A river of environmental misinformation flows all the way from a card table in Sebastopol, across the country, down C Street in Washington, past the Department of Interior, and eventually discharges into the halls of Congress. The Russian River Times tracked it to its source.
A few days ago, at a table outside the Sebastopol Whole Foods store, a representative of a local environmental coalition was asking patrons to sign a petition. It asked Rep. Lynn Woolsey to reverse her support of Senator Feinstein’s proposed legislation to extend the lease of a historic oyster farm, located on Drake’s Estero within Point Reyes National Seashore. According to the petition handout, it was being presented by Save Drakes Bay (SDB), a coalition of environmental groups, including amongst others, the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association and the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin.
The person at the table, who identified himself as ‘Brian’ showed an aerial photo of eel grass beds, pointing out that eelgrass, an important part of the ecosystem, was “nearly all gone” and that the shaded areas showed where it was “dying because of the oysters”. He claimed that the “seals were dying” as the result of the “oyster factory operation”. He claimed that if Feinstein’s amendment to the Park Service appropriations bill were approved, it would “destroy the Wilderness Act” for the commercial benefit of a local business owner.
None of these charges are true.
A recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, commissioned by the National Park Service at the request of Senator Feinstein, shows that there is no scientific indication that Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) is having any meaningful negative effects on the Estero
The report states that the Park Service deliberately distorted and misrepresented claims of damage. It states that “…coverage of eelgrass has expanded from 361 acres in 1991 to about 740 acres in 2007”. Likewise, the seal population which local Park scientists had previously stated may be approaching its maximum size based on the available food resources, varies little from site to site around Point Reyes. This would not be the case if the oyster company were harming seals. The Park Services own seal database shows that the oyster company accounts for less than one percent of the total number of seals disturbed since Drake’s Bay Oyster Company took over operations in 2005. The one percent attributed to the oyster farm are based on three events, each of which as been discredited. The other 99 percent of disturbances were mostly park visitors, followed by natural or unknown causes.
John Hulls points out similar tactics spreading discredited information by Jeff Rusch of PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), the Sierra Club, the National Park Service itself. Hulls summarizes lawsuits and 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rulings that overturned the NPS and environmental elitists goals of re-territorialization.
The Times next spoke on this issue with Gary Nabhan, who has published an article on the Estero situation in the well-respected High Country News, entitled “What we got here is a failure to collaborate”. Dr. Nabhan has served on the National Park System Advisory Board under two presidents and contributed to the study, Rethinking National Parks for the Twenty First Century. He is also granted a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award for his conservation work. His article points out the need to nurture the collaborative conservation movement and his concerned that the current nominee to head the Park Service, Jon Jarvis, may be the wrong person to foster this approach. Nabhan notes that it is a complex task to balance the inevitable conflicts that arise from the many diverse stakeholders in the National Park system. He is of the opinion that in many cases, the Park Service has failed to follow its own procedures in resolving the many inevitable conflicts that arise between diverse stakeholders within the National Parks and with surrounding communities.
In the High Country News article he states, “Jarvis knows how to preach to the wilderness choir, but national parks are about more than wild landscapes. A third of the nation’s 400-some parks, monuments, seashores and heritage areas contain culturally significant “working landscapes.” Park staff interacts with Navajo shepherds in Canyon de Chelly, Mormon orchard-keepers in Capitol Reef, bison ranchers in Great Sand Dunes and commercial fisherman around the Channel Islands. If his appointment goes through, Jarvis will be charged with the complex task of resolving the inevitable conflicts between such diverse stakeholders and protectionists.
All Park visitors rely on the correct application of laws and policy to prevent the greater public interest being drowned in a sea of misinformation and spin. Under Western Region Director Jon Jarvis, NPS management of Drake’s Estero, Fort Baker and the Merced River show a pattern of ignoring laws and science when it suits them, such as the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act and the Wilderness Act, and the provisions of NPS policy that require cooperation with all stakeholders and surrounding communities and use of ‘best available science’ as the basis for decision making. It is the responsibility of the Department of Interior under the Obama administration to reverse the influence of narrow interest groups, be they environmental or commercial, and insure that NPS follows laws, policy and procedures fairly for the benefit of everyone who enjoys the use of our National Parks.
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Environmental Petition Spreads Discredited Information | russianrivertimes.