2017-06-29 Point Reyes Light: Drakes Estero project sparked investigations

This is another chapter in the never-ending story of National Park Service scandals at Drakes Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore which reveals NPS “threatening” emails, exposes NPS “pressure” against another Federal Agency, unmasks NPS “retaliation” against a NPS contractor-employee, delineates multiple NPS and Contractor “safety violations” and uncovers NPS “toxic waste mismanagement.”

 

…hundreds of pages of documents and private emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and passed along to the Light show that the park service steadfastly pushed back against the findings of another federal investigation—by the Department of Labor—into claims made by the diver, Matt Zugsberger, whose allegations center on the rate at which he was paid, the project’s safety protocols and environmental mitigation measures.

Documents show that the Labor Department found that the park and its contractors significantly mischaracterized and undercompensated Mr. Zugsberger’s work—and also that the department reversed its finding multiple times. Those reversals were made amid strong pressure from the park and the companies hired to complete the restoration project, T.L. Peterson and a subcontractor, Galindo Construction.

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Drakes Estero project sparked investigations

By Anna Guth

06/29/2017

Numerous allegations made by a former employee tasked with helping remove the aquaculture debris and defunct oyster racks from Drakes Estero led the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Inspector General late last year to request the National Park Service to investigate the project.

Though the status of that probe is unclear, hundreds of pages of documents and private emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and passed along to the Light show that the park service steadfastly pushed back against the findings of another federal investigation—by the Department of Labor—into claims made by the diver, Matt Zugsberger, whose allegations center on the rate at which he was paid, the project’s safety protocols and environmental mitigation measures.

Documents show that the Labor Department found that the park and its contractors significantly mischaracterized and undercompensated Mr. Zugsberger’s work—and also that the department reversed its finding multiple times. Those reversals were made amid strong pressure from the park and the companies hired to complete the restoration project, T.L. Peterson and a subcontractor, Galindo Construction.

In March, the Department of Labor notified the park service and contractors that Mr. Zugsberger—who was fired from the job last November—must be paid roughly $20,000 in back wages. But it appears that the department later determined that the amount was too high, as Galindo wrote Mr. Zugsberger a check for just $6,000 this month and told the Light that this action had closed the investigation.

Though there may be no big win for Mr. Zugsberger, the investigations he prompted shed light on another problematic aspect of the Drakes Estero project: the disposal of the wooden racks that Mr. Zugsberger and his former coworkers dragged out of the waters.

The FOIA documents reveal troubling discrepancies in how the park service categorized the safety of the racks. In its private contract with T.L. Peterson, the park said lumber from the racks was contaminated with chemicals and required disposal at a “class I” landfill. Indeed, the contract allotted well over $1 million for the disposal.

Yet this newspaper found that the majority of the debris was taken to Redwood and Altamont Landfills, neither of which is a class I landfill facility. And even as park officials elsewhere claimed that all chemicals had leached out of the wood, Mr. Zugsberger reported that exposure to the lumber—which he helped pull up from the estero floor—left him with lasting burns.

The park service has not responded to numerous requests to comment on, or even confirm, an investigation into Mr. Zugsberger’s claims.

The rack removal

The Drakes Estero Restoration Project, slated for completion in March but finished in late May, was a $4 million endeavor to remove racks and other remnants from Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which was shuttered in 2014 after a legal battle with the federal government.

Drakes Estero, the confluence of five branching bays that opens to the Pacific, will soon be accessible to the public after nearly a year of weekly closures. The access road was opened late last month and water access to the estero will resume on June 30, following the annual closure for the harbor seal pupping season.

The park said the restoration project would entail using a mechanical excavator to remove five miles of racks weighing around 477 tons. The estero floor would also be dredged in order to remove bags, loose oysters, plastic gear and other debris.

In the end, the amount of debris removed was far greater: a whopping 1,900 tons, according to park spokesman John Golda. Of that, 600 tons were associated with the oyster racks themselves. Additionally, 2.3 acres were dredged, rather than the projected 1.5 acres.

The environmental guidelines for the project were outlined in the park’s National Environmental Policy Act categorical exclusion form, which evaluated the environmental and related social and economic effects of the plan. (This form is prepared to show that the project will not have a significant effect, and therefore does not require the more intensive preparation of an environmental impact statement or and environmental assessment.)

Nevertheless, the form stated that a variety of environmental mitigation measures would be taken, including minimizing impacts to eelgrass by using low-impact methods and equipment, as well as by not placing anchors near eelgrass and by working through the night when photosynthesis was not occurring.

Other mitigation measures included maintaining a 100-yard distance from harbor seals, maintaining a spill response plan to preserve water quality and avoiding knocking the estero’s most pervasive invasive species, tunicate Didemnum, into the water.

Divers’ allegations

Mr. Zugsberger, an experienced commercial diver and Upperlake resident, was hired to pull up wood and debris by hand from the estero floor, often bringing large quantities back up to a floating barge.

He worked from last August, when the project commenced, until he was fired on Nov. 14 by Galindo Construction. (Galindo subcontracted with T.L. Peterson, a Red Bluff company that has completed many projects for the park service in the past.)

Mr. Zugsberger told the Light that when he took the job, he had assumed he would be paid as a diver—at a rate of $119 an hour—but pay stubs confirm that he was paid $46.80 per hour as a “group 7 laborer,” a type of construction worker classified under the Davis-Bacon Act. Yet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration definition for a diver includes using an air tank, which Mr. Zugsberger did for just one day, and was paid as a diver for that day.

He argues, however, he should have been paid as a diver every day, because he was free diving underwater and entering a “hyperbaric” state, or under pressure greater than that in the atmosphere.

A labor union that represents marine workers supported his argument in a letter to the Department of Labor written after the union’s president, Jim Johansen, visited the project site in late October last year.

Mr. Zugsberger believes he was terminated in retaliation for his complaints, though the Labor Department determined that he did not meet the requirements for its whistleblower protection program and Galindo has since obtained a restraining order against him over alleged threats he made to people working at the job site.

Findings and reversals

Mr. Zugsberger is unable to comment due to ongoing litigation, but documents show that the Labor Department concurred in March that he should have been paid as a diver. Yet it reversed that decision several times, once finding that he should have been paid as a “pile driver”—a position involved in installing and removing piles driven into the ground and that earns between what a laborer and diver make—and once finding that the laborer’s wage was appropriate.

But on March 7, the Labor Department ordered that Mr. Zugsberger be paid roughly $20,000. In a letter to the park and the two contractors, the department said that $27,894 should be withheld from T.L. Peterson for payment to Mr. Zugsberger and another employee who worked with him in the water. (This employee was not involved in the allegation process and was not interviewed for this story.)

Based on the amount owed, the Light concluded that Mr. Zugsberger’s pay had been upgraded to a diver’s wage and the other employee’s pay to a pile driver’s wage.

Yet ultimately, Mr. Zugsberger was paid on June 2 by Galindo Construction to make up the difference between the laborer’s rate he was paid, and that of a pile driver: $6,000. The employee who worked with Mr. Zugsberger and then replaced him once he left was also paid back wages, likely also to meet a pile driver’s rate.

It’s unclear what changed the Department of Labor’s course, but the last document included in the batch of FOIA documents, from March 29, gives a clue. That document, a threatening email from Jason Longshore, the contracting officer for the park service, to the Labor Department investigator, reveals that the department retracted its March 7 order, then flip-flopped back to an order that Mr. Longshore disliked.

“I guess I am baffled on you[r] recent decision to again reverse course on direction associated with wage rates at Drake’s Bay,” Mr. Longshore wrote to the investigator. “I assume the appeal process will take place.” (The park and two contractors are allowed to appeal the decision to an administrative review panel of the Labor Department.)

Mr. Longshore concluded the email, “In addition, I believe that the [Labor Department] has not conducted this investigation with any integrity or in an efficient manner. I will be reaching out to the [Inspector General] for guidance to determine if the [Labor Department] has followed proper procedures and request an audit of this case.”

Other documents show that the park service and both contractors pushed back repeatedly against the Labor Department, reinforcing that they had assigned him the correct rate of pay.

“The prime contractor and the park service had confirmed that his wage rate was a laborer and so we stood by that,” Lisa Galindo, the president of Galindo Construction, said. “We had to comply with the Labor Department’s ruling, but we disagree with it.”

Two park service officials in particular were in the hot seat during the Labor Department investigation: the project manager, Jack Williams, and Mr. Longshore, the contracting officer. Department interviews, emails between the two and other park officials, minutes from project meetings and other documents show both confirming that they had been investigating the issue since Mr. Zugsberger submitted complaints in October. They both continually argued he had been paid the correct rate.

The park service also faced pressure from the contractors not to raise Mr. Zugsberger’s pay rate. On Dec. 27, Mr. Williams described T.L. Peterson’s discontent with the possibility of raising the rate in an email to Mr. Longshore, citing that the project engineer “was very vocal about the [Labor Department] wage rate issue this morning…. He said it would be bad precedent for using pile driver deckhand classification. Also said the job was not bid at those rates.”

In subsequent emails, Mr. Williams and other park officials repeated the idea that changing the rate could “set a bad precedent.”

Mr. Zugsberger explained the stakes in a conversation with the Light in February. “This isn’t just about this job at this point. That’s what no one seems to understand. If the [Department of Labor decides that Galindo was correct in paying me as a laborer, for] every diver in Northern California, their employers [could] technically force them to free dive and only pay them a laborer’s rate.”

What else was at stake? Had Mr. Zugsberger been improperly paid, the contract would need to have been amended to describe his duties as “marine construction” rather than “demolition.” That would have likely affected the wages of one other worker during the time Mr. Zugsberger was employed. The change would not have been drastic, nor profoundly expensive, but it would have required an admission that the contract was written incorrectly and that Mr. Zugsberger’s allegations were valid.

Interestingly, the park paid for a diving company after Mr. Zugsberger’s termination, though it was at a later stage of the project. Ms. Galindo seemed to think the use of divers had always been outlined in the scope of the work, just later on in the project’s timeline. Yet private documents reveal that the work contract was negotiated after Mr. Zugsberger was fired, and that M & M Diving contacted the park because its owner had a personal feud with Mr. Zugsberger.

Delays on mandate to investigate

The delay in the Labor Department’s investigation, which began in October and concluded this month, appears to have delayed the park’s response to the Inspector General of the Interior Department, which gave the park 90 days to report back on Mr. Zugsberger’s allegations.

On Nov. 29, an Interior Department memorandum requested that the park service investigate Mr. Zugsberger’s labor and safety allegations. The memo was addressed to then-Director Jon Jarvis—who retired in early January—and stated that its Office of Inspector General “evaluated the information received from [Mr.] Zugsberger and determined he had followed the appropriate protocol, by reporting his wage rate concerns to Department of Labor and his safety concerns to OSHA.”

It continued, “Given the potential liability of NPS, on safety issues, the [Office of Inspector General] requests a response from NPS.” The park was tasked with accounting for the OSHA violation allegations directly with OSHA and documenting how the allegations would be addressed or why they were invalid. It was also required to provide supporting documentation to support Mr. Zugsberger’s pay and, if he wasn’t paid correctly, to “provide this office with documentation to show the appropriate wages were paid.”

Minutes from a meeting on the rack removal project dated Jan. 17 state that Mr. Longshore requested an extension due to delays in a final Labor Department decision. It is the most recent mention of an extension that the Light has.

Safety violations

Galindo Construction was cited with at least nine violations after OSHA inspected the site last November in response to Mr. Zugsberger’s concerns about safety protocols. The violations included two pertaining to diving specifically: that Galindo “failed to provide the support of a dive team when an employee was conducting commercial diving activities. The employee was exposed to suffocation hazards.”

The other detailed how Galindo had not conducted proper safety protocol prior to a diving operation; others revealed the lack of a bathroom on the barge (workers presumably used the estero), the absence of a guardrail on the barge, a lack of proper gear such as lifejackets and worker exposure to impalement hazards posed by pressurized, treated lumber containing nails.

Galindo was not fined because the violations were not determined to be willful. But they were deemed “serious,” meaning there “is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a condition which exists,” according to OSHA standards.

According to Ms. Galindo, OSHA has since withdrawn the two citations pertaining to diving, and the public record indicates there was an informal settlement. Mr. Zugsberger believes the agency—as well as the Labor Department’s wage and hour division and whistleblower protection program—mishandled the case, and that his latest FOIA request may reveal more of the story.

Environmental allegations

In a letter to the Interior Department in January, Mr. Zugsberger claimed that contractors had not taken the environmental precautions stipulated in the park’s categorical exclusion form for the project. These included measures meant to protect harbor seals and eelgrass and limit the spread of an invasive tunicate.

The implications could be significant. The disturbance of harbor seals, damage to eelgrass and spread of the tunicate were cited in the park’s environmental impact statement on the oyster farm, which determined that the company was adversely impacting Drakes Estero.

In a previous conversation with the Light, Melanie Gunn, a seashore spokeswoman, defended the work, saying the park had been “onsite at Drakes Estero on a regular basis since the beginning of the restoration project to ensure compliance with permits and contracted scope of work.”

Several other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Regional Water Quality Control Board, met at Drakes Estero on Dec. 29 in response to Mr. Zugsberger’s complaints. Fred Hetzel, who oversaw the project for the water board, said at that time that they found nothing of concern and that the park was “doing better than expected.” The fisheries service directed questions about the project to the park, and the E.P.A. said the agency was there to provide dredging expertise in an advisory capacity to the water board, and therefore could not comment.

None of the agencies have revisited the site since then. Mr. Hetzel said that he has not yet received a final project report from the park.

Disposal of the wood

The chemical burns that Mr. Zugsberger reported to the Interior Department raised another set of environmental allegations.

The park’s contract with T.L. Peterson specifies that the wood waste was toxic and had to be hauled to a landfill authorized to dispose of class I waste—the highest classification of hazardous waste.

Documents confirm that at least some park officials knew this to be true. Mr. Williams, the project manager, told the Labor Department that “NPS had performed a test of materials prior to [awarding the contract to T.L. Peterson] and determined the material was hazardous.” He stated that arsenic, chromium, and creosol were identified in the testing.

But Mr. Zugsberger said that when he reported the chemical burns, “both Galindo and the park said they had run models that showed all the toxins had leached out of the wood,” according to the Russian River Times, which has closely followed the story.

Furthermore, the park’s categorical exclusion form did not mention toxic wood waste or the need to dispose of it in a class 1 landfill. The form states that a total of 500 tons of aquaculture and marine debris would be removed, and that the park ran a National Marine Fisheries Service computer program model showing that all of the toxics had leached out of the wood.

Had the wood been listed as hazardous, the park would very likely have been compelled to undergo a more extensive permitting process.

The park’s webpage on the project recently noted that “recent testing showed the wood still held toxic materials (arsenic, zinc, copper, and a creosote-like substance), therefore this debris must go to a hazardous waste facility.”

Finally, and perhaps most perplexing, the park’s webpage for the project states that “the majority of the pressure treated wood and debris” was sent to Altamont Landfill, which it describes as class I. Park spokesman John Dell’Osso wrote in an email to the Light last week that 494 tons of wood debris went to Altamont and 1,254 tons went to Redwood, accounting for the vast majority of the waste.

But Altamont, which is run by Waste Management, is not a class I landfill, but a class II landfill. Though it can accept some class I waste, including treated wood waste, the difference in classification is significant: class I offers the highest level of security for hazardous waste and can therefore be more expensive. The park’s contract lists the disposal of the waste as costing $1,299,000, out of the total $4 million for the project.

Reached by phone last week, a representative for Waste Management said waste from Drakes Estero had been accepted at both Redwood and Altamont Landfills, but that it had been class II and III waste, listed as “rack material” and “oysters.” The representative said that T.L. Peterson had estimated that it was 600 tons before bringing it in, but she could not confirm the amount that was actually dropped off at the landfills.

Though the Light could not access the shipping information from T.L. Peterson before print time, the disposal of any of the wood waste at landfills that are not class I violates the stipulations of the contract between T.L. Peterson and the park service.

© 2017 The Point Reyes Light – West Marin’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Weekly. All Rights Reserved.

08-05-16: NPT Anti-Ranch Activists Use Familiar Playbook

Op-Ed | Anti-Ranch Activists Use Familiar Playbook

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Tule elk at Point Reyes National Seashore/NPS

Editor’s note: The following column was written by Sarah Rolph, who is writing a book on how an oyster farm lost its lease at Point Reyes National Seashore in California.

To those of us who were close observers of the dis-information war conducted against Drakes Bay Oyster Farm by a clique of activists wearing the mantle of environmentalism, it is readily apparent that a dis-information war is being waged against the Point Reyes ranchers by a similar clique of activists wearing that same green disguise.

Before bringing suit against Point Reyes National Seashore to stop its Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan, the anti-ranch groups took advantage of that plan’s public scoping process to prepare the battlefield with a false narrative.

In addition to sending anti-ranch letters in their own names, these groups also spent time and money to create the false impression that their message is popular by using their membership mailing lists to orchestrate thousands of public comments that echo the group’s narrative. It’s the same playbook the anti-oyster-farm activists used:  alarm the group’s gullible if well-meaning membership with a false narrative, give them a form letter or talking points with which to swamp the public process, then issue a press release claiming the public has spoken.

The anti-oyster-farm activists spent big bucks, generating an astonishing 45,000 exact-match form letters calling for the removal of the oyster farm. These form letters made up about 90 percent of the total comments received; months later, when public interest had died down, these 45,000 comments would be quietly set aside from the total count as the NEPA law requires for exact-match form letters, yet the wildly inflated numbers were still quoted in the press and in court.

In the case of the Ranch CMP, the effort was more modest. Still, they pushed the number of comments to over 3,000. When you think about it, there’s very little chance that 3,000 people had something substantive to say about the scoping phase of a narrowly-focused planning effort in Point Reyes, California. The notion that these are all sincere public comments seems even more unlikely when one learns that 75 percent of these comments came from outside the state. And 13 percent were international! I guess you go to war with the mailing list you’ve got.

I’ve done several of these public-comment analyses now, and the responses are striking in their lack of originality. The campaigns usually encourage recipients to modify the example letter, but most people don’t. For the anti-ranch campaign, most of the letters were based on a set of professionally prepared talking points. It doesn’t take much detective work to identify them, because a lot of people sent in the list verbatim. (And it’s clear who sent the talking points around, because the same exact points can be traced to the letters signed by the anti-ranch groups.)

The list reads:

  • Private ranching operations do not benefit the public for which this National Seashore was created.
  • NPS needs to phase out the current leases and as they expire, take back and administer the approximately 28,000 acres of “pastoral zone,” on behalf of the American public who paid for it.
  • During the time of phasing out ranching leases, the NPS must ensure a peaceful co-existence between cattle and wild animals, including tule elk.
  • As the true historic grazer, the tule elk are native and belong in this area, not cattle.
  • Ranchers have an obligation to co-exist and be complimentary to the native wildlife, not the other way around. Thus, there is no need for “relocation” or any other “removal” of tule elk.
  • Should the need arise to reduce the tule elk population at some point, no lethal methods may be employed. Instead, cost-efficient and effective immunocontraception should be implemented as was done successfully between 1998 and 2000.
  • I ask that you discontinue private ranching operations and restore the coastal prairie to a large natural preserve in close vicinity to the San Francisco Bay area for the wildlife and people to enjoy.

Recipients of this list would never know that protecting the ranches was central to the creation of the National Seashore. Here’s what former Interior Secretary Salazar said about the ranches in his decision memo about Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which directed Point Reyes National Seashore officials to provide the ranches with 20-year permits:

“Long-term preservation of ranching was a central concern of local interests and members of Congress as they considered legislation to establish the Point Reyes National Seashore in the late 1950s and early 1960s… Congress…recognized ‘the value to the Government and the public of continuation of ranching activities, as presently practiced, in preserving the beauty of the area.’ … These working ranches are a vibrant and compatible part of Point Reyes National Seashore, and both now and in the future represent an important contribution to the Point Reyes’ superlative natural and cultural resources.”

Compare this reminder of the Seashore’s actual history to the fictive hyperbole offered by Western Watershed Project in its Ranch CMP scoping letter:

“Sadly, the Point Reyes peninsula and adjacent National Park Service lands have had a long history of livestock grazing to the detriment of the area’s natural and cultural resources. In the pastoral zone, the visiting public who the Park was established for, are not treated to a vibrant landscape as befits a National Park but instead are faced with a blasted landscape littered with rancher paraphernalia, cattle pats, and fences that restrict their access to the extent that parts of the Park do not even look like they are open to the public.”

This group either didn’t do its homework or purposely presented a false message. Point Reyes is a National Seashore, not a National Park. Its Pastoral Zone was created specifically to protect the ranches, to avoid harming the area’s agricultural economy and to increase local support.

Nor is it true that the Pastoral Zone resembles a “blasted landscape.” At their website, Western Watersheds takes this lie even farther, with claims such as: “The so-called ‘Pastoral Zone’ is a visual blight, harms water quality, and limits recreational uses of this national treasure.” These claims are untrue.

Recipients of the anti-ranch talking points would also never know that the elk in PRNS are a recently re-introduced species, that the Seashore has done a poor job managing its elk experiment, or that an elk management plan that has been in place since 1998 promised to protect the ranches from the elk.

Nor, of course, would they ever know that PRNS has broken that promise, and that the ranchers are suffering elk-related losses.

The ranchers fully understand that the public loves the elk and that the park is invested in the tourist attraction it has created. They are not asking for the elk to be removed from the Seashore. All they want is for the re-introduced elk to be managed properly, as the Seashore promised it would do when it began its experiment with the free-roaming elk in Limantour wilderness that have now (predictably) spread to the Pastoral Zone. All they are asking is that the elk be prevented from killing their cattle, destroying their fences, and grazing on the pastures and hay that the ranchers care for and pay for.

In their disregard for the truth, their use of a false narrative, and their abuse of the NEPA process, the tactics of the anti-ranch activists closely resemble those of the anti-oyster-farm activists.

