MEDIA RELEASE: Animal Activists Condemn Decision to Shoot Rare Tule Elk & Expand Ranching at California National Park Unit
POINT REYES, Calif. (Sept. 14, 2021) — In Defense of Animals and the TreeSpirit Project have denounced the National Park Service (NPS) for sanctioning the killing of wildlife while fortifying cattle ranching which is decimating the unique and fragile ecosystems at Point Reyes National Seashore. Signed yesterday, the Record of Decision extends for 20 years the private leases for beef and dairy operations which pollute Point Reyes at taxpayer expense and authorizes shooting to death the rare Tule elk who are supposed to be protected within this national park.
“We are disgusted and appalled by the decision to ramp up Tule elk killing and expand ranching at Point Reyes National Seashore,” said Fleur Dawes, Communications Director for In Defense of Animals. “The National Park Service is stomping on the wishes of the park’s founders and the American people.”
On Monday September 13, the NPS signed the Record Of Decision, approving a new General Management Plan Amendment. It extends for 20 additional years the existing temporary leases for 24 ranches occupying 28,000 acres — one third — of this protected Seashore’s 71,000 acres. It also allows for more farmed animals and diversifies animal ranching to allow sheep and goats, even though cattle currently outnumber Tule elk by 9:1 and ranches in this national park unit are causing massive environmental pollution.
Additional, non-animal commercial business operations, including roadside concessions, will also be invited to operate inside this national park unit in Marin County.
Even more chilling, some of California’s native and rare Tule elk in the two free-ranging herds not trapped inside the fenced “Tule Elk Reserve” can now be legally shot if their numbers exceed an arbitrarily-decided “carrying capacity.” This number is concocted by rancher preferences, not biology. Five scientists — including the NPS’ own former chief scientist for the Pacific West region — have signed a letter condemning the General Management Plan Amendment.
Tens of thousands of members of the public have written letters, responded to a public consultation, and joined in protests to stop animal cruelty and ecocide at the Seashore. Indeed, public opposition to this anti-wildlife, anti-wildlands plan has grown rapidly, fueled by the deaths of 152 elk in 2020 who died from starvation and dehydration by being trapped inside the Reserve at Tomales Point during California’s ongoing, record drought.
Drought conditions in the park are right now killing elk fenced inside a Reserve lacking adequate food or water, fatally imprisoned only to satisfy lessee ranchers’ demands. The deadly mistreatment of captive wild animals has mobilized citizens to take actions into their own hands with several unauthorized water drops while the NPS refuses to remedy the lethal situation by freeing the elk.
In Defense of Animals and almost 100 citizen activists delivered 350 gallons of water as a lifeline for hundreds of Tule elk trapped and dying of thirst and starvation at the Point Reyes National Seashore’s Tule Elk “Reserve.” Photo: Jack Gescheidt/TreeSpiritProject.com
“Despite overwhelming public opposition and scientific evidence, the National Park Service has just officially expanded wildlife-killing, water pollution, soil degradation and ecosystems damage at Point Reyes National Seashore by expanding private, for-profit and unregulated private cattle ranching inside a national park unit, also the longest stretch of supposedly protected California coastline,” said Jack Gescheidt, Tule elk campaigner for In Defense of Animals and founder of the TreeSpirit Project.
Gescheidt is also the lead plaintiff in an ongoing suit filed by Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic against the NPS for its negligence in ignoring its federal mandate by allowing Tule elk to die.
Activists have staged numerous demonstrations in the Reserve calling attention to the massive number of Tule elk deaths — 406 in the last decade, by the NPS’s own annual counts. The body count will increase inside the 2,600-acre Reserve until its 8-foot-tall fence is removed, allowing the elk trapped inside to roam freely for food and water on the Seashore’s full 71,000 acres.
On Sunday, September 12, hundreds of activists, celebrities, local environmental leaders, wildlife advocates, and public lands stewards gathered again for the largest rally yet, hosted by In Defense of Animals, Resource Renewal Institute, and Turtle Island Restoration Network. Three hundred and twenty activists united to call for the end of commercial ranching in the park and full protection for the Tule elk and all the wild animals living there.
Bay Area local Louie Psihoyos learned about the plight of the Tule elk while hiking at Point Reyes. “As director of documentary films, The Cove and Racing Extinction, and Executive Director of the Oceanic Preservation Society, I was disturbed to learn that ranching is being given a free pass to pollute and degrade our protected California coastline and this national park unit, even harming the park’s wildlife, including its iconic Tule elk. I support In Defense of Animals’ call for the National Park Service to reverse its policies and current management plan to extend ranching permits and, instead, remove private cattle ranching from the park, which aligns with the original intent of the park’s founders — and its owners, the American public.”
San Francisco-born sportscaster Bonnie-Jill Laflin has also joined the campaign. The philanthropist, founder of Hounds And Heroes, and first and only female NBA scout, Laflin said, “We must demand the National Park Service permanently withdraw plans to kill Tule Elk, and end the exploitation of our public lands for cattle grazing. Take action by joining at idausa.org/elk.”
In Defense of Animals, TreeSpirit Project, and partner organizations have vowed to dramatically expand the campaign to save the Tule elk, restore the Seashore, and assure that its federal protections are respected.
In Defense of Animals, Lisa Levinson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-879-6879
The TreeSpirit Project, Jack Gescheidt, jack@TreeSpiritProject.com, 415-488-4200
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 fighting for animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi. www.idausa.org/elk
The TreeSpirit Project raises awareness of the crucial role of forest, wildlife and the natural world in the lives of humans. Thousands of people have taken part in fine art community photographs that give people an actual experience of this interconnection beyond the virtual internet. https://treespiritproject.com