01-04-2014 Marin Voice: Court can ‘clear the air’

POINT REYES

Court can ‘clear the air’

Richard Kohn’s Dec. 20 letter about the oyster farm case seems to imply that, given the evolution in its legal approach, the 9th Circuit shouldn’t grant rehearing.

But, at heart, that evolution can be seen as normal: The case came up to the 9th Circuit with incomplete development of the legal issues because, for procedural reasons, it came up very quickly.

Yet, even then, why should the oyster farm get a rehearing when it has already had a day in court, however truncated?

The over-arching reason is one that the court itself has acknowledged: The original legislative intent was that the oyster beds belonged in the wilderness.

(The majority held original intent was tacitly overridden by special legislation.)

And that original legislative intent has long been misunderstood by Interior Department counsel, whose opinion drove the erroneous decision to close the oyster farm. Staff counsel misunderstood legislative intent because it had an all-too-common misunderstanding of the Wilderness Act itself.

The court could and should set that right upon rehearing. There are at least two other urgent issues:

Many wonder whether any of the agriculturalists, not just the oyster farmer, will be allowed to remain in the seashore. A decision by the 9th Circuit could put to rest persistent rumors that the park service intends to strip it of all its farms.

Many also feel that some park service people have abused scientific evidence. By clearing the air, the court could restore public confidence in the park service.

Jim Linford, Marinwood

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