MEDIA RELEASE Point Reyes National Seashore Proposes to Kill Native Elk and Keep Cows

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 8, 2019

CONTACT: Laura Cunningham, Western Watersheds Project, lcunningham@westernwatersheds.org  775-513-1280

POINT REYES, Calif. – Today, the National Park Service released its draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to amend the General Management Plan for the popular Bay Area parks Point Reyes National Seashore and the northern portion of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Despite public opposition to the ongoing agricultural impacts to wildlife and waterways, the draft EIS indicates the agency will manage beef and dairy cows as “integral” to the parks. This includes lethally removing any of the native tule elk that interferes with ranching operations.  

“The idea that the park service is going to kill native wildlife for the sake of ranches in a National Park unit is shocking,” said Laura Cunningham, California director of Western Watersheds Project. “The parks should be managed for native wildlife, not the commercial cattle industry.”

The enabling legislation of this park for public recreation on the diminishing seashores of the United States, with “maximum protection, restoration, and preservation of the natural environment within the area.” The free-roaming Drakes Beach tule elk herd is estimated at 124 animals, and the Limantour elk herd is estimated at 174 animals. The preferred alternative would limit the populations of the elk in order to lessen competition with private livestock for forage resources. In contrast, the herds of non-native cattle have large impacts on the plant and animals in the park, causing erosion, overgrazing of sensitive meadows and coastal prairies, manure management problems, and water quality declines.

The park service is also proposing to allow ranchers to continue with dairy commercial and beef operations in 20-year leases, despite the fact that in the 1960s and 70s taxpayers bought out all the ranchers with millions of dollars, and at the time the ranchers agreed to relocate out of the park. Now, the park service is also proposing to allow ranchers to diversify into having more sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens, as well as row crops. Farm stays and ranch tours would also be authorized on parklands, including for-profit tourism rentals. 

“The intent of the establishment of Point Reyes National Seashore was to preserve the natural seashore, not have some kind of farmland amusement park,” Cunningham added. “It is time for the National Park Service to manage these beautiful Pacific Coast public lands for the native wildlife and natural scenery.”

The park service will hold a 45-day comment period and the public is encouraged to comment about their park lands and how they will be managed for the next several decades. 

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