Save California's Tule Elk
Tule elk, a protected species found only in California, are one of our nation’s greatest conservation success stories. But this majestic species may be killed by a horrifying plan recently approved by the National Park Service. We can't let this happen.
The National Park Service recently approved of a plan that would authorize the park service to eliminate tule elk, a subspecies of elk found only in California, by killing some individuals of the free-ranging herd in Point Reyes National Seashore to deter elk from encroaching on current cattle operations by eating grass. The plan would also expand ranching opportunities that will pollute parklands and send polluted water into the ocean by extending 20-year leases to 24 beef and dairy ranchers on national parkland. Tule elk are considered one of California’s greatest conservation success stories. Up until about forty years ago, tule elk were thought to be extinct as a result of unfettered commercial hunting and displacement by cattle. Many California residents and groups, including the National Park Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, spent decades working to re-establish a free-ranging herd on the National Seashore. Today, one of the largest populations of tule elk resides in Point Reyes National Seashore, the only national park where tule elk occur.
The National Park Service’s plan prioritizes ranchers’ interests over wildlife, and authorizes the “diversification” of ranching operations, opening the door to small livestock operations such as sheep, goat, pig and chicken ranches in addition to the already prevalent cow grazing and dairy operations on this national parkland. The plan would also increase the amount of land dedicated to ranching in the parks by 7,600 acres, further encroaching on native tule elk habitat and loading greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The NPS plan would do little to prevent harm to endangered species and other native wildlife, degradation of water quality, soil erosion, and the spread of invasive species from cattle grazing and ranching activities.
Point Reyes National Seashore comprises almost 72,000 acres, of which 33,000 acres are designated as wilderness, and 18,000 acres are currently leased to beef and dairy ranching operations. In addition, 10,000 acres south of the Seashore are part of the northern district of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area that is managed by the Seashore. In spring 2014, the National Park Service initiated the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan (RCMP) for the approximately 28,000 acres of active beef and dairy ranching on NPS lands in Point Reyes and the north district of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The RCMP was in response to a decision made by Secretary Ken Salazar in 2012 requesting the Seashore to pursue long-term ranching and dairy leases. The RCMP planning process was interrupted in 2016 by litigation asserting that NPS should complete an update to the Seashore’s General Management Plan (GMP) to address where ranching and dairying operations could continue, rather than how they should continue. The court approved a multi-party Settlement Agreement on July 14, 2017. Per the agreement, the NPS agreed that in lieu of the RCMP, they would prepare a GMP Amendment (GMPA) and Environmental Impact Study (EIS) addressing the management of the lands currently leased for ranching in Point Reyes and the north district of Golden Gate.