But at least the oyster-farm adversaries didn’t pretend they weren’t working against the oyster farm.

The anti-ranch groups have been deceptive about their goal. At the same time they were sending out emails asking people to repeat talking points like, “I ask that you discontinue private ranching operations,” they were claiming not to be anti-ranch. As recently as last month, in a press release dated July 19, these groups (the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, and Resource Renewal Institute) said, “The lawsuit does not ask the court to stop ranching at the Seashore, nor will the court decide the future of ranching at Point Reyes.”

This is disingenuous in the extreme. These groups are clearly working to stop ranching at the Seashore. Indeed, eliminating ranching on public lands is the stated goal of the Western Watershed Project as an organization.

The Point Reyes ranchers have waited long enough. When Secretary Salazar promised 20-year permits in November 2012, the ranchers thought that settled the matter. Instead, they have been kept hanging all this time, with short-term authorizations that limit their ability to plan and operate their ranches.

When Point Reyes National Seashore decided it needed to create a new public process in the form of a Ranch CMP, the ranchers were disappointed, but they participated in that process in good faith. (The scoping letter from the Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association, found here, is extremely informative, and includes a useful report on ranching at Point Reyes.)

Now the anti-ranch activists are suing to stop that process and start a new one, presumably one they feel they can better control. Will they be allowed to do so?

Their suit attempts to force an update of the Seashore’s General Management Plan; historian Laura Alice Watt’s forthcoming book The Paradox of Preservation shows that when a General Management Plan update was initiated back in the late 1990s, a similar campaign of anti-ranch letter-writing was launched by a number of environmental groups. This is a time-tested tactic used by special interests to shape the Seashore’s management into a particular direction.

Point Reyes National Seashore was made possible by its multi-generation ranching families. Through their motion to intervene in the lawsuit, these families are seeking a seat at the table.

Nobody has more incentive to protect the land than those whose livelihoods depend on it. An excerpt from Kevin Lunny’s court declaration (part of the motion to intervene) provides a good example of the careful stewardship of the ranchers:

“Our grazed California Coastal Prairie grasslands support a wide variety of native bird and animal species that I, other seashore ranchers, and many seashore visitors enjoy. Our family has built new fences, adjusted other fence lines, redirected vehicular access to minimize disturbance, protected wetland area, and controlled grazing to enhance habitat for endangered species on the Lunny Ranch, including endangered plant species that are benefited by livestock grazing, for example Sonoma alopecurus. Another example is that grazing helps ward off invasive plant species from taking over the range. Our family ranch has, and continues to provide, ecological benefits by maintaining the native nature of the grassland, thereby maintaining the pastoral scenery and wildlife habitat–one of the significant attributes that led to the establishment of the national seashore.”

The ranchers are the true stewards of this land and the leaders of this community, and have been for generations. The anti-ranch groups have every right to their own opinion, as the saying goes, but not to their own facts.

 Sarah Rolph is writing a book about the historic oyster farm in Point Reyes that was rescued by, and then taken from, Kevin Lunny, who is also a third-generation Point Reyes rancher.

8-1-16 Bipartisan request to NPS Jarvis : What Are You Doing About Sexual Harassment And Misconduct?

National Parks Traveler

Bipartisan Request To National Park Service: What Are You Doing About Sexual Harassment And Misconduct?

By Kurt Repanshek on August 1st, 2016

Concerned that the National Park Service is not taking adequate steps to root out sexual harassment and misconduct in the Service, members of Congress have asked National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to provide three reports from more than a decade ago that looked into the problems so they can “understand NPS’s response to sexual harassment and misconduct.”

The request (attached below), signed by Republican House members Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, and Democratic House members Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland and Brenda L. Lawrence of Michigan, comes less than a month before the National Park Service celebrates its 100th birthday.

The specter of how widespread sexual harassment and misconduct might be across the ranks of the National Park Service, which counts roughly 20,000 employees, has lingered all year in the background of the buildup to the centennial celebration. It first arose in January with the release of a report from the Interior Department’s Office of Inspecter General that described a 15-year chapter of sordid behavior among the staff of Grand Canyon National Park’s River District Office.

The investigation generated a tawdry list of inappropriate behavior, from male employees taking photographs up under a female co-worker’s dress and groping female workers to women dancing provocatively and bringing a drinking straw “shaped like a penis and testicles” to river parties. The incidents, a September 2014 letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell charged, “demonstrated evidence of ‘discrimination, retaliation, and a sexually hostile work environment.’”

The agency’s most recent struggles with misconduct and sexual harassment date to the 1990s, when the Park Service reached an Equal Employment Opportunity settlement “that stemmed from complaints of harassment and gender bias in promotions at Grand Canyon National Park,” the letter to Director Jarvis noted. “The task force found NPS was unable to retain women in law enforcement positions due to gender bias, sexual harassment and hostile work environments. Over half of the female park rangers who responded to the survey experienced sexual harassment on the job, and eighty percent knew someone who experienced harassment but did not report it for fear of retaliation.

“The Park Service has been aware of problems with sexual harassment since 2000, but is responding to these more recent incidents with yet another survey,” the letter said. “This response is especially disappointing in light of the fact that some of the same officials handling the Park Service’s response to these cases were involved in 2000.”

More recently, OIG investigators in June reported that they had “found that a law enforcement supervisor at Canaveral National Seashore made an unwanted sexual advance toward his subordinate, a law enforcement employee, in December 2015. In addition, we found a pattern of harassment involving this supervisor and two other (Seashore) employees.”

Our investigation revealed that over the past 5 years, the law enforcement supervisor has shown a pattern of sexual harassment involving the law enforcement employee and two other female employees at CANA. We found that on December 4, 2015, he took the law enforcement employee to the home of a park volunteer and made an unwanted sexual advance toward her in the volunteer’s bedroom. We also found that he sexually harassed another employee in 2015 by repeatedly complimenting her on her physical appearance, giving her unwanted and unsolicited tokens of affection, asking her out on dates, and attempting to engage her in conversation about sexually explicit content in movies. In 2011, he harassed the third employee by repeatedly asking her out and calling her on her personal cell phone after duty hours.

Overall, the law enforcement supervisor refused to accept full responsibility for his actions concerning any of the three women. He also provided vague and contradictory answers to our interview questions and demonstrated a lack of candor during multiple interviews about the incident with the law enforcement employee, and denied ever sexually harassing the other two CANA employees.

In their letter to Director Jarvis, sent this past Thursday, the congressmen and women noted that the problem of sexual misconduct and harassment has plagued the agency even though top leadership long has known of it. For example, they pointed to Sue Masica, director of the Park Service’s Intermountain Region, the largest in the system. They noted that she was a member of the Park Service’s Leadership Council that in November 2000 received the Women In Law Enforcement Task Force report that examined the earlier problem of sexual harassment at Grand Canyon.

“The fact that the Park Service’s cultural problems have persisted for at least sixteen years shows the Park Service’s response to the (WLET) task force’s findings was ineffective, and fresh ideas are necessary,” the letter stated.

“The final WLET report recommended that NPS institute a training program and a hotline for reporting grievances to the EEO office, among other recommendations that were to be completed by October 2005,” the letter went on. “The Park Service never implemented any of these recommendations. It should come as no surprise that NPS is still plagued by the same serious issues.”

According to the congressmen and women, “(T)o date, however, conversations with the OIG have revealed no final agency action had been taken against any senior-level personnel as a result of the OIG’s findings” in either the Grand Canyon or Canaveral cases.

The three requested documents.

Former Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga did retire this past June 1, rather than take a transfer to the Park Service’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Director Jarvis in mid-July announced that Christine Lehnertz, superintendent of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California, would take the helm at Grand Canyon.

08-01-16 Laura Watt’s Book available now: The Paradox of Preservation: Wilderness & Working Landscapes at PRNS

Available now at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0520277082/ref=kinw_rke_rti_1

 

The Paradox of Preservation: Wilderness and Working Landscapes at Point Reyes National SeashorePaperback– November 29, 2016

by

Laura Alice Watt (Author)

 

Point Reyes National Seashore has a long history as a working landscape, with dairy and beef ranching, fishing, and oyster farming; yet, since 1962 it has also been managed as a National Seashore. The Paradox of Preservation chronicles how national ideals about what a park “ought to be” have developed over time and what happens when these ideals are implemented by the National Park Service (NPS) in its efforts to preserve places that are also lived-in landscapes. Using the conflict surrounding the closure of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Laura Alice Watt examines how NPS management policies and processes for land use and protection do not always reflect the needs and values of local residents. Instead, the resulting landscapes produced by the NPS represent a series of compromises between use and protection—and between the area’s historic pastoral character and a newer vision of wilderness. A fascinating and deeply researched book, The Paradox of Preservation will appeal to those studying environmental history, conservation, public lands, and cultural landscape management, or to those looking to learn more about the history of this dynamic California coastal region.

7-28-16 House Committee on Oversight demands unredacted reports re sexual harassment from NPS Dir Jon Jarvis

More on Jarvis.

 

https://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2016-07-28-JEC-EEC-CL-BL-to-Jarvis-NPS-Misconduct-Letter-due-8-11-REDACTED.pdf

 

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform just sent a bi-partisan letter to NPS Director Jarvis demanding certain specified unredacted reports and documents related to on-going sexual harassment issues and policies be submitted to the Committee within two weeks.

 

The letter was signed by Chairman Chaffetz (R-UT) and Ranking Dem, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) at the Full Committee AND Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Chair, Subcommittee on Interior and her ranking Member, Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI).

07-27-16 PEER: Jarvis Been Asked to Remain but #2, a woman, OUT

In the face of a rising chorus urging his firing, National Park Service (NPS) Director Jon Jarvis has been asked to remain through the end of the Obama term, according to meeting minutes posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, the number two NPS official and highest-ranking female, Margaret (Peggy) O’Dell, will be leaving by the end of July.

In this its centennial year, the Park Service has been buffeted by a series of scandals, including highly publicized reports of female staff being propositioned or otherwise harassed in places ranging from Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park to Florida’s Canaveral National Seashore. In a radio interview last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell admitted that these incidents may be “just the tip of the iceberg…I’m sure that as we investigate this, we will find there is a bigger issue, a culture that allows these things to go on that needs to change …What needs to change is really a function of leadership.”

Yet change at the NPS will not start at the top. Minutes from a July 11, 2016 meeting of the NPS National Leadership Council, consisting of Jarvis, top deputies and regional directors, indicate that:

“Jon Jarvis will NOT be resigning. The Department has asked him to stay and given him their full support. He will be retiring in January 2017.” (Emphasis in original)

Meanwhile, Peggy O’Dell, a 37-year agency veteran and Deputy Director for Operations since 2011, is abruptly retiring, a departure thus far not marked with the usual official announcement.

 

 

For Immediate Release: Jul 20, 2016
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE LEADERSHIP SHAKEN NOT STIRRED

Top Woman Out; Top Men Remain Amid Sex Harassment, Ethics & Other Scandals

Posted on Jul 20, 2016 | Tags: NPS

Washington, DC — In the face of a rising chorus urging his firing, National Park Service (NPS) Director Jon Jarvis has been asked to remain through the end of the Obama term, according to meeting minutes posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Instead, the number two NPS official and highest-ranking female, Margaret (Peggy) O’Dell, will be leaving by the end of July.

In this its centennial year, the Park Service has been buffeted by a series of scandals, including highly publicized reports of female staff being propositioned or otherwise harassed in places ranging from Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park to Florida’s Canaveral National Seashore. In a radio interview last week, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell admitted that these incidents may be “just the tip of the iceberg…I’m sure that as we investigate this, we will find there is a bigger issue, a culture that allows these things to go on that needs to change …What needs to change is really a function of leadership.”

Yet change at the NPS will not start at the top. Minutes from a July 11, 2016 meeting of the NPS National Leadership Council, consisting of Jarvis, top deputies and regional directors, indicate that:

“Jon Jarvis will NOT be resigning. The Department has asked him to stay and given him their full support. He will be retiring in January 2017.” (Emphasis in original)

Meanwhile, Peggy O’Dell, a 37-year agency veteran and Deputy Director for Operations since 2011, is abruptly retiring, a departure thus far not marked with the usual official announcement. She is slated to be replaced on August 1 by Mike Reynolds, currently the NPS Associate Director for Workforce, Relevancy and Inclusion, the post directly responsible for preventing sexual harassment and related problems.

“Ousting your top female executive while keeping or promoting the responsible senior males does not bode well for improving the Park Service’s gender culture,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that no reason was given for O’Dell’s sudden stepdown. “Until these serious personnel knots are unraveled it may be imprudent to elevate the official who has been in charge of workplace ‘inclusion.’”

Jarvis has been recently reprimanded for ethics violations in fundraising and PEER is currently suing NPS to force release of records showing Jarvis’ potentially improper reliance on corporate jets. Last month, he was taken to task for failure to hold miscreant park superintendents and other employees to account in a brutal oversight hearing in which Jarvis’ nonresponses fanned bipartisan frustration. Citizen petitions are now circulating which call for his removal, a call echoed by a few Republican Congressmen.

The July meeting notes indicate that “Jarvis is focusing his last six months on workforce…in developing a more ‘inclusive, welcoming, respectful’ organizational culture.”

“By virtually every measure, Jon Jarvis has been the worst Director of the National Park Service in memory,” Ruch added, pointing to a litany of resource protection retreats, overlooked violations and highly questionable maneuvers during Jarvis’ tenure. “If he has failed to inspire any positive change in more than six years why would one expect him to be able to do so in less than six months?”

###

See the meeting minutes

Watch excruciating House oversight hearing on Jarvis

Look at Jarvis reprimand and plans to transform superintendents into fundraisers

Read PEER suit seeking records of Jarvis’ improper reliance on corporate jets

View official announcement of O’Dell’s appointment as deputy director

Scan litany of scandals on Jarvis’ watch

07-04-16 SFExaminer: NPS protects the wilderness. But who will protect integrity — and women — from the Park Service?

This is the fundamental (ethics) problem with the Park Service — sexual harassment and other ethical violations are not viewed as serious problems by top managers. When reports of violations become public, the violators — especially if they’re higher ups — are allowed to either retire with full benefits or, like the Catholic Church’s pedophile priests, simply moved to a similar position at another park unit.

*     *     *     *     *

There are few serious consequences for violations. More than a dozen Park Service employees singled out in public reports for mismanagement and misconduct still work at the agency.

These cases of sexual harassment and other misconduct in the Park Service have taken place under Jon Jarvis’ leadership. Jarvis himself has come under fire for intentionally bypassing the agency’s ethics office to write an unsanctioned book with a company that has contracts with the agency, and then lying about it to the Secretary of the Interior. He was reprimanded, banned from overseeing ethics at the agency and required to attend monthly ethics training. While embarrassing, it was a weak slap on the wrist. Jarvis remains head of the Park Service.

Some have questioned if an organization with so many harassment and ethical problems can truly reform with Jarvis in charge.

“We view the Park Service as an agency that’s rotting from the head,” Jeff Ruch, from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that frequently clashes with the agency, has said. “When it is convenient, Jarvis is willing to set aside rules.”

The National Park Service protects the wilderness. But who will protect integrity — and women — from the Park Service? An online petition seeking Jarvis’ immediate removal can be found at www.tinyurl.com/FireJonJarvisPetition. For more information, visit “Fire Jon Jarvis” on Facebook.


Monday July 04, 2016

The City > News Columnists > Sally Stephens

‘America’s best idea’ is rotting from the top

 

Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent Dave Uberuaga, pictured in October 2013 speaking at the blocked entrance of the Grand Canyon, has chosen retirement over a transfer after being told the park needed new leadership, months after federal investigators found a longstanding pattern of sexual harassment in the Grand Canyon’s now-former river district. (Matt York/2013 AP file photo)

By Sally Stephens on July 3, 2016 1:15 am

 

The National Park Service has been around for 100 years. In that time, the agency, once called “America’s best idea,” has protected many wilderness areas. But its centennial celebration has been tainted by revelations of a long-standing culture of sexual harassment and ethical violations, especially at its top levels.

For 100 years, the Park Service has embraced an institutional culture with a very specific masculine identity — the rugged, macho, solitary individual. Until 1978, female Park Rangers couldn’t wear the same uniforms — or the same badges — as male Rangers. They had to wear skirts that looked like something you’d see on a flight attendant, not an outdoor professional.

This macho ideal spawned a culture accepting of sexual harassment. A recent report from the Interior Department’s Inspector General found a 15-year pattern of sexual harassment of female employees by NPS river guides in the Grand Canyon. Women who made formal complaints were subject to retaliation. An official report was given to the Grand Canyon superintendent outlining the problem, but he did nothing and allowed the harassment to continue for several more years.

The harassment caused humiliation for the women and cost some their jobs and careers. But perhaps more importantly, it shook their perception of themselves as able to take on anything that man and nature threw at them. Ironically, working for the Park Service cost some of the women their love of the river and the outdoors.

At the Canaveral National Seashore in central Florida, another Inspector General’s report found the chief ranger sexually harassed women on his staff in three substantiated cases in less than two years. He is still on the job.

This is the fundamental problem with the Park Service — sexual harassment and other ethical violations are not viewed as serious problems by top managers. When reports of violations become public, the violators — especially if they’re higher ups — are allowed to either retire with full benefits or, like the Catholic Church’s pedophile priests, simply moved to a similar position at another park unit.

Just before becoming Superintendent at Mount Rainier, Dave Uberuaga made a questionable real estate deal — that he repeatedly failed to disclose — with the head of a company that operated concessions in the park. When the deal finally came to light, Uberuaga was removed from Mount Rainier … and named superintendent of the Grand Canyon. He’s the one who ignored the sexual harassment report. When the harassment scandal finally broke, he was removed from the Grand Canyon … and was offered a job with the Park Service in Washington, D.C. He decided to retire.

There are few serious consequences for violations. More than a dozen Park Service employees singled out in public reports for mismanagement and misconduct still work at the agency.

These cases of sexual harassment and other misconduct in the Park Service have taken place under Jon Jarvis’ leadership. Jarvis himself has come under fire for intentionally bypassing the agency’s ethics office to write an unsanctioned book with a company that has contracts with the agency, and then lying about it to the Secretary of the Interior. He was reprimanded, banned from overseeing ethics at the agency and required to attend monthly ethics training. While embarrassing, it was a weak slap on the wrist. Jarvis remains head of the Park Service.

Some have questioned if an organization with so many harassment and ethical problems can truly reform with Jarvis in charge.

“We view the Park Service as an agency that’s rotting from the head,” Jeff Ruch, from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that frequently clashes with the agency, has said. “When it is convenient, Jarvis is willing to set aside rules.”

Disgusted by the lack of consequences in the sexual harassment and ethics scandals, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., has asked President Barack Obama to remove Jarvis immediately as head of the Park Service. “Ultimately, Director Jarvis must be held accountable for … the ethical failures and misconduct and the lack of discipline …”

The National Park Service protects the wilderness. But who will protect integrity — and women — from the Park Service? An online petition seeking Jarvis’ immediate removal can be found at www.tinyurl.com/FireJonJarvisPetition. For more information, visit “Fire Jon Jarvis” on Facebook.

Sally Stephens is an animal, park and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area.

07-01-16 Sen. Murkowski Urges Park Service to Hire Alaskans

“The Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary this August, and it saddens me to continue seeing reports of employee misconduct, mismanagement, and ethics violations—including the Director himself—coming out of the agency. Alaskans, and all Americans, love our National Parks. I will continue to work to ensure that their ethics and management issues, including these hiring practices in Alaska, do not continue as a cloud over the agency as it enters its next century.”

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 1, 2016

Permalink

 

CONTACT: Nicole Daigle 202.224.2576

 

 

Sen. Murkowski Urges Park Service to Hire Alaskans 

 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today expressed her disappointment with the National Park Service’s (NPS) decision to select a non-Alaskan as superintendent at Sitka National Historical Park.

 

“I am extremely disappointed by yesterday’s announcement of yet another hiring of a non-Alaskan for a high-level position within the Alaska NPS Region, particularly at Sitka,” said Murkowski. “It does not appear that serious consideration was given to hiring local candidates for the superintendent position, despite input from the local community. The Park Service has given lip service to the importance of local hiring lately, but they need to start putting these plans into action.”

“The Park Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary this August, and it saddens me to continue seeing reports of employee misconduct, mismanagement, and ethics violations—including the Director himself—coming out of the agency. Alaskans, and all Americans, love our National Parks. I will continue to work to ensure that their ethics and management issues, including these hiring practices in Alaska, do not continue as a cloud over the agency as it enters its next century.”

Murkowski is the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

###

 

Energy.Senate.Gov

Note: Please do not reply to this email. This mailbox is unattended. For further information, please contact Nicole Daigle at 202-224-2576. Visit our website at http://energy.senate.gov

 

 

07-02-16 Washington Post: Lawmakers charge Park Service chief oversees a culture of sexual harassment

CANAVERAL NATIONAL SEASHORE, Fla. — This secluded beach on a barrier island off the Atlantic coast is a sunbathers’ paradise of nesting sea turtles and wading shore birds in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center.

But for rangers, visitor guides and many of the 50 employees here, working at this national park is anything but paradise.

Multiple female employees have been subjected to sexual harassment, and men and women alike to a hostile workplace for at least five years at Canaveral, government reports show. The park’s motto to describe the longest expanse of pristine shore in Florida is “the way it used to be.”

[Lawmakers charge that Park Service chief oversees a culture of sexual harassment]

The culture here became so toxic that the agency’s watchdog has conducted four investigations since 2012, an unusually high number for one of the park system’s smaller sites.

In the latest report, released in June, the inspector general for the Interior Department, the National Park Service’s parent agency, disclosed a pattern of unwanted advances and attention — along with inappropriate remarks — to female subordinates by the chief law enforcement officer. He is still employed by the park but was recently ordered to work at home.

