The Force of the Horse

House Votes to Evict Native Elk From National Park in California to Prioritize Private Cattle Ranching

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.

7 replies »

  1. Marin Voice: Point Reyes legal settlement a victory for national parks everywhere
    PUBLISHED: July 14, 2017

    We knew that bringing a lawsuit against the park service over mismanagement at Point Reyes National Seashore would not be popular, especially given recent conflicts over commercial leases in the park. But when we learned in 2014 that half of the seashore’s Tule elk — some 250 animals — had died, and saw the alarming degradation of much of the seashore’s native habitat, we made the decision to take legal action.
    California’s endangered native Tule elk, were once presumed to be extinct. Reintroduced at the Point Reyes National Seashore in 1978, the elk live in no other national park. They have become an iconic symbol of the Seashore and of Nature’s potential for regeneration.
    No official cause was made public when the park service disclosed the herd’s drastic die off, but a lack of water or forage during the years of record drought is suspected. The herd, held in a fenced area, to prevent it from grazing where the park service leases land to commercial ranchers.
    By contrast, during the same period, the number of free-roaming elk in the park increased. The losses of the confined herd led us to question the park service’s management practices and the efficacy of its decades-old general management plan.
    Beyond Marin’s own national parks, this lawsuit sets a precedent for protecting our national heritage by guaranteeing citizens everywhere a voice in how our national parks are managed. It reinforces the right to an inclusive, open and transparent process in which the public can participate in shaping national park policies and priorities. Moreover, it affirms that the national parks and the native wildlife they harbor belong to all of us to be preserved unimpaired for the enjoyment of present and future generations or for as long as we all remain vigilant and involved.
    Deborah Moskowitz is president of the Resource Renewal Institute, an environmental think tank based in Mill Valley.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I seriously do not understand how it is legal to let private individuals make a profit using public lands. Can I set up a beauty parlor on the White House grounds then? Corrupt politicians make money by bending laws. National Parks were intended to be preserved for this and future generations to enjoy as unadulterated nature, not a goddam cattle lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Western Watersheds Project:
    A bill, H.R. 6687, seeks to lock in dairying and ranching at the expense of healthy lands and native wildlife at Point Reyes National Seashore. This goes against the original intent of the enabling legislation, which sought to restore the peninsula to a natural condition with rare tule elk and other wildlife, for the enjoyment of the people. The bill is quietly being fast-tracked through the House of Representatives this week. A similar bill may arise in the Senate.

    Please call or email your Senators today and ask them to oppose any bill that seeks to undermine the public process of how Point Reyes National Seashore is managed.

    Dairies and beef ranches were bought out for millions from 1962 to 1978. The ranchers took the money, and agreed to leave upon the death of the original owner and their spouse. Now they are trying to reverse course with a legislative sneak-attack to circumvent an ongoing public planning process that is required to consider putting native wildlife and healthy ecosystems ahead of commercial livestock uses on the National Seashore. The bill allows free-roaming tule elk that currently roam Drake’s Beach to be hunted in or removed from our National Seashore to make room for more cattle!
    These tule elk will be in the crosshairs if H.R. 6687, an anti-conservation bill co-sponsored by Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Rob Bishop (R-UT), is passed in the House this week.
    These elk were released into the treasured Phillip Burton Wilderness within Point Reyes National Seashore to be free-roaming, not confined behind fences. The Huffman-Bishop amendment would allow hunting in the wilderness of native elk to keep them off of livestock pastures.
    A General Management Plan revision is already underway to decide how the Seashore will be managed, and this will include public comments and input. This bill will undermine that public process, by dictating the alternative that must be chosen and making a mockery of public input. An alternative with no livestock in the park may now be much more difficult to include in the future management plan.
    It’s critical that people call and write their Senators and tell them to not support this bad bill and let the public process lead to a fair and science-based decision!
    The management of public lands should be a public decision, not one rigged from the start by special interest legislation. Please call or email both of your Senators and ask them to oppose this attack on native wildlife and natural landscapes.


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