month review of the dog rule planning and rulemaking process that was initiated as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by Save Our Recreation, SFDOG, Marin County DOG and Coastside DOG of San Mateo County. Chris Carr, a partner at Baker Botts office in San Francisco, who has led the litigation, said: “This is a vindication of the power of the public’s right to know what its government is doing.  The GGNRA is certainly a national treasure, and so is FOIA.”

Emails released as a result of the lawsuit revealed that GGNRA employees, including two Superintendents and the GGNRA FOIA Officer, used private emails to collude with special interest groups opposed to dog walking to generate public support for the GGNRA’s proposed dog plan. The emails also revealed intentional destruction of documents involved in the rulemaking process, the purposeful omission of scientific data, and extreme bias on the part of the Park Service against people with dogs and against dog walking as a recreational activity.

“We always knew the process was rigged against us,” said Sally Stephens, from the San Francisco Dog Owners Group. “The emails we uncovered because of the FOIA lawsuit proved we were right. And now the Park Service has acknowledged that the documents were damning enough that they couldn’t move forward with the dog rule.”

“Thanks to Congresswoman Jackie Speier and new leadership at the Department of Interior, we are now seeing accountability and transparency that was sorely lacking at the National Park Service,” Stephens added.

The Park Service announcement states that the GGNRA will manage dog walking according to the 1979 Pet Policy, that allowed dog walking on 1% of GGNRA land, including Fort Funston, Ocean Beach, Crissy Field, Baker Beach, Lands End, Muir Beach, Rodeo Beach, and various trails in the Marin Headlands, among other places.

One remaining question is what happens to dog walking on GGNRA land in San Mateo County, which was not part of the GGNRA in 1979 and therefore is not included in the 1979 Pet Policy.

“People have walked their dogs on the lands in San Mateo that became part of the GGNRA for decades,” Buffa adds. “We call on the Park Service to create a new regulation that will allow for on- and off-leash dog walking at sites in San Mateo County where people have traditionally walked with their dogs.”

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www.saveourrecreation.com

www.sfdog.org

www.coastsidedpg.org

www.marincountydog.org

Save Our Recreation with Rep. Jackie Speier and Local Elected Officials Call on the National Park Service to Keep GGNRA Accessible to All 

June 5, 2014 – Save Our Recreation with Rep. Jackie Speier, Board President David Chiu, Supervisor Scott Wiener, Board President Kathrin Sears and Supervisor Don Horsley held a press conference on the steps of San Francisco City Hall today calling on the National Park Service to keep the Golden Gate National Recreation Area accessible to all. Staff at the GGNRA are considering changes that would limit or bar recreational uses such as dog-walking, hiking and surfing in some areas.

“San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin counties are crowded – and we are growing,” said Congresswoman Speier. “We need more places for recreation – and the last thing we need is for the staff at the GGNRA to dramatically restrict access to these beloved recreation areas. This land was given by the City of San Francisco and other local agencies to the federal government with the express pledge that it would be held in trust and preserved for all to enjoy.”
At the press conference, Supervisor Wiener read a statement from Mayor Ed Lee: “I urge GGNRA to actively engage with San Francisco to create a better balance that considers the unique needs of dense urban cities. GGNRA has important stewardship responsibility, but their draft dog plans need to be reflective of our concerns about diverse users and impacts on local parks and streets. I hope that at the end of the rulemaking process, GGNRA does not significantly limit recreation – for humans or their dogs – in the precious lands that they oversee.”

Save Our Recreation is a developing organization that will serve as an umbrella group to bring people and organizations supporting recreation together. They advocate for the preservation of recreation in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) and a comprehensive process that includes public input, independent voices and thoughtful consideration before any changes are made to recreational areas. For more information visit: www.SaveOurRecreation.com.

Attention dog lovers: The Park Service is coming after us again

Just when we thought we might be able to walk with our dogs in the Golden Gate National Recreation area without constantly having to worry that the Park Service would take this activity away, they are moving to revive the dog rule for the GGNRA, hoping the new Secretary of the Interior won’t notice what they’re up to. It could happen as early as this summer.

