11-16-11 Ca Historical Society – Reception Invitation

ClusterOfOysterShellsWednesday, November 16, 2011, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Oyster Farm Opening Reception

Free Event at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco
Join artist Evvy Eisen at the California Historical Society for a reception celebrating the new exhibit, Oyster Farm. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres will be served. RSVP to 415.357.1848, ext. 229 or rsvp@calhist.org.

To see the photos click here: http://www.oysterfarmphotos.com/

ABC TV, 4 Years of Coverage of DBOC on “Assignment 7”, Ken Miguel Producer

ABC7, “Assignment 7” has been reporting on this story for over four years. Use this link to get to all their segments up to and including September 12, 2011

Video feed: http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/assignment_7&id=8351748

12-31-05 Dr. Sarah Allen, Harbor Seal Annual Report 2005

Harbor Seal Report 2005

12-18-2007 Dr. Corey Goodman Letter to NAS

Dr Goodman to NAS 12-18-07


01-18-09 Dr. Corey Goodman Letter to NAS

Dr Goodman to NAS 01-18-09The 2009 Nat’l Academies of Sciences Report

02-03-09 DBOC Letter to NAS

DBOC letter to NAS 02-03-09

03-22-11 Frost Report

Frost report 03-22-2011

11-10-11 THINGS DON’T ALWAYS GO BETTER WITH COKE — Did Corporate Donation Sway Reversal of Grand Canyon Plastic Water Bottle Ban?

11-10-11 PEER report: “Washington, DC — Just days before Grand Canyon National Park instituted a ban on sale of individual plastic water bottles, the ban was indefinitely suspended on orders from the Director of the National Park Service (NPS).  After receiving reports that this abrupt about-face was tied to large donations from the Coca Cola Company, which sells bottled water, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) today filed a lawsuit to obtain records on this policy u-turn after NPS declined to surrender them. ”

For the full article click here: http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=1533

11-03-11 NPS forces Indian Trader out of business in Arizona

11-03-11: Indian Country Today, National Park Service Gone Rogue: A Whistleblower Speaks

“The laundry list of unethical acts and abuses of Malone by corrupt and incompetent agents, administrators and employees make one’s blood boil. The one person in this mess, aside from Berkowitz, who maintains a modicum of respect and trust in others is Malone, even as the very people charged with protecting his basic rights plot to destroy them. This inside look at how a great American institution actually undermines its own public image is as disturbing as it is necessary reading.”


10-31-11 PEER asks for your support (reports conflicts of interest by Jon Jarvis)

10/31/2011 Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility asks for your support (reports conflicts of interest by Jon Jarvis)


10-30-11 Dave Mitchell Reviews Paul Berkowitz’ book “The Case of the Indian Trader”

The Case of the Indian Trader review


‘The Case of the Indian Trader’ illuminates the case of the oyster grower


By Dave Mitchell

        In trying to make a case for the federal government’s not renewing the lease of Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2012, former Point Reyes National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher and park science advisor Sarah Allen disseminated false data.

        Those were among the findings critical of the two when the Interior Department’s Inspector General’s Office issued a report in 2008. The report followed a year-long investigation, which began after company owner Kevin Lunny complained that he was being treated unfairly and slandered by the park.

        Neubacher’s boss was Jon Jarvis, then director of the Western Regional Office of the Park Service, and conveniently for Neubacher, his wife Patti worked closely with Jarvis as the assistant director. So how did the regional office respond?

        The report vindicated the Park Service, the regional office insisted, because there had been no finding that Neubacher and Allen had tried to close the oyster company before its lease expired. The Inspector General’s investigation, however, had focused on scientific misrepresentations by Allen and Supt. Neubacher — not on whether they were trying to close the oyster company before 2012 — so the regional office was merely indulging in an exotic spin job.

        The National Seashore’s exotic toadies immediately created a chorus of chirping. “By my count the ball game was won 14-1 by the Park Service,” Gordon Bennett, then spokesman for the Marin Chapter of the Sierra Club, told The Marin Independent Journal.

        And what did the Interior Department do to punish Neubacher for his misrepresentations? It made him superintendent of Yosemite National Park two years later and made Jarvis, his boss and defender, director of the National Park Service (NPS).

A nationwide problem

        Bizarre as those events seemed — given the clean-cut image the Park Service cultivates — this sort of thing is happening nationwide within the agency, as is documented by a new book, The Case of the Indian Trader: Billy Malone and the National Park Service Investigation at Hubbell Trading Post.

        In his book, author Paul Berkowitz, a retired criminal investigator for the National Park Service, describes the cronyism, nepotism, corruption, and political pressures that shape NPS and Department of the Interior management.

         The Case of the Indian Trader tells the true story (heavily documented with law enforcement reports) of a respected, honest, longtime trader who was falsely accused of fraud and other crimes.

         The trading post in federally administered Navajo country is owned by the Western National Parks Association (WNPA), which normally provides information in parks and makes financial contributions to them — much like the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, which sells books at the Visitor Center.

         In 2003, LeAnn Simpson became executive director of the WNPA and was immediately horrified by Malone’s traditional bookkeeping, which often consisted of verbal agreements with the rug weavers and jewelry makers on the reservation, some of whom could not read or write. With no evidence to back her up, she assumed Malone must have stolen millions of dollars from the trading post.

         At her request, the Park Service in 2004 launched an aggressive investigation of Malone, seizing his personal property while WNPA evicted him from the trading post.

         Two years went by before Malone was finally allowed to prove the property was his and recover it. He is now suing the Park Service, WNPA, and 10 past and present members of each.

         In 2005, special agent Berkowitz had been assigned to direct the trading post investigation. In doing so, he found repeated instances of investigators and their supervisors being dishonest, withholding exculpatory evidence, and circumventing the law to satisfy the WNPA and Park Service.

         There is a name for officials who put themselves above the law in this way, writes Berkowitz, who previously taught law enforcement classes. “Police administrators and psychologists have coined the term ‘noble cause corruption.’” Among his other observations:

         • “The NPS has evolved into a very insulated, provincial and sometimes cult-like organization…. The demand for loyalty insinuates itself into virtually every aspect of the NPS…. Over time these excesses come to affect many employees’ sense of what is and is not acceptable behavior, as they assimilate into the culture, often acting with near-blind obedience as they surrender their own better judgment to that prescribed by their employer.”

         • “An example of how extreme this indoctrination can be is that both new and transferring employees in many park areas have been required to swear a distinct oath of allegiance to the NPS at the very same time they swear to support and defend the US Constitution.”

         • “Information about NPS activities is regulated and restricted through carefully crafted press releases that often spin facts and fabricate accounts…. To allow a problem to surface into the public arena is an unforgivable act that could embarrass the agency.”

          • “NPS managers and employees themselves were found to have engaged in serious criminal activities while on duty, for which they were never officially investigated or prosecuted [by the Interior Department].…  In one notorious instance, a ranger even obtained a government step (pay) increase while sitting in jail on local charges related to voyeurism,” he writes.

         “The same employee had repeatedly been caught under similar circumstances in various parks to which he was assigned but was continually moved and promoted through the ranks (including chief park ranger) after each incident until reaching the position of assistant superintendent at a national recreation area where he continued to oversee law enforcement activities.”

         In yet another case, Berkowitz’s own supervisor would later admit to theft of public money but would receive no jail time and be allowed to retire with a full Park Service pension of nearly $100,000 per year.

Is the book fair?

         Skeptics may question whether the book is fair to the Interior Department and its Park Service, but Berkowitz repeatedly acknowledges there are “extraordinarily talented rangers and special agents who do work for the agency and individually strive for high standards.”

