Park Proposes to Shoot Elk at Point Reyes National Seashore in Plan to Make Room for Cows

For Immediate Release                                                                                       

September 23, 2019

Contacts: 

Laura Cunningham, (775)513-1280, lcunningham@westerwatersheds.org

Chance Cutrano, Office:415.928.3774, Cell:312.403.3702, ccutrano@rri.org

Skyler Thomas, whitesharkvideo@gmail.com

Diana Oppenheim, dianamaycuts@gmail.com

 

POINT REYES, Calif.— Today is the National Park Service’s final day for public comments on a proposed plan to shoot native tule elk in Point Reyes National Seashore to make room not only for beef and dairy cattle, but for new, expanded use that will include sheep, goats and chickens in the pastures, and pigs and row crops in other parts of the Seashore.

Numerous conservation groups, including Western Watersheds Project, Resource Renewal Institute, For Elk, Conservation Congress, Wilderness Watch, Sequoia ForestKeeper, White Shark Video/Shame of Point Reyes, John Muir Project, and Ban Single Use Plastics, as well as many concerned former National Park Service employees and individuals, are opposing the Park’s current preferred alternative, which would extend Ranchers’ lease-permits for decades.

“Neither Point Reyes National Seashore nor the northern district of Golden Gate National Recreation Area were preserved as national parks to perpetuate cattle grazing and dairying,” said Barbara Moritsch, ecologist, author, and former botanist for the National Park Service at Point Reyes National Seashore. “The ranches were purchased by the government and the ranchers were given more than adequate time to move elsewhere. The National Park Service now has an unprecedented opportunity to end ranching on our public lands in these parks–doing anything else would be a grave disservice to the American people, as well as to the incredible diversity of native plants and wildlife that actually belong on these lands.”

The proposed park management plan allows destructive levels of livestock grazing to continue on 28,000 acres of national park lands in this treasured Pacific Coast landscape, despite the myriad known adverse impacts grazing has on coastal prairie, riparian systems, springs, wetlands, and coastal dune vegetation.

“The national seashore has been degraded by ceaseless cattle grazing since this national park was established nearly 60 years ago. These public lands are essentially a sacrifice zone for a powerful special interest subsidized at taxpayer expense,” said Susan Ives, Restore Pt Reyes Seashore, a project of Resource Renewal Institute.

The 1916 Organic Act that formed the National Park Service mandated that natural resources on park lands shall not be impaired. The Point Reyes National Seashore legislation specifically mandates that this special coastline be “protected” and “restored.”  Damaging livestock grazing, however, has been allowed to persist for decades, and the damage to the high-value resources of the Seashore has been ongoing and worsening.

“I have seen coho salmon streams eroded from heavy trampling by the hooves of beef cattle, native bunchgrasses grazed out of existence, and noxious weeds spread across this once lush park,” said Laura Cunningham, California Director of Western Watersheds Project. “This could be the Yellowstone of the Pacific Coast with elk and wildlife roaming freely, instead of more beef and dairy cattle.”

In contrast to the herds of cattle, there are only 124 free-roaming native tule elk in the Drake’s Beach herd. Elk migrate into cattle ranches, tangle with barbed wire fences, and sometimes become injured. Yet instead of reducing the livestock or eliminating them completely, the park is proposing to haze elk out of the cattle pastures or even “lethally removing them.”

“It’s shocking to me that the park would kill elk, and so many cows would be allowed in this beautiful national seashore,” said Diana Oppenheim, organizer of the group ForElk.org.

Documentary filmmaker Skyler Thomas agreed. “What I witnessed didn’t belong anywhere in a compassionate universe, but it certainly had no place within a national seashore renowned for its beauty, scenery, and wildlife.  It was like taking a black marker and scribbling all over the Mona Lisa. The natural wonders of the seashore are rare.  Humans exploiting animals and the planet for profit is not. Recognition of this fact is the very reason this seashore was created.”

The groups and individuals who signed a comment letter on the draft Environmental Impact Statement demanded that conservation values must be placed first. The proposed General Management Plan amendment being analyzed fails to protect and restore Point Reyes National Seashore and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

“The National Park Service should be managing the National Seashore for the benefit of wildlife and the natural ecology. Emphasizing livestock ranching while subsidizing welfare ranchers is a takings of public land. Livestock don’t belong on public lands in general and certainly not in a Seashore where fecal matter can get into the ocean. This disastrous plan must be stopped,” said Denise Boggs, Director of Conservation Congress.

The comment period on the General Management Plan amendment closes September 23 at 10:59 Pacific Time, and then a final Environmental Impact Statement will be released after the Park Service analyzes public comments.

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