Environmentalists & Animal Rights Activists to Hold Rally at Pt. Reyes National Seashore to Save endangered rare Tule-Elk

Tule Elk is a rare species of elk that is native to California. Photo courtesy of In Defense of Animals

On Monday, September 13th, the National Park Service (NPS) will determine the future of Point Reyes National Seashore. The NPS is pro-ranching plans to expand ranching for another 20 years and to start shooting some Tule elk to death — which directly violates the park’s founding charter and public will.

To environmentalist and animal-rights activities the NPS has an obligation to uphold the preservation integrity of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore as part of our National Park system. The safety and well-being of the Tule Elk are part of it.

An Elk caught in the mud, unable to find food or water along the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Photo by Matthew Kline, courtesy of Animal Law & Policy Program of Harvard Law School, MA.

This struggle between environmentalists-activists, the NPS and the ranchers has been going on for some time. News coverage of it has been extensive, such as an expanded feature in the Pacific Sun. 

This Sunday, tomorrow, over 200 people plan to gather and rally in favor of the Elk and their habitat within the National Seashore.

Among those who are attending will be celebrities, local environmental leaders, wildlife advocates, public lands stewards, citizens and activists highlighting the Tule elk’s deadly confinement as water levels are low due to drought.

The Elk’s lack of access to grazing land and water has caused the less than 600 Elk to die. Whereas the more than 5,600 cows who dominate the area are well-fed and watered by the ranchers renting the acreage for commercial purposes from the Federal Government through the NPS.

“There’s this fog of misinformation that the public doesn’t understand,” said Jack Gescheidt, speaking on of In Defense of Animals/TreeSpirit Project.

While there are Federal regulations in place, as Gescheidt emphasized, “there’s undoubtedly heavy influences from powerful political lobbyists working for the cattle, meat and dairy industry.”

The dilemma according to Gescheidt and others is that the ranchers who provide, milk, meat and dairy are able to do so by renting the acres of grazing land within the NPS at “below market value,” and this is why the struggle is at a fever pitch.

Point Reyes National Seashore was created in 1962 for wild animals to roam freely and forage, the ranchers were to be phased out eventually, returning the acreage to its natural habitat conditions.

The remains of an Elk left in the mud at Pt. Reyes National Seashore. Activists want the National Park Service to step up efforts to protect the rare species of elk and to ensure the Elk have access to water and food as part of their natural habitat. Photo by Mattew Kline, courtesy of Animal Law & Policy Program, Harvard Law School.

Yet the acreage is still dominated by approximately 5,600 cows belonging to private dairy and beef operations leasing land inside the park, again as mentioned before from the Federal government, at sub-market rates.

“This is a major advantage for the ranchers. But it’s degrading and polluting this 28,000 acres of public parkland,” added Gescheidt. Last year over 150 Elk died of starvation as the largest amount of the Elk herds have been sequestered inside a fenced area at Tomales Point within the National Seashore premises. In addition to the NPS protecting the Elk, there are other responsibilities that activists have noted, such as the quality of the water sources available to the Elk and other wildlife. 

As drought continues in California typically the Elk drink 4,000 gallons a day on average. Whereas the cows on the ranches within the National Seashore area drink over 200,000 per day. What is most disturbing to Gescheidt and the activists is that the NPS in its 2021 management plan recommends shooting the Elk.

“This make no sense, said Gescheidt and the Cattle industry’s leverage in this situation oversteps what the NPS system is supposed to do. Tule-Elk are a rare sub-Species in California and Point Reyes is their natural home. There are only 6,000 of these type of elk in the world.”

The Harvard Animal Law & Policy Center has filled a law suit against the NPS on behalf of several California residents, for violating its federal mandate to protect the Elk in a national park unit.

“I’m optimistic this issue is winnable in favor of the Elk and the overall natural integrity of the National Seashore because it’s the NPS to preserve and protect our National Parks,” said Gescheidt.

“Besides, he added it would be so much easier and beneficial if the commercial enterprises that the ranchers operate within the National Seashore were moved elsewhere.”

Rare Tule Elk indigenous to California are fenced out of their natural habitat by ranchers who lease the land from the National Park Service. Rancher-tenants fence off access to water in favor of their cows and livestock, causing the endanger Elk to starve. Photo by Matthew Kine, courtesy of Animal Law & Policy Program of Harvard Law School.

Gescheidt invites all who care about the National Seashore to attend tomorrow’s rally.It will be held at Bear Valley Visitor Center, 1 Bear Valley Visitor Center Access Road, Point Reyes Station, CA. The rally begins at 11am and will continue until 1:30 pm this Saturday, July 3, 2021.