It didn’t take long for the National Park Service’s (NPS) quiet, low-key email “News Release” to its subscribers at 11am PT on Friday, June 9, 2023, to cause a commotion. Because the one-page document contained this long sentence (bolding added):
Based on the review of public comments and internal scoping, NPS has identified a proposed action for the Tomales Point Area Plan. The proposed action would include removal of the tule elk fence and temporary water systems installed during the most recent drought, evaluation of opportunities to improve recreational uses and visitor experience at the historic Pierce Point Ranch and within the Congressionally designated wilderness, and approaches to best protect natural and cultural resources.
Read the 1-page NPS News Release: https://www.nps.gov/pore/learn/news/newsreleases-20230609-tomales-point-area-plan-update.htm
Let the games of wild speculation begin! On the face of it, it’s great news; we activists — and the tens of thousands of park visitors who have written the NPS to say they too want elk freed and commercial cattle operations removed from this national park unit — will take any good news we can get. Really, any concessions or small bits of progress we can squeeze from the federal bureaucracies are hard-won. Both NPS and it’s big Poppa Bear, the U.S. Dept. of the Interior (DOI) have acted with devotion, for literally decades, to support the deep-pocketed, politically powerful beef and dairy industries. All hail Big Beef & Dairy! Cynical (realist?) activisst can only assume this is for the usual, complex, overlapping and internecine reasons — y’know, power, milk money, market share and more $$.
But read the NPS’ words carefully. Their “proposed action” is only the first step of many necessary to dismantle the fence and free the Tule elk. The “proposed action” language (I’ve learned) points to NEPA language (National Environmental Policy Act). A lengthy legal process require a public comment period and only then, possibly, to a Final Decision. And then, after that, likely not before the end of 2024, an implementation of the decision which here means removing the Tule Elk Reserve’s southern border fence which runs 3 miles from the Pacific Ocean east to Tomales Bay.
What prompted this action? Did the NPS suddenly have a change of heart? Well, that’s not how bureaucracies work. So what pressured them (it?) to do so? The best speculation as of this writing (6.10.23) is that years of activist, public, media and legal pressures add up. Culminating in lengthy, ongoing deliberations and NPS preparations for two, count ’em, two separate lawsuits against the Interior Dept. One, brought by Harvard Animal Law & Policy Program, Gescheidt v. Haaland, has been appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. It’s a strong case, arguing for the necessity of amending the General Management Plan so elk don’t die in captivity inside the Tomales Point Reserve. (The NPS does NOT want to do a General Management Plan that would survey the entire 71,000 acres of Point Reyes Seashore. Instead, they want to parse the park into two separate entities: 1) the Tomales Point Reserve which is drying out from global warming and no longer capable of supporting elk herds in summer and autumn, and; 2) ranchlands, or what the dairy industry wants you to call the “Pastoral Zone,” where cattle reign, degrade, trample and pollute, say the activists, (backed up with scientific proof of park water pollution from cattle.
What happens next? Activists will, in the weeks and months ahead, lead the charge and encourage thousands of concerned citizens and park lovers, Point Reyes visitors, and Tule elk fans — including you, dear reader — to again contact the National Park Service with the directions we’ll provide, to express their preference for wild elk over commercial cattle operations in this (and every) national park unit.
National parks were created for wild animals and protected land where big businesses (or small ones) cannot pollute. And then the media will amplify this public preference. And this social and political process will continue, until the Tule elk of little Point Reyes Seashore are freed. In addition, an example will be made, to support Earth’s remaining wild animals everywhere. And to educate more people about the destructive force the cattle industry has become, on public lands, waterways, and the atmosphere. This is ecological destruction subsidized by an intentionally misled public, and at public expense.
A little thing called global warming or a climate crisis, turns out to a very big deal. That is, if you believe in science, and facts, or simply in treating your Mother, Earth, with care and respect. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s how humanity won’t nearly extinguish itself, and, perhaps more upsetting to animal lovers, wipe out millions of other living creatures along with ourselves.
NOTE: This blog may be update next week. Along with this website’s Tule elk page. Thanks for caring; it takes a nation of concerned, caring citizens.
– Jack Gescheidt, TreeSpiritProject founder