MEDIA RELEASE: National Park Service Yields to Pressure

MEDIA RELEASE: National Park Service Yields to Pressure

POINT REYES, Calif. (Sept. 28, 2021)In Defense of Animals, ForELK and the TreeSpirit Project have welcomed the installation of water troughs and mineral supplements in the Tule elk Reserve at Point Reyes National Seashore by the National Park Service (NPS.) Hundreds of the rare native animals have been killed in the Reserve in recent years since they are prevented from roaming to find food and water by a 3-mile-long, 8-foot high fence erected to benefit private beef and dairy ranchers. The additional water troughs will immediately help save some elk lives during northern California’s record drought until winter rains arrive.

“We are relieved that the National Park Service has finally turned its efforts to supplying water to trapped Tule elk, rather than dumping out activist-provided troughs,” said Fleur Dawes of In Defense of Animals. “This is a welcome step, and we now urge the National Park Service to end all its pro-cattle industry, elk-killing policies by removing the deadly fence — and reversing its plans to shoot elk for private industry ranchers who were paid millions of dollars to move out of the park long ago. Our national park is not a place for ranchers to kill wild animals, pollute protected habitat, and turn a profit on the taxpayer's dime.”

Numerous rallies and unauthorized citizen-activist water deliveries in recent months have resulted in damning media coverage of the NPS’ brutal elk-killing policies. In 2020 alone, 152 of these rare elk died — one-third of the entire herd trapped inside the fenced Reserve.

Despite maintaining that last year’s death toll was caused by a lack of adequate forage and not water, on September 24, the NPS website quietly revealed the installation of three additional water troughs in the northern section of the Reserve; at White Gulch, the Plateau, and near North Pond 2, and anticipates installing one more near Avalis Beach. It also provided mineral blocks to address deficiencies of copper and selenium in elk forage.

This development is exactly what activists have been doggedly demanding for months, even as more elk died of thirst this summer. 

For its alleged negligence in ignoring its federal mandate by allowing Tule elk to die, the National Park Service is currently being sued by Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic. Jack Gescheidt, founder of the TreeSpirit Project and Tule elk campaigner for In Defense of Animals, is the lead plaintiff. 

“We are thrilled that the NPS has once again buckled to the unrelenting pressure and demands of hundreds of Tule elk activists, and the will of tens of thousands of their citizen supporters,” said Gescheidt. 

“Providing water for captive animals is a necessary first step by the Park Service and a welcome concession to its responsibilities after years of inaction, denials, and repeated dumping of activist-supplied water deliveries to the dying elk. Now the Park Service should provide the long-term remedy: remove the 3-mile-long fence and commit to never kill another Tule elk with any “management” techniques — including shooting elk as just approved — and let all wild animals roam free at Point Reyes, which was created to be a cow-free, federally protected seashore.”

“We are grateful for their movement on the issue, but now demand they do more. Only freeing the elk from captivity, ending their unnatural, zoo-like conditions and re-establish a healthy herd inside this seaside national park unit, said Diana Oppenheim of ForELK.

While activists applaud any and all helpful actions by the NPS, they remained focused on the root cause of the elk’s deadly predicament — imprisonment in an artificial enclosure erected and maintained for one reason only: to serve private cattle and dairy operations leasing public land in the park that would prefer elk be removed.

In 1962, ranchers were paid millions of dollars, and agreed to transition out of the newly established national park, but then later maneuvered to stay, lobbying politicians for lease extensions which continue to this day. Despite public outcry, in September the controversial General Management Plan amendment was approved, which extends their leases for 20 more years and allows them to diversify their operations and also shoot some Tule elk outside the Reserve.

Activists maintain that all private ranching operations be removed, and the park restored to its founder’s intent: a haven and refuge for wild animals, free from the massive harm caused by polluting, extractive, for-profit industries.

“At some point we have to decide: what is the legacy we want to leave? Do we want to be the species that exterminated every other species on this planet, which does not belong to just the human species? It belongs to all species, including the Tule elk, and every single species deserves to live,”  said Miyoko Schinner, founder of Marin-based Miyoko’s Creamery. “What we are doing today may or may not make a difference tomorrow, sadly, but we are a microcosm of a movement that is going to ripple across America that will change how we treat all wild animals. We must tell the story to all non-believers, to non-vegans that if they are wildlife and animal lovers they must stop consuming animal products.”

In Defense of Animals, ForELK, 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, Fleur Dawes,, 415-879-6879
In Defense of Animals/TreeSpirit Project, Jack Gescheidt,, 415-488-4200
ForELK, Diana Oppenheim,, 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 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.

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.

TreeSpirit Project raises awareness of the crucial role of forests, wildlife and the natural world in the lives of humans. Thousands of people have participated in fine art community photographs that give people a real-world, beyond-the-virtual, experience of this interconnection.