09-26-13 WMC Guest Column DBOC CORE of Sustainable Food, Champion Health/Diversity Estero

When I first learned about this conflict, I expected to be on the side of the Park Service. After learning more about the facts of the situation, I’m not. Despite my emotional attraction to the idea of “protecting” this beautiful area, I believe the Park Service has become locked into an outdated and overly rigid notion of wilderness. Worse still, in pursuit of its goals the agency has become a political bully and intentional purveyor of junk science, distorting regulatory requirements and ignoring the ongoing value of the oyster farm  to both the estero and the community. DBOC, in contrast, has emerged as a core player in the Bay Area sustainable food movement, and a champion of the diversity and health of the estero.

 

Guest column

Environmental Stewardship at Drakes Bay

 

By Sandor Schoichet

 

Growing up hiking and camping as a Boy Scout, I had the ethic of leaving campsites cleaner than you found them instilled in me at an early age. Attending college in the early 1970’s among the misty redwoods of UC Santa Cruz inspired my love of natural environments. Now I’ve become an a vid sailor, enjoying the San Francisco Bay and supporting conservation and restoration groups like BayKeepers.  I respond immediately and emotionally to calls for wilderness protection.

 

But I’m also a student of environmental thinkers like Stuart Brand, Bill McKibben, and Emma Marris, who from quite distinct perspectives all advocate a more active and nuanced engagement in environmental stewardship. I appreciate the chaos, change, interdependence, and serendipity behind the multi-layered beauty of nature, which includes us too.  The conventional preservationist strategy, trying to “save” small patches of “pristine wilderness” by putting fences around them, just isn’t always appropriate.

 

Nowhere is this clearer than in the long-running battle by the Park Service and its supporters to shut down Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) and return the estero to its “natural” state. Their vision of an estero frozen in time seems badly misguided, given that it’s surrounded by working cattle ranches, which the Park Service supports, and given that the National Seashore will continue to provide access for millions of visitors each year.

 

DBOC and its supporters point out that the original purpose of the 1970 Environmental Policy Act, under which the National Seashore was created, was “to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.”  They argue for the appropriateness of a working landscape in which the filterfeeding  oysters have an active role maintaining  the environmental quality of the estero.

 

When I first learned about this conflict, I expected to be on the side of the Park Service. After learning more about the facts of the situation, I’m not. Despite my emotional attraction to the idea of “protecting” this beautiful area, I believe the Park Service has become locked into an outdated and overly rigid notion of wilderness. Worse still, in pursuit of its goals the agency has become a political bully and intentional purveyor of junk science, distorting regulatory requirements and ignoring the ongoing value of the oyster farm  to both the estero and the community. DBOC, in contrast, has emerged as a core player in the Bay Area sustainable food movement, and a champion of the diversity and health of the estero.

 

The Ninth Circuit ruled against DBOC on September 3. The Lunnys will appeal, citing the split decision. In a blistering dissent, Judge Watford wrote “all indications are that Congress viewed the oyster farm as a beneficial, pre-existing use, whose continuation was fully compatible with wilderness status.”

 

The visionaries who created Point Reyes Seashore realized that humans are part of our ever-changing world, and that we have an unavoidable responsibility to be effective stewards of the ecosystems we care about. Let’s hope the appeal is successful and the vision is upheld.

 

Sandor Schoichet is a management consultant working with biopharma and sustainability clients. He lives in San Rafael.

 

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. R Hart

     /  October 1, 2013

    Agreed, they are a bully along with the EAC, Sierra Club and other environmental groups. I care about the environment but there needs to be a balance not fear to the environmental groups.

    Reply
  2. Milly Biller

     /  October 1, 2013

    I was not sure which way this article was going to go, but was very pleasantly surprised. I wonder how many other people out there are beginning to realize that their support for the Park Service and its absurd, agenda- driven vendetta against the Drakes Bay Oyster farm is misguided, and are changing their view.

    Reply

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