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Point Reyes National Seashore in California was established in 1962. The government paid $50 million to purchase the land from farming and ranching families, allowing those who signed lease agreements to graze cows on parkland for 25 years.
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However, conflict has arisen because three herds of tule elk—who are native to California and were reintroduced to the park in the 1970s after previously having been killed off—also graze there. To appease ranchers, the National Park Service (NPS) erected tall fences to keep elk off grazing land. One herd, designated the Tomales Point herd, is confined by a fence to a peninsula, and drought conditions have resulted in a drastic drop in water and natural food supply for these animals. Activists claim that hundreds of elk died in 2020 because the fences prohibited them from seeking sustenance elsewhere. Now, the NPS is moving forward with an amendment to the park’s General Management Plan that involves killing some elk and offering another 20-year lease agreement to farming and ranching families. More than 26,000 acres would be allotted for ranching, and lessees would be allowed to maintain over 5,500 cows. Meanwhile, the Drakes Beach elk herd’s population, which numbered a mere 124 animals in 2018, would be limited to 120 animals maximum—and the Limantour herd, which numbered 174 animals in 2018, would be “managed consistent with desired conditions for the planning area,” meaning that there would be no limit to how many could be killed! Furthermore, the NPS wants to allow agricultural “diversification,” so the lessees could possibly even bring in pigs, goats, chickens, and sheep and plant row crops. Animal agriculture only serves to exacerbate drought conditions in California. It takes an average of 1,799 gallons of water to produce a pound of cow flesh and 4.5 gallons of water to produce a gallon of cow’s milk. Meanwhile, the same thirsty livestock operations contaminate the water supply with manure (which contains E. coli), hormones, and antibiotics. Evidence indicates that water contamination from the ranches at Point Reyes is a problem, as bacteria levels recently tested at levels up to 300 times higher than the state health standard.
The NPS previously accepted public comments on this matter, and PETA members and supporters weighed in. However, despite hearing from around 40,000 people who asked that the elk be preserved, the NPS pushed forward and recently obtained conditional concurrence from the California Coastal Commission to proceed with this damaging plan.
Since the NPS appears dead-set on promoting livestock over wildlife, we need you to ask Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to intervene and stop this cruel initiative. Let her know that fencing the elk off from their home range so that ranchers can graze cows is especially cruel since California is on the verge of another prolonged drought, and remind her that grazing decimates ecosystems, causing water pollution and soil erosion, spreading invasive species and disease, and harming endangered species. Ask Secretary Haaland to withhold the Record of Decision, an action that would put the NPS plan on hold pending further review.
After you’ve submitted your comment, please also comment on the NPS’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts and then send this alert to everyone you know!