Washington Post

PowerPost

 

Federal Insider

As National Park Service confronts sexual harassment, this dysfunctional park is Exhibit A

By Lisa Rein July 2 at 10:18 AM
Playalinda Beach, part of the Canaveral National Seashore. (Craig Bailey/Florida Today)

CANAVERAL NATIONAL SEASHORE, Fla. — This secluded beach on a barrier island off the Atlantic coast is a sunbathers’ paradise of nesting sea turtles and wading shore birds in the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center.

But for rangers, visitor guides and many of the 50 employees here, working at this national park is anything but paradise.

Multiple female employees have been subjected to sexual harassment, and men and women alike to a hostile workplace for at least five years at Canaveral, government reports show. The park’s motto to describe the longest expanse of pristine shore in Florida is “the way it used to be.”

[Lawmakers charge that Park Service chief oversees a culture of sexual harassment]

The culture here became so toxic that the agency’s watchdog has conducted four investigations since 2012, an unusually high number for one of the park system’s smaller sites.

In the latest report, released in June, the inspector general for the Interior Department, the National Park Service’s parent agency, disclosed a pattern of unwanted advances and attention — along with inappropriate remarks — to female subordinates by the chief law enforcement officer. He is still employed by the park but was recently ordered to work at home.

Interviewed at his home in St. Cloud, Fla., the law enforcement officer, Edwin Correa — who was named publicly at a June congressional hearing — denied any inappropriate behavior, calling his actions “cultural misunderstandings.”

Investigators also substantiated off-color comments by another Canaveral manager, who told a woman who works for him that her peach-colored dress resembled a Creamsicle and that he could “lick it up.”

The investigations and interviews with nine current and former park employees reveal a troubling workplace culture in the remote park, which includes a nude beach and stretches 24 miles along the seashore 57 miles east of Orlando.

[Read some of the inspector general reports on Canaveral National Seashore here]

What happened here, along with explosive revelations in January of sexual harassment at the Grand Canyon and an ongoing inspector general probe of similar misconduct in at least one other park, has prompted a congressional hearing and a pointed email from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose agency oversees the Park Service.

For years, Canaveral has been run like a fiefdom where the brass broke the rules to hire friends and relatives for jobs and contracts, punished employees who blew the whistle and mistreated subordinates they did not like, interviews and inspector general reports show.

“It’s incompetent leaders and an attitude of, ‘Hey, I can do anything I want and there’s nothing you can do to me,” said Bruce Rosel, who retired as a district manager in 2013 after 34 years at the park.

Beyond the disturbing nature of the conduct is the question of why the Park Service has done so little to discipline supervisors and take steps to establish a safe and professional workplace for its employees.

“They just allowed this stuff to go on,” said Martha Schaffer, who retired as an administrator at the park in 2013, two years earlier than she had planned, because she felt the atmosphere was so poisonous. “Why doesn’t the Park Service hold anyone’s feet to the fire?”

It’s a question the Interior Department now says it needs to address throughout the park system.

A day after Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis took a bipartisan drubbing on Capitol Hill for failing to punish wrongdoers quickly or severely enough, Jewell told 70,000 Interior Department employees that sexual harassment is “completely out of line with our values.” She has demanded action from top Park Service officials to stop it.

The Park Service has been forced to acknowledge that sexual misconduct may be part of the culture of the sprawling, male-dominated system of 412 national parks, whose first rangers at the turn of the century were former cavalrymen.

“This is a huge wake-up call for us that we have some cultural issues we need to do a deep dive on,” Michael Reynolds, the agency’s associate director for human capital, said in an interview.

“We recognize that we’ve got a fairly non-diverse history and a heavily male culture,” Reynolds said. “We’re addressing it. We hope we’ll be much healthier for it.”

Jarvis told lawmakers in June that because civil servants have strong rights to appeal disciplinary proceedings, taking action against them is not easy.

The Park Service has long been a decentralized corner of the federal government, where many employees work in small groups in remote areas. Men made up 63 percent of the workforce in 2015, federal data shows, and about 85 percent of the law enforcement rangers.

The agency plans to hire an outside contractor this month to conduct an anonymous survey of its 22,000 full-time and seasonal employees to ask whether sexual harassment is widespread. Face-to-face training for managers and employees will be done at every park. A better reporting system “that makes sure our employees have a safe haven” to report harassment is in development, Reynolds said.

He said officials also are interviewing experts on combating sexual harassment, including meeting in May with a team at the Defense Department, which is confronting rising reports of sexual assault.

Park officials have been aware for 16 years of sexual misconduct in the system, where a flood of complaints about harassment and gender bias in promotions at the Grand Canyon led to the formation of a task force in 1999 to address the issue nationwide. But little was done with the recommendations, which were first reported by the High Country News.

[Female Park Service employees say they were propositioned, groped and bullied on Grand Canyon river trips]

Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said that implementation of most of the recommendations was derailed by budget cuts and the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but that they “will be revisited” now.

Until now, the Park Service has not made sexual-harassment training mandatory for all employees, limiting annual online courses to its supervisors.

Several Republican lawmakers have called on Jarvis to resign, saying he has long failed to take sexual misconduct seriously.

“He allowed this to fester,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. “More than two dozen women at the Grand Canyon and Canaveral National Seashore have filed claims of harassment,” he said. “And not one perpetrator has been fired.”

Chaffetz confronts Park Service head over sexual harassment claims

Play Video2:53

At a House Oversight & Government Reform Committee hearing on June 14, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the committee, questioned the “zero tolerance” National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis claimed to have for sexual harassment within his agency. (House Oversight & Government Reform Committee)

Jarvis, through a spokesman, declined requests for an interview.

The disarray at Canaveral goes beyond allegations of sexual harassment.

Retired Canaveral administrator Schaffer recalled an unpleasant incident in which the manager cited by the inspector general in June — her longtime supervisor — demanded to see her medical records before approving sick leave for a gynecological operation, asking “what they were going to do to me,” she said.

Racial tensions are also high. The park superintendent, Myrna Palfrey, has failed to manage her employees, according to employees and investigators, who described a “lack of candor” in her dealings with them. Her name was not disclosed in the government reports, which were redacted, but several current and former employees complained about her leadership.

Palfrey declined several requests for comment.

Correa and another manager were accused of inappropriate behavior toward subordinates. Neither alleged perpetrator was named by the inspector general, but Correa’s name was made public in the House hearing.

The Park Service suspended Correa’s commission to carry a weapon in early May after learning of the inspector general’s findings. But he continued to work at the park for six more weeks until the congressional hearing, and was then told to work from home.

A Park Service spokesman, Andrew Munoz, said officials are “reviewing” disciplinary action against both managers. He acknowledged that, “looking back, we will have to review whether we could have taken action earlier to put [Correa] on telework.”

Canaveral is not the only park where sexual harassment and a prolonged Park Service response have been a problem.

Seven months after investigators revealed that boatmen and a supervisor at the Grand Canyon pressured female colleagues for sex on long river trips, then bullied and retaliated against some who rejected or reported their advances, some of the alleged perpetrators have retired. The others are still working in the park but have not been disciplined, a spokeswoman said.
The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The park superintendent at Grand Canyon, widely criticized for ignoring the women’s complaints, was offered a job transfer to the agency’s Washington headquarters but retired June 1, Jarvis said at the House hearing.

“Personnel actions … are under development with appropriate human resources and legal support,” according to a document provided by spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo.

The park has hired an outside investigator to examine allegations of inappropriate behavior that recently came to light in another division in the Grand Canyon, the document said.

At Canaveral, misconduct also went on for years.

In 2012, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall’s office documented contracting violations and nepotism at the park, where Correa and other managers violated federal acquisition rules by putting multiple small payments on government credit cards to avoid getting competitive bids for a new boardwalk, visitors center and other projects. Park spokesman Munoz said Correa was reprimanded for these activities.

Among the friends and relatives hired were two employees with criminal records.

Little had changed two years later, when investigators were back with another report on the same misconduct. Park Superintendent Palfrey, who is Hispanic, evaded investigators’ questions and accused some of her subordinates of “racially based comments” against Latinos and African Americans, the inspector general found.

Investigators described an “overall sense of dissension” among co-workers at Canaveral and questioned Palfrey’s management of her employees.

Candace Carter, a biologist who reported the nepotism and procurement irregularities, said she was mistreated in retaliation, including being whistled at by her supervisors because of her status as a whistleblower. She won a ruling in 2014 from the Merit Systems Protection Board, which also found that Palfrey misled under oath the administrative judge hearing Carter’s case.
Candace Carter, a whistleblower who won a retaliation case, helps with a sea turtle in 2010 at Canaveral National Seashore. (Photo via Florida Today)

Carter said her boss, a law enforcement official who carried a weapon, was so angry at her whistle-blowing that he grabbed her arm during a meeting of park employees and held it tightly for several seconds, she said in an interview. The supervisor was suspended for three days and later retired.

Park employees say it was this laissez-faire, hostile culture that set the tone for years of sexual misconduct.

Investigators found that last year, Correa repeatedly complimented one employee on her physical appearance, asked her out on dates and tried to engage her in conversation about sexually explicit content in movies. In 2011, he harassed another woman by repeatedly asking her out and calling her on her personal cellphone after hours, investigators said.

After the woman told colleagues, Correa and another manager went to the ranger station where she worked, ushered her into a small supply room and shut the door to discuss the matter, according to multiple employees. The woman later told colleagues that she had felt intimidated.

Last December, Correa took a park ranger he supervised to the home of a park volunteer he said needed help hanging Christmas decorations — and instead propositioned her for sex after putting his arms around her waist, pressing himself against her and trying to kiss her, investigators found.

The woman said, according to the report, that she asked the supervisor what he was doing, and he pointed toward the bed and said: “But we’re here. Why not? No one will know.”

The Volusia County state attorney is weighing criminal charges against Correa in relation to this and two other incidents involving the woman, a spokesman said.

“It comes down to Canaveral’s management and Myrna Palfrey, who has failed her employees,” one of the victims said in an interview with The Washington Post. She commented on the condition of anonymity because park officials warned her not to speak to a reporter.

“On numerous, documented occasions, she has fostered an environment of retaliation for those who speak up,” the woman said of Palfrey.

At least two other female employees were subjected to harassment by Correa, according to employees.

Correa told The Post that the women he allegedly harassed are “great people” and that he is friends with all of them.

He denied any inappropriate behavior, calling his actions “cultural misunderstandings” because as a Latino, he is warm and affectionate with most people. After the meeting with one woman in the supply room, “we clarified things and everything was great,” he said.

Correa says, however, he is angry that the Park Service did not give him a chance to apologize to the women if he had offended them, since he has been forbidden to contact them.

“If I did something wrong, don’t hit me blind-sided,” he said in an interview at his home.

The other Canaveral manager cited by investigators, also allegedly made sexually inappropriate comments to at least two employees. One of them told investigators she did not think that the comments were meant to harass her but that they made her feel “creepy and weird.”

That manager did not respond to calls left at his office and home. He first told investigators that one of the women he allegedly harassed was “delusional” and “not wrapped too tight.”

But he later said he “took full responsibility” if his remarks were interpreted as unprofessional.

88 Comments

Lisa Rein covers the federal workforce and issues that concern the management of government.

5-21-16 Petition to Fire NPS Dir Jon Jarvis

Click on the link below to sign the petition

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/fire-national-park-service-director-jon-jarvis-we-deserve-director-who-will-uphold-agencys-integrity 

We the people ask the federal government to Tell us what the federal government is doing about an issue:

Fire National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. We deserve a director who will uphold the agency’s integrity.

As the nation celebrates the National Park Service centennial, we deserve a director who will uphold the integrity of the agency’s mission and values. We urge you to remove Director Jonathan Jarvis.

Jarvis has failed to address numerous and pervasive sexual harassment and hostile work environment violations.

He lied to the Secretary of the Interior and intentionally bypassed the agency’s Ethics Office in order to write an unsanctioned book.

He has failed to discipline park service employees who deliberately omitted and misrepresented scientific data.

And he is pushing for policy changes that would give corporate donors unprecedented influence over park managers and National Park Service decisions.

We and the Park Service cannot wait. Jarvis must go.

Energy & Environment
Government & Regulatory Reform

5-23-16 NPT Congressman Asks for NPS Dir Jarvis’s Resignation

National Parks Traveler

UPDATED: Congressman Asks For National Park Service Director’s Resignation

 

By Kurt Repanshek on June 23rd, 2016

President Obama has been asked to fire National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis if the director does not resign/NPS

Editor’s note: This updates the story to mention that a petition drive calling for Director Jarvis’ removal has been started.

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, who has had to deal with his own ethical transgressions and a range of misconduct issues across the National Park System during this, the Park Service’s centennial year, should resign or be fired, a member of Congress has told President Obama.

Additionally, a petition has been launched on We The People, a website that reaches out to the White House, calling for the director’s termination.

Congressman Jody Hice, a Republican from Georgia, wrote the president last week asking that Director Jarvis be asked to resign. In the letter (attached) the congressman cited the director’s run-in with the Interior Department’s Ethics Office for not clearing a book he wrote for a Park Service contractor, the well-publicized case of long-running sexual harassment in Grand Canyon National Park, and another case of sexual misconduct at Canaveral National Seashore.

“Regrettably, in these cases — and others — the proper form of discipline was not pursued,” Rep. Hice wrote. “In the case of Director Jarvis’ book deal, the only punishment he faced was that he was stripped of his authority to implement the Park Service’s Ethic’s Program and is required to attend monthly ethics training courses for the remainder of his tenure. Others have either been transferred out of their positions or have been allowed to retire without facing the punishment that fits the misconduct.

“These are just some of the ethical failures and misconduct commited by employees of the National Park Service and the lack of discipline they have faced. Ultimately, Director Jarvis must be held accountable for these actions. Therefore Mr. President, I believe that the time has come for you to call on Director Jarvis to tender his resignation as the Director of the National Park Service. Should he choose not to resign, I believe that you must relieve him of his duties immediately.”

This past Tuesday a petition drive calling for Director Jarvis’ removal was launched on We The People. If 100,000 people sign the petition by July 21, the White House will respond to the request, according to the website. The petition, created by “A.B.,” states:

As the nation celebrates the National Park Service centennial, we deserve a director who will uphold the integrity of the agency’s mission and values. We urge you to remove Director Jonathan Jarvis.

Jarvis has failed to address numerous and pervasive sexual harassment and hostile work environment violations.

He lied to the Secretary of the Interior and intentionally bypassed the agency’s Ethics Office in order to write an unsanctioned book.

He has failed to discipline park service employees who deliberately omitted and misrepresented scientific data.

And he is pushing for policy changes that would give corporate donors unprecedented influence over park managers and National Park Service decisions.

We and the Park Service cannot wait. Jarvis must go.

5-23-16 E&E Daily: Lawmaker calls for Jarvis to resign

Another congressman this morning joined the small band of lawmakers questioning whether Jonathan Jarvis should continue to lead the National Park Service.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) announced during a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing that he had sent President Obama a letter last week urging him to ask Jarvis to resign over the director’s decision to write an unauthorized book for an NPS concessionaire.

“Should he choose not to resign, I believe you must relieve him of his duties immediately,” the congressman wrote.

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — on which Hice also sits — have previously argued that Jarvis may need to step aside (Greenwire, June 14).

In both the letter and today’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, Hice said he was upset both by Jarvis’ initial decision and his response to congressional oversight of that mistake, as well as instances of sexual harassment and other ethical violations at NPS exposed by Interior’s Office of Inspector General.

E&E Daily

INTERIOR:

Lawmaker calls for Jarvis to resign

Corbin Hiar, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, June 23, 2016

Another congressman this morning joined the small band of lawmakers questioning whether Jonathan Jarvis should continue to lead the National Park Service.

Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) announced during a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing that he had sent President Obama a letter last week urging him to ask Jarvis to resign over the director’s decision to write an unauthorized book for an NPS concessionaire.

“Should he choose not to resign, I believe you must relieve him of his duties immediately,” the congressman wrote.

Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee — on which Hice also sits — have previously argued that Jarvis may need to step aside (Greenwire, June 14).

In both the letter and today’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, Hice said he was upset both by Jarvis’ initial decision and his response to congressional oversight of that mistake, as well as instances of sexual harassment and other ethical violations at NPS exposed by Interior’s Office of Inspector General.

“I’ve been shocked at the culture of corruption and misconduct that has been allowed to persist at the National Park Service,” he said.

He asked Mary Kendall, Interior’s deputy inspector general, about an apology email Jarvis sent to all NPS employees over the book deal (Greenwire, June 2).

“I thought it was terribly qualified and not as sincere as I would like to have seen,” said Kendall, whose office is working on at least one additional report of sexual harassment at NPS.

There was no one at the hearing to take the beleaguered director’s side. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.) said the subcommittee had invited Interior to provide a high-level representative to testify; the agency sent Steve Guertin, the Fish and Wildlife Service’s deputy director of policy. And ranking member Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and the rest of the subcommittee’s Democratic members declined to attend after a daylong sit-in over gun control and a series of late-night votes.

The Republicans also lamented the lack of any representative from the Department of Justice. They had invited Attorney General Loretta Lynch to send someone to explain why DOJ has declined to prosecute 17 of the 29 criminal cases that the OIG has sent to the agency over the course of six months.

“Rather than send a witness, DOJ instead put off the committee for days, questioned committee staff as to whether this committee has the right to request their presence at the witness table and ultimately suggested that we read the ‘Principles of Federal Prosecution’ online instead,” said subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

“Let me make this clear: It is completely appropriate for this committee to request the presence of the Department of Justice at the witness table,” he added. “We have a valid interest in its involvement in these OIG investigations, and in learning, from DOJ itself, about its processes for handling OIG referrals. The Department of Justice’s refusal to be here today makes me wonder what their motivations for failing to prosecute these cases really are.”

The rest of the hearing focused on a series of high-profile cases of misconduct that the OIG has uncovered in recent months.

Guertin sharply criticized Stephen Barton, the service’s former chief of administration and information management for wildlife and sport fish restoration, who repeatedly failed to disclose that the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies paid him more than $375,000 over seven years for his services. FWS has sent Barton a collection notice to recoup more than $96,000 it paid on flights that allowed him to work both jobs (Greenwire, June 8).

Full committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) had questions for Kendall about the Interior Department’s former regulatory chief, who the OIG found had “used her position and influence” to hire a young man who appears to be a family friend over more qualified veteran applicants (E&E Daily, June 23).

Lawmakers also sought to assess the damage caused by a U.S. Geological Survey lab in Colorado that an OIG report found consistently manipulated lab results that are used by the Energy Resources Program and many other entities from at least 2008 to 2014, and possibly as far back as 1996.

Twitter: @corbinhiar Email: chiar@eenews.net

4-25-16 Marin Voice: Point Reyes lawsuit undermines Marin’s progressive traditions

Huey Johnson, and those who wish to ban ranching in Point Reyes National Seashore, are cherry-picking documents, rewriting history, gulling Marin, the courts and the public by redeploying the same tactics used against Lunny’s oyster farm: withhold and selectively edit not only laws and legislation but original documents they cite to justify their actions, then import and invent new data to suit.

Specifically, the plaintiffs’ case against Point Reyes’ ranchers cites one section of the 1916 legislation that established the National Park Service, supporting their contention, while ignoring its historic Marin County origins and intent, admitting only in legal fine print that a section immediately below permits the activity they wish to ban.

*     *     *     *     *

The filing does not cite Section 3: “… The Secretary of the Interior may, under such rules and regulations and on such terms as he may prescribe, grant the privilege to graze livestock within any national park, monument or reservation herein referred to when in his judgement such use is not detrimental to the primary purpose for which such park, monument, or reservation was created, except that such provisions shall not apply to the Yellowstone National Park.”

Marin Voice: Point Reyes park lawsuit undermines Marin’s progressive traditions

A cow crossing sign stands along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard at the Historic Ranch C on the grounds of Point Reyes National Seashore in Point Reyes Station, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. Environmentalists have sued the National Park Service, seeking to block the agency from granting 20-year leases to ranchers at the park until environmental studies are completed of the impact of the cattle on the park’s water, wildlife and public recreation.(Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

By John Hulls

Posted: 04/25/16, 2:32 PM PDT | Updated: 7 hrs ago

Huey Johnson, and those who wish to ban ranching in Point Reyes National Seashore, are cherry-picking documents, rewriting history, gulling Marin, the courts and the public by redeploying the same tactics used against Lunny’s oyster farm: withhold and selectively edit not only laws and legislation but original documents they cite to justify their actions, then import and invent new data to suit.

Specifically, the plaintiffs’ case against Point Reyes’ ranchers cites one section of the 1916 legislation that established the National Park Service, supporting their contention, while ignoring its historic Marin County origins and intent, admitting only in legal fine print that a section immediately below permits the activity they wish to ban.

Their publicity quotes, from the National Park Service Act, Section 1, that the park service’s “… mission is to ‘conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for future generations.’”

The filing does not cite Section 3: “… The Secretary of the Interior may, under such rules and regulations and on such terms as he may prescribe, grant the privilege to graze livestock within any national park, monument or reservation herein referred to when in his judgement such use is not detrimental to the primary purpose for which such park, monument, or reservation was created, except that such provisions shall not apply to the Yellowstone National Park.”

The full language reflects its Marin history and intent, when in 1915, Marin Congressman Bill Kent sponsored the National Park Service Act.

President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law on Aug. 25, the following year.

In 1905 Kent had also saved an inaccessible redwood grove from being harvested for rebuilding after the San Francisco Earthquake. His family donated it to the United States.

President Theodore Roosevelt, using the power of the Antiquities Act, declared it a national monument, suggesting that the woods be named after him.

Kent demurred and recommended naming the grove after their mutual friend, guide to the president on his wilderness trip to Yosemite: John Muir.

The lawsuit is clever, clearly a legal, PR and fund-raising tool. The litigants’ website and press releases create the false image of environmentalists stopping a reckless park service from bowing to the financial benefits of “welfare ranchers” trashing the environment … so send money.

They cite discredited documents, including the park service’s economic study, unsubstantiated references to a huge industrial footprint and allegations of water pollution from cattle, claiming that “everyone knows” grazing is bad, ignoring the benefits of sustainable practices.

