MEDIA RELEASE: National Park Service Bullies Coastal Commission on Behalf of Ranchers into Approving Tule Elk Firing Squad
Point Reyes, Calif. (April 22, 2021) — The California Coastal Commission (CCC) voted narrowly today to rubber-stamp the brutal annual shooting of rare and iconic Tule elk at Point Reyes National Seashore and to expand and entrench polluting ranching operations. The decision followed a heated 12-hour public meeting in which the National Park Service (NPS), led by new Superintendent Craig Kenkel, used a campaign of strong-arm tactics and mistruths to lobby aggressively on behalf of the ranching industry and to override public and scientific fact. Kenkel oversaw the shooting of deer inside the last national park he presided over, and pulled Coastal Commissioners who publicly opposed him out of the public Zoom meeting in a clear attempt to pressure them in private.
“The NPS shockingly and brazenly stomped on its mandate and aggressively coerced Commissioners into voting to blast wild animals with guns — all to appease private ranchers who are destroying the National Seashore,” said Lisa Levinson, Campaign Director for Marin county-based In Defense of Animals. “Scientific data reveals how industrial factory farms are polluting the precious Point Reyes habitat with dangerous fecal bacteria, and the NPS’ actions put both the public and species of special-concern at lethal risk. We urge members of the public to join our rally on Saturday, May 1st to oppose the death sentence for Tule elk and stop the destruction of the Seashore.”
Today’s CCC meeting, which was ironically held on Earth Day, was intended to review a controversial General Management Plan Amendment supported by the NPS which will allow ranchers to extend their leases by at least 20 more years and diversify their businesses.
It was the third time the public was allowed to provide its opinion, and the third time overwhelming public opinion in favor of wild animals over ranching on public lands was overruled.
Although the Commission gave a “conditional concurrence” to the plans, four caring Commissioners voted against five of their colleagues. Commissioner Dayna Bocho called the Tule elk killing “a precedent you don’t want to start.” And about the shooting of Tule elk in the park, “This is inhumane. This is so far beyond anything I’ve ever read in a [California Coastal Commission] staff report before.”
Dozens of organizations and individuals spoke out at the meeting to oppose the plan. An overwhelming majority of the public opposes private cattle ranching in this public park. Two public surveys, one conducted by the NPS itself, found over 90% of the public prefer elk and other wild animals over thousands of domesticated cows at Point Reyes.
Despite this, politicians and the NPS continue to ignore the public’s wishes, downplay the severely harmful effects of ranching despite clear evidence, and ignore the park’s 1962 founding legislation which places “natural resources” above all other considerations. Ranchers were paid for their land, but they were never intended to remain in the park in perpetuity.
Meanwhile, the NPS and ranchers have failed their obligations to monitor water quality. They have not done so since 2013, while thousands of acres of land and numerous waterways are contaminated by waste from over 5,600 cows, which is putting multiple marine species at risk.
In January, In Defense of Animals and the Western Watersheds Project commissioned independent water quality tests that found high levels of fecal coliform in waters draining from ranches, with some showing 40 times the allowable limit for E.coli and 300 times the allowable limit for enterococci, which both post a risk to human and habitat health.
Watch “Cesspool by the Seashore” by Silver Reaction Media: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_zN-pDFbzI
Test results near Kehoe Creek and Lagoon, which drain into the Pacific Ocean at Kehoe Beach, were alarming, exposing hazardous bacterial levels in the water. The Pacific Sun reported that a sign was put up to warn the public about bacterial contamination in the park following the release of the data but promptly removed the following day.
ABC7 News investigated and exposed how the world’s largest remaining herd of Tule elk are permanently trapped behind a fence at Tomales Point to benefit ranchers, which prevents them from reaching adequate water and forage. The NPS ignored ongoing calls for intervention and sabotaged activist efforts to provide water, which led to the deaths of 152 of 445 elk in last year’s drought alone. The mass killing was reported by ABC7 News, the Los Angeles Times, and international media, including The Independent.
Miyoko Schinner, CEO and founder of Miyoko’s Creamery, spoke up at the Commission meeting to note that “Ranchers use more water than all households combined in drought-prone California. Ranching businesses should not be subsidized at taxpayer cost.”
Today’s decision is a death sentence for many more Tule elk and signals the continued privatization, subsidization, and expansion of massively polluting, privately owned, for-profit ranches and dairies at Point Reyes.
“I am gutted with the decision: in a long line of atrocities committed against wild animals at Point Reyes National Seashore, this now puts it into policy,” said Diana Oppenheim, a former docent at the Seashore and Founder of ForELK. “National parks were created to offer the highest level of wild animal and environmental protection. If we can’t even protect animals and their habitats in the progressive, environmentally-minded San Francisco Bay Area, in the midst of a climate crisis and the sixth mass extinction event, Earth is doomed. We will not stop fighting and vow to do whatever it takes to save the Tule elk from being shot to death.”
The Coastal Commission’s “Consistency Determination” puts another privatization nail in the coffin of a public park, condemning countless animals who rely on the park’s coastal vegetation and clean water for their survival, including Point Reyes’ iconic elk.
“This decision shows how a powerful business lobby, in this case ranching, corrupts the political process, completely ignores public opinion, even about how its public land should be used, or in this case abused. Now the elk, and the park, can only be saved from the ravages of ranching in a court of law,” said Jack Gescheidt, Founder of The TreeSpirit Project.
Concerned and outraged citizens are encouraged to attend the next large public demonstration, Saturday, May 1st, at the Seashore, to send a message to the Department of the Interior that the mismanagement of this national park unit must end. The community gathering is COVID-safe, peaceful, organized and effective. Meet at the Seashore’s Tule Elk “Reserve” parking lot, at the end of Pierce Point Ranch Rd, 11 am-2 pm, Saturday, May 1, 2021.
Facebook Event page for “Honor the Dead, Help the Living” demonstration: https://www.facebook.com/events/192613599202478
Find Out More: www.idausa.org/elk
In Defense of Animals, Fleur Dawes, [email protected], 415-879-6879
The TreeSpirit Project, Jack Gescheidt, [email protected], 415-488-4200
ForELK, Diana Oppenheim, [email protected], 248-840-5684
In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in Marin, California, with over 250,000 supporters and a 38-year history of protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats through education and campaigns as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi. www.idausa.org/elk
ForELK is a grassroots organization of people who fight for the protection of the Tule elk and their habitat within Point Reyes National Seashore. It works toward public engagement through education, direct outreach, network building, political demonstrations, and protests. www.forelk.org
The TreeSpirit Project is a celebration of our interdependence with nature. Thousands of people have participated in his fine art photography sessions to raise awareness of the critical role of trees and wild spaces in our lives. www.treespiritproject.com