California Lt. Governor John Garamendi, who served as Deputy Secretary of the Interior in President Clinton’s Administration, has joined the battle to save the Point Reyes National Seashore’s few surviving fallow and axis deer.

A copy of a letter from the lieutenant governor to the regional director of the National Park Service was provided to this blog today, Monday, a day after 75 people marched from Sacred Heart Church to the Vedanta Society Retreat in Olema to protest efforts to eliminate the deer.

Park Supt. Don Neubacher last year brought in a hunting company to eradicate the two herds on grounds they are non-native and that the herds had (not-surprisingly) been growing since he stopped culling them upon becoming superintendent in 1994.

In his letter to Neubacher’s boss, Jon Jarvis, Pacific-West Regional Director of the National Park Service, Garamendi describes the eradication program as “a serious mistake on many levels.”

100_7282.jpgSunday’s march (seen here being assembled at Sacred Heart) capped a week when the political tide began run in favor of the deer.

For months Supt. Neubacher had defied objections from groups ranging from hunters to the US Humane Society, who are offended by the hunting company’s cruel practices that cause many deer to suffer long and agonizing deaths.

Last week, US Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and three other Bay Area members of the House — Lynn Woolsey, George Miller, and Anna Eshoo — jointly called for a six-month moratorium on the eradication program.

The moratorium would give the Park Service time to review US Humane Society studies on managing herd sizes with an easily administered contraceptive known as PZP.

garamendi_photo_thumbnail.jpgIn his letter, the lieutenant governor not only calls for a moratorium on the killing, he recommends that the Park Service “accept the fact that the non-native deer have established themselves and that a modest herd be kept in the [National Seashore].”

The letter was a followup to a phone conversation Garamendi (pictured) previously had with the regional director. The Park Service is, of course, part of the Interior Department, and as a former top official of the department, the lieutenant governor knows Jarvis well.

Here is the letter written by Garamendi:


May 6, 2008

Jon Jarvis
Pacific-West Regional Director, National Park Service
United States Department of the Interior
One Jackson Center
1111 Jackson Street, Suite 700
Oakland, CA 94607

Dear Mr. Jarvis:

Thank you for taking my call and your attention to the Fallow and Axis Deer issue at Point Reyes National Seashore. Based on our conversation, I understand that the National Park Service (NPS) will not attempt to eradicate the deer population in the spring or summer. However, the NPS contractor will, in the month of May and beyond, conduct investigations on the deer herds to determine the effectiveness of contraception, health of the animals, and other related issues. I further understand that a very limited number of deer may be killed to further the investigation.

I recognize that this amounts to a temporary cessation of the eradication program and that the eradication will continue in the fall. Therefore, I urge you and the NPS to consider a different solution to the non-native deer issue. I recommend that the NPS accept the fact that the non-native deer have established themselves and that a modest herd be kept in the NPS area. This herd should be managed so as to maintain a constant number of animals.

The NPS should undertake the necessary to studies to determine herd size and management techniques. The existing herd, which I understand to be quite small, should be allowed to exist while this study is underway.

The bottom line for me is that it is a serious mistake on many levels to eradicate the entire population of Fallow and Axis deer at the Point Reyes National Seashore. If I am incorrect on my understanding of the NPS and their contractor’s program for the spring and summer, please let me know immediately. Thank you for considering my position for the long-term management of the herd.

Lieutenant Governor

State Capitol, Room 1114, Sacramento, California 95814

100_7311.jpg The marchers’ destination was the Vedanta Retreat because the hunting company has been using it as a staging area for its eradication program.

The Hindu retreat, which is surrounded on three sides by the National Seashore, has given the hunting company permission to use its property for a variety of purposes — as long as any killing is carried out elsewhere.

On Sunday, Ella Walker of Olema (at left) complained about this to Swami Vedananda, aka Warner Hirsch (in center with back to camera), and Estol T. Carte (to his right), the Vedanta Society’s president.

Citing Hindu beliefs, Walker said that in allowing the park’s hunters to use Vedanta land, the retreat was complicit in the deer’s deaths. The Vedanta leaders responded by citing National Seashore claims that the eradication program is righteous.

The demonstrators had hoped to meet with the Vedanta leaders within the retreat but were told they could not enter the land beyond a small bridge near Highway 1.

The Vedanta Society had a security guard on hand, but the protest was somber and orderly, with none of the demonstrators showing any desire to force their way into the retreat.