Videos of West Marin on the Marin Agricultural Land Trust website reveal the falsity of the allegations and show how modern ranching sustains and preserves our beloved landscapes.

Johnson, the Center for Biodiversity and Western Waterways are implacably opposed to grazing. After the closing of the oyster farm, they see an opportunity to advance their ideology using similar tactics.

As ideologues, looking to retrieve a past that never was, they want to exclude those who disagree with them.

The original 1916 Act refutes their lawsuit’s claims.

Note Marin’s 100-year progressive traditions: Bill Kent’s legislation, Caroline Livermore and friends who in the 1930s hired a planner to anticipate the impact of the newly opened Golden Gate Bridge, and state Sen. Peter Behr’s 1969 gathering of disparate elements, including the ranchers, into the Save Our Seashore campaign that in 1972 finally saved Point Reyes National Seashore.

To support ideological obsession, click the “donate” button and await the next lawsuit.

Or continue Marin’s environmental tradition of education, inclusion and planning for a practical future that benefits everyone.

An easy choice.

John Hulls, a former West Marin resident, is an environmental researcher and scientific coordinator who has been involved in local issues.

2006 First False claim published by NPS, staff scientist Dr. Sarah Allen, lead author

2006:  First false claim published by NPS. Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) staff scientist Dr. Sarah Allen, lead author of PRNS publication “Drakes Estero, A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary” reports oyster farm operations are harming the ecology of the estero and begins a campaign to shut down the historic operation. The agency has no evidence for these allegations.

The fraudulent Sheltered Wilderness report appears to have been a response to the May 18, 2006 Point Reyes Light article Drakes Bay Oyster Farm Has Little Impact On Estero. The evidence for this is reported by Dave Mitchell in this must-read story about the early history of the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm tragedy. (Mitchell is former editor and publisher of the Point Reyes Light, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for Mitchell’s story on the Synanon cult. We are grateful that his important early work about NPS mistreatment of Drakes Bay Oyster Farm is still available online.)

For more, go to:

http://savedrakesbay.com/core/history-of-false-science-about-dboc/

4-26-16 savedrakesbay.com Errors, Omissions, and Distortions in “The Oyster War” book by Summer Brennan

http://savedrakesbay.com/core/oyster-war-list-of-errors-and-omissions/

Oyster War Error List

 

Page 1                  “a reporter covering the war between oysters and wilderness”

So far the Drakes Bay Oyster controversy has extended to 120 months. Brennan claims to have direct knowledge of the situation based on the 5 months she spent in West Marin in 2012, working for the Point Reyes Light. During her summer at the Light, Brennan wrote over 40 features and obituaries. Only 5 stories were about Drakes Bay Oyster Company. During this same period, the Light published 4 stories about DBOC bylined “Light Staff.” Brennan was not covering the story in the sense she implies. If it had been her beat, or a serious part of her job, one would expect her to have visited the oyster farm at least once during her summer in West Marin. She did not, even after Kevin expressly invited her in an email in July 2012.

Page 9                  Brennan claims that an oyster worker given the pseudonym “Oscar” was fired after taking her for a ride in an oyster boat. Nobody was fired. Hugo, the worker who took Brennan out on the boat, quit his job at the oyster farm and went to work for Dave Evans in West Marin. He now lives in Reno, not in Mexico still looking for work as reported at the end of the book. One phone call would have yielded this information. Instead, Brennan wove a tale around an assumption. The whole story of the boat tour is highly fictionalized. According to Hugo, in the account he gave to the farm managers at the time, Brennan told him she was authorized to accompany him, when she plainly was not.

Page 18                Drakes Bay Oysters were “hearty and often quite large, with an overpowering creaminess.” They came in all sizes and were usually described as very briny. See Rowan Jacobsen.

Page 18                “Chefs say they are better cooked than raw.” Highly unlikely. Who supposedly said this?

Page 52                Here and in many other places, Brennan falsely claims that there were never any native oysters in the area. NPS used a similar argument for similar reasons—when the NAS panel pointed out that one benefit of oyster farming overlooked by the park service is that the farmed oysters provided ecological services, which made up for the native oysters that would have been there had they not been overharvested roughly 100 years ago, NPS pushed back with the assertion that the historical numbers of native oysters were lower than had been assumed. Brennan is the first to claim there were never ANY native oysters, and the claim is absurd.

Page 65               Fred Smith seems to be a key source. He is presented as an important person in the story, with a detailed, sympathetic portrayal. Brennan fails to disclose that she is friends with him. She also fails to report the one significant interaction Smith had with the oyster farm:  sending a letter to the water board about alleged pollution at the oyster farm–false charges that were immediately dismissed. Fred Smith left EAC in 2010, four years before the shutdown of the farm. Yet he is presented as if he is the key EAC figure; the work of Amy Trainer, who was in fact the key anti-oyster-farm operative at EAC for the crucial years of 2010 – 2014, is barely mentioned.

Page 79                This passage uses Fred Smith’s thoughts from several years ago to imply that the ranches are ecologically unsound, and that they don’t belong in a national park unit.

“But as he drove through the Point Reyes National Seashore’s pastoral zone, he was shocked by what he saw. Farms! Industry! Inside a federally protected natural area! Many of the Seashore ranches seemed to be in poor ecological condition, and in a national park! “Why is the park allowing this?” he thought. If things here were handled the way they were in other national parks, Fred thought, if some of the Point Reyes ranches didn’t clean up their act, it was only a matter of time before they would have to go.”

No facts are provided to substantiate this insinuation that the ranches need to be cleaned up.

Page 95                Brennan writes that Ralph Mihan “surveyed the situation” and his “opinion was guided by the Wilderness Act.” Unless Brennan interviewed him, and there is no indication that she did, we don’t know what Mihan did, we only know what the letter says. The letter is suspicious because it is differs from everything else in the public record. Mihan was a field solicitor, a local NPS lawyer, someone Don would have easy access to. Do field solicitors make policy? Do they even discover policy, normally? Here, as in every other case we studied, Brennan takes the NPS narrative at face value; that’s an odd pattern for a so-called journalist.

Page 120              Brennan writes that Drakes Estero was labeled potential wilderness “to be sorted out later.” That’s not what the legislative history shows. Brennan seems to have decided “potential wilderness” is the same as “wilderness.” That’s not the case.

Page 121-126       Brennan conflates John Burton and Phillip Burton into one person. It is former Congressman John Burton who wrote the Point Reyes Wilderness act. His brother, former Representative Phillip Burton, was involved in the GGNRA. (Brennan never refers to John Burton, and on page 126 refers to the wrong Burton when she writes “The idea of ‘potential wilderness’ was first used by Congress in 1976, the year that the Point Reyes Wilderness Act was passed. It was very much in Burton’s style…”) Phillip Burton died in 1983. John Burton is alive and is the current chair of the California Democratic Party.

Page 128, 129      The passage about Congressman McCloskey is surprisingly disrespectful and implies that he is senile. He is not.

Brennan distorts Congressman McCloskey’s involvement in a way that makes it sound like he supported the oyster farm only as an individual, and solely out of personal preference. She writes that Congressman McCloskey “has come out and said that the intention was always to have the oyster farm stay in operation. He’s written letters on the farm’s behalf…” and says that he “uses the presence of the ranches to support the notion” that the oyster farm was meant to say. This is not a “notion,” it is a fact of legislative history.

Congressman McCloskey spelled this out in a letter to then-Secretary Salazar, which was co-authored with former Congressman John Burton and former Assemblyman Bill Bagley. Representative Burton was the lead author of the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act. Bill Bagley wrote the 1965 bill that transferred ownership of waters surrounding Point Reyes to the National Park Service. All three of these men remembered that the oyster farm was expected to stay at the time the Seashore was formed, but they did not rely on memory, but also researched the issue for ten weeks. As was reported in the Point Reyes Light in August 2011, the letter “cites numerous archival documents and testimonies—including statements by former National Park Service Director Conrad Wirth, the Sierra Club and former Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife Nathaniel Reed—that the authors contend collectively prove the legal precedent for the continuation of oystering in Drakes Estero.”

This letter was widely reported in the media because of its importance. Brennan fails to mention it. The letter is not even included in her extensive bibliography.

Page 163              Brennan writes that Kevin Lunny was shown the Mihan letter before the sale was final. This is false, and echoes the NPS/EAC false narrative. The truth is that the Mihan letter was not presented to the Lunnys until after they had turned around the oyster farm. Even the government has acknowledged that the Mihan letter was not provided to the Lunnys until after the purchase and cleanup. Brennan was informed of this by Peter Prows, a member of the Lunny legal team. He told her via email on February 7, 2015 (in response to her mass email to supporters, which she claims nobody responded to):

“The original 1972 contains a renewal clause that says it may be renewed by special use permit for so long as the oyster farm had a valid state water bottom lease — the term is substantially similar to the renewal clause that the other ranchers have been living under for decades. Let me know if you need a copy of the RUO

The Lunnys have told their version of the events leading up to the oyster farm purchase many times, including Don Neubacher’s encouragement. Their most recent thing was an opinion piece in the Light from this summer, Keep On Shucking.

Salazar’s memorandum makes clear that the Lunnys weren’t told the lease wouldn’t be renewed until after they bought the farm. He acknowledges they bought the farm in 2004, and says they weren’t told that the renewal clause wouldn’t be exercised until 2005.

There’s lots more out there on this, but frankly it’s kind of irrelevant once Congress passed Section 124 specifically to override NPS’s (incorrect) position that the lease couldn’t be renewed. Yet in denying the lease renewal, Salazar thumbed his nose at Congress and said, despite this new law authoring him to renew the lease, it would still be against the law to renew the lease. That always was, and still remains, nonsense.”

Pages 165-166     “A small number of pre-historic Olympia oyster shells were found inside shell middens near the estero, i.e. the Olympias, but carbon dating has revealed that those shells varied in age between 1,200 and 2,200 years old—more on that later. These scant shell samples could have come from the estero as living oysters, perhaps during a time when conditions were different, or the shells themselves could have been traded from tribes living further north, where the native oysters were known to be abundant.”

Brennan misunderstood (or is misrepresenting) the purpose of the study. The Sonoma State researchers sampled the bottom of the middens, carbon-dating the oldest oysters, because their purpose was to determine the age of the middens. It was not an oyster study. The middens are loaded with oyster shells. They are not “scant.”

The bottom line: native oysters have been in Drakes Estero going back several thousand years.

Page 169              Brennan repeats NPS Superintendent Don Neubacher’s slander that Kevin “is not good with money” without any further comment, much less refutation, and doesn’t supply any context.

Page 170              Brennan refers to a version of the Elliot-Fisk paper that says the tunicate D. vex was “likely introduced through oyster farming.” Brennan lets this stand even though it is not true. She later points out correctly that the tunicate needs a substrate to grow, and that oysters supply one, but doesn’t point out that the tunicate is a nuisance everywhere, or that the tunicate also clings to rocks, ropes or any other hard surface. The tunicate is believed to move around the world in ballast water and has invaded the temperate regions of the oceans – globally. The tunicate was NOT “introduced” by the farm.

Page 171              Concerning the invasive tunicate, the author writes: “over the years their presence only increased.” As Dr. Goodman has pointed out in court filings based on the scientific literature, there is no evidence to suggest that the tunicate has increased over the past decade.

Page 177              Brennan quotes from Sarah Allen’s April 26, 2007 Trip Report (without giving the date or title) as if it were fact: “She also wrote about the presence of a white boat with two people in it, poling through an eelgrass bed. When the boat went by a group of seals, all but one of the animals flushed into the water.” Brennan fails to mention that Dr. Goodman has presented evidence that this report was fabricated. The evidence clearly shows that the boat in Allen’s description uses a path the oyster boats never took (as documented in the 300,000+ NPS secret camera photos, a DBOC boat never once took this route), that the engine on the oyster boat was broken on this date, that the area where the boat operators were allegedly poling through eelgrass is actually deep water where propeller fouling is impossible, and that at the time of the supposed sighting the workers had long since clocked out (time and date stamped) and gone home.

Page 178              The author fails to report the false claims made by Sarah Allen and Don Neubacher in May 2007 at a meeting of the Marin County Board of Supervisors. That meeting is described in the book, and Brennan quotes Sarah Allen as saying: “The damage of the commercial oyster operations on Drakes Estero is more easily documented, because the park service has over twenty-five years of continuous monitoring data from Drakes Estero.” The Park Service didn’t actually have 25 years of data; Brennan provides a rationalization — in Brennan’s view, it was good enough that Sarah Allen had been studying seals for that long. Brennan then discusses a different aspect of the dispute.

In fact, the most important statement by Sarah Allen at that 2007 meeting was this: “Over the past few weeks we have documented oyster operations disturbing mothers with pups and oyster bags left on sandbars where seals would normally give birth and nurse their pups. The harm is resulting in abandonment of one area where more than 250 seals, including 100 pups 2 years ago occurred in that spot, this year chronic disturbance and placement of bags on the nursery area has caused an 80% reduction in the seals dropping to around 35 this last Saturday. I was out there on Saturday.”

Those charges were false, and they have been proven to be false. Evidence obtained via FOIA shows that even Sarah Allen did not think she had any evidence for those claims. The false charges made their way to NOAA, which would have been very concerned had the claims been true; when NOAA asked Allen for the evidence, she wrote back explaining it did not exist. Allen’s false statement, as well as others, was later retracted by the Park Service. All this is a matter of public record. None of it is reported by Brennan.

Page 181              Feinstein suddenly appears: “but then Senator Feinstein got involved” and immediately she “called a private meeting in Olema” ; Brennan writes that “afterwards, at her request, the Sheltered Wilderness report was taken off the NPS website and replaced with an acknowledgement of errors.”

This passage is an enormous oversimplification that omits the key facts. The Marin County Board of Supervisors formally voted to ask Senator Feinstein to intervene because of serious malfeasance on the part of the NPS. Before deciding to get involved, she asked her staff to look into the matter. Following months of research and investigation, Senator Feinstein’s office found that the park service was lying about the science, the law, and the history. The Senator did not get involved for political reasons, as the book implies.

Page 181              Brennan neglects to mention that a few weeks after the July 21, 2007 Olema meeting (the meeting requested by Senator Feinstein), Jarvis did give Goodman the Park harbor seal database (as the Senator had requested), and his analysis showed that there was indeed an 80% decline, precisely as Gordon Bennett, EAC, and NPS/Don/Sarah had described it numerically, but that this decline occurred at Sandbar A, far away from the oyster lease and oyster boats. There were no oyster bags at all. The likely cause, as shown in the NPS’ own harbor seal monitoring database, was a sudden connection of the sandbar to the mainland, and the resulting disturbance by both predators and park visitors. Allen retracted the 80% claim (using an unconvincing excuse) at the MMC meeting in February 2010.

Page 182              The discussion on this page makes it sound as if Kevin signed the agreement with the surrender clause. He did not. The book omits the key fact that Senator Feinstein and Mary Bomar, then NPS Director, forced Jarvis to remove that surrender clause, and that the removal of that clause is the reason Kevin signed the agreement.

Page 184              Brennan writes of the National Academy of committee tasked to evaluate the scientific data about oyster farming in Drakes Estero: “The committee, dubbed the Committee on Best Practices for Shellfish Mariculture and the Effects of Commercial Activities in Drakes Estero, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California, included scientists from academic institutions in Oregon, Washington, Rhode Island, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Southern California, Ireland and Scotland. The committee was to be overseen by a number of professionals, including scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, but also representatives from Boeing and Exxon Mobil.”

This is apparently a reference to two members of the Ocean Studies Board (OSB), JAY S. PEARLMAN, The Boeing Company (ret.), Port Angeles, Washington and MARY (MISSY) H. FEELEY, ExxonMobil Exploration Company, Houston, Texas. The makeup of OSB is not relevant to the study. These board members did not “oversee” the project. That notion seems to have been introduced to support the author’s ideological bias against industry and to support the NPS/EAC/Sierra Club attack on the NAS. Both Brennan and these activists have worked hard to obfuscate the fact that the 11 marine ecologists assembled by the NAS, after 15 months of investigation, found no environmental problem with continuing the oyster farming in Drakes Estero.

Page 188              Brennan writes that people didn’t see why the oyster farm “couldn’t be lumped in with” the Pastoral Zone. Here again, she ignores the well-documented legislative history; it was “lumped in” originally. There is clear evidence of this, yet Brennan dismisses the argument without even presenting it.

Page 193              Brennan writes that Kevin told the media he knew the park did not plan to renew the permit. While there is one published interview that seems to quote Kevin saying this (in Marin Magazine, mentioned elsewhere in the book), in most interviews he made it clear that he was first given the Park’s blessing to purchase the farm, then he cleaned it up, and only then did Superintendent Neubacher begin to claim that “his hands were tied” and the farm’s permit could not be renewed. (This happened at roughly the same time the character assassination campaign began.) Because there is no written record of these early discussions, Brennan reached out to longtime Lunny supporter Sarah Rolph to learn whether Kevin had ever been told he might be able to keep the farm past 2012. Sarah made a good-faith effort to explain exactly what Kevin did and didn’t think, know, and believe in these early years, yet Brennan seems to have purposely disregarded it, and in the book, has misrepresented what Rolph said. See Rolph’s letter to Brennan for details.

Page 194              Brennan quotes Kevin as saying “It wasn’t a proposal, it was a bankruptcy proposal.” This out-of-context quote suggests that Kevin’s primary concern was financial. That is not the case. The real issue is that it was a sham offer. Had the author interviewed Senator Feinstein she might have learned that the Senator was extremely angry about having been lied to about this purported offer of a Tomales Bay opportunity that turned out not to exist.

Page 194              Brennan writes that “the park’s wildlife cameras show that (what appeared to be) one of the DBOC boats was indeed present in the estuary when the company’s records indicated that it wasn’t. The workers did not always follow the rules.” These are serious charges – and both false — yet the book provides no evidence for them. The so-called wildlife cameras that Brennan is referring to here were NPS secret surveillance cameras trained on the oyster beds that were monitoring oyster boats and oyster workers. The NPS did make the claim that the photo Brennan refers to showed what “appeared to be” a DBOC boat. This accusation was in an NPS document entitled “Clarification of Law and Policy”. When examined, the photo captured two kayaks, not an oyster boat. Here, again, Brennan repeats a false claim that the public record shows is false.

Page 194              Brennan writes that “Details were starting to warp and change.” The implication seems to be that the oyster farm supporters were shading the truth. Yet the examples given don’t support this implication at all. Historians tell us that commercial oyster farming in Drakes Estero began the 1930s, which is roughly eight decades ago. Some reports used the more flowery “almost 100 years” or “almost a century,” sometimes to indicate that informal farming is believed to have taken place before the commercial oyster farms. This is a normal level of inaccuracy, not an attempt to deceive. Similarly, the varied reports of 30 to 60 percent of California oysters are a function of whether one is referring to oysters consumed or oysters grown, and depends on the year or years being referenced. The 30 to 60 percent range is entirely accurate.

Page 195              Brennan writes, “In May, the NAS report came out in earnest. It found that Sheltered Wilderness had in some instances selectively presented, over interpreted, or misrepresented available scientific information on DBOC operations by exaggerating the negative and overlooking potentially beneficial side effects.” Brennan then goes on to say “However, other than the fact that Sarah Allen has misreported Roberto Anima’s findings, the main argument made by the NAS was itself fatally flawed.”

To make her case that the Academy was wrong, Brennan claims to refute the Academy’s argument that farmed oysters replace the ecosystem services once provided by native oysters, using her novel theory that there never were any native oysters. Even if that were true, it would be beside the point, because the replacement of ecosystem services is not the report’s “main argument” (an odd way of putting it; scientists report findings, they don’t make arguments).

The actual key finding of the Academy’s report is that there is no evidence of any substantive negative environmental impact from oyster farming. Brennan, astonishingly, omits this.

Page 197              “In July 2009 Dianne Feinstein authored a rider” – no context is provided for this. The implication is that it was political favoritism, which is most definitely not the case. What Brennan fails to report is that NPS had argued (falsely) that it did not have the authority to extend to permit, so the Senator gave them that authority.

Page 198              Brennan writes “supporters of the oyster farm failed to make a distinction between the pastoral zone, which did not have any kind of wilderness designation, and the estuary, which did. Either you respected the wilderness designation of Drakes Estero, or you didn’t.” Drakes Estero was designated “potential wilderness.” Brennan seems to purposely conflate “potential wilderness” with “wilderness” – yet there is a significant distinction. Professor Laura Watt, whose academic thesis is on the management of Point Reyes National Seashore, has studied this issue and written extensively about it. Brennan completely ignores Laura Watt’s work. Brennan also omits the legislative history that supports the continuation of the pre-existing use of oyster farming in Drakes Estero within wilderness.

Page 198              “Meanwhile, Drakes Bay Oyster Company was violating the Coastal Act by refusing to sign necessary permits, racking up fines in the tens of thousands of dollars.” This is highly misleading.

The Coastal Commission and the NPS were working very closely together. At first, all seemed to support the Lunny involvement at the oyster farm. Later, the Coastal Commission appeared to team up with NPS against the Lunnys. The Coastal Commission’s harassment of the Lunnys led to a lawsuit, which the Lunnys won. The Commission’s inappropriate enforcement orders (based on many of the inaccurate NPS assertions) were overturned and the Commission was found guilty of abuse of power.

Page 228              “As soon as a rider was passed NPS was tasked with producing an EIS with which to help Ken Salazar make his verdict.” Tasked by whom? This is a key point. Many knowledgeable observers believe NPS did not need to produce an EIS in order to provide the new permit. Who decided to invoke NEPA? Why did Brennan bury that question, instead of raising it?

Page 229              The book’s discussion of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement fails to substantively discuss the controversy over this document, which raged during the summer of 2012 when Brennan was in West Marin. The book presents no information about the serious flaws in the document, the proven falsehoods that are the subject of formal misconduct complaints, the process irregularities, the fact that it is not actually a legally valid document, or any of the other controversial issues that consumed West Marin when Brennan was in town writing local interest stories.

