Source: Center for Biological Diversity
“This shortsighted bill endangers hundreds of elk while handing control of irreplaceable coastal open space over to private interests…”
WASHINGTON— The House of Representatives rammed through legislation today that would allow hunting or eviction of native tule elk from large portions of Point Reyes National Seashore in California’s Marin County, the only national park where these elk exist.
The legislation would enshrine private cattle ranching on 28,000 acres of public lands without any environmental assessment, sabotaging a public-planning process aimed at evaluating ranching impacts and resolving cattle conflicts with native wildlife.
“This shortsighted bill endangers hundreds of elk while handing control of irreplaceable coastal open space over to private interests,” said Jeff Miller with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The bill’s sponsors are doing an end run around an ongoing public-planning process. They’re undermining the park’s fundamental purpose by forcing the Park Service to prioritize commercial ranching at the expense of native wildlife and recreation.”
H.R. 6687, introduced by Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah), would require the Interior Department to maintain dairies and ranches on public lands by giving 20-year leases for private cattle grazing. The bill also would allow the Park Service to remove tule elk from these ranch lease areas or allow the elk to be shot. The bill was rushed through the House in less than a month.
The legislation undermines a public-planning process for the national park, which has received more than 2,500 comments in favor of keeping elk on these public lands and removing or scaling back ranching. In 2017 conservationists, ranchers and the Park Service agreed on a four-year plan to address cattle ranching and tule elk conflicts at Point Reyes through a public environmental review process and an amendment to the National Seashore’s management plan.
The Park Service was required to evaluate the environmental impacts of cattle ranching and consider a range of management options, as it does for activities in every national park. The public was to have input on where native wildlife and public access should trump commercial cattle ranching, but this bill kills that process.
The reintroduction of tule elk to the Point Reyes peninsula has so far been a success story for conservation of native species and restoring ecosystem processes, one of the primary missions of the National Park Service.
The Drakes Beach elk herd, which the legislation aims to remove, is one of two free-roaming herds in the park. Letting elk roam free is critical to their survival. More than half the elk in the Tomales Point herd, which is fenced in on a peninsula to appease ranchers, died during a recent drought because of a lack of water and food.