         Nonetheless, West Marin should beware the warning: “Short of crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.” That observation, which is quoted by Berkowitz, did not originate with him but with Inspector General Earl Devany testifying in Congress.

  — The Case of the Indian Trader, 354 pages, University of New Mexico Press


10-30-11 Paul D. Berkowitz & Pete McCloskey In Conversation

On October 30, 2011 Paul D. Berkowitz, retired NPS Criminal Investigator, whistle-blower turned author of The Case of the Indian Trader, Billy Malone and the National Park Service Investigation at the Hubbell Trading Post May, 2011, gave a talk in Point Reyes with Pete McCloskey (originator of Earth Day, author of the Point Reyes Wilderness Act and former Senator). A link to the YouTube presentation will be available soon. Until then you may check out the slides from the Power Point Presentation here (this is an extremely large file and takes approximately 15 minutes to open): Berkowitz 10-30-11 ppp

10-30-11 Invitation to Paul Berkowitz and Pete McCloskey in Conversation

With perspectives on the culture of

the National Park Service


Retired NPS criminal investigator and author of The Case of the Indian Trader



Former U.S. Congressman and co-author of the Point Reyes Wilderness Act


Sunday, October 30, from 4-6 PM, FREE

West Marin School Community Gym

11550 State Route 1, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956


10-28-11 National Parks Traveler article on House Oversight Committee Investigation

National Parks Traveler

House Oversight Committee Looking Into Point Reyes National Seashore’s Handling Of Oyster Farm Future

Submitted by Kurt Repanshek on October 28, 2011 – 8:45am


Questionable actions the staff of Point Reyes National Seashore has taken towards the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. have drawn the attention of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is launching an investigation into the fate of the oyster company.

“Since 2007, the NPS has been advocating that the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. cease operations at Point Reyes National Seashore because — according to NPS — the oyster farm is harming the local harbor seal population,” the committee’s chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa, wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on October 20.

“Allegations that NPS knowingly relied on flawed science to support that conclusion as part of an effort to remove DBOC have come from a wide range of stakeholders and disinterested parties. If true, the NPS, a bureau of the Department of Interior, will have closed the doors on a family-owned small business without a valid scientific basis.”

The battle over the future of the oyster company has been ongoing for a number of years. When the company’s owner, Kenny Lunny, bought the operation from the Johnson Oyster Co. in 2007, it came with a 40-year lease that expires in November 2012. And since the oyster farm is located in an area of the seashore, Drakes Estero, that has been targeted for official wilderness designation, his ability to gain a lease extension has been impeded.

At issue is whether the oyster farm is adversely impacting Drakes Estero and its marinelife, particularly harbor seals. The estero long has been viewed for designation as official wilderness — the 1976 legislation that set aside 25,370 acres of the seashore as wilderness cited another 8,003 acres that would be “essentially managed as wilderness, to the extent possible, with efforts to steadily continue to remove all obstacles to the eventual conversion of these lands and waters to wilderness status” — and the oyster operation is seen as being incompatible with such a designation.

But the Park Service’s handling of the oyster company’s future has been both contentious and embarassing for the agency. While a Park Service report on the oyster operation concluded that it was impacting harbor seals, the report at times has withered under scrutiny. In 2009 the National Research Council said the NPS report was skewed, “selectively” manipulated in several areas, and inconclusive overall.

A year later, the Interior’s Solicitor’s Office conducted an investigation into whether the staff at Point Reyes had intentionally mishandled research data it collected to determine the oyster farm’s impacts, if any, on harbor seals during pupping season. That probe cleared the staff of any criminal behavior or criminal misconduct in the matter, a finding that itself has drawn criticism.

Part of the investigation centered around charges that Park Service staff “suppressed” more than 250,000 photographs the Point Reyes staff captured with a secret camera from 2007 to 2010 to determine whether farm operations were disturbing harbor seals during the pupping season. Those photos, proponents of the oyster farm say, failed to show any disturbance of harbor seals by farm employees. Interviews conducted by the Solicitor’s Office, however, indicated that on at least five occasions the farm’s workers caused disturbances of seals during pupping season.

Now Rep. Issa, R-California, wants his committee to look into the matter, and has asked Secretary Salazar to order the Park Service to turn over reams of documents — correspondence, reports, drafts of reports, emails — and to make staff, including Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, available for “transcribed interviews” set to begin the week of November 7.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein intervened on behalf of Mr. Lunny, asking Interior Secretary Salazar to extend the oyster company’s lease. That request led the seashore staff to prepare a draft environmental impact statement examining the oyster farm’s impacts on the estero.

Earlier this fall the seashore released a draft environmental impact statement. It offered four alternatives — a no action option, which would uphold the lease retirement next year, and three other options that would allow the oyster farm to remain, albeit at three different levels of operation. The document currently is open to public comment through November 29.

10-28-2011 Peter Gleick: Bad Science Leads to Bad Policy – Huffington Post

 October 28, 2011

Peter H. Gleick

Water and climate scientist; President, Pacific Institute


Anti-science mania is sweeping parts of the United States. This isn’t new — there is a long history of irrational, pseudoscientific, or downright anti-scientific thinking and political culture here — ironic, given how much our founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin valued science. Examples include creationism, moon-landing denialism, claims linking vaccines to autism, denials that tobacco causes cancer long after the science was in, and especially the denial of climate change and global warming. This anti-science mentality is especially discouraging given how vital America’s scientific and technological strengths are to our economic and political strengths.

For reasons that a political scientist or sociologist would have to explore, this is a problem especially of the Republican right. For example, it is most evident in the lockstep, ideological denial of the realities of climate change by nearly all of the Republican presidential candidates and congressional representatives. The highly respected scientific journal Nature called Congressional inactions on climate “fundamentally anti-science” and an example of “willful ignorance,” and said:

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long.

In another example that would be amusing if it weren’t so bizarre, the theory of relativity is rejected in Conservapedia (a kind of Wikipedia for ideologues on the right who want their facts and definitions to line up with their political beliefs) because “It is heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism and its tendency to mislead people in how they view the world.” Whew! (And check out the entry that argues that atheists are more likely to be obese. But please, skip the entry on “evolution” — it will make a rational person’s head explode.)

But it isn’t only conservatives who use bad science to push political agendas.

In the past couple of years, a debate in the Bay Area over wilderness protection, sustainable agriculture, and the integrity of science has spiraled into the dirt. The fight is over whether to continue to permit a small privately managed oyster farm, the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, to continue to operate inside the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California. The oyster operation predates the Park, having been in Drakes Estero for nearly a century but the Estero is now eligible for wilderness status. Supporters of wilderness believe the oyster farm is an incompatible use and should be closed when its current lease expires in 2012. Supporters of local sustainable agriculture believe the farm should stay.

Wilderness versus local sustainable agricultural? The decision hinges on choosing among conflicting societal preferences and highly subjective factors — precisely the things that make public discourse, discussion, and debate important. But this fight has pitted neighbor versus neighbor, environmentalist versus environmentalist, and in this fairly liberal community, progressive versus progressive.

Good science can play a key role here in evaluating the impacts of the oyster farm. But we’re not getting good science. Instead, the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior (DoI), and some local environmental supporters (with whom I usually have strong common cause) have manipulated science in their efforts to close the farm. A series of reports have been issued with bad, incomplete, misleading, or cherry-picked evidence of impacts to seagrasses, water quality, fish diversity, and especially seals. These reports have been highly criticized by independent scientists, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. And data that contradicts their own studies have been withheld by the Park Service, including over 200,000 photographs from hidden cameras they set up to monitor disturbances caused by the oyster farm, but which now reportedly show no evidence of such disturbances.

