03-14-13 Amicus Brief filed by Alice Waters (Chez Panisse), Hayes St Grille, Tomales Bay Oyster Co, Multiple Farm Bureaus & Others


The Amicus (Friend of the Court) brief was submitted on behalf of:

*        Alice Waters, Owner, Chez Panisse Restaurant, Berkeley, CA and world famous food author

*        Hayes Street Grill, Restaurant in San Francisco  

*        Tomales Bay Oyster Company

*        Stacey Carlsen, Agricultural Commissioner, County of Marin

*        Marin County Farm Bureau

*        Sonoma County Farm Bureau

*        California Farm Bureau Federation

*        Food Democracy Now

*        Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture

*        Marin Organic

“Closing the Oyster Farm would have a broad, negative and immediate impact, on the local economy and the sustainable agriculture and food industry in the San Francisco Bay Area, on the school children of the workers who live in the housing units onsite, and, in the longer term, on food security and the U.S. balance of trade. Closing down the oyster farm in Drakes Estero, which has existed since the early 1930s, would be inconsistent with the best thinking of the modern environmental movement and further tear at the fabric of an historic rural community that the Point Reyes National Seashore [Seashore] was created to help preserve.”


These words opened a “Friend of the Court Brief” (attached, PDF) just submitted to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Drakes Bay Oyster Farm prepared by Judy Teichman on behalf Alice Waters, Chez Panisse Restaurant (Berkeley), the Marin and Sonoma County County Farm Bureaus, California Farm Bureau Federation, Marin Organic, Food Democracy Now, ALSA, the Hayes Street Grill (restaurant) and Stacy Carlsen, Ag Commissioner, County of Marin.


Excerpts from the Brief on Key Issues


Shellfish as a Food Source in California

“Today California is second only to the State of Washington in shellfish production on the West Coast. Almost 40% of the oysters grown in California and 50% of the Marin-County produced oysters are grown in Drakes Estero. The Drakes Estero water bottoms are 55% of the water bottoms in the State of California that are leased for shellfish cultivation and 85% of the shellfish growing area in Marin County and the San Francisco Bay Area.5 Shellfish produced in Drakes Estero play an important role in the local, regional and statewide economy, and there are no options for relocating these oyster beds in California.


Shellfish in Drakes Estero

“Importing shellfish to replace those now grown in Drakes Estero will defeat the principle of local sustainable farm production and food security and further worsen the US trade balance.”


Impact on Shellfish Production in Tomales Bay

“The Tomales Bay Oyster Compay [TBOC] and the Hog Island Oyster Company are Marin County oyster growers with retail outlets located on Tomales Bay. Their companies cannot meet the local demand for shellfish.  They already buy shellfish from DBOC and in some instances out of area.  “Closing DBOC will cause a loss of local shellfish production that cannot be replaced.” The Tomales Bay growers were not contacted during the environmental impact process about the economic or other impacts that would flow from closing down DBOC.”


Impact on West Marin Schools and Children Living at the Oyster Farm  Quoting Jim Patterson’s Letter to the President (Principal, West Marin School),  “This is probably what made the workers feel most disrespected. They were hopeful when they heard of his visit, but it turned out to be what they described as a 20-minute photo op, without any real discussion, listening, questions or understanding (he didn’t even go out on the water to see the condition of “the pristine jewel” he is trying to save). I wish I could remember the Spanish word for mockery, because that is how the workers felt – mocked . . .”


Further Quoting from Patterson’s letter, “This decision seems to go against everything . . . this current administration stands for. Does it create jobs? No. Does it address affordable housing? No. Does it help with immigration? No. Does it support sustainable farming? No. Does it help the economy? No. Does it help the environment?  No. Consider this: Drakes Bay Oyster Company supplies oysters to a multi-million if not billion-dollar food industry in California. Will that industry stop consuming oysters? No. Oysters will be imported from Washington, Mexico, China.  The impact of our carbon footprint on the whole region and world will far outweigh any good that might be gained from turning this estuary [into] a wilderness.”