Please sign the petition to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke: Help us stop the National Park Service’s assault on dog walking in the GGNRA

Here’s what’s going on – we thought the Park Service wouldn’t possibly try to push through the GGNRA dog rule after we discovered through our Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit that numerous Park Service officials—including two superintendents–had been using their private email accounts to collaborate behind the scenes with special interest groups that oppose dog walking. By colluding with these groups to lobby elected officials on behalf of the Park Service position, and by destroying administrative record files, demonstrating bias against dog walking supporters, and omitting data from the dog management plan, they irreparably corrupted the administrative process used to develop the dog rule.

But that doesn’t seem to matter to the Park Service. They recently announced they would quickly conduct what appears to be a cursory investigation of the inappropriate use of private email accounts by Park Service staff. We think they’re trying to get the rule to the point where it cannot be withdrawn. The Park Service even tried to mislead the public by saying that only one of their officials used his private email account to collaborate with outside groups, when it was actually four officials, including the current superintendent of the Grand Canyon.

We need to make sure these activities come to the attention of the new Secretary of the Interior, who has been very public about wanting the Department of the Interior (of which the Park Service is a part) to be dog friendly. He can help us stop the Park Service staff’s misconduct and get the dog rule withdrawn once and for all.

Please sign our petition to Secretary of the Interior Zinke and spread the word with everyone you know who enjoys dog walking in Ft. Funston, Muir Beach, Rancho Corral de Tierra, Crissy Field and so many other places where we’ve been walking with our dogs for decades.

We’ve held off the Park Service for more than a decade because tens of thousands of us wrote letters, rallied, lobbied, marched and did whatever else we could think of. Let’s not let them defeat us now.

March 20, 2017: NPS Private Email Scandal Grows

Taking on the federal government is a David vs Goliath struggle.

But in the case of our efforts to save dog walking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, we underdogs are giving Goliath a serious run for his money.

Because of our Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the National Park Service, we obtained emails and other documents that in early January caused the Park Service to indefinitely delay its planned dog restrictions. But those were just the beginning.

Last week, WoofieLeaks.com posted documents received from the National Park Service showing that not one, but multiple National Park Service staff, including two former Superintendents, used their private email accounts to hide their collusion with organizations that backed the Park Service’s plan to severely restrict recreational dog walking.

Read the press release.

Spanning from 2011 to 2016, the private account emails show Park Service officials’ extensive behind-the-scenes coordination with a handful of special interest groups that oppose dog walking. GGNRA helped the groups lobby elected officials and develop media strategies. These actions may have violated the law.

Click here to see the new emails.

Right now the Park Service is conducting an internal investigation into its staff’s use of private email. Congresswoman Jackie Speier is calling for an independent investigation by the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General and for the National Park Service to rescind the dog plan entirely due to this tainted process.

But so far the dog rule is only on hold – it has not been officially withdrawn by the Park Service. Please help us permanently halt the dog rule by donating to our efforts today.

Donate to help us stop the dog rule once and for all!

Thanks to all who have submitted public comments, attended meetings and rallies, and donated to our efforts. Because of you, we’re still walking with our dogs in the places we love in the Bay Area!

Jan 10th Alert: Breaking News

In an announcement today the National Park Service said it’s postponing signing-off on the dog walking restrictions it had proposed for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The record of decision, which was expected today, will be delayed indefinitely.

In light of newly found records, the Park Service said it has undertaken a review of communications by a senior GGNRA employee who used his personal Gmail account to conduct official business related to the dog plan. This private email use was discovered in response to our ongoing federal lawsuit to compel the Park Service to comply with our Freedom of Information Act Request for information about how the agency made decisions in developing the dog management plan.

We feel the National Park Service is taking the right action postponing the dog plan. But it needs to go further with a much broader investigation of the entire dog management planning process, which has been severely compromised. Documents released last week via www.WoofieLeaks.com show the Park Service is biased against people who walk with dogs, engaged in questionable meetings with external groups by directing them to drum up support for the dog restrictions, and had improper — and possibly unlawful — recordkeeping practices. The newly discovered private emails reveal similar activity by the agency and suggest the use of the personal email account may have been intentional.

This is a huge victory for everyone who has participated in good faith in the dog management planning process and for the elected officials who stood up for us!

Recreational dog walking is a wonderful, healthy activity that’s beloved in the San Francisco Bay Area. All we’ve ever wanted is to keep a reasonable amount of open space in the GGNRA for people to exercise with their dogs.

