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Action Alert: Rare Tule Elk Need Our Help!

by Matthew Fingerett

The small, mostly isolated population of Tule elk are in danger due to the National Park Service’s (NPS) commitment to cattle ranching at Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is currently the only national park in the country that hosts this subspecies of elk. Today, there are around 4,000 Tule elk in total, all residing in California; this is a stark contrast to the population of 500,000 that existed in California in 1880.

According to the NPS, in 2017 the number of Tule elk at Point Reyes was roughly 660, split between Tomales Point, Drakes Beach, and areas around Limantour Road.

The National Park Service’s mission statement [1] includes the claim that it “cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.” However, the preferred plan of the NPS regarding the Tule elk in no way benefits natural and cultural resource conservation. The preferred plan of the NPS includes culling the already low population by encouraging shooting Tule elk that cross into areas specifically designated for ranching.

In this case, it appears the only partners to the NPS are those in the dairy or cattle grazing business. In 2017 the NPS settled a lawsuit [2] whereby it became a requirement for the NPS to plan for any impacts as a result of cattle ranching, which includes over 26,000 acres of land at Point Reyes. It does not appear that the NPS is honoring this requirement.

The plan would allow for grazing of 2,400 beef cattle and 3,130 dairy animals. This is at a time when both beef and dairy consumption are in decline. In addition to the reduction of public access to recreation – another commitment claimed by the NPS in its mission statement – the impact from cattle ranching leads to soil erosion, water pollution, invasive plants, declines in fish and bird populations, conflicts with wildlife, and even more greenhouse gas emissions.

We are at a point where the climate crisis is a top priority and should be particularly so for a federal agency like the National Park Service that is widely relied upon to maintain healthy environments and natural resources. Disappointingly, the priority of this agency appears to be profit over the protection of the Tule elk, and therefore other wildlife populations as part of the cascading effect of using lethal means to decrease the already small number of Tule elk we have left.

[3]

Click here to Submit Comments Online! [3]

The Point Reyes National Seashore General Management Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement is proposing to dedicate one third of Point Reyes National Seashore to cattle ranching and includes plans to kill off Tule elk that frequent the area. This plan only benefits twenty-four cattle ranchers who sold their land to the public 60 years ago, but still use the national park to graze their cattle. The 45-day public review and comment period is open until 10:59pm on September 23.

Comment Letter Talking Points:

NPS will not be accepting bulk or identical comments, so you must create your own unique letter. Below is a list of talking points that were created from our colleagues at the Center for Biological Diversity. Please personalize your letter and include some of the following talking points: