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.

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.

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 This American Life on seals in San Diego

“…the show makes it clear the seals were never ‘threatened’…”

 

The Bennet Brigade and the environmental lawsuits are alive and well in San Diego, rivaling the Bennet/Desai/Trainer efforts here, and shows what happens when this behavior gets out of hand in a major metropolitan area.

 

http://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/582/when-the-beasts-come-marching-in

 

Unbelievable….the truth and real purpose becomes totally lost in acrimony on both sides….and the show makes it clear the seals were never ‘threatened’  and no middle ground was acceptable to the seal proponents…it was seal  proponents vs. shared use in which the shared use proponents where characterized as haters of seals and wildlife….This needs wide publicity….

 

Best,

John Hulls

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.”

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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.”

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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.

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