Twenty-Five “Friends” File Supreme Court Briefs Supporting
Drakes Bay Oyster Company
Farmers, Environmentalists, Scientists, Chefs, and Preservationists All Support Historic Oyster Farm
INVERNESS, CALIF. — Twenty-five “friends” of Drakes Bay Oyster Company have filed four significant amicus briefs in support of the farm’s efforts to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear its case. Together, the briefs make compelling arguments for why the Supreme Court should take the case.
At stake is whether the government, in making countless everyday decisions, can be taken to court when it abuses its power, misinterprets the law, or misrepresents science. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a federal court does not have jurisdiction to review a discretionary agency decision for abuse of discretion. Drakes Bay Oyster Company petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court on April 14, 2014 for a writ of certiorari to review that judgment.
Elder environmentalists and agriculturalists support aquaculture
Former California Assemblyman William T. Bagley and former Congressman Paul Norton “Pete” McCloskey (co-author of the Endangered Species Act and co-chair of the first Earth Day) are among the elder environmentalists supporting the oyster farm’s petition. Also joining the brief are Patricia Unterman, chef-owner of Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco; chefs and owners of many of West Marin’s farm-to-table restaurants; and a host of agriculturalists and agriculture associations. The brief argues the importance of aquaculture and agriculture in the San Francisco North Bay, and for the support and development of innovative, ecologically sound and sustainable agriculture practices consistent with the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA].
Rural communities dependent on fair federal permitting
In its amicus brief, the Pacific Legal Foundation and California Cattlemen’s Association point out that roughly half of the land in the western United States is federally owned, and that grazing is one of the largest uses of federal lands. Together the Ninth and Tenth Federal Circuit courts each govern about half of all federal grazing permits, yet the two circuits are not aligned on fundamental questions of law relating to renewal of grazing permits, including the application of NEPA, and judicial review under the Administration Procedure Act [APA]. The brief argues that the high court should take Drakes Bay’s case in order to resolve this issue, since “a very large number of rural communities are dependent on federally permitted grazing for employment, commerce, and tax revenue to support public services.”
Scientific misconduct undermines our democracy
Two preeminent scientists, Dr. Corey Goodman (elected member, National Academy of Sciences) and Dr. Paul Houser (former Scientific Integrity Officer, Bureau of Reclamation, Department of the Interior, and Professor, George Mason University), filed a brief to argue that the Supreme Court should take this case as an opportunity to make clear that courts have an important role in ensuring scientific integrity in government. When he came into office, President Obama made clear that “to undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy.” Yet for Drakes Bay Oyster Company, and too many other cases, the government has falsified and abused science to further predetermined ideological agendas. The Ninth Circuit held that a federal court does not have jurisdiction to reject false science, whereas the Supreme Court has historically held that they do. This brief asks the Supreme Court to reaffirm their commitment to the integrity of science both in government decision-making and as presented to federal courts.
Ninth Circuit decision endangers historic resources
The Monte Wolfe Foundation argues that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling hampers the protection of historic and cultural resources, writing: “the ruling of the Ninth Circuit, that no NEPA review is needed where agency action seeks to restore a pristine state of nature, appears unique to the Ninth Circuit. It means that historic resources on Ninth Circuit federal wildlands are endangered because they cannot depend on NEPA for protection. Absent other protection, they may be – indeed, given [the Ninth Circuit decision] Drakes Bay Oyster’s reading of the intent of NEPA, should be – summarily removed.”
Oyster farm remains open for now
At issue is former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar’s denial of Drakes Bay’s permit to continue operating the 80-year-old oyster farm, even though the original deal for the creation of Point Reyes National Seashore was that the oyster farm was always supposed to stay. The Secretary’s decision was informed by a falsified environmental report. Because Drakes Bay showed that there is a “reasonable probability” that the Supreme Court will take this case and a “significant possibility” that the oyster farm will win, the Ninth Circuit has allowed Drakes Bay to remain open while it takes its case to the Supreme Court.
About Drakes Bay Oyster Company
The historic oyster farm in Drakes Estero, located in Point Reyes, Marin County, has been part of the community for nearly 100 years. The Lunnys, a fourth-generation Point Reyes ranching family, purchased the oyster farm in 2004. Modern environmentalists and proponents of sustainable agriculture praise Drakes Bay Oyster as a superb example of how people can produce high-quality food in harmony with the environment. The farm produces approximately one third of all oysters grown in California, and employs 30 members of the community. The Lunnys also contribute the oyster shells that make possible the restoration of native oysters in San Francisco Bay and the oyster shells used to create habitat for the endangered Snowy Plover and Least Tern. As the last oyster cannery in California, Drakes Bay is the only local (and thus the only safe and affordable) source of these shells. The Lunny family is proud of its contributions to a sustainable food model that conserves and maintains the productivity of the local landscapes and the health of its inhabitants. For more information, please visit www.drakesbayoyster.com and www.savedrakesbay.com
For Immediate Release
May 19, 2014
Contacts: Tina Walker
Counsel for Drakes Bay Oyster