Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore


Climate Change is Happening

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its Fourth Assessment Report, which stated that the concentration of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere in the year 2005 far exceeded the normall range over the last 650,000 years and concluded that global warming is unequivocally happening. Glaciers and snow packs are melting, stream temperatures are going up, coastal erosion is increasing, and changes in weather patterns are leading to drought and heat waves both locally and regionally. The Fourth Assessment Report not only stated unambiguously that global warming is happening, but it also declared that it is very likely that most of the warming observed since the mid-20th century is caused by human emissions of greenhouse gasses.

The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has declared 2006 to be the warmest year in the continental United States since the government started collecting national temperature data in 1895. The NCDC also reported that 2006 also capped a nine-year warming streak that they described as "unprecedented in the historical record." According to the NCDC, the record-breaking temperatures were the result of both unusual regional weather patterns and the long-term effects of the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The NCDC also reported that there are indications of acceleration in the rate at which global temperatures are rising.

Average temperatures nationwide in 2006 were 1.2°C (2.2°F) higher than the mean temperatures nationwide for the 20th century. The NCDC found that seven months in 2006 were much warmer than average, and that December 2006 was the fourth-warmest December on record. Average temperatures for all 48 contiguous states were above or well above average, and some states logged their hottest temperatures ever.

Climate experts generally do not worry much about temperature fluctuations over one or two years, but scientists are concerned that the record 2006 temperatures were part of a long and troubling trend. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the past nine years have all been among the 25 warmest years on record for the continental United States. Other NOAA research has found that the rate of temperature increase has been significantly greater in the past 30 years than at any time since the government started collecting national temperature data in 1895.

Scientists predict that the changes from global warming will accelerate in the future and say that we can expect more extreme weather, more public health risks, less snow and drinking water shortages. Many of these changes have consequences that will affect ecosystems, habitat, wildlife, cultural structures and artifacts, and influence the experiences for which the national parks were established. Regardless of their causes, we must do what we can to reduce and manage these impacts and adapt to the new circumstances they bring. Perhaps the same wisdom that has preserved our heritage in the past can guide us in making choices for the future.


Fuels Management

Fuels manangement is the manipulation of vegetation to reduce hazardous fuel and restore ecosystem health. Current fuels management is done in accordance with the National Fire Plan. The National Fire Plan, which was initiated in 2001, has accelerated fuels management programs on all federal wildlands.

Fuels management involves many different kinds of treatment.

Prescribed Fire
Several prescribed burns are conducted each year in different areas of the park. Due to the proximity of developed areas, all prescribed fires are designed to be completed within a single day. Each burn unit is approximately 100 acres or less.

Mechanical Treatment
Cutting vegetation with chainsaws, mowers, weed wackers, and pruning shears are common fuel reduction techniques. Chippers are used to reduce the size of the larger debris so it can be used as much or hauled to a composting station.

Rising Temperatures Threaten Habitat

In its Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that during the 21st century, the best case scenario - the "low scenario" - where humans significantly reduce their greenhouse emissions, will result in an increase in global mean temperature of 1.8°C (3.2°F) on average . The "high scenario" - where humans do not significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions - will result in an increase of 4.0°C (7.2°F) on average.

The State of California predicts mean temperatures to rise at least 1.7°C (3°F) by 2100, if humans significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, mean temperatures could rise by as much as 5.8°C (10.5°F) if we don't modify our behavior much. To give an illustration of what such a change in mean temperature might be like, consider the following.

A change of least 1.7°C (3°F) may not seem like much, but it would be similar to relocating Point Reyes National Seashore to Monterey Bay. The mean annual temperature at the Bear Valley Visitor Center is 12°C (53.6°F), while that of Monterey is 13.7°C (56.6°F). A change of 5.6°C (10°F) would be akin to moving Point Reyes National Seashore to south of San Diego. The mean annual temperature at the San Diego airport is 17.3°C (63.1°F). No location along the California coastline currently has an annual mean temperature of 17.8°C (12°C + 5.8°C) (64.1 °F).â€Â 

Warmer temperatures would result in greater rates of evaporation, as well as increased transpiration from plants. Large trees now now exist in the Point Reyes area, like the Douglas Fir, California Bay, and California Redwood, would not likely survive the warmer temperatures. In and of itself, this would drastically change the scenery and ecosystems here at Point Reyes. On top of that, with the increased dryness combined with the fuel provided by dying trees, the chance of wildfire would increase.

As temperatures increase, people who live in warmer areas further inland, such as the Central Valley, will likely make more weekend trips to the relatively cooler mountains and shorelines of California. This will result in increased visitation to national parks, such as Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Point Reyes. Unless vehicles are significantly more efficient or powered by electricity generated from non-fossil fuel sources, the increase in the number of trips will only add to the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Increased visitation will also, in turn, result in increased natural resource impacts at National Parks and strain the National Park Service's operations.