An internal DoI report (the “Frost Report“) on this debacle was released earlier this year. That report acknowledged that the scientific arguments of damage from the oyster farm were false, and criticized withholding and cherry-picking data in public reports; writing journal articles with incomplete or wrong data; failing to present complete materials, data, and scientific observations to a National Academy of Sciences Committee, even after multiple requests; and issuing repeatedly false public statements. The Report found a “willingness to allow subjective beliefs and values to guide scientific conclusions,” the use of “subjective conclusions, vague temporal and geographic references, and questionable mathematical calculations,” and “misconduct [that] arose from incomplete and biased evaluation and from blurring the line between exploration and advocacy through research.” A separate National Academy of Sciences review found that the Park Service “selectively presented, over-interpreted, or misrepresented the available science on the potential impacts of the oyster mariculture operation.” Senator Dianne Feinstein, to her credit, has weighed in demanding a return to scientific integrity.

Yet a recently released draft Environmental Impact Statement on the farm repeats and expands upon these false claims. For example, the NPS is still claiming that the oyster farm is harming the seals in Pt. Reyes, but their only evidence is a highly disputed statistical study that has been debunked in major review by a group of leading scientists and statisticians, including Dr. Corey Goodman — a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and an outspoken local resident. (I have read Goodman’s review and find it compelling.) What has been the response? The Park Service and the Marine Mammal Commission have so far refused to review the scientific criticisms or participate in public discussions about the issues, and local advocates of wilderness have launched a series of blistering, personal ad hominem attacks on Dr. Goodman.

Science is not democratic or republican. Scientific integrity, logic, reason, and the scientific method are core to the strength of our nation. We may disagree among ourselves about matters of opinion and policy, but we (and our elected representatives) must not misuse, hide, or misrepresent science and fact in service of our political wars.

[Dr. Peter Gleick considers himself a scientist, an environmentalist, and a liberal Democrat. He doesn’t eat oysters and he likes wilderness. But he likes science more.]

10-27-11 Dr Gleick & Dr. Raymond defend Dr. Goodman, West Marin Citizen

West Marin Citizen October 27, 2011

Goodman defended by peers


The two of us have watched with dismay as the debate over wilderness protection, sustainable agriculture, the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, and the integrity of science has spiraled into the dirt. This long-term argument – never pretty – has taken a serious turn for the worse in the past two months with an escalation of personal, ad hominem attacks and an inexcusable defense of bad science by the National Park Service by a small number of loud players with vested interests. In particular, we decry the recent barrage of letter after letter published in the West Marin Citizen filled with personal attacks on the integrity of a highly respected scientist, Dr. Corey Goodman. Dr. Goodman, at huge personal cost to his time and reputation, has been in the front lines of efforts to ensure that the National Park Service’s blatant disregard for scientific integrity does not go unchallenged. His efforts, partly at the request ofCountySupervisor Steve Kinsey, have exposed serious and serial bad science.

The NPS has refused to respond to his scientific analyses, refused to convene any sort of independent review, and continues to both mischaracterize the environmental risks of the DBOC and to refuse to analyze and review their own evidence that contradicts their own findings, including over 200,000 photographs.

We were also compelled to write this letter because false claims are going unchallenged. In the most recent issue of the West Marin Citizen, a letter writer said: “I do find it significant that no other eminent scientists have concerned themselves to corroborate Dr. Goodman’s analysis.” This is false. Several eminent scientists have participated with Dr. Goodman in his analyses, and while readers can judge whether we fall into that category, the two of us have experience and expertise of some note and we fully support his work as well – as we have publicly stated. Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that no eminent scientists have successfully disputed Dr. Goodman’s analysis.

We are both elected members of the NationalAcademyof Sciences. One of us is a MacArthur Fellow and President of the Pacific Institute. The other is Chancellor’s Professor of Chemistry at U.C. Berkeley. Gleick also serves as chair of the American GeophysicalUnion’s Task Force on Scientific Integrity. Both of us have reviewed the NPS science, and are deeply disturbed by its bias, unsupported characterizations, and misrepresentations.

In fact, Dr. Goodman has been far more restrained in his public statements than we have. One of us (KR) recently wrote to Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and said: “I regard this as fraud and in other occupations it could be prosecuted.”

The other of us (PG) recently wrote to Salazar’s science advisor, Dr. Marcia McNutt, and said: “This is not the first instance of scientific misconduct and misrepresentation by NPS scientists at PRNS.”

Recent letters in The Citizen have also cherry-picked phrases from the Department of the Interior “Frost Report” of March 22, 2011 on the science at PRNS to try to cast a negative impression of Dr. Goodman. In fact, that Report described the NPS scientists as having “bias,” “advocacy,” a “troubling mind-set,” of having “mishandled” data, acted “improperly,” and showed a “willingness to allow subjective beliefs and values to guide scientific conclusions.” The Report stated:

“This misconduct arose from incomplete and biased evaluation and from blurring the line between exploration and advocacy through research.” The Report went on to conclude that the three NPS scientists had all violated the NPS Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct. Those are the key findings of the Frost Report, not the few words cherry picked by the letter writers trying to discredit those who have tried to hold the NPS accountable for the science it publishes.

Scientists are often reluctant to enter the public fray precisely because we prefer to argue facts and numbers and analysis in cases when personal attacks, vitriol, and emotion dominate. Indeed, other scientists have told us they do not want to see their good names dragged through the mud by the same kind of vicious attacks that Park supporters have launched against Dr. Goodman. We admire Dr. Goodman for his courage. We stand with him on the side of scientific integrity.

It is time for the NPS to respond directly and publicly to his criticisms or their flawed work should be retracted. Allowing the draft Environmental Impact Statement to cite this so-called science while the NPS scientists refuse to publicly debate it is a disservice to the community and to science. Independent of the debate over the oyster farm, if the decision is tainted with bad science, we all lose.

Dr. Peter Gleick, Berkeley;

Dr. Kenneth Raymond, Berkeley

2011-10-27 E&E article excerpt

E&ENews PM 


Issa probe targets NPS scientists’ work on Calif. oyster farm

Emily Yehle, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, October 27, 2011

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has launched a review of alleged scientific misconduct at the National Park Service, demanding that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hand over all communications regarding a California oyster farm.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co., which has operated for almost 90 years on Point Reyes National Seashore, is nearing the end of its 40-year lease. As NPS considers whether to allow the company to stay in a national wilderness area, deliberations have sparked fierce debate over whether the farm’s continued operations would harm harbor seals.

NPS scientists say the farm upsets the breeding of nearby seals, but their research has been called into question by several independent panels and outside scientists.

Now, that evidence will come under the review of the Oversight Committee’s Republicans. In his letter, Issa asks Salazar to make seven Interior employees available for transcribed interviews starting Nov. 7, including NPS Director Jon Jarvis and science adviser Marsha McNutt.

“Allegations that NPS knowingly relied on flawed science to support that conclusion as part of an effort to remove DBOC have come from a wide range of stakeholders and disinterested parties,” Issa wrote in a letter to Salazar. “If true, the NPS, a bureau of the Department of the Interior (DOI), will have closed the doors of a family-owned small business without a valid scientific basis.”

Issa now joins Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in expressing concern over the validity of NPS data. Earlier this year, Feinstein asked NPS to delay the EIS until the Marine Mammal Commission completed its investigation into the issue. But the review was issued on schedule — a fact she said “troubled” her.

