MEDIA RELEASE: Plan to Kill Wild Elk & Expand Ranching in CA National Park Draws Record 300 Demonstrators

MEDIA RELEASE: Plan to Kill Wild Elk & Expand Ranching in CA National Park Draws Record 300 Demonstrators

Giant Protest Demands National Park Service Stop Helping Ranchers Destroy Wildlife & Cause Climate Crisis

Point Reyes, Calif. (Sept. 28, 2020) — A giant crowd of 300 members of the public gathered at a large-scale, modern dairy operating inside Point Reyes National Seashore on Sunday, September 27. The huge demonstration was in response to the National Park Service’s recently announced plan to kill Tule elk — and expand ranching and other commercial businesses like Airbnbs and animal slaughter — inside the San Francisco Bay Area’s only national park. The clock is about to run out with the Seashore’s “death warrant” due to be signed October 18.

Video of the event can be viewed on YouTube. Video and photographs of the event are available here.

On September 18, the NPS released its Final Environmental Impact Statement.

“We’re devastated by the disappointing news,” says Diana Oppenheim, of ForELK. “This plan is incredibly reckless, cruel, and anti-wildlife.”

Despite overwhelming opposition to commercial ranching in Point Reyes National Seashore, the NPS recommended “Alternative B,” allowing the shooting of native Tule elk, only recently recovered from near extinction, expanding ranching and dairy operations, and extending their private leases from 5 to 20 years.

The NPS recommendation of Alternative B is the exact opposite of the public’s wishes. In the Park Service’s own survey 91% of 7,624 respondents wanted native Tule elk protected and cattle ranching removed from Point Reyes.

The announcement comes amid a growing furor over a mass-die-off of Tule elk who are trapped without enough water in the Park. Local activists previously delivered fresh drinking water to troughs for the elk, only to have it promptly taken away by NPS staff. Already, with months’ more drought ahead, locals have discovered 15 dead elk in the park. This is a repeat of similar “forced die-off” by thirst and starvation the agency created in 2013-14 droughts — killing over 254 elk in a herd of 540. The agency did nothing as half the herd died, trapped behind fencing preventing them from reaching water and food readily available elsewhere in the park. The fencing of wildlife in a national park unit was erected at the request of the commercial cattle operations. 


Blocked from accessing water by cattle ranchers, fifteen elk have died from thirst and malnutrition in Point Reyes National Seashore in recent weeks. CREDIT: Matthew Polvorosa Kline


Significantly, the NPS recommended plan allows all ranchers to kill and “process” farmed animals on-site, add even more cows, and introduce other species to the Seashore including goats, sheep, and chickens. Even with a cap on animal herd sizes, this will exacerbate lethal conflicts between ranchers and Tule elk, in addition to other wild species that will predate domesticated animals living in the park.

The new plan even props up the businesses by allowing them to plant and process row crops, and even develop the land for private profit-driven roadside businesses and overnight accommodations. 

“The NPS is going to shoot elk and allow more cows in Point Reyes National Seashore to prop up private, for-profit ranches and dairies that were paid millions of dollars and supposed to vacate the park years ago,” said Jack Gescheidt, of TreeSpirit Project. “The Seashore has a charter to favor wildlife over commercial enterprises, not the other way around.”

Over a third of the Point Reyes park’s so-called “wilderness area” is occupied by modern industrial animal businesses. Taxpayers pay for the maintenance of these concentrated animal feeding operations which supply beef and milk to brands including Clover Sonoma, Straus Family Creamery, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, and Cowgirl Creamery. The public has been led to believe these smaller companies mitigate the environmental harm that larger meat and dairy operations do — not realizing they actually contribute as much or more greenhouse gases, and greater land and water inputs. 

Gescheidt continued, “it’s no secret that animal factories, commonly mislabeled ‘agriculture,’ is the world’s greatest contributor to air, soil, water, and ocean pollution, yet NPS is ensuring this continues at Point Reyes.”

Local celebrity entrepreneur Miyoko Schinner of Miyoko’s Creamery told demonstrators and farmworkers to give themselves a better lifestyle by participating in the future of food, not its dying past. The award-winning plant-based cheese producer explained how she has grown her business to be twice as profitable as all the dairies on the Seashore combined, employs three times as many people, and has done so without harming wildlife or cows, or taking taxpayer subsidies.


“Elktivists” reach through the fence that blocks thirsty Tule elk from perennial water sources reserved for ranched cattle. Photo: Jack Gescheidt, TreeSpirit Project.


“Why are we supporting a dying industry?” asked Miyoko Schinner. “It's like when the horse and buggy was replaced by the automobile. There is a new future for food and the environment and it is not making dairy products out of cows.”

Thousands of American citizens and dozens of local organizations including In Defense of Animals, ForELK, TreeSpirit Project, Rancho Compasión, Save Point Reyes National Seashore, Resource Renewal Institute, The Center for Biological Diversity, and Western Watersheds Project, support, instead, Alternative F.  As does those over 7,600 citizens surveyed. It would phase out private ranches over five years, remove fencing to allow Tule elk to roam free, and improve opportunities for the park’s 1.7 million annual visitors.

“There are more cattle in all of Point Reyes than there are Tule elk left in the world,” says Fleur Dawes, of In Defense of Animals. “It’s ridiculous that ranchers are getting taxpayer handouts to exploit and pollute public wildlands. Tule elk are trapped and dying of thirst in the park because of ranchers. Now they will shoot this endemic California species. We have just days left until NPS Regional Director Woody Smeck signs the Tule elk death sentence. Please act now to save what’s left of our Seashore.”

There is a 30-day waiting period before NPS Regional Director Woody Smeck can sign the plan into a formal “Record of Decision.” The public is encouraged to help stop the atrocious Alternative B from being signed and finalized before October 18:



Watch video of the Live Elk Not Livestock Demonstration:

View images & video - available for use with credit per filename:

Watch The Shame of Point Reyes film:

Watch The Killing of a Native Species film:

Learn about deadly conditions in the Tule elk “preserve”:



In Defense of Animals, Lisa Levinson,, 215-620-2130
ForELK, Diana Oppenheim,, 248-840-5684  
Rancho Compasión, Dawn Rogers,, 510-990-6443
The TreeSpirit Project, Jack Gescheidt,, 415-488-4200

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in Marin with over 250,000 supporters and a 37-year history of protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitats through education, campaigns, and hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi.

ForELK is a grassroots organization of people who fight for the protection of the Tule elk and their habitat within Point Reyes National Seashore. They work toward public engagement through education, direct outreach, network building, political demonstrations, and protests.

Rancho Compasión is a non-profit sanctuary founded in West Marin in 2015 that provides a safe haven to over 70 rescued farmed animals. Its mission is to provide shelter and care for rescued farm animals for their entire natural lifespans, and to educate visitors and students to help them rethink how they view animals typically categorized as “food.”

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.

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