Photo: From left to right: Christian Suarez, Laura Chariton, Jack Gescheidt, Rebecca Garverman, and Rachel Mathews

April 03, 2024, Ninth Circuit Orders Park Service to Report on Progress of Point Reyes Elk Plan

For Immediate Release: April 3, 2024

Ninth Circuit Orders Park Service to Report on Progress of Point Reyes Elk Plan

San Francisco, CA –A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ordered the National Park Service (NPS) to notify the Court when it issues an environmental assessment and revised General Management Plan (GMP) for the Point Reyes National Seashore. The NPS must also report to the Court on the status of the proposed revisions to the GMP no later than September 1, 2024. The order comes one day after an attorney with Harvard Law School’s Animal Law & Policy Clinic presented oral argument on the NPS’s mandatory duty to make these revisions.

“A single fence spells the difference between life and death for the elk at Tomales Point when food and water are scarce,” says Clinic staff attorney Rebecca Garverman, who argued the case. “We hope the Ninth Circuit’s order will ensure that the NPS swiftly finalizes its GMP revisions and removes the fence.”

The clinic’s case, brought on behalf of Jack Gescheidt, Laura Chariton, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, challenges the NPS’s decades-long failure to update the GMP for Tomales Point, where a population of Tule Elk is confined by a miles-long 8-foot-tall fence designed to protect dairy ranches located within the national seashore. During ever-increasing periods of drought, the elk cannot migrate to gain access to nutritious forage and water, resulting in hundreds of starvation deaths. Since the Clinic filed suit, the NPS has proposed removing the fence as part of new GMP revisions.

Harvard Law Students Sophie Pereira (3L) and Vinny Byju (2L) helped prepare Garverman for the oral argument.