WATCH: Tule Elk Defenders Expose Ranch Pollution on Hazardous Waste Walk

WATCH: Tule Elk Defenders Expose Ranch Pollution on Hazardous Waste Walk

Every month, more intolerable violations are uncovered at Point Reyes National Seashore, from pollution to the continued deadly confinement of Tule elk in this national park. This month, we took action: staging a “Hazardous Waste Walk” to highlight dangerously high levels of fecal waste coming from exploited cattle — and now possibly from humans too. We’ll keep working to raise awareness, hold the National Park Service accountable, clean up Point Reyes and free the Tule elk.


The Tule Elk 

The most recent count has the number of surviving Tule elk still trapped inside the Tule Elk Reserve’s 8-foot-tall fence at 221. These beautiful, innocent animals still can’t reach enough food and water when California’s heat and drought return this summer. 

But thanks to our many direct actions in defiance of the park’s status quo, the National Park Service (NPS) was publicly shamed into installing seven water troughs for the elk. They are not a replacement for freedom from their zoo-like enclosure, but are better than nothing and will save elk lives.  

Elk are imprisoned for one reason only: for private cattle ranches that lease land in this public park. Wild elk are confined, suffer and die so that approximately 5,000 cattle — who are victims too — can be abused and exploited for profit. A massive output of raw sewage from these ranches— over 8,000,000 gallons of manure and urine — is polluting the park’s land and waterways every year.

The Cattle Sewage

Amazingly, the California Coastal Commission (CCC), which has overlapping jurisdiction with the NPS over the Golden State’s coastal waters, just read the NPS the riot act at a recent meeting. One year ago, in April of 2021, the CCC granted conditional approval (“concurrence”) to the NPS if it produced a water quality monitoring plan to clean up the park’s manure-polluted waterways. It was a heartbreaking vote after a contentious day-long meeting. Now, a year later, the NPS returned on April 7, 2022, with a plan so woefully inadequate, that the CCC voted unanimously, 10-0, to reject it. The NPS must return yet again, in September of 2022, with a more detailed plan. While we activists are sick of this continual “kicking the can down the road” inter-agency approach, this does mean that it’s becoming more likely that the ranchers won’t get the new 20-year leases the NPS wants to give them, nor the free pass-to-pollute they’re used to. This is all because of how much we’re watching, speaking out, publicizing, getting written about in publications with large audiences, taking action — and getting your help.

This newest 5-month delay also gives us more time to publicize additional environmental violations being regularly uncovered at Point Reyes.

On April 9, we staged a Hazardous Waste Walk at Point Reyes to publicize the dangerously high levels of fecal indicator pollution like E. coli and fecal coliform. 

The Human Sewage

On top of a mountain of cattle manure comes another sickening revelation that made front-page news on the same day as the April 7 CCC meeting: two of the park’s dairies have been leaking human sewage in addition to bovine poop. Untreated human waste has been spewing onto the ground, into nearby cattle manure lagoons, for untold months or even years.

Ahhhhh…. come visit and enjoy… Point Reyes National… Cesspool.

Kafka Lives

Practically speaking, there is only one way to eliminate the manure from Point Reyes streams, lagoons, bays, and the Pacific Ocean: remove the 12 ranchers and their exploited and eventually brutally killed 5,000 pooping cattle. But the NPS has been long captured by the ranching industry, effectively working for ranchers, so the service’s talk of elk “management” and cleaning up cow poop has all been lip service only.

With each passing month, another jaw-dropping offense is uncovered, by concerned citizens and activists, including In Defense of Animals, who monitor, report, and publicize what the NPS and their cattleman bosses don’t and won’t.

More to Come, More Action to Take

Stay tuned in the next few weeks for a new action alert with ways you can next help.

We won’t stop working until the exploited private cattle are moved out of this public park and the iconic Tule elk are finally, actually, free to live happy, wild lives.