The draft EIS was so badly flawed that Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to review it, and the academy provided serious criticism of the document, including the lack of a proper baseline. NEPA guidelines dictate that one baseline be used to compare the proposed actions. Remarkably, this EIS uses TWO baselines. This EIS improperly used the proposed (unknown) future removal of the farm as one of its baselines and the actual current condition and activity as the second (correct) baseline. The NPS selectively switched baselines to make the continuation of the same shellfish growing activity appear to have new impacts. The NPS refused to correct this abuse of NEPA in the final draft of the EIS that was provided to Secretary Salazar.

It is entirely inappropriate to make two different sets of comparisons, as the second NAS report spells out. That second NAS review is not even mentioned in Brennan’s book, much less discussed, although she wrote a news story about it when she was at the Light.

Brennan also fails to mention the explosive fact that EIS contains falsified scientific data. This was reported in a Newsweek article in January 2015, when Brennan was still gathering information for the book. The Newsweek story is especially notable because the scientist whose data was falsified, Brent Stewart, went on the record about the data falsification, which is certainly scientific misconduct. Yet Brennan ignores all this and sketches a tale in which the only scientific misconduct here is in Corey Goodman’s imagination.

Page 232              Brennan writes that the MMC panel members “did not agree on everything.” This is very misleading. One thing the scientists did agree on is that there is no reason to be concerned about the seal population in Drakes Estero, since it is nearing its carrying capacity.  Again, Brennan echoes the NPS/EAC criticism of the experts charged with the evaluation of environmental consequences of the oyster farm, experts who found no reason to stop oystering in Drakes Estero, a fact Brennan seems to have worked hard to omit.

Page 233              Brennan writes that “Ragen would eventually respond to Corey with a letter of his own.” Implies that this is the only time Ragen responded to Dr. Goodman. In fact there was a lot of back-and-forth between Goodman and Ragen during the time of the MMC work. Six months later, Ragen wrote this letter. It was almost certainly created specifically to make Goodman look bad to the NAS panel at Irvine; Neal Desai, National Parks and Conservation Assn., sent it to the panel at the last minute.. Brennan wrote a story about this while she was at the Light; her story reads like a hit piece on Goodman—it’s not clear whether she intended this, or was misled, but it is clear that she never looked into it again, and relied on her 2012 understanding of the situation when she wrote the book, rather than checking again with Goodman. She never interviewed Goodman for the book. Ragen was discredited over this and left the MMC; a complaint has been filed against him. All of this context is missing from the book.

Page 233              Dead baby seals are mentioned and described but the reader is given no idea how they fit in to the story, if indeed they do.

Page 235              Brennan writes, “After all, it was still unknown what made seals choose or abandon particular areas, and how deeply or not they could be affected by a ‘disturbance’.” This is incorrect. In fact, both marine mammal scientists and oyster farmers know quite a lot about this.

Page 235              Brennan writes that there were “ten instances of disturbance of seals by oyster boats in nine years.” This is not true, and it is shocking that it would be presented without a source or citation. This a very odd way for a so-called journalist to handle a central aspect of the dispute.

Page 235              Appendix F of the MMC report is said to have “confusing and conflicting information.” There is nothing confusing about the information in Appendix F, nor is the information there conflicting. It does conflict with the implication in the executive summary that there is some reason to believe the Becker paper showed a real correlation, but it’s that implication that’s incorrect, not the material in Appendix F.

Appendix F contains the verbatim reports of the marine mammal scientists who served on the MMC panel. Every single one of these reports says that the seals are obviously fine – the seal population in Drakes Estero is so large that the place is reaching its carrying capacity. The scientists also point out that the Becker paper wasn’t designed to find what it says it found, and that Harbor seals are well known to habituate to human activity.

Page 243              Brennan writes that Don’s letter to the Bank of Oakland was about a loan to “cover the cost of bringing things up to code.” Don’s letter to the bank clearly states that this was for “new facilities.” What is Brennan imagining the money was going to be used for, if not the new facilities?

The book presents a convoluted argument that the new processing plant and visitor center was never expected to be built. It is difficult to understand from the passage what is actually being argued here. She seems to be saying that Tom Johnson had these plans drawn up in order to buy time. She quotes from the Environmental Assessment conducted for the project in a way that emphasizes that the project was necessary to bring things up to code, but implies that this means something other than what the EA was very obviously about, the construction of a new visitor center and processing plant. The bank loan papers described the new facilities as approved by NPS in the EA. Brennan rests her case with a strawman argument: “The proposed renovations were not part of a grand, park-generated plan to build a gleaming new oyster-based visitor center.” Nobody ever said they were. That doesn’t mean the Seashore wouldn’t have gone along with the plan, after having issued a FONSI, if someone had come up with the money. It seems much more straightforward to infer they would have. And if they didn’t support the plan, it hardly seems likely that Don would have written the support letter to the bank for the new facilities. Brennan doesn’t even mention the FONSI, or the substance of the EA. The whole story is told so as to support her hypothesis that the plans were created just for show. She makes no attempt to include all relevant facts, nor did she interview the relevant people.

Page 251              Brennan says she agrees with the “dangerous precedent” argument and says the choice to keep the oyster farm would be “reversing wilderness designation.” This argument is only possible because she conflates “wilderness” with “potential wilderness.” Brennan ignores the many clear explanations about how the “potential” designation was actually used (the point was to protect the working landscapes, including the historic oyster farm). Brennan ignores the fact that the oyster farm pre-existed the 1964 wilderness act that blocks new development within wilderness. It does not require the dismantling of uses that pre-exist the act. Furthermore, this concept was specifically discussed by congress during the Pt. Reyes wilderness act where the authors of the bill agreed that the oyster farm could continue in wilderness because it was pre-existing. What precedent would continuing the oyster farm create?

Page 251              Brennan noticed that the Frost report is rather harsh about the “informant” and implies this is evidence that Goodman did something wrong. Actually it’s evidence that the report was heavily edited by Neubacher and/or Jarvis—this has been documented.

Page 252              Brennan writes, “It seemed that the outrage over the state of research at the National Park Service had eclipsed the conversation about environmental policy, and supporters of the oyster farm had changed the conversation completely.” This is highly misleading. The supporters never changed anything, they always pointed out that NPS lied about science, law, and history. It’s the park service that kept changing back and forth between legal arguments and science arguments (“arguments” is putting it very kindly).

Supporters were not outraged over “the state of research at the National Park Service.” Supporters are outraged that park service officials at Point Reyes National Seashore knowingly leveled false charges against the oyster farm, purposely creating a false narrative with which to deceive the public and elected officials, and misrepresenting scientific studies—their own and those of others. Brennan doesn’t present any information that would allow the reader to understand this position. Instead she implies that the Park Service did nothing wrong and that the supporters made everything up.

Page 258              Brennan mocks Goodman’s Dance Palace presentation and misrepresents it by presenting a tiny sliver of his remarks. The passage is written in a way that implies Goodman doesn’t care about red-legged frogs, when his point was that it was absurd for the NPS to discuss potential danger to red-legged frogs due to the continuation of oyster farming given that there are no red-legged frogs anywhere near the oyster farm.

Page 258              Brennan downplays the substitution of jet-ski data for actual oyster-farm data, implies it’s the only error, brushes off EIS falsehoods as “much to critique,” and apparently did not even consider the possibility that that those falsehoods were purposeful. There were months of public debate about these issues, and significant criticism, yet Brennan chooses not to present those facts.

Page 259              Brennan writes, “In November, Salazar flew out to California. He visited Point Reyes and Drakes Estero, spoke with the Lunnys and with their cattle ranching neighbors.”

This is highly misleading. Salazar met with the Lunnys at the oyster farm and anyone on the pro-oyster side including Steve Kinsey, scientists, etc., was required to be there for that meeting and no other and it all had to be jammed into 30 minutes. Then Salazar was escorted to a meeting at the Red Barn, insultingly called a “stakeholders meeting,” that included only the anti-oyster-farm activists. Phyllis Faber tried to attend that meeting and was denied entry.

Page 261              Brennan implies that the “first domino theory” on eliminating the ranches is just paranoia and not based on anything. Ignores that Phyllis Faber went on the record in the Light about Don having told her this was the plan. Brennan doesn’t reference the Light story and didn’t talk to Phyllis.

Page 273              Brennan discusses the Keystone Pipeline bill to which Vitter added DBOC protection, but fails to mention that Vitter is from Louisiana, a major shellfish-growing state. She apparently doesn’t realize the false science generated by the government is being used against shellfish growers.

Page 283              Brennan writes, “I wrote to Kevin repeatedly, asking him if I had gotten it wrong.”

Brennan never asked Kevin, or anyone associated with DBOC, to fact-check a single fact, story, or representation.

Brennan claims that Kevin refused to be interviewed, and that she contacted him repeatedly. In fact, she contacted Kevin only twice about the book. On July 9, 2013, Brennan informed Kevin via email that she planned to write a book about the oyster farm but did not yet have a contract. She said she was coming to town and wanted to speak with Kevin, but she never arranged an interview or tour. Instead, she showed up near the workday’s end, and bluffed her way onto an unauthorized boat trip.

The second and last contact was on January 14, 2015. At Brennan’s request, on Kevin’s behalf, DBOC media advisor Sarah Rolph had an email discussion with Brennan to try to work out interview details. Sarah offered Brennan an in-person interview, but Brennan refused. Instead, Brennan insisted on a Skype interview, and said she would send questions in advance. Even a Skype interview never occurred. Brennan’s questions were never submitted.

In July 2012 Kevin invited Brennan via email to visit the farm and get a private tour of both the shore operations and the growing areas. Brennan never took Lunny up on the invitation. During the five months that she lived in Point Reyes, Brennan apparently never once dropped by the oyster farm. She never took the tour, nor did she interview the farm manager or any of the oyster workers. She never met Kevin Lunny; when she interviewed him for the Point Reyes Light she chose to use phone and email.

Page 283              Brennan writes that she wrote to the supporters about the arguments for the farm and “nobody was able to come up with anything.” In fact, DBOC legal advisor Peter Prows did respond, and Sarah Rolph had already responded to a similar request. In both cases the information provided was ignored or misused.

Page 283              When asked by Brennan about Don Neubacher’s early conversations with Kevin Lunny, Sarah Rolph spent the better part of a week discussing this with Brennan via email. It’s a crucial part of the false narrative, and Rolph was hoping Brennan was sincere in wanting to get it right. Rolph told Brennan over and over again that there had been months of discussion, as described in Rolph’s story about this in the Russian River Times. Rolph said to Brennan:

“Kevin knew the permit expired in 2012, because he did his homework, and he knew that Don was worried about all the challenges because he had watched this all happen. Kevin knew that Don was considering a future non-renewal, because Don was open about that. There were months of discussion between Don and Kevin about the various challenges, the fact that the Coastal Commission was on the warpath, the potential for non-renewal, etc. Kevin made the very natural assumption that the possibility of non-renewal was driven by the problems and issues. It’s a perfectly logical assumption given everything we know about this historic resource. Who would shut down a beloved historic oyster farm AFTER it had been cleaned up? Nobody imagined that in 2004.”

Brennan misrepresents what Rolph told her, leaving out all context, and writing only: “the message I got was that, No, nobody with NPS told Kevin he could renew per se.

Page 285              Brennan writes, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Koch-backed group chose to fund the fight.” What “coincidence” is being asserted? The implication here of shadowy interests is entirely absurd. Cause of Action is not “Koch-backed” nor did the group fund anything. Cause of Action is one of many firms that provided pro bono support. Brennan omits from her book any mention of the reason Cause of Action was engaged.

Cause of Action was engaged specifically to help the Lunnys and Dr. Goodman file a Data Quality Act complaint about the false science used by the park service. That 71-page DQA complaint is one of 5 DQAs lodged about this malfeasance. Two of those DQAs were filed by the Point Reyes Light, the newspaper for which Brennan worked for five months. Not one of these complaints is mentioned in the book, or even in the extensive bibliography. Cause of Action is presented as if it were an ideological ally, when nothing could be further from the truth—this group was selected strictly for its expertise in DQA filings, and its work product was top notch. Given that this book is being marketed as non-fiction, Brennan’s choice to omit all of these relevant facts is highly inappropriate.

Page 285              Brennan claims that the removal of this farm did not threaten others. That is incorrect, as documented by East Coast Shellfish Association president Bob Rheault, who has written several significant letters about this. Shellfish growers are very upset about the government’s false charges about oyster farming being bad for the environment, because they could have a chilling effect on future oyster-farm licenses.

Comment by John Hulls: While she (Summer Brennan) quoted Point Reyes Light articles in her bibliography, none of the papers award winning coverage is mentioned in the text, which is especially relevant considering the Light DQA’s and coverage of false science and economic studies.

3-30-16 Bohemian.com: Lawsuit threatens future of cattle at PRNS

 

Beef of Burden

Lawsuit threatens future of cattle at Point Reyes National Seashore—or does it?

03-20-16 NPT Cattle Grazing in PRNS Challenged in Lawsuit

Ethan Lane, currently the executive director of the Public Lands Council and of federal lands for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, prepared a report on ranching in the area for the Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association in 2014. He said recently that the ranchers are “under imminent threat.”

The groups that filed the lawsuit “are attempting to create something there that has never been there,” Mr. Lane said. “They totally ignore the fact that that has been an agriculturally managed landscape for hundreds of years. You’ve never had a pure wilderness situation at Point Reyes.”

*     *     *     *     *

Mr. Lane, of the Public Lands Council, said ranchers at Point Reyes “are some of the most environmentally sensitive stewards of resources that I’ve ever come across. For them to become a target of this is doubly frustrating.”

*     *     *     *     *

Ranchers say best management practices, existing leases and assurances to Seashore ranchers, and the original intent of Congress have been ignored in the face of outside political pressure. Short-term lease renewals hinder their ability to qualify for loans and matching grants, and decrease incentive to invest in improvements.

“This is a kind of Frankenstein of the Park Service’s own creation,” Mr. Lane said, “and I don’t think they know where to go from here.”

 

By Scott Johnson on March 20th, 2016

Point Reyes National Seashore long has existed with ranching within its borders, but now some environmental groups want the cattle to go/Bruce Keegan

Less than two years after an oyster-farming operation was shut down in Point Reyes National Seashore following a dispute that was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, three environmental groups are challenging the National Park Service over the planned renewal of leases to cattle-ranching and dairy operations that have existed on the coastal California peninsula for 150 years.

However, other conservation groups, some of which approved of the decision to remove Drakes Bay Oyster Company and convert the vacated land into wilderness, support continued sustainable farming at Point Reyes. They point out that the ranching families were instrumental in the establishment of the Seashore in 1962 and that turning away from that relationship would threaten the creation of public land elsewhere.

And for Bob McClure, whose daughters are the fifth generation of his family in the dairy business at Point Reyes, nearly 130 years of history is at risk.

“We are concerned, but we have not packed our suitcases yet,” he said. “I believe the park will continue to do what it can to support agriculture in the park.”

At issue is whether the Park Service has considered the impact that these ranches have on the environment and wildlife at Point Reyes, and whether the proposal to issue new leases without an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement violates the National Environmental Policy Act.

Three groups – the Resource Renewal Institute, Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project – filed a lawsuit Feb. 10 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco seeking to require the park to update its General Management Plan and prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before allowing the extension of grazing leases. They argue that the cattle and dairy operations, comprising more than 18,000 of the park’s 71,000 acres, negatively affect the environment (water quality, methane emissions, erosion, fish habitat), the infrastructure (pavement degradation from milk trucks) and recreational opportunities at Point Reyes. They say the park is relying on an outdated management plan, adopted in 1980, that fails to address current conditions, such as climate change, drought in the area and an expanding footprint of Tule elk.

“The Park Service continues to authorize commercial grazing permits at the Point Reyes National Seashore without an Environmental Impact Statement on how ranching impacts the park, which is needed to ensure protection of the park’s ecosystems,” Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity who lives in West Marin, said in a release. “We’re filing this lawsuit because we love the park and believe it’s up to everyone to make sure the National Seashore is managed sustainably so that future generations can enjoy it as we have.”

Some environmental groups contend that cattle shouldn’t be allowed within the borders of Point Reyes National Seashore/Karen Klitz

A spokesperson for the national seashore declined to comment due to the active litigation, but in 2014 the park began to prepare a new Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan, which includes an Environmental Assessment, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. A scoping fact sheet notes that these working ranches, in an area known as the Pastoral Zone, “represent an important contribution to the superlative natural and cultural resources of these NPS lands.”

More than 3,000 public comments were submitted on the plan. As of now, release of the Environmental Assessment for public review and comment is scheduled for later in 2016, which is a year behind the original schedule. No progress has recently been made on the General Management Plan.

“We feel the current planning process allows for full public review,” said Kate Powers, president of the Marin Conservation League, which supports continued ranching at the Seashore.

Ethan Lane, currently the executive director of the Public Lands Council and of federal lands for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, prepared a report on ranching in the area for the Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association in 2014. He said recently that the ranchers are “under imminent threat.”

The groups that filed the lawsuit “are attempting to create something there that has never been there,” Mr. Lane said. “They totally ignore the fact that that has been an agriculturally managed landscape for hundreds of years. You’ve never had a pure wilderness situation at Point Reyes.”

The lawsuit shines a light on an iconic coastline with rich natural, historical, cultural, and recreational value. Balancing those interests and understanding the intent of different legislation has led to decades of disagreements over priorities, purpose and protection at Point Reyes.

A Complex Land-Use History

Ranchers began grazing the area in the 1800s and were pioneers of California’s dairy industry, modernizing production equipment and methods. The lush grasses, fortified by a cool climate and moisture from rain and fog, make ideal conditions for grazing cattle. The Pastoral Zone is bordered to the east by Tomales Bay, to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the south by Drakes Bay, with Drakes Estero jutting inland to create four finger-shaped bays. The cattle dot windswept grasslands, with an occasional grouping of houses, barns and sheds that form the ranch complexes historically known by an alphabetical designation (A to Z). Some hug rugged headlands overlooking the ocean, and  others gently slope to sandy beaches.

That landscape, just a 40-mile drive north of San Francisco, was an obvious draw for developers and conservationists, which pushed property prices higher. As pressure increased in the 1950s and ’60s, Point Reyes ranchers joined with the Sierra Club to preserve their way of life. They offered to voluntarily sell their land to the Park Service at a reduced price in exchange for the opportunity to continue operating on the peninsula. Legislation to create Point Reyes National Seashore was signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. The original allocation of $14 million from Congress was not enough to buy all the land, and it wasn’t until 1970 that an additional $43.5 million was secured to complete the purchases.

The pastoral zone is a bucolic area of Point Reyes National Seashore where cattle ranching is permitted/Karen Klitz

At the time of the authorization, there were about 27 working ranches at Point Reyes, according to Ranching on the Point Reyes Peninsula, a history of dairy and beef ranches released in 1993 by park historian D.S. (Dewey) Livingston. The ranchers signed 25- to 30-year reservations of use and occupancy leases as well as special use permits for cattle grazing. Since then, leases have been renewed on short-term arrangements, generally maxing out at five years, as the family operations have been passed down from generation to generation. Today, 13 ranching families remain in the Pastoral Zone.

Now that most of the original reservations of use have expired, the lawsuit says the Park Service is under no obligation to renew the leases and permits. It cites the agency’s 2006 Management Policies, which states the Park Service should “phase out the commercial grazing of livestock whenever possible.” Ranching, under the decades-old park management plan, violates the Seashore’s mandate for “maximum protection” of wildlife and natural resources, the lawsuit says.

Gordon Bennett, the president of local conservation group Save Our Seashore and a supporter of continued ranching in the park, said the lawsuit definition is “not supportable.”

“If NPS held to the lawsuit’s strict interpretation of ‘maximum protection,’ then there would be no trails, no roads to Seashore beaches and no visitor centers,” Mr. Bennett said.

Point Reyes isn’t alone in having cattle graze within its boundaries, as Capitol Reef National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, both in Utah, are among other sites administered by the National Park Service that allow it.

But area scientist Corey Goodman says ranchers are being squeezed out of national parks. He has written about similarities between the agreements at Point Reyes and at Santa Rosa Island in Channel Islands National Park, where a family sold its land to the Park Service under an agreement that allowed them to continue ranching for up to 25 years. The family, pressured by environmentalists and tighter regulations, vacated its farming operation before obligated when a lawsuit claiming the ranch violated environmental restrictions was settled.

Mr. Lane, of the Public Lands Council, said ranchers at Point Reyes “are some of the most environmentally sensitive stewards of resources that I’ve ever come across. For them to become a target of this is doubly frustrating.”

Not The First Debate

Grazing cattle on public lands has made national headlines in the past few years, highlighted by the recent arrests of more than a dozen protesters, most prominently members of the Bundy family, for actions in Oregon and Utah. But at Point Reyes, a different type of farming set off a debate that helped lead to last month’s lawsuit.

When Drakes Bay Oyster Company took control of an oyster farm at Drakes Estero in 2005, owner Kevin Lunny was optimistic he could obtain a new lease. However, Ken Salazar, the Interior Secretary at the time, declined to renew the lease when it expired in 2012, saying the estero was marked for protection by the 1976 Point Reyes National Seashore Wilderness Act. The commercial operation was seen as being incompatible with such a designation. After Secretary Salazar’s decision, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis designated Drakes Estero as part of the Phillip Burton Wilderness Area. The oyster company sued, and the case was appealed for two years all the way to the Supreme Court, which declined to review the case. Drakes Bay Oyster Company closed at the end of 2014, which ended a decades-long history of commercial shellfishing at the Seashore.

In some areas of the pastoral zone, trodding cattle have eroded away the grass/Karen Klitz

That dispute prompted Secretary Salazar to direct the Park Service to work on extending leases “from 10 to 20 years to provide greater certainty and clarity for the ranches operating within the national park’s Pastoral Zone and to support the continued presence of sustainable ranching and dairy operations,” according to a release from 2012. Then, in a memo dated Jan. 31, 2013, Director Jarvis delegated authority to issue leases and permits of up to 20 years, saying the directive is “supportive of multi-generational ranching and dairying within the Pastoral Zone and is consistent with the … provisions of the park’s enabling legislation.

