MEDIA RELEASE: Fecal Waste at Point Reyes National Seashore Protested by Elktivists

MEDIA RELEASE: Fecal Waste at Point Reyes National Seashore Protested by Elktivists

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE, Calif. (April 11, 2022) — A blazing yellow caterpillar-like line-up of dozens of outraged citizens clad head-to-toe in hazmat suits marched dramatically to the Pacific Ocean at Point Reyes Seashore on Saturday to protest ranching pollution. It comes days after the California Coastal Commission censured the situation as “just about inexcusable” and rejected the National Park Service’s water quality and climate plan. A front-page story from the Marin Independent Journal on Thursday exposed two Point Reyes ranches illegally dumping raw human waste on the national seashore, in addition to waste from 5,000 cows which is causing enormous soil, air, and waterways pollution. An independent water quality report is expected to reveal severely toxic health breaches caused by cattle ranching pollution of waterways in the national park unit.


“Serious pollution demands serious action,” said Jack Gescheidt of the TreeSpirit Project and Tule Elk Campaigner for In Defense of Animals. “We urge Senator Feinstein and Congressman Huffman to eliminate the source of Pt Reyes’ pollution — remove private cattle from our national park.”

Moving slowly along the half-mile trail from Pierce Point Rd. to Kehoe Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore in near-silence, the demonstrators let their eye-catching garb and white handheld signs do the shouting for them: “30x Enterococci Health Limit” proclaimed one of three different printed messages. Each highlighted a fecal indicator bacteria, including E. coli and Fecal Coliform, that, along with Enterococcus, are all found in multiple water samples at levels so high they are a health hazard to the tens of thousands of annual visitors to Point Reyes National Seashore beaches, lagoons, and bays.

When the 30 hazmat-suited demonstrators arrived at Kehoe Beach, they lined up along the Pacific Ocean and installed bright yellow, bilingual signs proclaiming: “WARNING/AVISO WATER CONTACT MAY CAUSE ILLNESS. FECAL BACTERIA LEVELS FROM COWS EXCEED HEALTH STANDARDS.”

Other bovine fecal measurements were also displayed at the demonstration, organized by Marin-based animal advocacy In Defense of Animals. They included “Fecal Coliform 23x the health limit” and “Enterococci 30x the health limit,” averages of multiple water samples taken in the Kehoe drainage from the Kehoe Dairy, into Kehoe Creek, then out to the Pacific Ocean's Kehoe Beach, a popular destination for park visitors. Kehoe is one of only a handful of Point Reyes beaches where people have recreational contact with the cow feces-contaminated water, and dogs are allowed too.

Demonstrator Laura Phillips explained, “We’re providing a public service. Park visitors have been kept in the dark by the National Park Service about the ongoing health hazard, especially when winter rains flush cow manure into the ocean here.”

The smallest demonstrator was unable to fill his yellow hazmat suit. Under 4-ft. tall, Zak of El Cerrito, CA, brought his parents, Jonathan and Laura at his own initiative. Zak, age 6, said, “I want to help the Tule elk. There shouldn’t be any cows pooping here.”

On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to reject a plan proposed by the National Park Service, which fell short in addressing the severe water quality and climate pollution at the national park unit. 

Commissioners expressed discontent and frustration for being put into the politically uncomfortable position of being a state regulatory body saying “no” to the federal government.

The Commission has required the Park Service to expand its vague plan, continue to work with the Commission, and involve the North Coastal Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Jack Gescheidt was one of the dozens of activists who spoke against the NPS plan during the meeting. He had a mixed reaction: “After watching hours of passionate, damning testimony from my fellow citizens and activists, and hearing some long-overdue but welcome displays of exasperation from Commissioners, I just wished the CCC had more regulatory teeth to bite down harder on the source of the problem: 5,000 private cows polluting our public park. But the CCC doesn't. They can only ‘not approve’ the NPS water quality plan today and request a better one — they are powerless to remove the polluting cattle ranches from the park.”

The park’s seemingly endless poop pollution is not limited to cows. The cover of the April 7th Marin Independent Journal featured the news of two Point Reyes dairies allowing raw human sewage to spill onto land and into waterways. “Multiple leaks and sewage discharges” at B and L Ranch were documented by the Park Service and Marin County Environmental Health Services. 

“Who knows how long these egregious violations have been going on for, or how many ranchers are still pumping human waste onto parklands,” said Chance Cutrano, Vice Mayor of Fairfax and programs director of the Mill Valley-based Resource Renewal Institute.

Shockingly high amounts of fecal bacteria have been revealed by the independent tests in the last two years, funded in large part by nonprofits Western Watersheds Projects, In Defense of Animals, and Turtle Island Restoration Network, along with donations from concerned citizens. The upcoming independent Water Quality Report is the most extensive testing done of Park Reyes waterways in almost a decade; the National Park Service abandoned testing in 2013. 

After a decade of hollow assurances and inaction on cow manure contamination, the Park Service is now scrambling to devise and implement water testing again, buckling to intense public pressure and media attention which have thrown an embarrassing spotlight on the agency’s glaring absence of water quality testing. It is expected to produce a report before the California Coastal Commission in September.


Contact: In Defense of Animals, The TreeSpirit Project, Jack Gescheidt, [email protected], 415-488-4200

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In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in Marin, California, with over 250,000 supporters and a 39-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.

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.


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