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Turning up the Heat on the National Park Service (NPS)


Turning up the Heat on the National Park Service (NPS)


The NPS’s General Management Plan Amendment (GMPA) for Point Reyes Seashore awaits Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s signature. The controversial plan will instate ranching for least 20 more years, add hundreds more commercial livestock, and condemns native Tule elk to death in an effort to shore up the distressed ranches. As the deadline approaches, resistance to the plan is gaining momentum. Here are recent highlights:


  • National animal rights groups joined local “elkavists” to hold the NPS accountable for the deaths of hundreds of Tule elk held captive behind an 8-foot fence restricting the native mammals’ access to grass and water leased for cattle. Last week the Harvard Animal Law Clinic brought a lawsuit in federal court, charging the NPS with animal cruelty for denying the fenced elk the water and forage they need to survive. For months visitors had been sounding the alarm that water sources in the elk “reserve” had gone dry. They sent photos of elk carcasses to the NPS. The NPS denied the problem, citing its policy of “letting nature take its course.” Only after protestors and media drew attention to the elks’ plight did the NPS confess that some 152 of the fenced elk herd had died due to the drought between 2019 and 2021. (250 elk died during the 2013-2016 drought). The NPS ultimately relented this week, delivering water to the elk reserve. They can tell that to the judge.


  • As you read this, Diana Oppenheim, founder of ForElk, is driving to Washington, D.C. to deliver petitions to the Department of the Interior. Four petitions, comprising nearly 150,000 signatures, enjoin the Secretary to reconsider approval of the pro-ranching GMPA and demands humane treatment for the elk. Watch the livestream delivery on Facebook on Monday, June 28th, at 10 AM PST.


  • On June 28th, the Resource Renewal Institute will be sending a letter signed by 50 local and national conservation organizations to Secretary Haaland asking that Alternative B—the NPS’s “preferred” alternative be reconsidered due to an insufficient environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The NPS chose Alternative B in favor of Alternative F. While Alternative B intensifies ranching and ignores the environmental impacts, expected to worsen with climate change, under Alternative F the NPS would initiate environmental restoration and expand recreational and educational opportunities in the park.


  • Five former UC Berkeley biologists this week sent a joint letter to Secretary Haaland citing gross mismanagement of the Seashore’s Tule elk. Copies of the letter were sent to several federal and state agencies, including the California Coastal Commission and Department Fish & Wildlife, which have some oversight of the NPS plan. The NPS introduced ten Tule elk to the Seashore in 1978 in a last-ditch effort to save the species. Found only in California and in no other national park, Tule elk were hunted to near extinction by the early 20th century. As hoped, the elk multiplied at Point Reyes but lack genetic diversity. Because they have become infected with Johnes Disease, common in dairy cows, the elk cannot be relocated. The elk population at the Seashore shrunk by one-third since 2020. Even so, the plan calls for “lethal management” of the free-roaming elk to maintain herd size at 120. There are over 5,000 cattle in the Seashore.


  • On June 15th, the Coastal Miwok Tribal Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Turtle Island Restoration Network, sent Interior Secretary Deb Haaland a formal letter objecting to the National Park Service plan to prioritize cattle ranching and kill tule elk at Point Reyes National Seashore. Read their press release here. The letter followed an exposé in the Pacific Sun that uncovered the National Park Service’s decision to terminate a proposal to create a Coast Miwok Archeological District at Point Reyes and, instead, finalize the addition of Historic Ranching Districts to the National Register of Historic Places.



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