Neal Desai, director of Pacific Region Field Operations for the National Parks Conservation Association, said both ranching in the park and the RCMP process should continue.

“National Parks Conservation Association supports Secretary Salazar’s multi-part decision at Point Reyes National Seashore that protected Drakes Estero marine wilderness and directed the Park Service to pursue 20-year lease terms for Seashore ranchers,” Mr. Desai said. “We believe that the development of the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan is an appropriate approach to ensure improved protections for all Seashore values, including recreation, public access, natural resources and wildlife. The plan will help ensure that ranching operations standardize best management practices in support of the Seashore’s diverse values.”

That opinion is shared by local conservations groups.

“The public and NPS made the deal to create the Seashore out of private ranch lands, and that deal has to be kept, just as the wilderness deal had to be kept,” Mr. Bennett said.

Tule Elk Highlight Tensions

Although some environmental groups have spoken up in support of ranching and dairying, both sides have concerns.

Conservationists say cattle grazing can degrade grassland and meadow habitats and contribute to degraded water quality through manure and waste runoff. Public comments noted unpleasant odors and sights associated with cattle waste.

“The Sierra Club does not oppose the extension of the ranch leases but does oppose any ranching practices that adversely affect the natural resources of the park,” said Alan Carlton, chair of the Federal Parks Committee of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club. He added that the group does not have a position on the lawsuit.

Ranchers say best management practices, existing leases and assurances to Seashore ranchers, and the original intent of Congress have been ignored in the face of outside political pressure. Short-term lease renewals hinder their ability to qualify for loans and matching grants, and decrease incentive to invest in improvements.

“This is a kind of Frankenstein of the Park Service’s own creation,” Mr. Lane said, “and I don’t think they know where to go from here.”

While cattle grazing is one issue at Point Reyes National Seashore, there also have been charges that the National Park Service has not properly managed the Tule elk on the seashore/NPS

But probably the biggest point of contention is Tule elk, which were reestablished at the Seashore beginning in 1978. Just as environmentalists argue that the impacts of the cattle and dairy operations hasn’t been studied, ranchers say elk have been allowed to roam freely in the Pastoral Zone, which was not intended, and little has been done to remove them. The elk destroy fencing, can spread disease, interfere with operations and graze on grasslands leased to ranchers.

“Point Reyes is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been, and it’s not just from a natural perspective,” Mr. Lane said. “It is that balance, that totally unique environment and snapshot of history. It’s a healthy ecosystem. To arbitrarily release a new element into that is irresponsible.”

Once abundant in California, Tule elk populations dwindled in the 1800s, primarily due to overhunting and displacement by cattle. Thought to be extinct, around 30 animals were discovered in 1874, and efforts were made to save the species. State and federal legislation led to 10 animals being reintroduced at a 2,600-acre fenced enclosure on Tomales Point in 1978 in an attempt to restore natural systems historically found at Point Reyes. The fence was introduced to keep the elk separate from the cattle. After a period of slow growth, the population exploded to more than 500 in the 1990s, and ranchers pointed to studies that that number far exceeded optimal carrying capacity.

The park explored options for controlling the elk population. In 1998, 28 animals taken from Tomales Point were released in the wilderness area south of Limantour Beach, across Drakes Estero from the Pastoral Zone.

But starting in 2000, some of the elk were spotted at Drakes Beach in the Pastoral Zone. These free-roaming elk were not covered under the 1998 Elk Management Plan, and ranchers say the Park Service chose not to deal with the incursion. In population numbers for 2014, an RCMP update noted 92 Tule elk at “D Ranch.” Last year, the park moved three elk from D Ranch to Limantour, and two returned to D Ranch within 11 days.

Between 2012 and 2014, more than 250 Tule elk living in the fenced preserve on Tomales Point died, which the park attributed to drought conditions in California. Last month, five free-roaming tule elk at the Seashore tested positive for Johne’s disease, which can lead to rapid weight loss and diarrhea. The elk were part of the Drake’s Bay herd, which shares pasture with cattle. The disease occurs most frequently in domestic livestock herds.

“Although present park management inherited the problem, it is a huge problem and it has no easy solution,” said Mr. McClure, whose land at the northern end of the peninsula has not yet been impacted by the elk, though he expects it will without management. “In my opinion, it is the biggest problem of the ranches in the park today.”

Opportunities For Improvement

Mr. McClure, whose McClure Dairy milks about 500 cows on 1,200 acres, said the 20-year leases would give ranches security and incentive to invest back into the property. He noted the Seashore was helpful when he wanted to build new barns that solved his ranch’s impacts from runoff on water quality in Abbotts Lagoon.

This cooperation among ranchers, the Park Service, and environmental groups has “opened my eyes on how to lessen some impacts that agriculture can have on our natural resources and come up with best management practices to continue ranching on the Point.”

The rancher said the relationship has worked well for 45 years, and the in-progress Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan will bring an improved ecosystem.

“Lawsuits should be a last resort,” he said. “We should be able to cooperatively work together to solve issues without involving the courts.”

The lawsuit takes issue with the park moving forward with the RCMP, which primarily focuses on the long-term needs of ranchers, and not a General Management Plan for all public uses at the Seashore.

“The Park Service needs to take a step back and look at the impacts of commercial ranching on the park overall,” Huey D. Johnson, president of Resource Renewal Institute and former California Secretary of Resources, said in a release announcing the lawsuit.

Although Mr. Bennett, of Save Our Seashore, supports granting the ranchers new leases, he sees multiple items – wildlife-friendly fencing, sizing and maintaining of manure ponds, overgrazing – to be addressed by the RCMP. These issues and more, such as recreational opportunities, habitat enhancement and historic structures, are being considered as part of the process.

“There can and should be a renaissance of sustainable agriculture in Point Reyes that can be a model nationwide,” he said.

Traveler footnote: To read a column that argues for removal of cattle ranches at Point Reyes, click here.

03-14-16 Response to E&E article, Ranchers in bull’s-eye of legal brawl over Calif. seashore

Dear Jeremy:

Your opening statement in the article is incorrect.
“His bitter fight with the Interior Department to renew his oyster farm’s lease ballooned into a national debate over federal land management and sparked skirmishes between environmentalists who wanted Drakes Estero managed as wilderness and conservative groups and others that sided with the business.”
The “skirmishes” to which you refer were not between “environmentalists” and “conservative groups” but between wilderness extremists and SUSTAINABLE AGRIGULTURALISTS as well as the AUTHORS OF THE 1976 WILDERNESS ACT, who wished to see the SPIRIT AND WORDS of the ORIGINAL AGREEMENTS HONORED, as well as those of the ORIGINAL ENVIRONMENTAL orgainzations who BESEECHED IN WRITING AND IN PERSON, those who cobbled together the 1976 wilderness act, to continue the oyster farm and the ranchers.
for the reference materials on the 1975/1976 Wilderness Act
Please, correct your article.
Sincerely,
Jane Gyorgy

03-14-16: Huf Post: End of Ag @ PRNS: The Jarvis Playbook

The End of Agriculture at Point Reyes National Seashore: The Jarvis Playbook

03/14/2016 01:03 am ET | Updated 6 hours ago
  •  Corey S. GoodmanScientist and entrepreneur; retired U.C. Berkeley biology professor; member, National Academy of Sciences

What makes a national park? Some were fashioned, by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, out of what was romanticized as the Wild West. Others were created in partnership with those who have been the historic stewards of the land. The Point Reyes National Seashore, just north of San Francisco, is the latter: a national seashore created out of historic farm and ranch land, preserved by its farmers and ranchers for more than a century, to protect and promote the farming and ranching heritage of the land, and to keep it from turning into urban sprawl, golf courses, and gated communities.

But the seashore is under dire threat. A few weeks ago, the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups sued the National Park Service with the intent to clear the eleven remaining ranches out of Point Reyes National Seashore (of the nineteen that existed when PRNS was created), with clear implications for the eight remaining ranches in adjoining Golden Gate National Recreation Area (of the fifteen that existed when GGNRA was created).

The ranchers have a right to feel their days are numbered. After all, the continuation of their ranches was part of the deal when these parks were created. The basic problem for these ranchers, however, is that the director of the National Park Service, Jon Jarvis, agrees with these environmental groups that agriculture does not belong in a national park. As things now stand, Mr. Jarvis will make the decision about whether and how to defend this litigation. If he gets his way, the park is likely to settle the case by agreeing that the ranchers should go, or alternatively by financially restricting them such that they voluntarily shut down.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the National Park Service, in collaboration with activist environmentalists, has reneged on the original deal made by Congress to maintain the historic agriculture on parklands as a condition for the government acquiring these lands. The same playbook – what we call the Jarvis playbook – was followed successfully to clear the historic Vail & Vickers ranch off of Santa Rosa Island in 1997. If something isn’t done to stop Jarvis and his cadre now, the same thing will soon happen to the ranches at PRNS and GGNRA.

Two schools of thought exist for how the federal government should treat working landscapes when it acquires private lands and turns them into national parks.

Progressive environmentalists believe the production of wholesome food and the protection of the environment can work in harmony, and thus that our parks should preserve working landscapes. Wendell Berry provided this perspective when he wrote, in Conservation and Local Economy: “The longstanding division between conservationists and farmers, ranchers, and other private small-business people is distressing because it is to a considerable extent false.” The sustainable food movement, represented by such luminaries as Alice Waters and Michael Pollan, supports this approach as well.

On the other hand, many activist environmentalists believe that farms and ranches have no place in our parks and should be forced out as government land is returned to an imagined more pristine condition akin to what they imagine it was like before humans arrived.

Mr. Jarvis provided this perspective in an interview in 2007 when he said: “And so we’ve got the Vails on Santa Rosa, we’ve got cabins at Lake Roosevelt, oysters at Point Reyes… And as a public servant in this role, these unique pieces of the public estate, these units of the National Park system are for everybody. They’re not for individuals to continue on these special little uses that we at some point have acquired from them.

As described below, the Congressmen who wrote the laws creating the Channel Islands National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, and Golden Gate National Recreation Area intended that the farms and ranches should stay, as shown by their Congressional testimony at the time, and letters and articles they have written since. And the initial NPS representatives – the park superintendents – appear to have negotiated with the farmers and ranchers in good faith. Some major environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, at the time these parks were created, testified to Congress that the farms and ranches could and should remain.

But this was a bait and switch. Concerning both the ranch at Santa Rosa Island, and the oyster farm at Pt. Reyes, some years later, subsequent NPS officials and activists reneged on those agreements and flip-flopped, deciding that the farms and ranches needed to go. At both Santa Rosa and Pt. Reyes, they accomplished their mission by working with and encouraging local government agencies and activists to financially restrict the farms and ranches by regulatory and legal actions, and then ultimately either preventing them from renewing their permits, or filing law suits against the government with the goal of driving those ranchers off their land.

The Jarvis playbook is well funded – both publicly (with tax dollars) and privately (with well-meaning but misdirected donations) – and has been highly successful. The Vails’ ranch is gone from Santa Rosa Island, and the Lunnys’ oyster farm is gone from Pt. Reyes. And in the third act of this tragic play, the ranches at Point Reyes and GGNRA, once promised that they could stay in perpetuity, are likely to be next in line.

Below, I briefly review the history of the demise of the Vails’ ranch at Santa Rosa Island, and then consider how the same playbook is being used to drive the ranchers at Pt. Reyes off their land.

In a previous blog, I reviewed what happened to the oyster farm at Pt. Reyes. For further details, you should turn to articles written by Michael Ames in Harpers and Newsweek on the unflattering side of the American conservation movement, and how in this case, science took a back seat to ideology at the Department of the Interior. A shorter abridged version of this blog recently appeared as a guest column in the Point Reyes Light newspaper.

The Vails ranch on Santa Rosa Island
In 1980, Congress passed public law 96-199: An Act to establish the Channel Islands National Park. The bill instructed the Secretary of the Interior to acquire the lands on Santa Rosa Island (also known by the nickname Cowboy Island, in the Santa Barbara Channel Islands off the southern coast of California) “as expeditiously as possible.” The island was owned and operated by the Vail & Vickers (V&V) company.

The law allowed the Vails to obtain “a right of use and occupancy … for a definite term of not more than twenty-five years” and that “the owner shall elect the term to be reserved.” Thus, Congress agreed that the Vails could ranch the island for 25 years as of the date of the acquisition (which occurred in 1986).

The bill was written by Congressman Bob Lagomarsino with the help of National Park Service Superintendent Bill Ehorn, and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Alan Cranston. The Congressman’s contribution and leadership was recognized in 1996 when the Channel Islands National Park Visitor’s Center was named after him.

In his letter to Congress twenty-seven years later in 2007, the former Congressman wrote: “It was my clear intent, and of Congress (including CA Senator Alan Cranston), that the cattle ranching operation that had thrived for a century would continue for 25 years …” He went on to write: “As I stated to Interior secretary Bruce Babbitt in 1997, I would not have included Santa Rosa Island in the park boundary, and I doubt the Senate would have approved it, had I known that the ranchers would be caught between competing special interests for the next quarter century.

The same sentiment was expressed by the law’s co-author, Mr. Ehorn, in a letter to the court in 1997, when he wrote: “At the time of acquisition, it was also clearly understood that a viable ranching operation would be permitted to continue for 25 years. As Superintendent of the park, it was my intention to honor the commitments made by Congress and NPS and allow ranching to continue.” He went on to write: “My personal perspective is that it is important for the federal government to honor the commitments expressed by Congress and clearly understood by all who were involved when the park was created by providing for the continuation of the private ranch until 2011.” Mr. Ehorn wrote that “in the absence of these repeated assurances, I believe that the island would not have been added to the park.

In 1990, Superintendent Ehorn was transferred to Redwoods National Park. Between 1990, and 1997, when activist environmentalists filed a lawsuit to eliminate the Vails’ ranch from the island (see below), the attitude of the park service, other federal and local government agencies, and environmental groups toward the Vails’ ranch changed dramatically. Much of what we know about this seven-year period comes from a series of three columns in 2006 in the Santa Barbara News-Press written by Tim Setnicka, who was superintendent of Channel Islands National Park during part of this period.

Mr. Setnicka documented in detail how the park service leadership worked with other government agencies and environmental groups to do everything they could to get rid of the ranch. The park and its supporters started claiming cattle were polluting streams and harming endangered species (even though they had co-existed with cattle for more than 100 years), using what Mr. Setnicka called dishonest science. Restrictions were placed on the Vails’ operation by various government agencies forcing them to fence off and prevent grazing on historic pastures. Ultimately, with so many restrictions and regulations and legal fees, the Vails’ ranch fell into financial hardship.

Finally, in 1997, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and other local environmental groups sued the park service, alleging the Vails were violating the Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. The park settled the case out of court with NPCA and the Vails, and as a result of this settlement, the Vails vacated Santa Rosa Island, 14 years earlier than was the intent and commitment of Congress in 1980. The Vails agreed to this settlement because, given all of the restrictions, the ranch was no longer financially viable, and with all of the added legal costs, they were hemorrhaging financially. Moreover, as explained below, they only had a series of renewable five-year permits, and they saw little hope of getting their permit renewed, especially without further restrictions that would have made the ranch even less financially viable.

Given the language in the 1980 law, why didn’t the Vails have a 25-year lease for the entire island as Congress said they could? Why instead did they take out a 25-year lease for only 7 acres (that contained their buildings) and rely on the promise of five successive five-year permits for the grazing operation for the remainder of the island? The answer is that the government persuaded them to follow this path.

In his 1997 letter to the court, former Superintendent Ehorn provided the answer when he wrote: “Vail and Vickers were offered two procedural options for continuation: a lease or a special use permit. I was able to persuade Vail and Vickers to accept the permit option rather than the lease on the grounds that (1) a permit would be managed locally by NPS while a lease would be administered from Washington, D.C., (2) permit fees could be used to improve and maintain facilities on Santa Rosa Island relative to the management of the permit, and (3) a permit would allow NPS to begin operations on the island in cooperation with the ranch.

In his 2007 Congressional testimony, Tim Vail echoed Ehorn’s explanation when he wrote: “It was the intent of all sides involved that these agreements were to be followed for the full 25-year period.” He continued: “It was due in part to Mr. Ehorn’s persuasion that we accepted this course of action rather than opting for a 5-year lease agreement for the commercial cattle and wildlife enterprises, which would have allowed V&V to operate as it had historically until 2011 with no Park input and no public access.

Unfortunately, the Vails were not given good legal advice, and instead they followed the well-meaning (but legally misguided) advice of Mr. Ehorn who told them it would be better for them, for the park, and for their collaboration with the park, if they took out five successive five-year permits rather than a 25-year lease. The agreement was based upon trust, and the intent and commitment of Congress in 1980.

None of that mattered when the government and activists went after them in the 1990’s. With a lawsuit hanging over their heads, they settled the case and quietly vacated their historic ranch from Santa Rosa Island in 1998, 14 years earlier than Congress promised.

Nita Vail, who grew up on the ranch (and today is CEO of the California Rangeland Trust), wrote concerning her father’s decision to follow Mr. Ehorn’s advice and accept 5-year permits instead of a 25-year lease: “It was naïve and based on trust, not knowing NPS or seeing any reason why this would not happen. It literally broke my dad’s heart and he died of a fatal heart attack a year after all of the cattle were removed.

The ranches at Point Reyes
Today this same playbook is being enacted at Pt. Reyes under the leadership of Mr. Jarvis. Here too, the ranchers were led by Congress to believe, when the Point Reyes National Seashore was created in 1962, that they could stay forever. Here too, they were give a series of renewable permits rather than a permanent lease. And here too, the government and activists reneged on that agreement and are part-way along in the process of removing the ranches, either directly by lawsuit, or indirectly by restrictions leading to financial ruin.

Point Reyes National Seashore along the northern coast of California originally included nineteen ranches and today includes the remaining eleven ranches. Many ranches already folded over the years (in some cases due to bad behavior on the part of the park service), and of course the demise of the oyster farm was just a part of Jarvis’ overall plan, setting up potential Clean Water Act lawsuits against the majority of ranches that drain into Drakes Estero, a body of water now called wilderness.

In 1976, when Congress passed laws designating Drakes Estero as “potential wilderness,” there was a remarkable consensus among the public – including the Park Service and environmental organizations – that the oyster farm should remain operating under wilderness designation in perpetuity. The Sierra Club, for example, argued that Drakes Estero could be put under the Wilderness Act “even while the oyster culture is continued – it will be a prior existing, non-conforming use.” The co-sponsors of the legislation, Sen. Alan Cranston, Sen. John Tunney, and Rep. John Burton, all agreed that the oyster farm should continue. The oyster farm had a permit with the potential to be renewed in 2012, just like the ranchers in PRNS and GGNRA have permits with renewal clauses.

Once the Park Service, Sierra Club, and others changed their minds and decided they wanted to remove the oyster farm, they presumably needed a justification for their flip-flop – some new information to turn public opinion – and elected officials – against the oyster farm, and thus against the permit renewal. That new information was so-called scientific evidence of environmental harm.

This is remarkably similar to what the park and activist supporters did to the Vails in the 1990’s – both the Vails and the Lunnys were turned into environmental criminals to turn public opinion against them. The same kind of negative statements have begun against the ranchers on Pt. Reyes.

In 2007, National Park Service, led by then West Regional Director Jon Jarvis (who in 2009 under President Obama became NPS Director), announced that the oyster farm was harming harbor seals, polluting the water, smothering eelgrass, killing fish, and degrading the estero’s ecosystem. As is well documented, none of this was true.

In November 2012, then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ruled against the oyster farm’s permit renewal, citing, in part, the conclusions about environmental harm in the National Park Service’s environmental impact statement, conclusions that have shown to be based on dishonest science (see previous blog).

Pro bono lawyers representing the oyster farm filed suit in December 2012 asking a federal court to reverse the Salazar’s decision to close down the farm, claiming the decision had been informed by false science. The suit went to the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately to the steps of the Supreme Court. In June 2014, the Supreme Court denied the oyster farm’s petition for a hearing. Months later, the oyster farm was gone.

In November 2014, Peter Prows (one of the pro bono lawyers for the oyster farm) and I wrote a column for the Point Reyes Light newspaper titled The End Of Agriculture On Point Reyes. We wrote: “Sadly, the closure of the oyster farm is not the end, but rather the beginning of the battle to protect agriculture on Point Reyes. We fear that in the next five years, we will witness the end of agriculture, and with it the weakening of the ecosystem that supports farming and ranching throughout West Marin.

Some folks thought we were paranoid. They were right. Unfortunately, we were also right. Several weeks ago, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and other environmental groups sued the National Park Service with the intent to clear ranching out of the seashore.

Huey Johnson, the spokesperson for the groups filing the new lawsuit, used sharper language. Explaining the decision to join the suit against the seashore, he said: “You’ve got welfare ranching going on public lands all over the West.

Like the groups who sued over the Vails (e.g., NPCA) and who are now suing over ranching at Point Reyes (e.g., CBD), Mr. Jarvis is trying to rewrite history. Both parks and the GGNRA were set up as a partnership between agriculturalists and environmentalists, not as a means to purge the land of its agricultural history.

Will the seashore ranches go the way of the Vails? Sadly, it is hard now to imagine a scenario in which they won’t, unless Congress takes action. This is all part of the Jarvis playbook. That book is well funded, and the suit has engaged one of the very best law firms. It worked on Santa Rosa Island, it worked with the oyster farm at Pt. Reyes, and, unless the local and broader community does our best to stop it, it will undoubtedly work here.

Back in 2014, Mr. Prows and I challenged local activists and National Park Service officials to pledge to oppose efforts to run the ranchers out of the seashore. All of them remained silent. Since the lawsuit was filed a few weeks ago, the silence has been deafening from the same folks.

Here’s what needs to happen.