The National Park Service may try to bring its plan for restricting dog walking back in the future, so please stay tuned. In the meantime, many thanks to the ace team at Morrison & Foerster who is representing Save Our Recreation, SFDOG, Marin County DOG, and Coastside DOG of San Mateo County in the lawsuit.

You can see the National Park Service statement about the postponing of the dog management plan here.

You can see all of the communications obtained via the Freedom of Information Act at www.WoofieLeaks.com.

And click here to see Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s letter requesting an investigation of the Park Service by the Department of Interior Inspection General.

Tell the SF Supervisors You Support Recreation in the Peninsula Watershed

Next week, a resolution to expand public access to the Peninsula Watershed is coming before a committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Opening the watershed’s dirt access roads will provide the kind of open space for recreation that we need more of in the densely packed San Francisco Bay Area.

Watch this two-minute video to learn more.

Please join us at the hearing on Monday, Sept. 12 at 1:30 PM and/or email the supervisors on the Land Use and Transportation Committee!

Land Use & Transportation Committee Hearing
Monday, Sept. 12, 1:30 PM
San Francisco City Hall, Legislative Chamber, Room 250

Email the members of the Committee:
[email protected]
[email protected]
NOTE: The third supervisor on the committee, Scott Wiener, is a sponsor of the resolution.

Here’s a sample email:

Dear Supervisors Cohen and Peskin,

I am writing to support Board of Supervisors Resolution 160183, urging the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to expand public access to the Peninsula Watershed lands.

Residents of San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area are in desperate need of more open space where they can recreate in the outdoors with their friends and family members, and the Peninsula Watershed provides a perfect setting for this type of recreation.

Access to the watershed’s existing dirt roads will allow hikers, cyclists and equestrians to visit the area’s largest and most scenic unused, publicly held open space, integrating national, state and county parklands across the San Francisco Peninsula.

The trails that would be opened to access are actually dirt roads that are currently used by SFPUC trucks on a daily basis. They could easily be designated as a trail system, much as is done in the Marin County and Santa Clara County Watersheds.

Other Bay Area water districts allow public access to their lands without compromising water safety or environmental stewardship. So do thousands of water districts throughout the country.

In fact, an in-depth environmental impact analysis by the San Francisco Planning Department determined that increased public access and use of the watershed would pose little to no risk to geology and soils; hydrology and water quality; natural resources; air quality; noise; and other factors.

I urge you to support BOS Resolution 160183 as an important way to improve the quality of life of Bay Area residents without sacrificing our region’s unique natural resources.

Legal Update — Pro Bono Announcement

Just wanted to share some great news on the legal front and to ask for your help.

As many of you know, a coalition of groups, including Save Our Recreation, filed a federal lawsuit on April 6 against the National Park Service for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request for critical information about the development of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area dog management plan. If implemented, the plan would severely restrict a recreational activity many of us love–walking with our dogs.

Both parties have been convening with a Magistrate Judge in a series of meetings to determine a process and timeline for the Park Service to provide complete and substantive data by the end of the year. Our intention is to proceed with the lawsuit in the case of any delay.

This legal fight belongs to all of us who walk with our furry family members in the GGNRA. It is a true David and Goliath effort with a formidable opponent—the federal government.

We are happy to share that our law firm, Morrison Foerster, has generously offered to help level the playing field. After our phase one legal effort, Morrison Foerster will be providing their legal services pro bono. This includes pro bono for a larger legal challenge against the dog rule should it come to that. This is absolutely amazing. We wish to extend a heartfelt thank you to Morrison Foerster and our dedicated attorneys for supporting our cause.

This is where we need your help. Between now and August 31st, we need to raise $28,000 to meet our fundraising goal for committed phase one legal costs. If we all band together, this should be easy.

We encourage everyone to donate what they can and to share the online fundraising campaign with friends.  

Together we are mighty.  Let’s do this!

July 2016 Update

It’s been almost two months since we submitted our public comments about the proposed restrictions on recreational dog walking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). We thought you’d like to hear what’s been happening since then.

Public Comments Show Overwhelming Opposition to the Dog Rule
Thanks to your commitment to this issue, about 4,100 public comments were submitted to the National Park Service about the dog rule by the May 25th deadline. The comments were 3 to 1 against the rule. Once again the people of the Bay Area have spoken out saying we want to keep the GGNRA open to everyone—including people who recreate with their dogs. We expect the final dog rule to be released at the end of this year. Hopefully the Park Service will listen to our comments!