Historic Structures

Point Reyes' historic structures, from farm houses, barns, and creameries to lighthouses and radio stations, represent the ranching and maritime culture of the central California coast.

The Seashore is responsible for preserving nearly 300 historic structures, of which 60 are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To maintain these buildings, the Seashore created a historic preservation crew led by an exhibit specialist in 1999. During the next two years, the crew completed over 30 projects throughout the park and constructed a new carpentry shop at the historic RCA Point Reyes Receiving Station.

Preservation work in 2001 included repairs at the Spaletta Dairy (historic C Ranch), Pierce Ranch, and the Giacomini Ranch in Olema Valley. At the Wilkins Ranch, in addition to work completed by the crew and Seashore contractors, the park hosted the University of Oregon's Historic Preservation Field School which provided training in preservation philosophy and craft to professionals, students and others interested in historic preservation. 2001 also saw contractors begin a rehabilitation of the Murphy (Home) Ranch main house, and the completion of design for a major rehabilitation project at the Lighthouse.


Centennial Initiative 2016

Centennial Vision

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, America invites the world to discover the meaning of national parks in their lives. National Parks have long inspired people to both experience and become devoted to these special places.

On August 25, 2006 - the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service - Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne launched the National Park Centennial Initiative to prepare national parks for another century of conservation, preservation and enjoyment. Since then, the National Park Service asked citizens, park partners, resource experts and other constituents what they envisioned for a second century of national parks.

A nationwide series of more than 40 listening sessions produced more than 6,000 comments that helped to shape five centennial goals. The goals and vision were presented to the White House, the Congress and to the American people on May 31st in a report called The Future of America's National Parks.

Staff from every national park took their lead from this report and created local centennial strategies to describe their vision and desired accomplishments by 2016. This is just the first year, and there are many great things to come as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate 100 years!


Museum Collection
The museum collections include biological specimens and cultural history artifacts. The catalog currently holds collection information on 1,340 mammal, bird, invertebrate, insect, and fossil specimens and a herbarium of native and rare plants. The collections contain approximately 112,000 examples of material culture produced by the Coast Miwok tribes including arrow points; bone, stone, and obsidian tools; shell beads and stone mortars. An extraordinary collection of more than 700 late-sixteenth century blue- and- white Chinese porcelain sherds discovered at Miwok sites and found on Drakes Beach, provide evidence of two historic events - early European contact with coastal tribes and a sunken Manila galleon in Drakes Bay. Over 6,500 collection objects of historic and cultural value document one hundred and fifty years of dairy ranching and maritime services of the U.S. Coast Guard at the Lighthouse, Lifesaving and Lifeboat Stations on Point Reyes. Thousands of objects demonstrating the development of maritime radio technology are intact at the two historic Marconi/RCA radio stations within the park.

Archives & Library
The PRNS archives contain NPS and public documents, maps, drawings and photographs. The records trace the legislative history and planning documents of the park, beginning in the late 1950's, and the administrative, environmental, and resource management of the Seashore since its establishment in 1962. The RCA maritime radio station collection includes over 200 linear feet of documents, books, photos, and maps related to its operations between 1914-1997. A growing collection of oral history interviews on tape explores lives and subjects of local interest. Local residents have donated small collections of personal papers, albums, correspondence, deeds, and photos.

The photograph collections consist of nearly 20,000 images including original and copy prints, aerials, slides and digital images. The photos date back to the 1860s depicting the development of local towns and ranching families, maritime history, the great1906 earthquake, and the North Pacific Coast Railroad era. Photos taken after the creation of the park in 1962 document the staff, visitor services and events, building and resource management projects, landscapes and historic structures, the park's Morgan Horse Ranch, and Kule Loklo, a reconstructed Miwok village. The Seashore library holds a natural and cultural history reference collection, rare books, park reports and educational videos.

The museum, archives and library holdings support NPS staff, exhibits, and the Pacific Coast Learning Center. The collections are open to the public for research by appointment. The state-of-the art collections facility which opened in 2002 is located inside the historic Red Barn at the Seashore's Bear Valley entrance.

For inquiries about the collections please contact:

  • Archivist: Carola Derooy 415-464-5125 email
  • Curator: Kirsten Kvam 415-464-5218 email
  • Librarian: Amanda Tomlin 415-464-5100 x 5928 email


Research Internship and Education Programs

The Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center (PCSLC) actively recruits those who are interested and willing to support science, research, and science education at national park sites within the San Francisco Area Network.

This includes internship and volunteer opportunities at Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, Fort Point National Historic Site, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, John Muir National Historic Site, Muir Woods National Monument, Pinnacles National Monument, Point Reyes National Seashore, and the Presidio of San Francisco.