In arguing that the farm harms seals, NPS officials primarily cited a recent paper published by three agency scientists that asserts three decades of displacement. An outside biologist — National Academy of Sciences member Corey Goodman — has since criticized the findings as distorted.

For example, Goodman discovered that the three-decade claim is based on data that actually begin in 1997, with notes from only two years in the 1980s. He also asserts that a two-year displacement resulted from an elephant seal attack — and not the harvest levels of the farm.

NAS scientists Peter Gleick and Kenneth Raymond also recently criticized the Park Service for refusing to respond to Goodman’s analysis of the report. In a column in today’s Point Reyes Light, they argue that allowing the EIS “to cite this so-called science while the NPS scientists refuse to publicly debate it is a disservice to the community and to science.”

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said the issue was brought to the committee’s attention last spring and further research brought up “troubling questions.” Issa’s letter, among other things, cites a report from Interior’s solicitor’s office that found that at least one of the report’s co-authors “acted improperly” by not disclosing the existence of photographs of the oyster farm’s daily operations.

“Despite finding apparently exculpatory evidence with respect to DBOC’s alleged harm upon the harbor seal population, NPS continues to advocate for the removal of the oyster farm,” Issa wrote. “NPS maintains this position despite the fact that an internal investigation found several individuals within NPS violated the NPS code of scientific conduct.”

Issa asks Salazar to submit a variety of documents by Nov. 4, including interview notes from the solicitor’s investigation, photographs of the oyster farm and draft versions of the EIS. In addition to Jarvis and McNutt, Oversight Republicans plan to interview Solicitor Gavin Frost, former Point Reyes Superintendent Don Neubacher, current Superintendent Cicely Muldoon and NPS scientists Sarah Allen and Ben Becker.

NPS spokesman David Barna said the agency will “respond to the congressional member directly and the member may release our response if appropriate.”

In an interview today, Drakes Bay Oyster Co. owner Kevin Lunny said he was grateful that the committee was looking into the issue.

“We’re actually surprised but very grateful that Congress has recognized that there’s a problem here,” he said, “and we really feel that now we have hope that these problems can be resolved and we can get back to a good working relationship” with NPS.

dEIS Socio-economic Impacts in the dEIS

A core group of approximately 30 people works the oyster farm at Drakes Estero (with spouses and children, the total that will be affected is about 70 people). All but one of the workers are Mexican. Half of the workers and their families live at the oyster farm, and most of the others, with their families, live on the surrounding ranches.

For generations these families have been caring for the oyster beds at Drakes Estero. Due in great part to their excellent stewardship of the Estero, Drakes is known as one of the healthiest estuarine systems in the country. Additionally, the workers have developed specialized skill sets including the “Hanging cultch” rack method of cultivation particular to Drakes Estero, as well as skills based on the cannery.

The dEIS did not consider the historical and cultural value of the oyster farm nor the women of the oyster farm, who’s spouses, many of whom, work on the surrounding ranches and in the nearby dairies.

Should the oyster farm be removed, the workers will not only lose their jobs, but also they will have to pick up their families, and move to Oregon or Washington to look for work, if it is available, since Drakes Bay Oyster Company is the sole remaining oyster cannery in California. Should they choose to remain in Marin County, they will likely have to look for unskilled jobs paying far less. Furthermore, in that many of the spouses of the DBOC workers are employed by the surrounding ranches, if the DBOC wokers lose their jobs, the ranches will lose their employees as well.

Their children are enrolled in our schools, their families attend our churches, and they are a significant part of the social fabric of our small community of approximately 1500.

Being isolated from the rest of the county, our area is also known as West Marin. Rather than look at the community itself, the dEIS includes the entirety of Marin County. As you can see from the map on page 216 in the dEIS, the majority of the population of Marin County is centered along the 101 corridor.

Drakes Estero is

  • 29.26 miles from Terra Linda (via Lucas Valley Road)
  • 27.103 from Novato, via Novato Blvd.
  • 26.721 miles from San Rafael, via Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
    • 23.8 miles from Fairfax, at the west border of the core of the county’s population west of San Rafael, via Sir Francis Drake Blvd.)


West Marin is serviced twice a day eastbound (6:30 and 9:35 AM), and twice a day westbound (3:13 and 6:30 PM)  by the West Marin Stage Coach. Even so, the coach terminates in the west end in Inverness, 5.56 miles away from Drakes Estero and in the east at the transit center in San Rafael. Transit time is 82 minutes – 1.36 hours one way. Add another 10 minutes to get to or from the estero and a one-way travel is 1.75 hours.

The core population to the west of highway 101 extends westward by less than 4 miles. In between the core of the population of Marin county and the estero are miles and miles of ranches, dairies and farms.

Upon arriving at Point Reyes Station, to get to the oyster farm, one has to pass through town and head south around the southern end of Tomales bay, then travel north and west approximately another 8 miles for Drakes Estero is further isolated from Point Reyes Station by Tomales Bay.

Economically, DBOC contributes approximately $350,000.00 a year in sales tax alone. When you consider payroll taxes, permits, rents, etc. the operation contributes at least $500,000.00 to state, local and federal income annually.

Marin County has a population of 252,409 (as of 2010 census) whereas Point Reyes and Inverness combined, boasts a population of approximately 1,500 (although the road-sign as one enters Point Reyes still boasts “Population 350” – perhaps that is discounting those who do not live here full time but only own vacation homes here).

Strangely, the dEIS does not even consider Mexicans, Latinos, or Hispanics minorities. (See table 3-6 on page 215 of the dEIS). Listed are only the following:

  • Black 3.2(% in Marin county) 6.2 (% in California)
  • American Indian and Alaska Native 0.4 (% in Marin county) 0.8 (% in California)
  • Asian 5.7 (% in Marin county) 12.3 (% in California)
  • Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander 0.2 (% in Marin county) 0.4 (% in California)
  • Some other race 6.9 (% in Marin county) 15.5 (% in California)
  • Two or more races 2.2 3.5
  • Total minority 18.6 38.7

The California Historical Society appreciates the oyster farm and its worker’s historical and cultural value. From October 27, 2011 to January 19, 2012, the California Historical Society is hosting the exhibit “Oyster Farm”, featuring the documentary photography of artist Evvy Eisen.

To find out more about the exhibit, go to www.californiahistoricalsociety.org

To view the Evvy Eisen’ photos, go to http://oysterfarmphotos.com/

dEIS Stands for Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Based on it’s name, one would expect, at the very least, data and evidence supporting findings of environmental impact.

In this blog, we will look at the top three major points to ponder, but first, the entire dEIS is available on line at:


Being that the document is 722 pages cover to cover, when you click on the above link and scroll down to the sub-heading “Document Content”, you will find the dEIS is broken into seven PDF documents which you can download to your computer and print all, portions, single pages, or selected text. The documents are:

  1. Front Matter (74 pages which includes)
    • Abstract
    • Executive Summary
    • (Table of) Contents
    • Acronyms
  2. Chapter 1 – Purpose and Need for Action (58 pages)
  3. Chapter 2 – Alternatives (100 pages)
    • all ultimately ending with termination and removal of the oyster operations
    • missing is a “No Action” Alternative
  4. Chapter 3 – Affected Environment (80 pages – those “topics” deemed potentially impacted)
  5. Chapter 4 – Environmental Consequences (186 pages – to what degree, if any, the different alternatives will affect each of the impact topics)
  6. Chapter 5 – Consultation and Coordination
  7. Appendixes


The Top Three Major Points to Ponder (722 pages is a bit daunting so here are the basics)

1.  Potential vs. Data and Evidence (since the dEIS is a PDF, a search for words or phrases can be performed)

    • Do a find for the word “POTENTIAL” (remember potential does not mean evidence of actual impacts ever having occurred in recorded history, but might, maybe, perhaps,  occur – merely hypothetical speculation and supposition)
      • potential” appears over 700 times.
      • Delete the combination phrase “potential wilderness” then the word “potential”, as it relates to HYPOTHETICAL POTENTIAL FUTURE IMPACT  and it appears 514 times
    • Do a find for “data” and “evidence” (as in supporting impact statements) and you will find 7 instances
      • 1 reference to seals (which turns out to be a positive impact)
      • 0 references to eelgrass
      • 0 references to red-legged frogs
    • Conclusion:
      • There is NO DATA / EVIDENCE to support any negative finding whatsoever, be it minor, moderate, or major, on any impact topic covered in the dEIS.