First, Mr. Jarvis, who several weeks ago was formally reprimanded for intentional ethics violations by the Interior Department’s Inspector General, needs to recuse himself from any decision-making about this lawsuit. The Inspector General should make the decisions for the park service in the suit.

Second, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Jared Huffman should introduce legislation requiring the park service to protect its historic agriculture at PRNS and GGNRA. A strongly worded law could trump current and potential future lawsuits.

The ranches on Point Reyes are about to disappear, and if they do, the ranches in Golden Gate National Recreation Area will soon follow. If we remain passive, that will surely happen. I suspect Mr. Jarvis’ fingerprints are all over what is going on. It’s time for a broad coalition of progressive environmentalists, agriculturalists, the sustainable food movement, people who insist on trust and accountability in government, and our elected officials, to stand up together and say no.

3/4/16: NPS Embroiled in Sexual Harassment & Controversies

For the National Park Service, its 100-year anniversary was not supposed to unfold this way.
The milestone was to be a year-long victory lap celebrating what National Geographic rightly called our “Common Ground,” not a drumbeat of controversies ranging from sexual harassment by NPS Grand Canyon river guides (complete with up-skirt photography charges and withholding food for sex) to the Office of Inspector General compelling National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to receive monthly ethics training for the rest of his career.

 

Edition: US

 

 

THE BLOG

For Parks Service, Yosemite Re-naming Is Latest Shock In 100th Birthday Year

03/04/2016 04:21 pm ET |

 

Sara Warner Publisher, National Courts Monitor

For the National Park Service, its 100-year anniversary was not supposed to unfold this way.
The milestone was to be a year-long victory lap celebrating what National Geographic rightly called our “Common Ground,” not a drumbeat of controversies ranging from sexual harassment by NPS Grand Canyon river guides (complete with up-skirt photography charges and withholding food for sex) to the Office of Inspector General compelling National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to receive monthly ethics training for the rest of his career.

Now the NPS is changing the names of iconic Yosemite National Park properties as part of a high-profile civil lawsuit. Shockingly, the Park Service does not even control the trademark for many of the park names – maybe even the name of the park. So, who would have ever thought it was a good idea to have a private company own those names? Brace yourself: it seems that party would be the Park Service itself, which required a concessionaire to buy the names and agree to sell them to the next concessionaire, but now there’s a dispute over value.
National Public Radio reported on Wednesday that “… hotels and other Yosemite landmarks have been renamed because of a contract dispute. The outgoing concessionaire, Delaware North, lost its bid for a new contract to manage the properties to Yosemite Hospitality, LLC, a subsidiary of Aramark. Delaware North sued, saying the bidding process was unfair.”
The players here are the Park Service and concessioners who operate amenities like hotels and restaurants inside the parks, paying a percentage to the NPS. The Delaware North Company ran the Yosemite contracts for about 22 years, and last year lost a bidding process to another concessionaire. Delaware North says its contract requires it to sell – and the next concessionaire to purchase – property it owns including the trademarks because the NPS required it to buy that property from the previous concessionaire 22 years ago.
So far, a national media firestorm has followed the NPS narrative of “greedy company tries to copyright names” and Delaware North has faced a public relations nightmare. It has offered to let the NPS and the incoming concessionaire use the names for free until the litigation is completed, but the government and the other company have declined those offers. They say using the names under those terms would impact the underlying litigation.
However, not all media bought the NPS-as-victim story. For example, Mother Jones magazine writer Kevin Drum quickly updated his take on the litigation, writing that the story first seemed “obviously outrageous and that was the tone I took… but that was probably wrong. I ended up looking into this issue a little more deeply, and it turns out the whole thing goes back several years and is actually a fairly pedestrian contract dispute.”

Drum adds: “It turns out there’s nothing inherently outrageous about Delaware North owning some of these trademarks, as even the Park Service admits. ‘We have not denied the fact that they do own intellectual property,’ said Scott Gediman, a spokesman for Yosemite National Park. ‘But with these trademarks, it’s kind of two issues: One, are these trademarks valid, and, two, what is the value of them?'”
You also find a more nuanced story from the parks-specific websites. The “best” version is likely the National Parks Traveler, which offers this eye-opening background of a Park Service clearly making it up as they go: “The Park Service had initially inserted an amendment to the concessions contract stating that any new concessionaire… would have to purchase DNCY’s intangible property, but later withdrew that requirement. However, in a letter dated Dec. 31, 2015, the Park Service again reversed course and said Aramark would have to purchase DNCY’s trademark holdings. However, while DNCY placed a $51 million value on its trademarks and other intangible property, which includes a customer database with more than 720,000 names and ’75 different informational fields,’ domain names and websites, the Park Service placed a $3.5 million value on it.”
So what’s really going on with this litigation? Some feel it’s being decided in the court of public opinion.
A National Geographic writer is among those wondering if the Park Service is engaging in a bit of high-stakes public relations and that maybe changing the names “temporarily” is less “timid” and more “tactic.”
It’s pretty scary to think that a government agency might use its credibility to intentionally mislead media and the public as a litigation tactic – after all, their “lawyers” are the U.S. Justice Department. Yet I’m assured by some of my Rocky Mountain media colleagues that freedom of information requests are being prepared to find out more. Normally, public servants should get the benefit of the doubt, but after seeing the Grand Canyon sexual harassment report and noting the ethics lapse of the top NPS official, you have to wonder what’s next for this “victory lap.”

MORE:

Mother Jones, National Park Service, Kevin Drum, Jon Jarvis

3-6-16 NPT: Jarvis skirted ethics and lied

This is not an ordinary book review. The only reason I know about this book is because I read in the news that National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis had been disciplined for writing it, so this review will also discuss that context.

As readers of National Parks Traveler know, the book was the subject of an Office of Inspector General investigation that found Mr. Jarvis had intentionally skirted the Interior Department’s Ethics Office to write it, and that the director lied to Interior Secretary Jewell about some of the details.

*     *     *     *     *

Many National Parks Traveler readers made this point in their comments on Traveler’s story about the OIG investigation, saying Director Jarvis’s ethics lapse is “evidence of a culture of arrogance and abuse of power.” Readers have provided a long list of investigations and complaints that show a pattern of “gross mismanagement” and “cover-ups” under Director Jarvis, and have pointed out that “Violating agency policy and then justifying it to the Inspector General as ‘risk taking’ demonstrates he neither understands nor appreciates the burden of leadership responsibility.”

National Parks Traveler

Fireside Read: Guidebook To American Values And Our National Parks

 

By Sarah Rolph on March 6th, 2016

This is not an ordinary book review. The only reason I know about this book is because I read in the news that National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis had been disciplined for writing it, so this review will also discuss that context.

As readers of National Parks Traveler know, the book was the subject of an Office of Inspector General investigation that found Mr. Jarvis had intentionally skirted the Interior Department’s Ethics Office to write it, and that the director lied to Interior Secretary Jewell about some of the details.

The IG report tells us that Interior Department officials are concerned that the book looks like a government publication, which it is not. Indeed it does look like one, with a huge NPS arrowhead logo on the front cover containing the book’s title and the name of its author (Jonathan B. Jarvis), and a bison that overlaps with the arrowhead; the effect is of the NPS logo come to life.

The IG report tells us that some of the DOI officials interviewed were concerned that the use of Mr. Jarvis’s job title in the book is inappropriate, creating the appearance of government endorsement.

The report says, “Two areas in the book reference Jarvis’ government title: his biography in the back, which highlights various positions that he has held at NPS, and the book’s preface, written by writer and producer Dayton Duncan.”

In fact, there is another place Director Jarvis’s title is used, and used very prominently: the blurb on the back cover. The purpose of the blurb is, of course, to explain to people who are considering purchasing the book what the book is about. Here’s the blurb, in its entirety:

As it celebrates its centennial, the National Park Service now manages more than 400 special places. In these pages, Jonathan Jarvis, the 18th director of the National Park Service, adds a new chapter in the evolution of the national park idea. National parks, he asserts, are expressions of our values. What unites this increasingly diverse system of natural wonderlands and historic sites, in an increasingly diverse nation, are the values we share in common–and Jarvis provides an impressive list of parks and the values they illuminate. –Dayton Duncan

According to the IG report, “Jarvis stated that he purposely tried to downplay his government position in the book by limiting the use of his title and using a photo of himself not wearing his NPS uniform.”

This is disingenuous at best. Director Jarvis’s position is not downplayed, it is a central feature of the book’s narrative. That’s clear from what he said to the IG: “Jarvis said that the book ‘wasn’t about’ him; it was about what he was trying to accomplish in his tenure as Director.” But that is a distinction without a difference.

This is not just a book about American values, or a book about the relationship between those values and the national parks; it is very clearly a book about Director Jarvis’s vision of those two things—a very active vision, in which he himself “adds a new chapter in the evolution of the national park idea.”

The spotlight on Director Jarvis goes beyond the blurb and the preface. The book’s Epilogue — which, like the blurb, is not mentioned in the IG report — is not only written by Director Jarvis, it is written in the first person, about his experiences in the NPS. It begins: “As a young ranger during the winter of 1976-1977, I spent many a cold, windy day in the marble chamber of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. On the coldest days, hours would pass without a single visitor, so I was alone with Mr. Jefferson. His writings, carved into the porticos, became familiar verse….”

There is a very real sense in which this is a book “about” Director Jarvis. That alone seems unbecoming.

The values discussed in the book are not in themselves controversial. They include such universal values as Integrity, Honesty, Respect, Conservation, Restoration, and Science. What’s painful here is that Director Jarvis’s career reflects a marked lack of adherence to such values.

Many National Parks Traveler readers made this point in their comments on Traveler’s story about the OIG investigation, saying Director Jarvis’s ethics lapse is “evidence of a culture of arrogance and abuse of power.” Readers have provided a long list of investigations and complaints that show a pattern of “gross mismanagement” and “cover-ups” under Director Jarvis, and have pointed out that “Violating agency policy and then justifying it to the Inspector General as ‘risk taking’ demonstrates he neither understands nor appreciates the burden of leadership responsibility.”

My own experience with Director Jarvis supports this perception. For almost a decade, I watched as Mr. Jarvis, first as Western Regional Director and then as National Park Service director, supported Point Reyes National Seashore in leveling serious false charges against a third-generation Point Reyes rancher who restored the historic Drakes Bay Oyster Farm only to have it snatched from the community and destroyed to create an artificial “wilderness.” There is a grotesque contrast between the actions taken against Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the values Director Jarvis claims he embraces: Enterprise, Entrepreneurship, Hard Work, Ingenuity, Science, and Working Lands.

To represent the value “Working Lands,” Director Jarvis profiles Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site in Montana. The passage reads in part: “From the family farm, forest, and ranch, Americans have formed a working-class of people tied to the lands that encompass the green pastures of the Shenandoah, to the Great Plains of the Midwest, and the fertile valleys of California. At times romanticized, Americans today are still working their lands as a family garden, or a manicured lawn, or as multigenerational farmers and ranchers. The National Park Service keeps this value alive through a variety of sites.”

Grant-Kohrs Ranch is a historic site only. It commemorates the cattle ranching of the past. Does Mr. Jarvis really think that Working Land that is no longer working “keeps this value alive”? How does Mr. Jarvis square his claim to admire Enterprise and Entrepreneurship with his agency’s ruthless and entirely unprincipled fight against a family farm that exemplified those virtues? How can Mr. Jarvis claim to believe in Science as a value when his agency has been caught red-handed committing scientific fraud?

The Guidebook to American Values and Our National Parks, by Jonathan B. Jarvis is, as Mr. Jarvis suspected, a book that should never have been published.

Sarah Rolph has closely followed the case of the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. and its fight against the National Park Service to remain in business at the seashore. She is writing a book about its last steward, Kevin Lunny. Along with other Drakes Bay supporters, Sarah created and continues to maintain the advocacy website http://savedrakesbay.com/core/

2-29-16 PEER: Jarvis ethically challenged

Jon Jarvis, the presidentially-appointed, Senate confirmed Director of the National Park Service, is an ethically-challenged individual who has been the worst NPS Director in living memory. In the latest demonstration that he thinks rules do not apply to him, the Inspector General uncovered a string of ethics violations in connection to a book about national parks that he authored.  
 
 
 
 
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February 29, 2016
Dear__,
Jon Jarvis, the presidentially-appointed, Senate confirmed Director of the National Park Service, is an ethically-challenged individual who has been the worst NPS Director in living memory. In the latest demonstration that he thinks rules do not apply to him, the Inspector General uncovered a string of ethics violations in connection to a book about national parks that he authored.  
Jarvis –
  • Approached a concessionaire for whom he had just signed an agreement for operating 138 park stores to publish his book, thus flouting conflict of interest prohibitions;
  • Kept the copyright for the book in his own name, contrary to the ban on compensation for work relating to one’s job duties;
  • Used government equipment and staff time for his personal project, while misusing his office, as the book made repeated references to his position;
  • Improperly approved display of the official NPS Arrowhead logo on the book jacket; and
  • Ignored repeated warnings that he needed to obtain ethics approval for the book (which he avoided because he did not want it edited by Interior officials).
To top it off, he then lied to his boss, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, by telling her that the concessionaire had approached him with the book idea – when it was the other way around. Jarvis didn’t think he’d get caught because he had created a bogus email trail.  He also sent Jewell a note with a copy of the newly published book which falsely declared “there are no ethics issues.” (Emphasis in original)
Oh by the way, the subject of his book is … ethics.  Pompously titled “Guidebook to American Values and Our National Parks,” it has only “sold” 228 copies –not counting the 50 or so Jarvis has sent to staff and friends.  So, his “publisher” is out several thousand dollars for his powerful patron’s vanity project.
So what was Jarvis’ punishment?  He got a written reprimand and was relieved of supervisory responsibility over the NPS ethics program. By contrast, if he were an NPS whistleblower he would almost surely face removal
Unfortunately, this case is not isolated and epitomizes the culture of corruption Jarvis has fostered during his tenure. For example –
Today, Jarvis is flying around the country in corporate jets to drum up a billion-dollar private endowment to help finance NPS Centennial celebrations. This incessant fundraising, like his book, is not particularly effective but certainly is tawdry.
America’s proverbial “Best Idea” should not be “co-branded” with breweries or bartered away in sleazy corporate “partnerships”.
 
In its centennial year, the Park Service direly needs and deserves new leadership. Help PEER remain an active park guardian.
Sincerely,
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/823/images/jeff_signature.jpg
Jeff Ruch
Executive Director
P.S. Barack Obama watches ESPN.  He apparently saw former soccer star Julie Foudy interview me in a piece called “Turf War: The Danger of Crumb Rubber” about unexamined dangers of artificial play surfaces made from shredded tires. As a result, he ordered three agencies that had been balking (EPA, the CDC and the Consumer Product Safety Commission) to begin to scope out a risk assessment. We raised concerns that there may be no actual follow-up to the proposed “Action Plan” – a complaint which earned me another spot on ESPN to debate an industry toxicologist. We hope the President was watching because his administration could take steps right now to ensure that playgrounds and sports fields for young athletes are safe
Support our work to make playgrounds safe and sign the White House petition calling for action that tire-crumb playgrounds are made lead-free and meet statutory chemical limits for a “children’s product”.    
P.P.S. It is said that laws, like sausages, are best kept out of view during production. Add federal scientific integrity review to that unsightly list.  Look at how the promises by Barack Obama in 2009 that during his administration there would be no political suppression of science, there would be full transparency and scientists would not face reprisal for controversial findings have been stood on their heads. Franz Kafka would feel right at home in today’s USDA. 
P.P.P.S. You can also follow PEER on Twitter and Facebook. Also if you do not already receive our award-winning newsletter PEEReview, you can subscribe here.
 
 
 
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2-25-16 Jarvis reprimanded, ignored ethics rules

NPS Director Jon Jarvis has been reprimanded for ignoring Interior Department ethics rules/NPS
An investigation has found that National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis intentionally skirted the Interior Department’s Ethics Office to write a book, a Guidebook to American Values and Our National Parks, for a cooperating association contractually tied to the Park Service, an action that brought the director an official reprimand from top Interior Department officials, who also removed him from any dealings with the Park Service’s ethics office for the rest of his career as director.
Furthermore, Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor ordered Director Jarvis to receive monthly ethics training for the rest of his tenure. 
“I am also concerned about the attitude the (investigation) demonstrates Director Jarvis exhibited toward important Departmental institutions such as the Ethics Office, the Office of the Solicitor, and the Office of the Secretary,” Deputy Secretary Connor wrote in a letter (attached below) to Mary L. Kendall, deputy inspector general for the department.
 
DOI OIG
 
Investigative Report of Jonathan Jarvis
Create Date:  Thursday, February 25, 2016
Report Date: Thursday, February 25, 2016
 
We investigated potential ethical concerns surrounding a book that Jonathan Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service (NPS), wrote and had published without consulting the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Ethics Office. The book, titled “Guidebook to American Values and Our National Parks,” was published by Eastern National, a nonprofit that has cooperating agreements with NPS to operate stores and sell merchandise in numerous national parks. 
 
We focused our investigation on whether Jarvis used his public office for private gain by seeking a book deal with Eastern National and whether he misused any U.S. Government resources in the process. We also examined Jarvis’ involvement in Eastern National matters at NPS around the time of his book deal, and we reviewed Jarvis’ decision not to seek advice from the Ethics Office on the book.
 
We found that although Jarvis wrote in a note to DOI Secretary Sally Jewell that Eastern National had asked him to write the book, it was in fact Jarvis who contacted Eastern National’s CEO to see if he would be interested in publishing it. We found that although Eastern National did not pay Jarvis to write his book, he did ask that any “royalty” he would be due as the author go to the National Park Foundation, a nonprofit that fundraises for NPS, and that the book’s copyright be filed in his name so that he could later donate it to the Foundation. In addition, Jarvis approved Eastern National’s use of NPS’ “arrowhead” logo on the book’s cover, believing that one of the nonprofit’s two agreements with NPS allowed this; neither did, however. Jarvis stated that he purposely tried to downplay his Government position in the book by limiting the use of his title and using a photo of himself in street clothes instead of his NPS uniform. He wrote the book on his Government iPad, but we found for the most part his work on the book occurred outside office hours. 
 
While Jarvis renewed both of Eastern National’s cooperating agreements with NPS around the time he was discussing his book with Eastern National officials, NPS staff said that the book did not influence the agreements. 
 
Jarvis stated that he knew he risked “[getting] in trouble” by not seeking advice on his book from the Ethics Office. He felt, however, that if he had involved the Ethics Office and other DOI officials, the book would probably never have been published due to what he viewed as a lengthy approval process and some content that he believed was controversial.
 
Home
OIG: National Park Service Director Skirted Ethics Office In Writing Book, Reprimanded
By Kurt Repanshek on February 25th, 2016
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NPS Director Jon Jarvis has been reprimanded for ignoring Interior Department ethics rules/NPS
An investigation has found that National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis intentionally skirted the Interior Department’s Ethics Office to write a book, a Guidebook to American Values and Our National Parks, for a cooperating association contractually tied to the Park Service, an action that brought the director an official reprimand from top Interior Department officials, who also removed him from any dealings with the Park Service’s ethics office for the rest of his career as director.
Furthermore, Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor ordered Director Jarvis to receive monthly ethics training for the rest of his tenure. 
“I am also concerned about the attitude the (investigation) demonstrates Director Jarvis exhibited toward important Departmental institutions such as the Ethics Office, the Office of the Solicitor, and the Office of the Secretary,” Deputy Secretary Connor wrote in a letter (attached below) to Mary L. Kendall, deputy inspector general for the department.
In a short statement Thursday evening the director said, “I regret that I did not seek guidance on the most appropriate path forward to publish this book. I wrote the book to inspire and engage more Americans in our national parks, particularly during the National Park Service’s centennial year. I consider it a good lesson learned and will ask for guidance if and when similar situations arise in the future.”
Interior’s Office of Inspector General began looking into the matter last June after being alerted to the book published by Eastern National, a cooperating association that has been working with national parks for 50 years At issue was “whether Jarvis used his public office for private gain by seeking a book deal with Eastern National and whether he misused any U.S. Government resources in the process.”
Ethics Office guidelines specifically state that government employees who want to do outside work with any business or organization seeking to do business with the Interior Department must first gain approval from the Ethics Office, regardless of whether there’s payment involved. Additionally, an attorney in the Ethics Office said “that even if Jarvis was not personally receiving money from the sale of the book, having his name associated with it could create the appearance that he was using his official position for personal gain.”
The investigation also showed that Director Jarvis approached Eastern National with the idea, but that he had told Interior Secretary Jewell that Eastern National had asked him to write the book. It also showed that Eastern National Chief Executive Officer George Minnucci, after discussing the project on the phone with the director, later wrote him an email worded as if the idea was his. In his interview with OIG staff, Mr. Minnucci said Director Jarvis had not asked him to word his email in such a way, but rather he did so because “he wanted his staff to think the book was his idea and that it was ‘a CEO decision.’”
The OIG report (attached below) stated that Director Jarvis said he “did not consult with the Ethics Office on the book because doing so would have taken too long, and with NPS’ centennial approaching, the book would be ‘really powerful.’”
“Jarvis explained that he was frustrated with the Ethics Office for not being able to approve ‘very, very simple things,'” the report stated. “As an example, he explained that a thank-you letter to a donor from him and the Foundation took 6 weeks for the office to approve, which led him to believe that approving the book was going to be a problem.”
In one interview with investigators, Director Jarvis said he wasn’t afraid of taking chances, such as failing to clear the project with the Ethics Office.
I think I knew going into this there was a certain amount of risk. I’ve never been afraid of a risk. . . . I’ve gotten my ass in trouble many, many, many times in the Park Service by . . . not necessarily getting permission . . . I’ve always pushed the envelope. . . . And I felt that this values analysis . . . could be a very, very powerful tool to not only connect to the next generation but to resonate across political spectrums. 
“And from my view, from my experience, in the ethics world, having been an SES [Senior Executive Service employee] for almost a decade, I did not feel like I was violating any ethics issues because I set this up [with] no personal benefit, nothing gained for me personally,” he continued. “What I was trying to prevent is having it edited.”
While Director Jarvis did not seek to be paid for the book, and directed that any royalties go to the National Park Foundation, there was concern among some Interior officials that he retained the copyright to the title and allowed the use of the Park Service arrowhead logo on the cover and his title as Park Service director in places, “giving the appearance of Government endorsement.”
In the end, it doesn’t appear as if there will be any royalties for anyone. Eastern National officials told OIG investigators that while it had cost them $11,000-$12,000 to print the $7.95 book, they had only sold a little more than 200 copies and they didn’t expect to make their investment back.
The investigation determined that Director Jarvis used his government iPad to write the manuscript; while he claimed to have worked on it outside office hours, the investigation determined that “it appears” there were at least nine occasions when Director Jarvis worked on it or corresponded with Eastern National officials concerning the book “on weekdays when he was not on leave and Government offices were open.”