Amendment Proposed to Deny Federal Funding for Dog Rule
In other news, just this week we learned that the wonderful Bay Area Congresswoman Jackie Speier introduced an amendment to the Department of the Interior Appropriations Act that would prevent the Park Service from using any funds allocated in the Appropriations Act to “finalize, implement, administer or enforce” the dog rule. It’s far from certain that the amendment will pass, but we hugely appreciate Congresswoman Speier’s efforts on behalf of Bay Area recreation!

Sign the Petition to Fire NPS Director Jon Jarvis
For years, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis has been a driving force behind GGNRA’s misguided dog plan. “I would rather give up these [GGNRA] properties than have dogs run loose on them” has been his mantra.  His top-down, anti-dog agenda has been one of the main reasons we’ve had to fight so hard to keep a mere 1% of GGNRA open to recreational dog walking.

Now Jarvis is in hot water due to his failure to address serious ongoing sexual harassment and hostile work environment violations at locations including the Grand Canyon National Park and Cape Canaveral National Seashore (Lawmakers Charge Park Service Chief Oversees Culture of Sexual Harassment, The Washington Post).  These scandals come on the heels of his own ethics violations (Park Service Chief Reprimanded after Admittedly Ignoring Ethics Rules, The Washington Times). And let’s not forget Jarvis’s failure to reprimand NPS employees who were caught deliberately omitting and misrepresenting scientific data in environmental impact analyses of Drakes Bay Estero at Point Reyes National Seashore.

If this weren’t bad enough, Jarvis has championed a new regulation that for the first time in NPS history would aggressively promote the selling of corporate naming rights and logo placement in our national parks and recreation areas to the highest corporate bidders (US National Parks Funding Woes: Budget Shortfalls Drive Unpopular Proposals To Allow Commercial Logos, International Business Times).  Muir Woods brought to you by Disney. Or how about Crissy Field brought to you by Chevron?

Enough is enough. Rather than wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on restricting recreational dog walking in a recreation area, we need an NPS Director who has the moral compass and leadership to tackle serious and pervasive agency issues such as sexual harassment.  Please join Save Our Recreation in supporting this petition.

Attention dog lovers: The Park Service is coming after us again

Just when we thought we might be able to walk with our dogs in the Golden Gate National Recreation area without constantly having to worry that the Park Service would take this activity away, they are moving to revive the dog rule for the GGNRA, hoping the new Secretary of the Interior won’t notice what they’re up to. It could happen as early as this summer.

Please sign the petition to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke: Help us stop the National Park Service’s assault on dog walking in the GGNRA

Here’s what’s going on – we thought the Park Service wouldn’t possibly try to push through the GGNRA dog rule after we discovered through our Freedom of Information Act Lawsuit that numerous Park Service officials—including two superintendents–had been using their private email accounts to collaborate behind the scenes with special interest groups that oppose dog walking. By colluding with these groups to lobby elected officials on behalf of the Park Service position, and by destroying administrative record files, demonstrating bias against dog walking supporters, and omitting data from the dog management plan, they irreparably corrupted the administrative process used to develop the dog rule.

But that doesn’t seem to matter to the Park Service. They recently announced they would quickly conduct what appears to be a cursory investigation of the inappropriate use of private email accounts by Park Service staff. We think they’re trying to get the rule to the point where it cannot be withdrawn. The Park Service even tried to mislead the public by saying that only one of their officials used his private email account to collaborate with outside groups, when it was actually four officials, including the current superintendent of the Grand Canyon.

We need to make sure these activities come to the attention of the new Secretary of the Interior, who has been very public about wanting the Department of the Interior (of which the Park Service is a part) to be dog friendly. He can help us stop the Park Service staff’s misconduct and get the dog rule withdrawn once and for all.

Please sign our petition to Secretary of the Interior Zinke and spread the word with everyone you know who enjoys dog walking in Ft. Funston, Muir Beach, Rancho Corral de Tierra, Crissy Field and so many other places where we’ve been walking with our dogs for decades.

We’ve held off the Park Service for more than a decade because tens of thousands of us wrote letters, rallied, lobbied, marched and did whatever else we could think of. Let’s not let them defeat us now.