2.  Chapter 1, Purpose and Need for Action, References Used for Impact Analysis, page 23 states:

“Secondary references are those for which evidentiary support is not directly traceable to a source that complies with recognized standards for data documentation and scientific inquiry. Secondary references can include documents that have not been subjected to peer review or that do not reflect direct on-site observations or measurements in accordance with a standard protocol for data documentation.” …“In general, secondary references were not used for the analysis, unless there was a compelling reason to do so.”

    • Legislation enacted by Senator Dianne Feinstein instructed NPS to follow the NAS conclusion of “no major adverse impact”.
    • The National Academies of Science, after reviewing the NPS report concluded that resolving the controversy over the potential harbor seal disturbances “… would require a data collection system that could be independently verified, such as time and date stamped photographs. This verification is especially important in circumstances where there is an indication of a source of disturbance that could lead to a regulatory action, as was the case with disturbances attributed to DBOC.”
    • In 2007, the NPS had in fact installed and operated cameras to record minute-by-minute color photographs during Harbor Seal pupping seasons. Over the three plus years the cameras were in operation 281,000 photographs were taken
      • Each photograph was logged and analyzed
      • Each photograph is available to view at the NPS website
      • Not one photograph shows disturbance of Harbor Seals attributable to DBOC operations,
        • kayakers, hikers, cyclists, etc., yes they have caused disturbances


      • The 281,000 photos and accompanying logs are EVIDENCE of no harm to harbor seals by DBOC
      • The 281,000 photos and accompanying logs qualify as Secondary reference material as defined on page 23 of the dEIS and need to be included
      • The 281,000 photos and accompanying logs should be included in the dEIS
        • per the NAS direction
        • per dictate of current legislation

3.  Becker 2011 report

    • Is titled “Evidence for long term spatial displacement of breeding and pupping harbour seals by shellfish aquaculture over three decades”
    • The information from ’82 and ’83 are notes from a field notebook from a field trip.
      •  This source might qualify as a secondary reference as defined on page 23, however on that same page is the statement “In general, secondary references were not used for the analysis, unless there was a compelling reason to do so.”
      •  If 281,000 photos and their accompanying logs are not to be included neither should field notes from two years immediately prior to a 14 year gap in data be.
    • The “evidence of displacement” provided is evidence seals sought refuge by moving INTO Drakes Estero over a two-year period. A marauding elephant seal killed 40 seals, the remaining seals attained safe harbor within the Estero until the threat moved on.
    • Conclusions:

These three are merely the three major points of the draft EIS. Looking at each section within the report you will find more of the same, claims without data, hypotheses without substance, declarations without evidence.

Open Public Meetings vs. Public Open House, or A Tale of Two Formats

During my first meeting with Dr. Goodman, Corey provided me with information about a presentation he had made to the California Council on Science and Technology. He had been invited to speak about Trust and Accountability in Science and Technology on October 18, 2010. The power point presentation along with the audio had been uploaded to YouTube. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4ImdD4praE&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PLB806A03FBD576029

(The presentation is in six 12-minute parts. Watch it to find out much of what happened in the DBOC saga up to that point in time.)

That evening, I reviewed the entire presentation. My first impression was he is the science professor we all wished we had back in college, easygoing, well spoken, interesting to listen to and interested in his subject. He is possessed of the kind of love for science that can engender a similar love for science in his student. My second impression was, the public needs to hear what he has to say. (Even if one is a proponent of shutting down DBOC, one should listen to this presentation and see the power point slide presentation accompanying it.)

A week or two later, while attending a  performance at The Dance Palace Community Center, I ran into Dr. Goodman, who came to see the show with his wife and friends of theirs. Dr. Goodman informed me he is also  jazz and blues pianist, that was why he came for this particular performance. the DP is one of the fabulous venues we have here in Point Reyes. (For a small town, we have an amazing amount of talent not only living here, but also coming to town to present, perform, and offer their gifts, talents, and knowledge.

I told him I felt he must give his presentation locally; the people need to hear him and what he has to say. If people could only get the information, answer a lot of questions, they would be able to make an informed decision and we might be able to put everyone at ease.  (I know it is hard to believe coming from someone as outspoken as I have been, however I do believe in people and their ability to change their minds when allowed access to all the available knowledge.) He said he had already been thinking about it and wanted to find a way to make it happen.

Over the next few weeks, he worked on the presentation, the ad and the invitation, while I worked on getting a venue, securing sponsors as well as moderators, and getting the word out. Once the dEIS was out and the public meeting dates were set for October 18-20, we decided on October 16 for his presentation.

Late in the morning on Wednesday the 12th, the superintendent of PRNS emailed me the NPS’ decision to decline our invitation . The local papers go to press on Wednesdays and  on the stands on Thursdays. A similar letter had been forwarded to the papers encouraging the public instead to attend the NPS open house meetings.

On October 16, 2011, Dr. Corey Goodman made his presentation to a crowd of 150 people at the Dance Palace Community Center. I reserved the hall for two hours since we had to be out no later than 4 considering the next group was scheduled for a 6:30 PM presentation and needed access for their set up.

Dr. Goodman spoke for an hour and thirty-five minutes before opening the floor to the Q&A. The Q&A lasted until well after 3:30, two and a half hours. Corey continued to make himself available to anyone who still had comments or questions afterwards, outside the building. As upset as people were by the fact that the NPS scientists did not show up, they were equally satisfied with the presentation and even happier with Q&A . People said they felt ready for the NPS meetings to follow beginning two nights later.

When we arrived at the first of the NPS’s public meetings, we were greeted by an army of NPS personnel outfitted in their  uniforms replete with metal badges and nametags giving the appearance of the event being “Policed” by the NPS. Several commented, “Where are their guns?”, many reported feeling “intimidated” by the uniforms. Personally, I appreciated being able to distinguish the NPS personnel from the rest of the crowd.

Some of us were puzzled by the greeting, “Welcome to the EIS cocktail party.” Upon entering the Dance Palace Main Hall, we began to understand why the NPS people refered to it as such. Around the perimeter of the room were easels, most with enlargements of information from the dEIS. Interspersedamongst those easels were a few easels with blank writing pads and a scribe stationed nearby equipped with magic markers in black, blue, red, and green. The universal first comment was “Where is the presentation?

Neither a presentation nor a Q&A was to be had and we all felt we had been had. Furthermore, the majority of the scribes at the three meetings were not even from our park, the PRNS. In response to our “you-must-be-kidding” reactions, we were told the scribes were there to record our “comments and questions” and the boards with the EIS information are where the answers would be. Printed copies of the EIS , we were told, were also available on a table should the answers not be found on the easel boards provided. That same format was repeated Wednesday evening at Fort Mason in San Francisco and Thursday evening at Tam High in Mill Valley.