02-26-16 Jarvis stripped of ethics post, E&E Daily

In an interview with the OIG, the director was unrepentant. Jarvis said that looking back, he “probably” would have done the same things.
“I think I knew going into this there was a certain amount of risk. I’ve never been afraid of a risk,” he told the OIG. “I’ve gotten my ass in trouble many, many, many times in the Park Service by … not necessarily getting permission.”
E&E Daily
NATIONAL PARKS:
Jarvis stripped of ethics post after unauthorized book
Corbin Hiar, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, February 26, 2016
National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis is being stripped of his responsibility to oversee the agency’s ethics program after publishing an unauthorized book with a nonprofit group that operates stores in numerous national parks.
He will also receive a written reprimand for having violated federal employee ethics standards and be required to attend monthly ethics trainings for the remainder of his tenure, Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor said.
Connor’s actions come in response to a report released late yesterday by Interior’s Office of Inspector General that found Jarvis intentionally avoided seeking approval from Interior’s Ethics Office before writing “Guidebook to American Values and Our National Parks.”
Published in June 2015 by Eastern National, the operator of 138 national park stores, the book was intended to raise awareness about NPS’s 2016 centennial and bring in money for the National Park Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds for NPS. Jarvis took the unusual step of asking Eastern National to grant him the copyright for the book but told the OIG he intended to donate it to the foundation.
“Although the [OIG’s report of investigation] does not expressly draw any conclusions about the results of the OIG investigation, the Department has reviewed the ROI [report of investigation] carefully and come to the conclusion that Director Jarvis did violate Federal employee ethics standards,” Connor said in a letter Tuesday to Mary Kendall, who leads the OIG.
Connor also told Kendall that he is “concerned about the attitude the ROI demonstrates Director Jarvis exhibited toward important Department institutions such as the Ethics Office, the Office of Solicitor and the Office of the Secretary.”
In addition to the copyright issue, the report raised concerns about the way in which Jarvis informed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about his work on the project. He did so by putting a copy of the published book in her mailbox with a note that said Eastern National had approached him to write it.
But emails provided to the OIG by George Minnucci, Eastern National’s chief executive officer, show that Jarvis emailed the nonprofit first with the book idea, which is based on a speech he has delivered many times over the years about values and the parks that demonstrate them.
When confronted by the OIG about that email to Minnucci — Jarvis’ friend of more than 20 years — the director “stated that not providing the email ‘wasn’t purposeful,’ adding that he had searched his emails but did not find this one,” the report said.
The OIG also “informed Jarvis that it appeared that his note to the Secretary, which stated that Eastern National had asked him to write the book, was not accurate.” His response, according to the report, was “I guess that’s true.”
So far, the book hasn’t benefited Eastern National or the foundation.
It cost Eastern National over $11,000 to print, publish and distribute 2,500 copies of the book, which retails for $7.95. The nonprofit company agreed to donate $1 per book sold to the foundation, in quarterly increments.
But the guidebook has sold 228 copies to date, earning Eastern National less than $2,000. The company also hasn’t cut a check to the foundation yet for the $228 it is due.
Nevertheless, the arrangement Jarvis established between Eastern National and the foundation could be a violation of the law.
“Government employees cannot receive compensation from outside sources for teaching, speaking, or writing that relates to their official duties,” the report noted. “This prohibition extends to funds paid directly to a charitable organization at the employee’s request.”
A calculated risk for Jarvis
Jarvis, for his part, was careful to mainly work on the book during holidays, weekends and snow days.
“I felt there was nothing wrong with it as long as I did this on my own time,” he told the OIG.
But Jarvis said he was wary of involving Interior’s Ethics Office because it is not able to approve “very, very simple things.” The office took six weeks to greenlight a thank-you letter from him to a foundation donor, he told the OIG as an example.
Jarvis also raised concerns that higher-ups would object to some of the things he wrote about immigration, women’s rights and civil rights.
“What I was trying to prevent is having it edited,” he said, according to the report.
In an interview with the OIG, the director was unrepentant. Jarvis said that looking back, he “probably” would have done the same things.
“I think I knew going into this there was a certain amount of risk. I’ve never been afraid of a risk,” he told the OIG. “I’ve gotten my ass in trouble many, many, many times in the Park Service by … not necessarily getting permission.”
The bottom line for Jarvis, however, was that “this values analysis … could be a very, very powerful tool to not only connect to the next generation but to resonate across political spectrums,” he said. “And it could be a little bit of something that I could give back to the Park Service, to the Foundation, sort of set the bar in a place that I feel that it needs to be for our second century.”
In a statement provided to Greenwire today, however, the director took a more remorseful tone.
“I regret that I did not seek guidance on the most appropriate path forward to publish this book,” he said. “I wrote the book to inspire and engage more Americans in our national parks, particularly during the National Park Service’s centennial year. I consider it a good lesson learned and will ask for guidance if and when similar situations arise in the future.”

4/30/15 LibertarianRepublic.com by Bastasch: Oyster Farmer: ‘We Are Terrified’ Of The Government

By Michael Bastasch

The National Park Service used falsified data to shut down an 80-year-0ld oyster company in Point Reyes, Calif, its owner claims.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company operated in Point Reyes for decades until National Park Service officials used falsified data to force Kevin Lunny’s family-run oyster farm to shut down. The experience has left its mark on Lunny: “We Are Terrified,” he told lawmakers during a hearing Thursday.

“Let me be clear, we did not fail as a business,” Lunny said in his prepared testimony. “This was not bad luck. Rather, the Park Service engaged in a taxpayer-funded enterprise of corruption to run our small business out of Point Reyes.”

Lunny made this statement in response to a question by Republican Rep. Raul Labrador asking whether or not Lunny felt like there could be consequences from his testimony against the National Parks Service.

Even Democratic California Rep. Jared Huffman admitted that in the rush to get rid of industry from Point Reyes, government officials and environmentalists “overstated” evidence that Lunny’s farm was harming the environment.

“No one has apologized,” Lunny said.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company is located in Northern California’s Point Reyes National Seashore, where it has been for decades. Point Reyes isn’t your typical national park because it was created to preserve the historic coastline where people have been settled since the Gold Rush. It was never intended to be a major tourist attraction like Yellowstone.

For decades the Park Service had a good relationship with the oyster company, but that all changed in the mid-2000s. All of the sudden, NPS officials started blaming the company for an 80 percent decline in the local harbor seal population. Officials also blamed Lunny’s farm for upsetting the ecological balance of Drakes Estero.

But all of these accusations against Drakes Bay Oyster Company turned out to be completely false. The National Parks Service lacked any scientific data to back up its claims that the company was killing seals and hurting the local environment. In fact, studies done by the U.S. Geological Survey and the California State Health Department showed the Parks Service was completely wrong.

NPS, however, didn’t stop there and kept making false claims against the oyster company.

“The Park Service misrepresented that study,” Lunny said. “They instead attempted to demonstrate harm by substituting data from a sixty-year-old study conducted at the Sea of Japan and attributing it to our farm.”

“For example, in assessing the noise impact of our small outboard motor boats, the Park Service, rather than measuring our boats on our soundscape (as required), instead used the measurements from a seventy-horsepower, 700cc Kawasaki jet ski in New Jersey,” Lunny added.

Lunny appealed to higher ups at the National Park Service for help in the matter and to correct the record on false statements made by the agency, but he got no help from the government.

“The local Park Service staff were not willing to correct the false claims, so we went to the Regional Director,” Lunny said. “No help there. Then we went to the Park Service Director, and finally the Secretary of Interior. No one, at any level, was willing to admit that false science was being used against us, or to at least correct the record and stop the false accusations.”

The Interior Department’s own inspector general even found misconduct by agency officials and that they misrepresented facts. But even so, the inspector general was powerless to stop Parks Service officials from attacking Lunny’s business.

Eventually, Drakes Bay Oyster Farm closed its doors because of the litigation and regulatory actions taken by the federal government.

“What the Park Service did to our family was unconscionable,” Lunny said. “This polluted legacy of false science has tainted our dealings with state and federal agencies, and has resulted in unnecessary regulatory and legal action against our family and our farm.”

4/30/15 E&E Daily INTERIOR: ‘We’re terrified,’ rancher tells lawmakers about Park Service

Kevin Lunny, co-owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., described his dispute with the National Park Service in harrowing detail. The rancher and business owner claimed that the agency had undertaken a “taxpayer-funded enterprise of corruption to run a small business out of” Point Reyes, Calif.
“Let me be clear: We did not fail as a business. This was not bad luck,” Lunny said. “Our family experienced the worst of what a motivated federal agency can do to a small business.”
E&E Daily
INTERIOR:
‘We’re terrified,’ rancher tells lawmakers about Park Service
Kevin Bogardus, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, April 30, 2015
House lawmakers yesterday chewed on the years-long battle over the fate of a former California oyster farm as they delved into the alleged abuse of government-funded science.
Kevin Lunny, co-owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., described his dispute with the National Park Service in harrowing detail. The rancher and business owner claimed that the agency had undertaken a “taxpayer-funded enterprise of corruption to run a small business out of” Point Reyes, Calif.
“Let me be clear: We did not fail as a business. This was not bad luck,” Lunny said. “Our family experienced the worst of what a motivated federal agency can do to a small business.”
Lunny was testifying before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. The hearing was called to examine allegations of federal agencies using “politically driven science,” according to the subpanel’s notice.
Under a settlement agreement announced last year with the Interior Department, Lunny had to close down his oyster farm after losing a protracted legal fight over its operation in a potential wilderness area (E&ENews PM, Oct. 6, 2014). The farm had harvested oysters for decades in Drakes Bay. Lunny bought the farm in 2005.
At yesterday’s hearing, Lunny said he was subject to misrepresentations and attacks by the Park Service during his fight to renew his oyster farm lease, which had expired in 2012. He described a federal environmental impact statement on the oyster farm as “weaponized.”
Lunny still operates a ranch in the area and claimed that the Park Service now has been isolating ranchers. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) asked Lunny if there would be “negative consequences” for him from testifying before the subcommittee.
“We’re terrified. Ranchers that are sitting behind me are terrified because we are challenging the Park Service very seriously. They did lie. They did falsify science,” Lunny said.
The Park Service has tried to repair its ties with ranchers in the area after the bitter fight over the oyster farm (Greenwire, June 4, 2014).
The Interior inspector general in 2008 found that a scientist employed by Point Reyes National Seashore misstated data on the environmental impacts of mariculture to hurt the oyster farm (Greenwire, July 23, 2008).
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said he has known Lunny for years and that he is “a good and decent guy.” The congressman noted that the battle over Drakes Bay, which is based in his congressional district, has “strained relationships that we are still working very hard to put back together.”
“Re-litigating these old accusations from a matter that has been closed at a time when this community is really trying to move on is not helpful or productive,” Huffman said.  [the case was never litigated, the Lunny’s asked for an injunction to remain open while a lawsuit could be pursued]
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), chairman of the subcommittee, said the hearing was an examination of science manipulated by agencies for their own purposes.
“This will be an honest assessment of how the system has failed,” Gohmert said.
Lawmakers also heard from witnesses on how the Fish and Wildlife Service’s faulty counting of whooping cranes led to drawn-out litigation for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In addition, the panel heard that recovery efforts in Bastrop County, Texas, from a wildfire were delayed because of protections for the Houston toad, an endangered species.
Democrats sought to pivot the hearing toward discussion of attacks on science, including on those researching climate change.
“In a hearing about politically driven science, climate denial is the ultimate case study,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
At one point, Gohmert responded forcefully to suggestions that the hearing was unfairly going after science.
“The purpose of the hearing was to hear from real people, mammals called human beings that have been harmed by the federal government,” said the subcommittee chairman.
Toward the close of yesterday’s hearing, Gohmert said his subpanel would continue to look into alleged wrongdoing by federal agencies.
“You can expect more hearings to get to the bottom of what our government has been doing to our people,” Gohmert said.

4/29/15 Daily Caller: NATIONAL PARK SERVICE EMPLOYEES LIED TO PUT HISTORIC OYSTER COMPANY OUT OF BUSINESS

CLICK THIS LINK  http://naturalresources.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398357

AND THEN CLICK ON THE “WATCH THE ARCHIVED HEARING WEBCAST ” LINK ON THAT PAGE.

Oversight Hearing on “Zero Accountability: The Consequences of Politically Driven Science.”

The House Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations held a hearing yesterday, 4/29/15 at 2 PM and one of the issues they looked at is the misuse of science by the NPS in Drakes Estero.  Kevin Lunny was called to testify as a witness.

 

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE EMPLOYEES LIED TO PUT HISTORIC OYSTER COMPANY OUT OF BUSINESS
04-29-2015 5:42 pm – Michael Bastasch – Daily Caller
The National Park Service used falsified data to shut down an 80-year-old oyster company in Point Reyes, Calif, its owner claims.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company operated in Point Reyes for decades until National Park Service officials used falsified data to force Kevin Lunny’s family-run oyster farm to shut down. The experience has left its mark on Lunny: “We Are Terrified,” he told lawmakers during a hearing Thursday.

“Let me be clear, we did not fail as a business,” Lunny said in his prepared testimony. “This was not bad luck. Rather, the Park Service engaged in a taxpayer-funded enterprise of corruption to run our small business out of Point Reyes.”

Lunny made this statement in response to a question by Republican Rep. Raul Labrador asking whether or not Lunny felt like there could be consequences from his testimony against the National Parks Service.

Even Democratic California Rep. Jared Huffman admitted that in the rush to get rid of industry from Point Reyes, government officials and environmentalists “overstated” evidence that Lunny’s farm was harming the environment.

“No one has apologized,” Lunny said.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company is located in Northern California’s Point Reyes National Seashore, where it has been for decades. Point Reyes isn’t your typical national park because it was created to preserve the historic coastline where people have been settled since the Gold Rush. It was never intended to be a major tourist attraction like Yellowstone.

For decades the Park Service had a good relationship with the oyster company, but that all changed in the mid-2000s. All of the sudden, NPS officials started blaming the company for an 80 percent decline in the local harbor seal population. Officials also blamed Lunny’s farm for upsetting the ecological balance of Drakes Estero.

But all of these accusations against Drakes Bay Oyster Company turned out to be completely false. The National Parks Service lacked any scientific data to back up its claims that the company was killing seals and hurting the local environment. In fact, studies done by the U.S. Geological Survey and the California State Health Department showed the Parks Service was completely wrong.

NPS, however, didn’t stop there and kept making false claims against the oyster company.

“The Park Service misrepresented that study,” Lunny said. “They instead attempted to demonstrate harm by substituting data from a sixty-year-old study conducted at the Sea of Japan and attributing it to our farm.”

“For example, in assessing the noise impact of our small outboard motor boats, the Park Service, rather than measuring our boats on our soundscape [as required], instead used the measurements from a seventy-horsepower, 700cc Kawasaki jet ski in New Jersey,” Lunny added.

Lunny appealed to higher ups at the National Park Service for help in the matter and to correct the record on false statements made by the agency, but he got no help from the government.

“The local Park Service staff were not willing to correct the false claims, so we went to the Regional Director,” Lunny said. “No help there. Then we went to the Park Service Director, and finally the Secretary of Interior. No one, at any level, was willing to admit that false science was being used against us, or to at least correct the record and stop the false accusations.”

The Interior Department’s own inspector general even found misconduct by agency officials and that they misrepresented facts. But even so, the inspector general was powerless to stop Parks Service officials from attacking Lunny’s business.

Eventually, Drakes Bay Oyster Farm closed its doors because of the litigation and regulatory actions taken by the federal government.

“What the Park Service did to our family was unconscionable,” Lunny said. “This polluted legacy of false science has tainted our dealings with state and federal agencies, and has resulted in unnecessary regulatory and legal action against our family and our farm.”

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SOURCE: http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/29/oyster-farmer-we-are-terrified-of-the-govt/

9-8-14 (reprint) Point Reyes Light Editor Tess Elliott on Gordon Bennett’s Trouble With the Truth

I once shared a homemade Pugliese tart with Gordon Bennett in a Starbucks in San Francisco. We had been guests on a show on public radio, along with Kevin Lunny of Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Bennett had made several claims that I knew were false. As we exited the sound room, I suggested we keep chatting, and over slices of pastry I had packed in my purse, I asked Bennett how he could lie on air.

Speaking on behalf of the Sierra Club, Bennett alleged that Lunny’s oyster farm was a menace to seals and eelgrass. Each of us knew these claims were debunked in a report by the National Academy of Sciences, which found that the park had misrepresented its own data. There was no evidence supporting the claims that the park and Bennett had levied against Lunny for over two years. The academy report brought to light what many suspected: a campaign to portray the farm as a threat, and justify its closure.

Bennett made several confessions during our post-show chat. “The park knew it had no evidence when it made those charges,” he said, excusing his own malfeasance of lying to a 50,000-strong audience. He had also claimed that the Point Reyes Wilderness Act mandated the oyster farm’s removal in 2012. “You know the Wilderness Act says nothing about 2012,” I said. Again, Bennett acknowledged misleading listeners.

“If you know these claims are false, why don’t you remove them from your website?” I asked. “The other side spreads misinformation, too,” he replied. I shamed Bennett for attaching the Sierra Club’s name to his false claims. He replied that he did so as a buffer against lawsuit. “Why don’t you just tell the truth?” Lunny asked. “Then you won’t get sued.”

Bennett was quiet. I had an epiphany. This man, whose reckless behavior has shaped the Drakes Estero debate, does not hesitate to use the power of his title to mislead the public. For him, the end justifies the means. As he put it to me that day, wilderness is like a church. Bennett pursues his wilderness-church with religious zeal. When I wrote the article for The Nation I expected a response from Bennett–but the angry and libelous tone of his letter alarmed me. It is impossible to rebut the numerous false statements in this space, so I will pick only a few.

On May 5, the National Academy of Sciences announced that a Point Reyes National Seashore report “selectively presented, over-interpreted and misrepresented” studies of the oyster farm’s ecological effects. That day, Jon Jarvis told the press that he thanked the academy for agreeing with his conclusions. What on earth did he mean? The report explicitly dismissed his conclusions. Later I discovered that Jarvis had given the academy a corrected version of the park report, but had neglected to make this version public. The older versions of the report–each containing claims of harm–kept circulating, while the corrected version remained hidden. So Jarvis was pleased that the academy agreed with his secret retractions. But Jarvis did not stop there. “We agree with some conclusions in the academy report, and disagree with others,” he said. Everyone was confused. The academy had dismissed each of the park’s claims, and Jarvis’s only challenge was a tangential point that was not even in the academy’s charter, concerning whether or not native oysters existed in Drakes Estero and therefore influenced its historic baseline ecology. Jarvis said they did not. Yet the waterside shed where Lunny sells his oysters is a stone’s throw from a gigantic midden, a heap of shells left as proof that native peoples enjoyed the estero’s salty bounty.

In his letter, Bennett makes an outlandish reversal, claiming it is the academy–not the park service–that “selectively presented, over-interpreted and misrepresented” evidence. His proof? A two-page explanation written by a man with a math degree from the University of Pennsylvania that is so flawed it is laughable.

Meanwhile, he attacks Goodman, the biologist who uncovered the park service’s misuse of data. Bennett claims Goodman is not a biologist. In fact, Goodman graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University with a BS in biology, earned his PhD in zoology, with a specialty in neurobiology, from UC Berkeley, and was a tenured professor at both of those schools for twenty-five years. He is a former chair of the life sciences board for the National Academy of Sciences. Each of Goodman’s allegations was borne out by the academy’s report.

Readers must decide whether Bennett’s claims hold water. Readers must decide who is making ad hominem attacks. I have suggested that Jarvis, now approved by the Senate for directorship of the National Park Service, has shown disregard for science. His loyalty to the troops trumps his loyalty to the truth.

Tess Elliott

Bolinas, CA

Oct 4 2009 – 2:14pm

08/04/2014 Oyster Farming is the “Wilderness”

AN EMAIL FROM A COLLEAGUE IN CONNECTICUT TODAY.

(Click on the link and then click to watch the video):

 

Oyster farming is the “Wilderness”………

Check this out – http://www.rhodyoysters.com/

Went there last weekend – “Farm to Table (his own Oyster Farm and his own Vegetable Farm)”. Now the Number 1 Restaurant in Rhode Island.

Get the message…………………… its sustainability.

Bruce McGown

CEO InterWeave.biz

 

 

 

 

01-24-15 ProPublica: Bad science from the Park Service

Kevin Lunny has owned and operated the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in a Pacific inlet north of San Francisco since 2005. This winter, an 80-year tradition of shellfish farming in the estuary came to an end when the National Park Service shut Drakes Bay down, claiming the company was a “heavy industry that imperiled the park’s wildlife.” While some environmentalists say “good government prevailed,” an investigation by Newsweek found that the science-as-evidence used to close down Lunny’s farm was either altered or bad. Newseek via @CivilEats

Bad Science, Crazy Mining Laws, and Childcare Horror Stories, #MuckReads: A weekly roundup of investigative reporting from ProPublica, “an ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism”

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/propublica/2015/01/propublica_muckreads_the_week_in_investigative_reporting.html 

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