What kinds of internships and volunteer opportunities are available?

Past interns and volunteers have assisted with biological inventories and monitoring (for example, butterflies, mushrooms, fish, rare plants, tule elk, seals), cultural resources projects, social science, and restoration. Other volunteers assist with science education programs either as a docent or as a docent coordinator. Some internships focus on the summer season (Biological Science Aids) while others are over the winter months (Resource Educator Volunteer).

Who may apply?

These positions are open to all levels of experience including graduate students, educators, community members, and high school students.

How can I apply?

Please send a cover letter and resumé detailing your experience and needs. Include your availability, desired compensation (for example: stipend, housing, reimbursed transportation), areas of interest, and academic requirements.

or by email


How You Can Help

There are many ways that you can help protect Point Reyes National Seashore by reducing your greenhouse gas emissions, whether it is by modifying lifestyle choices, by participating in community action, or contacting policymakers. Individual choices can have a dramatic impact on global climate change. Reducing your family's heat-trapping emissions does not mean forgoing modern conveniences; it means making smart choices and using energy-efficient products, which may require an additional investment up front, but often pay you back in energy savings within a couple of years. Since Americans' per capita emissions of heat-trapping gases is 5.6 tons—more than double the amount of western Europeans—we can all make choices that will greatly reduce our families' global warming impact.

Do you know what your "carbon foot" is? The Environmental Protection Agency has developed tools to help individuals and households reduce greenhouse gas emissions and take action, such as a Personal Emissions Calculator. This calculator provides an estimate of household greenhouse gas emissions resulting from household energy use and waste disposal, and it gives you information you can use to identify ways to reduce your personal greenhouse gases.

Rising Sea Levels Endanger Beaches

One of the greatest threats from global warming to coastal national parks, such as Point Reyes, is rising sea levels. Global sea levels have risen about eighteen centimeters (seven inches) during the past century, and in 2001, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected another 7- to 88-centimeter (3 to 35 inches) rise by 2100 with the greatest probability being a rise of 48 centimeters (19 inches). Several recent studies, however, indicate that much greater rises in sea level could be coming. One report, commissioned by the state of California, gave a range of projected sea-level rise from 10 to 78 centimeters (4 to 31 inches). Another study found that future warming could be enough to melt polar ice caps, potentially leading to a meter (three feet) of sea-level rise this century and as much as 6 meters (20 feet) over the next four or five centuries. These swelling seas will transform the Point Reyes visitors have come to treasure, both for its wildlife and for its powers to rejuvenate.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) identified Point Reyes National Seashore as particularly at risk among American shorelines, along with Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The USGS rated the vulnerability of all the beaches on the west side of Point Reyes -- where wave heights are highest and coastal slopes are low -- as high to very high. The estuaries of Abbotts Lagoon and Drakes Estero, adjacent to the coastline, are at risk as well. Seals and sea lions breed on the beaches and the pristine habitats help lure nearly 490 species of birds, giving Point Reyes the greatest avian diversity of any national park. Unfortunately, sea level rise could endanger this rich habitat.

Sea level rise will also likely flood low lying roads, such as sections of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Highway 1 along Tomales Bay, Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at the head of Schooner Bay, and Highway 1 and the Olema-Bolinas Road along Bolinas Lagoon. Many of these roads already flood during winter storms and the national, state, and county governments may have to expend millions of dollars to either protect or relocate these roads as sea levels rise even higher.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission has produced some maps showing a few areas around San Francisco Bay that would be flooded with a sea-level increase of 1 meter (3 feet).



To get the most out of your visit to Point Reyes, stop by one of the three bookstores operated by the Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA). You'll find guides that will enhance your exploration of our spectacular beaches, woodlands, and coastlines. the bookstores have natural and cultural histories, children's books, maps, field guides, and a wide range of other useful materials. Whether you're planning on bird watching, hiking, whale watching, or enjoying abundant wildflowers, our bookstores are the place to start.

PRNSA bookstores are located at the Bear Valley Visitor Center, the Lighthouse Visitor Center, and at the Ken Patrick Visitor Center at Drake's Beach. All proceeds from the bookstore go to support education, conservation, and research programs in Point Reyes that would not otherwise be possible. You can help the park and receive a 15% discount on all items when you (become a member ) of the Point Reyes National Seashore Association.


Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace is a national program which promotes the protection of our nation's wildlands through education, research, and partnerships. Leave No Trace teaches minimum impact hiking and camping skills and wildland ethics and builds awareness, appreciation, and respect for our public recreation places.

Four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service all promote the Leave No Trace message. Working with outdoor retailers, educators, and user groups these federal agencies are helping to make Leave No Trace the common language for all outdoor enthusiasts.

