Editorial: Point Reyes oyster farm’s lease should be extended
Marin Independent Journal Editorial
Posted: 11/29/2012 05:00:00 AM PST
Kevin Lunny walks among the mounds of oyster shells at the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm along the shores of Drakes Bay in Pt. Reyes National Seashore on Nov. 30, 2007. (IJ photo/Jeff Vendsel) Jeff Vendsel
THE TIME has come to decide the fate of the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar would be wise to give the Lunny family a new 10-year lease to operate in Drake’s Estero. The oyster farm’s 40-year lease ends on Nov. 30.
Salazar said he will make his decision whether to renew the lease or let it lapse by then.
Because the estero is in an area with a future wilderness designation, environmental and conservation groups demand that the oyster farm’s lease not be renewed. They contend the oyster farm is causing environmental damage in the 2,000-acre estero. They want it removed.
The National Park Service has been their staunch ally. The Park Service has been so determined to rid the national seashore of the prominent West Marin aquaculture business that it used bad science and heavy-handed tactics to make its case. The bureaucratic bullying of the Lunny family reached the point where U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein entered the fray and mounted a spirited defense of the oyster farm.
The result has been a political and scientific battle that has attracted national attention.
Salazar paid a visit to West Marin before Thanksgiving to meet with Kevin Lunny and supporters and tour his oyster farm. Salazar also met with 10 representatives of opponents near Point Reyes Station.
We commend him for meeting with both sides before announcing his decision.
In this 2007 photo, nets filled with freshly harvested oysters wait for shipment on the dock at Drakes Bay Oyster Company on the Point Reyes National Seashore. (IJ archive/Jeff Vendsel) Jeff Vendsel
For those trying to get a sense of which way Salazar is leaning, he expressed concern for the 30 full-time employees of the oyster farm, but he also drew a distinction between the operation and ranches inside the federal park, calling them separate issues. “The ranching heritage will be preserved,” he said.
We applaud his support for the historic ranches, but congressional action is needed to make that protection permanent.
An Interior Department final environmental impact statement on the oyster issue was released last week that offered four alternatives. They ranged from “no action,” which means the lease would expire and the area would be converted to wilderness, to a new 10-year lease at differing levels of operation. The report said the “environmentally preferred” option for the seashore would be allowing the lease to lapse.
We support a new 10-year lease that is nonrenewable. The oyster operation is not without impacts on the estero, but they are minimal, according to scientific research that can be trusted, and Lunny has been a good steward of the estero since he bought the operation from the Johnson family.
The National Park Service should not be rewarded for the disgraceful tactics it used in its fight to get rid of the oyster farm. That approach has made many in West Marin more distrustful of the motives of some federal park officials, which is unfortunate.
We hope a fair decision will allow all parties involved to move beyond this divisive issue.
We urge Secretary Salazar to allow Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to keep harvesting oysters in the estero for 10 more years.