30,000+ People Petition Interior Secretary Zinke to Keep Dog Walking in Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Dog lovers tell the new Interior Secretary they won’t roll over and play dead in the face of Park Service efforts to restrict people and dogs from the popular recreation area.

July 18 – Bay Area dog and recreation groups have launched a petition calling on Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to keep recreational dog walking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). More than 30,000 people have signed the petition, which was started two weeks ago on Care2 (“Secretary Zinke – Help save dog walking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.”)People from all over the world have added their names, and many have written personal comments about the importance of keeping access for dog walking where it’s currently allowed on just 1% of GGNRA land.

The Care2 petition to Secretary Zinke says: We think you’d agree that dog walking is a perfectly appropriate activity for an urban recreation area like the GGNRA, located within one of the most densely packed urban areas in the nation.

“We know that Secretary Zinke is making the Department of the Interior building in Washington, D.C. dog friendly, so we wonder if he knows his underlings at the National Park Service are doing the exact opposite by cutting recreational dog walking in the most popular recreation area it manages,” said Andrea Buffa of Save Our Recreation, a coalition of groups suing the National Park Service. “The R in GGNRA stands for recreation, not remote wilderness, so why is the Park Service trying to manage the GGNRA like it’s out in the hinterland?”

In January, the planned “dog rule” for the GGNRA was halted indefinitely when emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit showed that multiple Park Service officials used private email accounts to collude with special interest groups that oppose dog walking. Emails show Park Service staff secretly helping anti-dog walking groups lobby elected officials in support of the Park Service position, as well as NPS staff destroying administrative record files, demonstrating bias against dog walking supporters, and purposely omitting scientific data from the dog management plan, actions that irreparably corrupted the administrative process used to develop the dog rule. All the emails and other documents are available to the public on http://www.woofieleaks.com.

On May 15, the Park Service issued a vague public statement that it had commissioned a review panel to examine the private emails of one staff person.

“We are discouraged that the Park Service appears to be unwilling to acknowledge the full extent of these problems by repeatedly trying to isolate the problems to only one employee despite having hundreds of pages of FOIA-related documents that show multiple staff, including two superintendents, were complicit in a wide range of improper and unlawful conduct, wrote Chris Carr, a partner who leads Morrison & Foerster’s Environmental and Energy Practice Group.

Morrison & Foerster represents Save our Recreation, Coastside DOG San Mateo County, Marin County DOG and SFDOG, which have asked for a truly independent investigation by the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General. The groups are also asking for the dog rule to be withdrawn.

"Care2 members have been protesting this proposal loudly for over a year," said Julie Mastrine, Care2's Manager of Brand Marketing and PR. "As a San Francisco resident, I know firsthand that dogs are supremely important to many Bay Area residents. Restricting their beloved pets' access to the GGNRA will bode negatively for their health and create significant obstacles for San Francisco dog walkers, driving up the cost of dog walking and care."

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Andrea Buffa, Save Our Recreation: andreabuffa2006@gmail.com, (510) 325-3653
Julie Mastrine, Care2: juliem@care2team.com

Sally Stephens