With increasing visitor use, both day and overnight, it is important to minimize our impacts and Leave No Trace of our visits to wilderness, parks and special other places. Trips that include awareness and the use of minimum impact practices conserve natural conditions of the outdoors which make the adventure enjoyable and allow others the same experience.

Your backcountry permit is a signed contract between you and the National Park Service. It's an agreement to treat the wilderness with respect by practicing Leave No Trace (LNT) techniques. Keep in mind that Leave No Trace camping goes beyond following the rules; it requires thoughtful judgement for each situation that comes up.

Leave No Trace is simple, whether you are hiking and camping in the park's wilderness or driving to the Lighthouse, Drakes Beach or Tomales Point for an afternoon. At its heart is a set of seven principles which can be applied in any natural setting to minimize human impacts on the environment. Following the Leave No Trace principles and combining them with your personal judgment, awareness, and experience will help protect precious natural and cultural park resources and preserve the park experience for you and for future visitors.

Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Know and obey the regulations and special concerns for the area you'll visit.
  • Schedule your trip to avoid times of high use.
  • Always leave an itinerary with someone at home.
  • Visit in small groups.
  • Be physically and mentally ready for your trip.
  • Know the ability of every member of you group.
  • Be informed of current weather conditions and other area information.
  • Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies.
  • Know and accept risks associated with backcountry experiences.
  • Take responsibility for yourself and your group.
  • Choose proper equipment and clothing in subdued colors.
  • Plan your meals and repackage food into reusable containers to minimize waste.

Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

While Traveling:

  • Stay on designated trails and hike single file in the middle of the trail, even when the trail is wet or muddy. Never shortcut switchbacks.
  • When traveling crosscountry, choose the most durable surfaces available: rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow. Spread out so that you don't grind a path where one didn't exist before.
  • When you stop to rest, be careful not to mash vegetation. Sit on rocks, logs, or in clearings.

At Camp:

  • Use the designated campsites, and camp in the camp area indicated on your permit. Altering a site is not necessary, i.e., no trenching around tents. Good tent-sites are found, not made.
  • Keep campsites small. Restrict activities to the area where vegetation is compacted or absent.
  • Use a large plastic water container to collect water so you don't need to make frequent trips to the water source.

Dispose of Waste Properly

  • There are vault toilets at all backcountry campgrounds. Use them.
  • On Tomales Bay, there are vault toilets at Marshall Beach and portable toilets at Tomales Beach. On other beaches, pack out all human waste using a portable toilet that can be emptied into an RV dump station or pit toilet.
  • If there are no pit toilets nearby, urinate or defecate at least 60 meters (200 feet or 75 adult paces) from water, camp, or trails.
    • Urinate in rocky places that won't be damaged by wildlife who dig for salts and minerals found in urine.
    • Deposit human waste in cat holes dug 15 - 20 cm (6 - 8 inches) deep. Carry a small garden trowel or lightweight scoop for digging. Cover and disguise the cat hole when finished, or pack out solid waste.
    • Use toilet paper sparingly and pack it out along with sanitary napkins, and tampons in an airtight container. Consider using natural toilet paper such as a smooth rock or soft pinecone.
  • To wash yourself or your dishes, carry water 60 meters (200 feet or 75 adult paces) away from water sources, and use small amounts, if any, of biodegradable soap. Scatter strained dishwater.
  • Strain food scraps from wash water and pack them out.
  • Pack everything you bring into the backcountry back out, i.e., trash and litter, leftover food.
  • Inspect your campsite for trash, spilled food, and evidence of your stay. Pack out all trash: Yours and others'.

Leave What You Find

  • Treat our natural heritage with respect. Leave plants, rocks, and other natural objects as you find them.
  • Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species.
  • Don't build structures, furniture, or dig trenches. Remember, good campsites are found, not made. Altering a site should not be necessary.
  • Let nature's sounds prevail.
    • Turn off cell phones.
    • No amplified music in the wilderness.
    • Speak softly and avoid making loud noises.
    • Allow for others to enjoy the peace and solitude of being in the backcountry.
  • Preserve the past: examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artifacts.
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Wood fires can cause lasting impacts to the backcountry. Always use a lightweight, portable stove for cooking. A wood fire is a luxury, not a necessity, and is only permitted on beaches if you obtain a beach fire permit in advance.
  • Enjoy the sounds and wonders of the darkness, or use a candle lantern instead of a fire.
  • Fires are only permitted on beaches, preferably below the high tide line so that the fire scar will be washed away within 24 hours.
  • Don’t line the fire pit with rocks.
  • Build the fire at least 9 meters (30 feet) in all directions from vegetation, flammable material, and the base of bluffs and cliffs.
  • Gather only natural driftwood, no larger than an adult's arm, from below the beach’s vegetation line. Leave the wood in their natural form until you are ready to burn them. Scatter any unused driftwood.
  • No wood gathering above the beach’s vegetation line. Do not snap branches off live, dead, or downed trees.
  • Keep fires smaller than 0.9 meters (36 inches) in diameter at the base.
  • Put out fires completely, using water. Never cover the fire or coals with sand.
  • Beach fires must be extinguished by midnight.
  • Remove, and pack out, all unburned trash from the fire pit.

