After years of assessment, documentation , mapping and planning, abandoned livestock fences in the Tolowa Dunes have finally been removed, and now a small heard of wild elk have been sighted in the area that was previously leased for cattle grazing.
Tolowa Dunes State Park is made up of ancient sand dunes, swales, dune forest, and an ephemeral wetland bottom called the Smith River Plain, along the coast of Del Norte County. The Park is used as a Pacific flyway stopover for migratory birds, serves as critical rearing habitat for juvenile salmon and provides grazing opportunities for wild ungulates. Tolowa Dunes State Park is also sacred to the Tolowa people, who once had a village there, a village that was the site of a horrible massacre of the Tolowa people in 1853.
From 1996-2011, about 230 acres of the bottoms along the Yontocket Slough were leased from Tolowa Dunes State Park for cattle grazing to the adjacent land owner, Alexandre Dairy, which modified the area with heavy equipment and built extensive fence lines throughout the Park. This area was heavily grazed and the dairy’s barbwire and electric fences remained after the termination of the grazing permit, preventing the movement of wild animals, including local wild Rosevelt elk populations.
With funding from the California State Parks Foundation, EPIC worked with Tolowa Dunes State Park, Tolowa Dunes Stewards and biologist Adam Canter to map livestock fencing and rare species, and to help plan and prioritize ecological restoration and livestock fence removal projects within Tolowa Dunes State Park. EPIC began working on this project in 2010, helping to end the illegal livestock grazing permit on State Park Lands , and now, six years later, the fences have finally been removed and wild elk have returned to the former grazing area of the park.