I came equipped with the chronology I had put together on my own as well as pertinent sections of the dEIS so that I could quote page and verse, and particular pages of Dr. Goodman’s Sunday power point presentations. I took my place in line at one easel after another to have my comments recorded. Having come as prepared as I did, my questions and comments were complete. If I attempted to make more than one comment people in line as well as NPS personnel asked me to step aside to “let others make comments”.

Something strange began to happen as I moved from easel to easel. I was being followed. An NPS agent would appear at the elbow of the scribe, shortly after I begain my comments. He would  interrupt my scribe telling her it was time for her break, or asking him if he wanted a break, or telling her that someone needed her across the room. This happened repeatedly yet only two agents took it upon themselves to do so. As to breaks, keep in mind these were merely two-hour sessions. In all the union jobs I have ever held, from the Restaurant Worker’s Union to the Teamsters Union, to the Retail Worker’s Union, I had to work three hours to be entitled to a break in the middle of the shift however, a two-hour shift earned no breaks.

To their credit, most scribes responded by saying either she did not need a break, or he wanted to finish my comments before going. I even had to tell one agent, “She can take her break as soon as I finish my comment.” (Curiously, though, after recounting this treatment to NPS agent DelOsso on Thursday evening he responded with “Huh! No one offered me a break on Tuesday night.”)

My husband and I had a long conversation with Melanie Gunn on Tuesday evening. During our tete a tete, the agent who had appeared at three different stations as I was offering my commentary came to stand next to Melanie. With his arms folded across his chest he stared straight ahead as we talked. I let five minutes go by before stepping between Melanie and Frank to ask the agent if there was something he needed. He said no but he didn’t leave Melanie’s side for another five minutes.

Perturbed by the treatment I received on the first two evenings, Thursday morning I purchased my own easel and wrote up my comments. Where appropriate I  attached relevant slides from Dr. Corey Goodman’s presentation of the previous Sunday. All togetherI had six sheets with me when I arrived for Thursday evening’s meeting .

I approached Cicely Muldoon, the superintendent of PRNS, told her how my comments had been received the prior two evenings, explained that I had written my comments, brought them with me, and asked her if she would hang them up with the others. I thought she went a bit pale at first but then she said, “As long as there is no profanity and no one’s name is mentioned I think we can do that.” The tallest agent and the tallest scribe were asked to assist affixing my comments to the window where the comments were to be displayed. They both reiterated the admonition “there was no profanity on these sheets.”

Many people came to read what I had posted including all of the NPS peraonnel. With my iPhone, I eventually photographed every NPS agent and scribe making their way around the room to see what had been posted.

It dawned on me that this most likely was the first time most of them gained access to any of this information, no wonder they each came by and spent time reading every word and studying Dr. Goodman’s “slides”. Neal Desai returned four times to read my posted comments;, Gordon Bennett five times – I have the photos.

On a final note, the NPS has never opened itself up to public questions in a public forum at any time over the past four years. These three meetings were no exception. The people claiming legal bases for the NPS’s approach to the matter were not the scribes nor were they available for question or comment. The people involved with the Becker report(s) with the answers to scientific questions were not the scribes nor were they available for questions or comment. As scientists and authors of the scientific papers behind the dEIS, the NPS scientists have a government obligation to respond to scientific criticisms. Specifically, the Department of the Interior Scientific Integrity Policy (1/28/11) states:

“I will welcome constructive criticism of my scientific and scholarly activities and will be responsive to their peer review.”

 I leave you with a quote I found recently:

“In science, it often happens that scientists say, “You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,” and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day.” (emphasis added) ~Carl Sagan, 1987

About the Chronology (Oysters, DBOC & the NPS)

To view the chronology, click this link:

Chronology 05-05-12 44 pages

The first page covers the history of oyster farming in Drake’s Estero as well as the creation of the farms and ranches in the early 1800’s, through 1962 and the creation of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

The date of the latest update is included in the name of the document.

How did you get involved? Why are you doing this? What do you hope to accomplish? Those are the first three questions people ask me, and they usually ask all three, one right after the other.

Early July 2004, we moved to Point Reyes Station, part of West Marin, on the coast Marin County California, the county just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. Over my years here, I have come to know ‘community’ for the first time in my life. It began with the coffee hour after Mass on Sundays at Sacred Heart Church where I first met the core of the ‘community’ that I was to come to call my own. It was there I met Kevin and Nancy Lunny, who purchased the old Johnson’s Oyster Company in early 2005. What was to unfold was a story fit for a Carl Hiaasen novel except, you could not make this stuff up.

Over the next six years, I listened to the trials and tribulations of Kevin and Nancy at the coffee hour then would go home and try to recount what I had heard to my husband. My stories would be met with responses ranging from dubiousness to outright disbelief. Answering his questions was near to impossible for the story seemed too fantastic to be true as I attempted to recount it.

As of April of this year, after the fifth major business and family stressors in my new life ‘at the Point’ was finally behind me, I decided I needed to know what the real story was behind Lunny’s Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the National Park Service. I did not know who to believe, what was accurate, or who or what was really behind it all. I just wanted to know what had happened. One thing I do know is my memory fails me if I do not write things down so I started this chronology. Using the internet I found the history of the area, the farms, ranches, dairies and the oyster farm as well as some of the studies, documents, and letters relating to this saga. It grew to nine pages however, I knew much was still missing from what I had been hearing and reading over the years.

Kevin and Nancy Lunny accepted my invitation to meet and tell me their side of the story. My husband asked to attend the meeting. I explained I just wanted to understand what has happened, and the only way for me to do that was to do some research and get it written down as a chronology. On August 1, 2011, we met at the Pine Cone Diner in town at noon setting aside two hours. Nearly four hours later, Frank and I left with our heads overflowing with information and me with a pile of barely legible notes.

Over the next couple of weeks, I realized I also needed to speak with Dr. Corey Goodman. Dr. Goodman is the scientist who, at the request of Marin County Board of SupervisorSteve Kinsey, in 2007 was asked to review the National Park Service scientific report on Drakes Estero and discovered what he called “scientific misconduct”. Many investigations have been conducted since, much documentation is available on line, but I knew I needed to talk to the scientist behind it all. My emailed request for Corey’s contact information to the Lunnys on Friday August 12, led to my forwarding my sparse chronology to him that afternoon and requesting an appointment. I was welcomed into his home two days later. Frank accompanied me for he had his own questions.

“What do you want to accomplish?” was his first question. “I want to understand what has transpired and, if it turns out to be what I think; the first thing I want is Congressional Hearings. It doesn’t seem just what is going on however; I need more information to understand what has happened. If what has happened is unjust, I want to see justice done.” Our one-hour appointment lasted nearly four hours and in the months since, the chronology has grown to nearly 40 pages. It is saved as a PDF document so you can easily do a “Find” for names, dates, documents, whatever you wish. I will continue to add to it as the saga continues.

In order to understand what has transpired, one needs the facts, all of them, without pre-conceived notions or someone else’s agenda clouding the facts.

The public has until November 29, 2011 to post comments on the NPS website. Before you comment, please read the chronology, follow the hyper-links to the sources of information, watch the presentations, then think and decide for yourself what is really going on.

I am working as quickly as I can to provide you with as much pertinent information as possible so that you can make an informed decision and help justice be done through your comments.