Respect Wildlife

  • Enjoy wildlife at a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
  • Never feed wildlife. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviors, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
  • Protect wildlife and your food by storing your food, scented items and trash securely in the food storage locker provided at your campsite.
  • Control pets at all times, or leave them at home. 
  • Minimize noise.
  • Avoid sensitive habitat.
  • Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young, or winter.

Be Considerate of Other Visitors

  • Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience.
  • Visit the backcountry in small parties. More people means more impact.
  • Be courteous. Yield to others on the trail.
  • Hikers must yield to horse traffic. Step to the downhill side of the trail when encountering pack stock.
  • Bicyclists must yield to horse and foot traffic.
  • Avoid popular areas during times of high use.
  • Avoid conflicts.
  • Keep a low profile.
  • Take breaks and rest well off the trail, on a durable surface of course.
  • Let nature’s sounds prevail. Minimize noise. Avoid loud voices and noises.

Please learn and practice Leave No Trace skills and ethics and pass them on to those you come in contact with. It's easy to enjoy and protect the park simultaneously. For more information stop by a park Visitor Center, call the Leave No Trace Hotline at 1-800-332-4100 or visit Leave No Trace's website.


There are many ways you can support your park:

  • Volunteer. Over the last few years, volunteers have contributed over 50,000 hours removing nonnative plant species, monitoring wildlife, providing information to visitors, working at the Morgan Horse Ranch, protecting the resources, cleaning up and monitoring beaches, and maintaining the trails.
  • Donate money or automobiles to the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization working in coordination with the National Park Service to fund preservation projects and education programs for school groups and the public.
  • Purchace merchandise from the park's Bookstore, managed by the Point Reyes National Seashore Association. Proceeds from merchandise sales go toward preservation projects and education programs at Point Reyes National Seashore.
  • Leave No Trace. Take only pictures, leave only footprints. Learn how to enjoy your park while leaving it in as good as, if not better, condition as you found it.


Habitat Restoration Volunteer Program

The Habitat Restoration Volunteer Program at Point Reyes National Seashore was created to inform the public about the great biological diversity that exists here and to include the public into our efforts at preserving it. We believe it crucial that the public realize the tremendous importance of biodiversity both worldwide as well as in our park. Biological diversity is invaluable to every ecosystem; losses of that diversity affect our health, our economy, and all of society in a major way, much more than many of us realize.

What is Biological Diversity…….?

Biological diversity is the total number of species of plants and animals in any given area or ecosystem. It is the various manifestations of life, from the minutest amoeba to entire ecosystems such as rainforests and watersheds. It is life in all its many forms and varieties.

...and why is it so valuable?

A good way to describe the necessity of biodiversity is to imagine the human body as an ecosystem where the organs correspond to the various species of an ecosystem. If an organ is ailing, it will affect other organs adversely, and then more organs will fail. Similarly, as a particular species goes extinct, those species residing in the same ecosystem also become vulnerable and more extinction will result.

The US Forest Service states that each extinction caused by man will result in a chain reaction that causes 30 or more species of plant and wildlife to go extinct.

Each species contributes something and is essential to the collective set of life forms known as an ecosystem. A loss at any point in this web of life affects many species, often times devastatingly. Furthermore, humans are part of these ecosystems, relying on them for drinking water, sanitation, pharmaceuticals, and protection from disease and epidemics. Mother Nature has provided our health, wealth, and prosperity; and will continue to do so. To neglect the health of our ecosystems is to neglect our own health. There is no distinction between the future of our environment and our own.

Point Reyes is one of the richest pockets of biodiversity in the world.

Indeed, Point Reyes Seashore is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. Conservation International has designated the California Floristic Province, which includes the Seashore, as a "biodiversity hotspot"; one of 25 terrestrial regions of the world where biological diversity is most concentrated and the threat of loss most severe.

Invasive plants threaten to destroy the biodiversity at Point Reyes. You can help us protect it.

Biodiversity in our park is threatened by invasive plants. These plants leave already vulnerable species of wildlife and plants with no habitat to germinate, spawn or nest. Their chances of survival dwindle as invasive species usurp water, nutrients, and worst of all, their habitat: their home. These invasive plants are the greatest threat to our park’s precious biodiversity.

