12-09-12 Marin IJ: Oyster Farm Ouster Signals End to All Agriculture in PRNS

“THE DECISION by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to shut the Lunny family’s oyster farm ultimately will spell the doom of all commercial agriculture on Point Reyes. Within the next 20 years you can bet that the remaining dairy and cattle ranches in the National Seashore will go the way of the dodo.

The existence of private cattle and dairy ranches seemingly offends environmental activists and Interior Department staffers. Most philosophically oppose any private sector involvement, no matter how benign or sustainable, on the peninsula.

Here’s how they’ll do the deed. They’ll contend that fecal runoff from dairy and beef cattle is raising nitrogen levels in Drakes Estero and Tomales Bay. They will assert that harms the newly pristine wilderness created when oyster harvesting was banned. Ergo, dairy and cattle ranches must go.”

 

Dick Spotswood: Oyster farm’s ouster signals end of all commercial agriculture in Point Reyes National Seashore

By Dick Spotswood
Special to the IJ

Posted:   12/09/2012 05:00:00 AM PST

THE DECISION by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to shut the Lunny family’s oyster farm ultimately will spell the doom of all commercial agriculture on Point Reyes. Within the next 20 years you can bet that the remaining dairy and cattle ranches in the National Seashore will go the way of the dodo.

The existence of private cattle and dairy ranches seemingly offends environmental activists and Interior Department staffers. Most philosophically oppose any private sector involvement, no matter how benign or sustainable, on the peninsula.

Here’s how they’ll do the deed. They’ll contend that fecal runoff from dairy and beef cattle is raising nitrogen levels in Drakes Estero and Tomales Bay. They will assert that harms the newly pristine wilderness created when oyster harvesting was banned. Ergo, dairy and cattle ranches must go.

There will be the usual voluminous reports so beloved by the activist community. Like the questionable studies on Lunny’s oysters, their conclusions will be determined far in advance of any actual research.

Recall that when the Point Reyes National Seashore wilderness area was created in the 1970s by Rep. Phil Burton, the goal of most Marinites was preservation of the peninsula’s historic agriculture and aquaculture heritage.

The National Seashore was then the only available vehicle to preserve Point Reyes’ centuries-old tradition of working ranches. If the Marin


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Agricultural Land Trust had been around, agriculture-friendly MALT would have been the preferred route to make this happen.

Some West Marinites then feared the Park Service was untrustworthy and would eventually go back on promises to retain ranching in perpetuity.

After the Point Reyes experience, why would other locales trust Interior Department assurances when it comes to efforts to save open ranch and farm lands throughout the American West?

Match the death of the oyster farm with the widely unpopular fiasco over filmmaker George Lucas’ failed effort to create green jobs at Grady Ranch. If the environmental community has a few more “victories” like this, they will lose both popular support and political clout.

The whole “oyster” brouhaha is an exercise in hypocrisy.

Start with activists boasting they are proponents of “environmental justice.” That’s defined as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin or income with respect to the development of … environmental policies.”

Try telling that to the 30 men and women who have lost their oyster harvesting jobs and, in 90 days, their homes. If the dairies go away, explain it to the West Marin ranch hands and small-town business workers, half of whom are Hispanic, when the economic sources of their livelihood evaporate.

Don’t patronize these blue collar workers with some bureaucratic offers of job retraining as trail guides. They get it. If the Interior Department phases out agriculture, they are toast.

If the dairies and beef ranches are shut, all that these blue- collar workers will have left to foster their rural lifestyle is a tourist-based economy serving those who are, like most of activists and Park Service honchos, idealistic white folks with upper-middle class backgrounds.

Regional agencies that constantly sermonize that Marin must do more to provide “affordable housing” are amazingly silent when truly affordable rural housing is lost.

Given the impact on the West Marin Latino community if commercial ranching dies, it’s odd that the agencies’ usual sanctimonious yearning for “diversity” is given short shrift.

It will come to no good if the “last great place” loses working ranches and dependent small towns are decimated. Along with jobs, housing and lifestyle, if commercial agriculture dies, Point Reyes will lose much of what made it “the last best place.”

Columnist Dick Spotswood of Mill Valley shares his views on local politics twice weekly in the IJ. His email address is spotswood@comcast.net.

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3 Comments

  1. steve thomas

     /  December 9, 2012

    Thank you for your direct and thoughtful commentary. I have had the good fortune of knowing both Oyster Farmers as well as family members that have known all of what you have written about. I have family members who have lived in Marin since the 1900’s who would be insulted by the Park Service ruling about oyster farming, as well as restrictions to land use around Tomales Bay. Anyone who has really walked this area, savored the wild mushrooms and huckleberries, as well pok-polled the rocks around Stinson beach for rock fish knows what this area is known for, and this makes it a very special place. I do believe that we need some control over land use that prevents degradation of this magical area, but let’s accept that we need to acknowledge what has existed and worked well over our the past and likely the future. Seems like the National Park Service is taking an extreme point of view as how a sustainable aquaculture operation threatens some small portion of an otherwise wild part of the California coastline.
    Beware of authorities in our wild land and open space.
    Keep calling it as you see it;
    Steve Thomas

    Reply
  2. Dean and Kathie Hart

     /  December 10, 2012

    Keep the seashore as it is and do not close down Drakes Bay or the farming operations..

    Reply
  3. Poop is the environmentalist’s friend. It’s how the city of Key West forced its residents to redo every sewer line in the city at the homeowner’s expense, some people having to borrow money they could ill afford. Poop is all powerful because it’s unmentionable. “POOP IS GOOD!!!!” I say this at every opportunity.

    Reply

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