Please click this link to see the chronology:


10-20-11 Congressman Darrell Issa Letter: Depositions and Congressional Hearings

2011-10-20 DEI to Salazar-DOI – oysters due 11-4 11-7

Above is the link to the letter of 10/20/2011, from Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to Kenneth Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, informing him of “scientific misconduct” that  has come to his attention.

The letter demands production of all records by November 4, 2011 noon as well as making certain DOI employees available for transcribed interviews beginning the week of November 7, 2011.

Those employees are to include 

  1. Gavin Frost, Solicitor’s Office
  2. Jon Jarvis, NPS Director
  3. Don Neubacher, Former Superintendent, Point Reyes National Seashore
  4. Dr. Marcia McNutt, Science Advisor to the Office of the Secretary
  5. Dr. Sarah Allen, NPS Scientist
  6. Dr. Ben Becker, NPS Scientist
  7. Cicely Muldoon, Superintendent, Point Reyes National Seashore

Ken Salazar is reminded in the letter:

    “The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives and may at ‘any time’ investigate ‘any matter’ as set forth in House Rule X.”

10-20-11 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Investigation

October 20, 2011

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa’s letter to Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar.

2011-10-20 DEI to Salazar-DOI – oysters due 11-4 11-7

10-20-11 West Marin Citizen Reports on Informal Poll

“We asked men and women of West Marin their opinions on whether Drake’s Bay Oyster Company should be allowed to continue operations in Drake’s Estero,” the pair said. “We sent the poll to our list of 323 West Marinites.”  The results? The people of West Marin, 88% of women and 93% of men, overwhelmingly support DBOC. 


Informal poll shows popular will

By Jeremy Sharp


WITH THE NUMBER OF OPINIONS RUNNING RAMPANT THROUGHWESTMARIN REGARDING THE NEWLY RELEASED DRAFT EIS from the National Park Service, Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell took it upon themselves to find out what people really thought.


“We asked men and women of West Marin their opinions on whether Drake’s Bay Oyster Company should be allowed to continue operations in Drake’s Estero,” the pair said. “We sent the poll to our list of 323 West Marinites.”


The results? The people of West Marin, 88% of women and 93% of men, overwhelmingly support DBOC. That translates into 246 out of the 323 polled.


To avoid errors, Sheehan and Reffell limited responses from single email addresses. But then they got complaints from families that all wanted to vote but were barred by the IP limitation, so they relaxed the rule. In the end, one IP address cast four votes, another five and third three. “A check of IP addresses showed that most of the votes were cast locally,” they said. “The suspicious votes did not change the overall outcome.”


“As with any voting system, we can only know the opinions of those who used the poll, of course,” said Sheehan and Reffell. “Apparently, even if we deducted all the multiple votes, suspicious or not, the great majority of people that voted are in favor of the continuation of DBOC operations in Drake’s Estero.”


The Park Service is not bound by the results of the informal poll. The large response does show, however, that there are a great number of people in West Marin interested in this issue. If they show the same fervor in communicating their desires to PRNS, they may well shift the direction indicated by the draft EIS.

10-16-11 Dr. Corey Goodman on the Science Behind the EIS

On October 16, 2011, Dr. Corey Goodman gave a presentation to the community about the science behind the Environmental Impact Statement. The National Park Service was invited to share the podium with Dr. Goodman for an open discussion of the science behind the EIS followed by a Q&A with the audience. Three days before the event the NPS declined the invitation and suggest the public attend their open house meetings instead to follow later that week. 150 attendees were treated to an hour and a half presentation of the science followed by over two hours of Q&A.  A video of Dr. Goodman’s October 16, 2011 talk at the Dance Palace on his analysis of the draft EIS and the Becker 2011 paper have been posted. 

10-01-11 Seattle Times article on Park Service misconduct at Mt. Rainier

10-01-11 Seattle Times: Mount Rainier park ex-official scrutinized on land deal

In 2002, David Uberuaga, thenMount RainierNational Park’s superintendent, sold his home in Ashford for far above its assessed value to the owner of the company that then held a monopoly as the park’s official climbing-guide service; that transaction raised questions and resulted in a reprimand, followed by a promotion toGrand CanyonNational Park, by Jon Jarvis.

Mt Rainier Scandal 10-01-11

10-01-11 Seattle Times, Mount Rainier park ex-official scrutinized on land deal

Mount Rainier park ex-official scrutinized on land deal

In 2002, David Uberuaga, then Mount Rainier National Park’s superintendent, sold his home in Ashford for far above its assessed value to the owner of the company that then held a monopoly as the park’s official climbing-guide service; that transaction raised questions and resulted in a reprimand.

By Ron Judd

Seattle Times staff reporter

Even with the looming backdrop of one of America’s grandest peaks, the property doesn’t look like much: a modest house surrounded by tall grass fields in the Mount Rainier gateway community of Ashford.

But the 2-acre parcel on Highway 706 became a very big deal to federal investigators when they learned that its owner, Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent David Uberuaga, had sold the Pierce County property at an inflated price to an owner of the company that then held a multimillion-dollar monopoly as the park’s official climbing-guide service.

Uberuaga sold his three-bedroom home in 2002 to Peter Whittaker, head of Rainier Mountaineering Inc. (RMI), for $425,000, more than triple its assessed value. A five-year, owner-financed real-estate contract made the two men business partners while Uberuaga’s administration was rewriting rules that would determine RMI’s share of the lucrative Rainier climbing business for years to come.

Yet Uberuaga never recused himself from park-business dealings with Whittaker and repeatedly offered only a vague description of the deal on his federal ethics-disclosure forms, records show. When finally pressed for more details by a federal ethics officer, he continued to conceal that the man paying an unusually handsome price for his home also owned the park’s largest concessions contract.

Investigators eventually concluded that Uberuaga “made false statements or concealed material facts” about the transaction. In late 2008, they referred the case to federal prosecutors in Seattle, who declined to prosecute.

The Park Service gave Uberuaga a letter of reprimand.

Details of the questionable land deal came to light only recently — through Seattle Times federal public-records requests in 2010 that eventually produced several hundred pages of redacted documents. A Times investigation, which also included numerous interviews and other public records, offers a rare look at the business side of Mount Rainier National Park, the state’s iconic tourist draw and a global climbing mecca.

It also raises questions about National Park Service promotion practices. This summer, Uberuaga was rewarded with one of the most prestigious posts in the Park Service: superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, which boasts some of the nation’s richest concessions contracts, with $145 million in gross annual revenues.

Because of the park’s status, the Grand Canyon promotion required a new “senior executive” status for Uberuaga — and special vetting at National Park Service headquarters, where details of the Rainier investigation are well-known.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, a former Rainier superintendent, not only signed Uberuaga’s 2008 letter of reprimand but also approved his latest promotion.

Yet Uberuaga said the investigation and subsequent reprimand never came up during interviews for his new job, which comes with a $7,000 pay increase, to $153,000 a year.

Jarvis declined repeated interview requests, and the Park Service refused to release any of its records related to the investigation.

Uberuaga denies that he intentionally withheld information or that the land deal was in any way a kickback for services rendered, promised or even hoped for by Whittaker.

“I was confident with my integrity,” Uberuaga told The Times. “I didn’t have anything to hide. I feel very good about 27 years of decisions that I’ve made. My actions have to be above reproach every single day on every single thing I do. That’s the way I’ve always been.”

Earlier complaints

Accusations of untoward chumminess between Mount Rainier National Park and RMI are not new. Competing guide companies had groused about RMI’s virtual monopoly on Rainier long before the climbing concession became the $4 million-plus annual business it is today.