Non-native or exotic plants come from foreign lands and ecosystems and wreak havoc on our once balanced and self-sustaining native ecosystems. Native ecosystems lack natural defenses against these invaders and become subject to their destructive force, driving them towards extinction. Many native populations of humans of the past have been eradicated for this very reason. Foreign pathogens first introduced by Europeans eventually came to destroy entire civilizations that lacked any natural defense. If nothing is done to counter this current invasion, much of our native biodiversity will be lost and never seen again.

The park puts enormous effort and assigns great resources in order to counter the effects of these invasive plants. Our task is so encompassing that we ask the public to join us in our efforts to preserve these ecosystems, so that humans, as well as all life forms, may continue to benefit from them for generations to come.

We invite you to volunteer...

At Point Reyes Seashore, we have a very great need for volunteers. There are thousands of known species here, 131 of which rare, endangered, or threatened. Nearly 20% of the State's flowering plant species are represented on the peninsula and over 45% of the bird species in North America have been sighted here. That's a lot of plant and wildlife to protect, and plenty of habitat to restore. That is why we need you to come and lend a hand. This great and beautiful planet we call our home belongs to all of us and therefore everyone must do his or her part to maintain its vibrance, diversity and health. The greatest opportunity we will ever have to save our planet's ecosystems is right here, right now. Come to Point Reyes and fulfill your sense of stewardship and express your love for the environment. A volunteer will find few places more beautiful, captivating or rich in diversity than Point Reyes National Seashore.

The Various Programs of HRVP

We have several projects operating concurrently whose emphasis is the preservation of endangered, threatened or rare plants and animals. We travel to some of the most beautiful areas of the park and breathe in all its wonder while protecting its resources. As a group, volunteers can have a great and positive effect on these endangered species; restoring their habitats and allowing them to survive in their natural settings. Volunteering is a great and healthy way to take in the fresh air and get yourself in shape too!

The Coastal Restoration Crew

The Coastal Restoration Crew is committed to the preservation of coastal biodiversity through bluff, dune, and stream habitat restoration. These efforts are essential to the protection of many threatened and endangered animals such as the western snowy plover, Myrtle’s silverspot butterfly, and the California red-legged frog. Indigenous plants also benefit from our endeavors. Native plant communities support an enormous variety of wildlife here at Point Reyes. The goal of this crew is to insure the rich legacy of these biological communities so that many generations into the future may benefit from them as we do.

There are several project areas of the park which are deemed by our resource managers as high priority for the Coastal Restoration Crew. These projects are selected according to the amount of biodiversity contained in the area, including the number of rare, threatened and endangered species, and the magnitude of the threat to that biodiversity. As you have learned already, the greatest threat to our ecosystems are invasive plants.

The site of the Abbott’s Lagoon Coastal Dune Restoration Project is one of the areas of greatest concern to the park. Endangered plants like the Beach Layia and Tidestrom’s Lupine reside here. Myrtle’s Silverspot Butterfly, an endangered species, relies on the native plant communities that can be found only on these coastal dunes. The threatened western snowy plover, another lagoon inhabitant, uses the dunes for its nesting grounds. The primary threat to all these species is an invasive plant called European Beachgrass. Our efforts to remove this destructive grass range from using heavy machinery to manual labor crews to volunteer groups. Volunteers are essential to our endeavors here at Abbott’s Lagoon and we greatly appreciate the continued efforts to this vanishing coastal legacy. 

The North Beach and Lighthouse sites share many of the same coastal dune plant communities as Abbott’s Lagoon. However, these dunes are blanketed not by beachgrass but by the invasive Iceplant. This species of plant may be different than European Beachgrass but has the same effect: destruction of habitat. Iceplant creates a carpet across the dunes and makes it impossible for native plants to seed, germinate and thrive. These native plants, in order to survive, require us to remove the Iceplant before it eliminates these plant communities entirely. There are many plants and flowers that thrive in these areas.

Riparian Habitat Restoration is focused on the health and diversity of stream and creek ecosystems. In these areas there can be found the endangered California Red-legged Frog, endangered trout and salmon, and the plant communities that support them. The invasive Cape-ivy, originally from South Africa, derives its name from Cape Horn. This plant will grow and suffocate any vegetation including native shrubs, trees, and grasses. Left to its own devices, this plant would destroy any habitat on which it encroaches. This plant poses an eminent threat to our native ecosystems. In a partnership between Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes, natural resource managers implement various removal techniques in order to preserve our riparian corridors. These waterways are of enormous value to our local ecosystems; providing habitat for endangered trout and salmon, insuring breeding grounds for amphibians and other aquatic animals, and providing healthy, self-sustaining ecosystems for future generations of plants, animals, and, of course, we humans.

How do I volunteer for The Crew?