Environmentalism:  Evolving Conservation 

“Closer to home, in a September 12, 2012, guest column in the West Marin Citizen, Sonoma State University Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Planning, Laura Watt, commented that what makes the controversy over the future of DBOC “somewhat unique is that both ‘sides’ are environmentalists:””


“In closing Prof. Watt returns to a discussion of a new book on national parks, Uncertain Path: A Search for the Future of National Parks, by William Tweed, a long time NPS employee, who articulates a “strong need for a shift in NPS management,” and argues “that the old idea of park preservation as ‘keeping things the same forever’ no longer applies in today’s evolving circumstances.””


Scientists and Other Shellfish Growers Speak Out

“Writing that an “anti-science mania is sweeping parts of the United States,” water and climate scientist Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute says, “bad science leads to bad policy, no matter your political beliefs.” Using the controversy over the future of DBOC as his example, Gleick points out that good science could play a key role in the dispute over wilderness versus local sustainable agriculture, but “we’re not getting good science:””


Quoting Dr. Gleick in the Brief, “Science is not democratic or republican. Scientific integrity, logic, reason, and the scientific method are core to the strength of our nation. We may disagree among ourselves about matters of opinion and policy, but we (and our elected representatives) must not misuse, hide, or misrepresent science and fact in service of our political wars.”


Cynical Use of NEPA Undermines Support for Environmental Review and Respect for Government 

“The failure of NPS staff to contact the kayak companies for feedback on their experience, and the failure to reveal in the Final EIS visitors section the kayak companies’ support for the Oyster Farm experience, are brazen examples of NPS avoiding information or ignoring comments inconsistent with the decision to convert Drakes Estero to wilderness status by any means necessary.”


In her extensive comment on the “Visitor Experience and Recreation” section of Chapter 3 in the EIS, Oyster Farm Manager Ginny Lunny Cummings commented in detail on the opportunities for personal growth and education that DBOC already provides. By way of credentials to provide the interpretive services offered by DBOC seven days a week, she cites her early experience as a NPS Interpretive Ranger at the Seashore, and her degree in education and prior teaching experience. She challenges the Seashore’s authority to say in the EIS that the “primary focus of DBOC is the commercial operation for the sale of shellfish to restaurants and the wholesale shellfish market outside the park.” She describes the ways in which DBOC reaches out to groups and individuals with invitations for educational tours. She urges NPS to “fully consider the adverse impact to 50,000 seashore visitors per year if NPS chooses to evict DBOC,” and asks that a “more informed study be made” of DBOC’s contribution to “visitor services:”


(Quoting Ginny Lunny Cummings) “. . . Drakes Bay Oyster Farm is an interpretive goldmine that the NPS should embrace, not eradicate. Our entire nation is beginning to understand the social, environmental and health benefits of supporting local farms, local farmers markets and local sustainable foods. NPS/PRNS have one of the finest examples right in the heart of the Seashore, in Drakes Estero, where the wildlife, mammals, a pristine estuary and healthy local food production coexist in harmony in Point Reyes National Seashore. Let the citizens of our United States not lose this “pearl” of an example of coexistence and harmony with Drakes Estero.  The Final EIS dismisses DBOC’s interpretive services as “not a visitor service.””



To produce the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) the National Park Service, spent more than $ 2 million taxpayer dollars, produced a 1,000 page document, took 800+ days to prepare it and then dismissed it without informing the Lunny family, owners of DBOC once the NPS realized their EIS became wholly discredited.  NPS was required to submit the FEIS to EPA, post a notice in the Federal Register, prepare a Record of Decision and allow a 30-day comment period – none of which was done at the time, or since – all in violation of Federal Regulations.

To read the full article click on the link below or copy and paste it into your web browser:

Amicus-Drakes Bay Oyster v Salazar-FINAL

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