Two things happened around the same time a few months ago; Melanie Gunn stated that they would kill the elk no matter what and Craig Kenkel was named as the new Point Reyes Superintendent. Kenkel comes from a park that promotes farming while actively killing native wildlife, both within the park’s boundaries. Point Reyes promotes ranching and seeks to kill native wildlife. Seems like a perfect fit to carry out their pro-ranching, anti-wildlife agenda.
So back to Gunn, who makes a living defending ranching in the seashore. In a phone call she stated that even if the elk fence came down and even if the ranchers were gone they would have to kill the elk anyway because they couldn’t be allowed to populate to such an extent that they might expand beyond the seashore’s boundaries. Why? Because there was nothing to control their population. Personally, I already find it sad, disturbing even, that our park service would argue to prevent life for fear of life actually succeeding someday. Maybe one day years from now, in the fantasy situation of new ranchers being in the seashore, the elk population might get large enough that a solution needs to be found...well, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a park staff that spent those years seeking a solution rather than adopting a policy of killing wildlife now so we don’t even have to think about future management?
This leads to the other issue I have with what she said, and by the way, if you are having a hard time believing she said what she said (as I did often times during the phone call) she repeated it in an email, so it's in writing as well. Anyway, her justification of not letting the elk population go unculled is because there’s nothing to manage their populations if that happened. Mind you, this is in a seashore that tolerates around 5,000 massive cattle, but let’s be sure not to see what happens with 5,000 elk. Well, there will never be a shortage of humans chomping at the bit for an excuse to kill animals so of course, there would be an option, in fact the Tule elk populations outside the seashore are hunted now. Yes. But what this is really referring to is the lack of native predators to naturally manage the elk population. Now, why do you think we have a shortage of native predators. The answer is in two parts, with one underlying theme; animal agriculture. There is the killing of wildlife by ranchers themselves and there’s killing of wildlife by Wildlife Services, a government organization under the department of agriculture that kills millions of wild animals every year, mostly for the sake of agriculture.
Now remind me, who is calling for elk to be killed in the seashore? The ranchers. Why can’t elk live outside the seashore? Ranchers.
Enter the new superintendent Craig Kenkel, who comes from a park in Iowa that was actively killing native deer with the help of none other than the aforementioned Wildlife Services while simultaneously promoting farming, both within the park’s boundaries. Hmmm, Point Reyes is promoting ranching and proposing to kill wildlife and their new superintendent comes from a place that promotes farming and kills wildlife. What a convenient fit. Note, these were native deer, not invasive deer. I’m sure there are many of you obediently repeating the popular excuse of “The population needed to be controlled,” or “they were pests”, but again, this is happening in a place that simultaneously promoted livestock in the same park. Again, we have a situation where a national park isn’t pursuing the reintroduction of threatened species of native predator that desperately needs habitat, nooo we’re just gonna shoot the deer ourselves and promote agriculture in a park.
4% of mammal biomass on the planet consists of wild animals while 60% is domestic livestock. The rest is us. There’s no room to claim we need to kill wild animals and promote agricultural animals ANYWHERE, much less a national park.
I wonder if Kenkel will get to stay in Point Reyes for 25 years like John Sansing, the last rancher / superintendent responsible for shifting park management away from wildlife preservation and extending rancher leases. In case you didn’t know, park superintendents are supposed to shift locations regularly to avoid local influence, but Sansing didn’t want to leave and the ranchers didn’t want him to leave so he didn’t right up to his retirement.
Kenkel grew up on a farm and in the Point Reyes Light article interview he stated “farming is in my DNA”. Well, that’s great news, if Point Reyes National Seashore was a farm. Working a farm and preserving the wild are not the same. In fact they are the opposite. Despite the efforts of the ranching community in Marin to promote ranching as being harmonious with nature, the reality is that it is a direct competition with nature….the fact that the iconic and beloved Tule Elk are going to be killed for no other reason than to satisfy the demands of ranchers should be all the proof you need.
Let me read one of the article headlines about Kenkel’s last park. “National Park Land Up for Grabs for Those Willing to Farm It”. How nice. A little background comes along with that. - obviously this is an older article, but I quote, “President Donald Trump has proposed nearly $500 million in budget cuts to national parks in 2020. But more than $11 billion in repairs or maintenance across the system have already been postponed for more than a year because of budget constraints.”
But this is being stated as a reason for why we need farming.
“Leasing the land to farmers could potentially address some of those needs”.
That’s like having someone chop off your legs, the ‘you’ in this case being nature, then having that same person offer for you to lease a pair of crappy, duck-taped crutches to solve the problem of no longer having legs...and you are supposed to thank that person responsible for you being without legs in the first place.
Back to Point Reyes. I had just finished a multi day hike in the Limantour area of Point Reyes National Seashore and was uplifted by the experience of wandering through the land witnessing Tule elk and other animals utilizing a variation in habitats, unlike Tomales Point, which is pretty much all the same. My friend compared it to being on a Safari...we felt alone in a peaceful realm while being privileged enough to witness magnificent creatures among us. At the same time I thought how sad it was that we were so excited to see a handful of animals. There should have been animals everywhere. This is where we are as a society, where we can drive for hours through California and never once see a wild animal on the hills adjacent to the highways while not thinking anything of it. Absence of biodiversity is normal. Presence of livestock is normal.
A large number of people watching this are calling me crazy, or a hippie, or something. We can’t just have wild animals running around! We can’t have wolves and mountain lions! What would happen! These are the words of the ignorant masses detached from nature. The people who need to be educated and taught to have a greater appreciation and understanding of earth’s inhabitants. But they shouldn’t be the words of the park service, charged with preserving and protecting what little of the wild we have left. We need a park service attempting to bridge that gap, not a park service increasing the gap.
#shameofpointreyes #pointreyes #melaniegunn #craigkenkel #pointreyesnationalseashore #elk #deathofaseashore
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