Volunteers help protect and restore endangered plant and wildlife habitat at Abbott's Lagoon, the Lighthouse Bluffs and other high value habitat areas at Point Reyes National Seashore. Visit some of the most beautiful areas in the park and help eradicate invasive plant species encroaching upon rare, native habitat. Learn about invasive plant ecology and the flora and fauna of Point Reyes National Seashore. Plan to work up a sweat manually removing the nonnative European beachgrass, iceplant and other invasive species. Get involved and meet new people. Bring lunch, water, and sturdy shoes. Gloves and tools are provided. HRP, the "Sunday Team," meets in front of the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 9:00 a.m. on the second and last Sunday of each month. Drop-ins are welcome. Call in advance to confirm the workday (occasionally the team travels to another park) and to discuss carpooling needs. For more information, or if your group would like to schedule additional weekend or weekday dates, please contact Kevin Sherrill at 415-464-5223 or by email.

The Stream Team

The Stream Team is a group of volunteers dedicated to improving fish habitat through streamside restoration. They perform a variety of tasks including willow planting, fence construction, removal and maintenance, non-native plant removal, and ecological monitoring. The Stream Team usually meets on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. You can contact the Stream Team coordinator by e-mail or by calling 415-464-5206.


Climate Change

Change has always been a powerful force of nature. National parks and the stories they represent — like the lava flows in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or the path of the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon — help us understand and appreciate how much our lives are influenced by change. They illustrate for us how interconnected we are with our environment whenever change occurs.

Today, we hear more and more about the effects of "climate change" (aka "global warming"). Due to global warming, Point Reyes National Seashore and other national parks are currently confronting one of the greatest threats in their history. The world is heating up, and the signs are already visible in National Parks: rising temperatures, prolonged drought, severe wildfires, diminished snowfall and changing habitats.

Point Reyes is renowned for both its sandy beaches and ruggedly beautiful coastline along which people come to watch whales, pinnipeds and birds. The windswept pines of Point Reyes, the violent surf of the Great Beach and the rocky shores of the Point Reyes Headlands are securely protected from the development pressures of a booming Bay area. But those boundaries don't provide protection from global warming.

Rising sea levels impelled by melting glaciers and polar icecaps will likely dramatically change this coastal park's environment upon which animals have come to rely and humans come to enjoy. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) predicts that rising seas could erode beaches and coastlines, submerge wetlands and swallow up Native American cultural artifacts at Point Reyes and several other national parks. Rising temperatures may make this area uninhabitable for many species of plants and animals that currently live here. Rising temperatures may also result in greater visitation to the Seashore during hot summer days, putting more strain on the park's natural resources, infrastructure and staff.

Fortunately, there may still be time to avert or limit the impact of this threat to Point Reyes and other national parks. The Seashore is doing its part by putting innovative energy technologies to use and looking for ways to reduce its carbon "footprint." Point Reyes National Seashore has obtained three hybrid and six electric vehicles, installed photovoltaic solar panels on a number of structures, instituted a No Idling program, and is using green technology in new construction.

With a combination of local and national action to halt global warming, we can all help ensure that millions of Americans will be able to enjoy these national treasures for generations to come.


Threats to Cultural Resources

By preserving some of the best of our cultural resources — buildings, landscapes, archaeological sites, and artifacts — America's national parks provide information about the past and provide important links to the present. Many of the cultural resources of national parks are at risk from the possible effects of a climate disrupted by human activities. At Point Reyes, cultural resources are at risk from increased flooding and erosion and by rising seas.

With a changed climate, severe winter storms are likely to become more frequent and powerful. As a result, Point Reyes is likely to experience an increase in flooding and erosion, which, even at normal historical levels, pose one of the largest threats to the cultural resources in the park. Furthermore, an increase in summer wildfires, projected to occur with climate change, would likely increase erosion even more.

With the level of the world's oceans predicted to rise as a result from climate change, cultural resources of the national parks along the Pacific coast could be at risk. Point Reyes National Seashore has more than 120 known sites that are evidence of the Coast Miwok Indians settlements going back 5,000 years. In nearby Golden Gate National Recreation Area, historic Fort Mason and portions of the Presidio of San Francisco, the oldest continuously used military post in the nation, are low enough to be vulnerable to rising waters.



Fish play an important role in water environments. They feed on nearly all types of plants and animals, they provide a home for other organisms such as bacteria and crustaceans, and they are eaten by many other types of animals, including many terrestrial species. Their vast numbers and diversity also contributes to their importance. Fish are the most abundant vertebrates in terms of both species and individuals. It is estimated that there are approximately 22,000 species of fish which make up about half of all species of vertebrates on earth...a little more than half of these species are marine (58%).

Coho Salmon & Steelhead Trout
Point Reyes National Seashore protects a portion of the watershed necessary to ensure the safe migration and spawning of coho salmon and steelhead trout. This protection is necessary as both species have been directly impacted by human activities and development. Healthy creeks are one step toward maintaining and hopefully increasing their populations. Their true hope for survival lies in changing human attitudes, behaviors, and priorities.

