Ep. 47: “Cattle vs. Elk at Point Reyes National Seashore” feat. Laura Cunningham

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Conflict between industrial agriculture & wildlife on public land

Point Reyes National Seashore is the site of a conflict that is typical on US public lands: European-style agriculture vs. indigenous land management; private profit vs. public benefit; civilization vs. wildlife. Elsewhere it’s logging vs. forest, mining vs. mountain or green energy vs. desert, and this podcast has been and will continue to pursue these stories too.

In this episode, our guest is Laura Cunningham, California Director of the Western Watersheds Project. Laura grew up in the Bay Area and she studied zoology, paleontology, botany, and resource management at UC Berkeley. She traveled extensively around the state doing wildlife biology work and surveys for California Fish and Wildlife, the US Geological Survey, the Bureau of Land Management, and various universities. She is also the author and illustrator of the book, “A State of Change: Forgotten Landscapes of California,” a beautiful and engaging volume on the state’s natural history.

Podcast listeners might remember Laura from episode 3, back in April 2020, when I interviewed her and Kevin Emmerich of Basin & Watch about defending desert habitats from industrial energy development.

On December 17th, 2020, Laura and I talked about how her art led her to conservation work; the ecology and history of the Point Reyes area; the establishment of the park, including how ranchers accepted buy-out money but never left; how Elk died during a recent drought, due to being fenced off from water supplies; how the Park Service is sacrificing Elk and their habitat to cattle and agriculture; the ecological damage from ranching & dairying; floristic succession in damaged and recovering landscapes; the possibility that Elk will be killed in the future if they “infringe” on cattle pasture; where we are in the decision-making process about the park’s future; and the effects of the Woodward fire there last summer.

Links from Laura (with her comments):

This episode’s introduction music is XD239 – Synth 1 by Doctor Dreamchip. You can follow them here: Youtube | Instagram | Patreon

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