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An Elk
photo credit: Jack Gescheidt, TreeSpiritProject

Point Reyes National Seashore. A small slice of the Bay Area where natural systems proceed unmolested. Or perhaps not. According to environmental campaigners, nature takes a back seat to ranching at the park. 

The park service disagrees, saying it's following precedence, law and best practices to balance nature with more than a century of dairy farming.

For more, KRCB News spoke with Jack Gescheidt, a consultant working for the group 'In Defense of Animals' Tule Elk campaign.

Gescheidt began by outlining what he sees as the major issues and his recent work. 

The park service, for its part broadly disagrees. 

However, Point Reyes National Seashore spokesperson Melanie Gunn told KRCB News the park service does not comment on pending litigation, and she declined to do an interview or discuss cattle at the park in general.

cows and calvesphoto credit: courtesy National Park Service

Instead, Gunn shared documents outlining the park's history and an ongoing review and revisions to its operations.

According to the documents, while the controversial leases are on fixed terms, they didn't all start, nor end at precisely the same time. Expiring leases can and have been extended at any time, at the discretion of the US Secretary of Interior.

At the same time, an operational review requiring changes to certain ranch practices, was itself prompted by a 2017 settlement with environmental groups.

Public hearings are scheduled to begin this spring.

In an email to KRCB News on March 7, 2023, Gunn said there was a ruling last week regarding the litigation of tule elk at Tomales Point, and she provided a statement on behalf of the National Park Service, saying the service  "is aware of the recent ruling from the US District Court – Northern District of California on February 27, 2023 regarding tule elk in the Tomales Point area of Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) and is reviewing the findings. PRNS remains committed to developing a new area plan for Tomales Point including the management of tule elk in this region of the park."

The Tomales Point Area Plan can be found here.

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