Armed with chest waders and measuring sticks, National Park Service staff and volunteers brave streams swollen from the winter rains to survey for spawning coho and steelhead. They track spawners, carefully count carcasses, and take tissue samples for DNA analysis, providing valuable information to study the abundance and distribution of these fish. This is part of the work of the Coho and Steelhead Restoration Project.

When coho salmon and steelhead trout were placed on the threatened species list, the National Park Service initiated a five-year project to identify, evaluate, restore, and enhance coho and steelhead populations and their habitat within three West Marin parks, Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Muir Woods National Monument. The Coho and Steelhead Restoration Project is focusing on Pine Gulch, Redwood, Olema, and Lagunitas creeks and their watersheds.

The project has the following six objectives:

  • To learn what may influence the reproductive success of coho and steelhead by looking at present stream conditions.
  • To investigate past stream conditions and how these have affected populations of salmon and steelhead.
  • To assess current coho salmon and steelhead abundance and distribution.
  • To develop and implement a plan for restoring and monitoring the fish and their habitat.
  • To inform the public and other resource managers.
  • To encourage community involvement through education and restoration of the watersheds.

The benefits of this program extend far beyond these salmonids. Healthy streams and riparian systems in West Marin will protect habitat for a myriad of other aquatic and land creatures such as river otters, California freshwater shrimp (an endangered species), California red-legged frogs (a threatened species) and migratory songbirds that nest in creekside bushes and shrubs.

The success of this ambitious program depends on the active participation of the public, local community conservation organizations, adjacent landowners, and public agencies. By working together, we will lay the groundwork for sustainable and healthy streams, riparian zones, and watersheds.

For information about becoming involved in the Coho and Steelhead Restoration Project, call project staff at (415) 464-5191.

The Salmon Protection And Watershed Network (SPAWN) is a local non-profit organization that works to protect endangered salmon in the Lagunitas Watershed. SPAWN offers walks to view spawning salmon for the public and for school groups, in addition to offering seminars, training, and volunteer and internship opportunities.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors shape the landscape, habitats, and species of Point Reyes National Seashore. Sometimes environmental changes are part of the natural processes that have always driven change to the peninsula (geologic activity) and sometimes these changes are natural processes that have been modified by human activity (fire regime and global climate change). Several of the environmental factors are being monitored by either National Park Service staff or researchers from other agencies or universities. The goal of monitoring is to gather information for its' inevitable use in science-based decision making.


California Coastal Cleanup Day

California Coastal Cleanup Day is an annual event which occurs on the third Saturday of September. California Coastal Cleanup Day is the premier volunteer event focused on the marine environment in the country. On this day, 50,000 volunteers turn out to over 700 cleanup sites statewide to conduct what has been hailed by the Guinness Book of World Records as "the largest garbage collection" (1993). Since the program started in 1985, over 750,000 Californians have removed more than 12 million pounds of debris from our state's shorelines and coast. When combined with the International Coastal Cleanup, organized by The Ocean Conservancy and taking place on the same day, California Coastal Cleanup Day becomes part of one of the largest volunteer events of the year.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary sponsors the beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore. This is an annual effort in California, when citizens come out to help collect data and clean up our beaches. Meet at the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 9 a.m. to pick up supplies. Contact Jennifer Stock at 415-663-1397 or by email for more details. If you plan on bringing a school class, a Scout Troop, or other group of 10 or more people, please contact Jennifer Stock at least 2 weeks in advance. Or visit the California Coastal Commission's Coastal Cleanup Day page for information about other locations.

Safety is our first priority for any beach cleanup. Even the cleanest-looking beach can hide dangers under the sand. Nails, broken glass, hypodermic needles...even an unexploded grenade have been found during annual Coastal Cleanup Days. Everybody that joins a beach cleanup is required to sign the California Coastal Commission's waiver form. Members of school groups, boy scout and girl scout troops, and any person under the age of 18 will need a signature from a parent or guardian to participate in the cleanup. Forms are also available at cleanup sites on Coastal Cleanup Day.

Coastal Cleanup Day is the highlight of the California Coastal Commission's year-round Adopt-A-Beach program and takes place every year on the third Saturday of September, from 9 a.m. to Noon. In 2008, that day falls on September 20. Coming at the end of the summer beach season and right near the start of the school year, Coastal Cleanup Day is a great way for families, students, service groups, and neighbors to join together, take care of our fragile marine environment, show community support for our shared natural resources, learn about the impacts of marine debris and how we can prevent them, and to have fun. Coastal Cleanup Day is also the kick-off event for Coastweeks — three weeks of coastal and water-related events for the whole family.