RMI, founded in 1969 by Peter Whittaker’s father, Lou, and a partner, had a stranglehold on paid Rainier climbing-guide services for more than three decades. Uberuaga was a park administrator for much of that time.

A rare park employee with a master’s degree in business, Uberuaga (Oo-burr-AW-guh), 61, launched his Rainier career in 1984 as chief of administration overseeing contracts, human resources, procurement and other fine points of the federal bureaucracy.

For much of his Rainier stint, Uberuaga, wife Barbara and three children lived in the modest Ashford house, purchased in 1992 for $84,000, directly across Highway 706 from the Whittaker family’s “Rainier BaseCamp” enterprise. All three Uberuaga children held seasonal jobs with RMI at various times. The Whittakers were neighbors and family friends.

Even before the real-estate deal, that close relationship became a concern to Uberuaga’s supervisor. In a memo obtained by The Times but not referred to in the federal investigation, then-Superintendent Jarvis in February 2002 recused Uberuaga, his deputy, from any park-contracting matters as long as the Uberuaga children worked for Whittaker.

In the memo, Jarvis said the potential for an appearance of conflict had prompted him to personally retain all authority for park-concessions contracting. He emphasized Uberuaga’s need to keep an especially safe distance with contractors as the park developed a new Commercial Services Plan.

“To ensure that ANY potential appearance of a conflict of interest is removed … as long as Dave’s children remain employed in any way by RMI or any other concessionaire, Dave will not have any involvement in” the concessions program, Jarvis wrote.

At the end of summer 2002, Uberuaga’s children took what Whittaker thought was the unusual step of issuing formal letters of resignation from their seasonal jobs.

Around the same time, Uberuaga said, he began mulling the sale of his house — an action urged by his wife, who wanted to move to nearby Eatonville.

Events in the park that fall gave him reason to agree: Uberuaga learned he was in line to become the park’s next superintendent. Around the same time, a new long-range plan identified the family property as part of a likely site for a future park transit center. Uberuaga was worried that a superintendent’s owning land that was key to park plans “could get sticky” in terms of public appearances.

He decided to sell.

Despite its $122,400 assessed value, Uberuaga believed the property could bring as much as $465,000 — a figure he arrived at by doing his own “market analysis” of nearby commercial parcels along Highway 706.

Knowing the Whittakers were a likely buyer, he sought ethical advice: How should he handle the sale of property that could wind up in the hands of a major park business partner?

You’re free to sell your property to anyone, Uberuaga said he was told by an official in the Park Service’s regional solicitor’s office in Portland. But “make it as public as possible.” List the property publicly, and entertain all offers.

Uberuaga did so — sort of.

He went to a local ERA Countryside real-estate agent and first asked simply for help drawing up a real-estate contract with a buyer already in hand — Peter Whittaker, records show. Later, he asked the agent to list the property publicly — but for a specified period of two weeks beginning in late September 2002.

Whittaker quickly agreed to a $425,000 purchase price, signing a purchase contract in December 2002.

Because the sales price was more than triple the assessed value — and more than twice the assessed value even today — conventional financing was not an option, Whittaker said. Uberuaga agreed to an owner-financed sale: Whittaker, paying 20 percent down and 7 percent interest, would make 63 monthly payments through a third party, Fidelity Contract Services.

The Uberuagas moved to Eatonville, and the new superintendent went about his business.

Contentious process

Much of that business involved the park’s new Commercial Services Plan, which was proving to be the most contentious process in the park’s recent history.

Because more than four years already had passed since Congress made federal contracting more competitive, Rainier Mountaineering’s guide-service monopoly was living on borrowed time. The company’s most recent contract with the park had expired in 2001 and was being renewed year by year as Uberuaga’s team slogged through the long process of holding public hearings and rewriting park-contracting rules.

That process, directed by Uberuaga, began in 2002 and took three years. Along the way, competing guide services groused about apparent bureaucratic foot-dragging that allowed RMI to maintain its monopoly, worth as much as $1 million per year in additional revenues, records show.

In a preliminary draft of the plan, the park split climbing-guide services into three equal shares. But the final plan, released in 2005, gave RMI half of the park’s annual commercial-climbing permits. (About 10,500 climbers attempted Rainier last year; 4,589 were paid guides and clients. Prices range from $1,000 to $1,600 per person.) Two competitors, Alpine Ascents International and International Mountain Guides, were awarded 25 percent each.

As part of the final paperwork for the new contracts, Uberuaga had to sign a single-page “Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Certificate,” attesting that he knew of nothing that “might place me in a position of conflict, real or apparent.” The document specifically directed him to certify he had considered all stocks, bonds and “other financial interests” in making that determination.

Directly above a line noting that a false declaration could lead to federal prosecution, Uberuaga signed the document and dated it May 4, 2006.

Whittaker paid off the real-estate loan in March 2008 — the same month he assumed majority ownership of RMI from his father. The real-estate deal was scarcely noticed until five months later, when someone privy to the details complained to federal authorities about a conflict of interest.

Uberuaga interrogated

That anonymous tip made its way to the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Its investigators descended upon park headquarters, where they combed through records and confiscated Uberuaga’s work- and home-computer hard drives.

In a pair of lengthy interrogations of Uberuaga, the investigators bluntly laid out their findings:

Uberuaga had sold personal property to a major park contractor at what appeared to be a “crazy” high price. By publicly listing the property for only two weeks, Uberuaga appeared to have created a pro-forma public process, simply to make the deal “pass the smell test” for ethics overseers.

Uberuaga had no explanation for the two-week listing, telling investigators, “I mean, I look at that now and say… Yeah, why just two weeks?”

His best defense for signing the 2006 conflict-of-interest statement without disclosing the Whittaker land deal was essentially that he hadn’t read it and assumed it was just a confidentiality agreement.

Rereading it in the presence of investigators, he conceded, “It’s obviously a lot more than that … that was another opportunity there to fully disclose.”

But that was just one of at least a half-dozen federal ethics documents signed by the superintendent over that period, each providing Uberuaga an opportunity to fully disclose the land deal.

As required by law, he had reported the sale on his annual federal Ethics in Government Form 450, where he described it, under the heading “Assets and Income,” as “Real Estate Contract, Fidelity Contract Services,” with Peter Whittaker. On another page, under the heading “Entity with which you have an agreement or arrangement,” Uberuaga wrote, “None.”

He left the descriptions unchanged on subsequent ethics forms through 2008, when an official at the park service’s Pacific West Region office emailed Uberuaga, seeking more details about “with whom or what company” the contract was with.

Uberuaga responded in part in an email: “This is an owner-financed real estate contract that was set up when we sold our home to a private party.”

He did not explain why he never saw fit to disclose that the “private party” was a co-owner of RMI.

Investigators appeared to be incredulous.

“This is the guy who’s evaluating this for any sort of conflict of interest,” an OIG agent told Uberuaga. “What do you think he’s asking by that?”

Uberuaga: “Well, I thought he was asking what I answered, and what you’re saying is I should have answered it more fully and put some flags on it.”

Agent: “Well, I’m not saying it. You are. But yeah, I’m thinking that as well.”

Uberuaga said he assumed other Park Service officials would have realized on their own the potential conflict a deal with Whittaker might present.

But the Park Service official who asked for more information later told investigators he had no idea about Whittaker’s business relations with the park, and “definitely would have asked more questions” and kicked the matter up the chain of command if he had.

Uberuaga’s response: “I wasn’t trying to hide it. I wasn’t trying to blab it either.”

Asked if the sale was a kickback, Uberuaga repeatedly said no, agreeing to back up the answer on a polygraph exam. He later did so, and “deception was not indicated,” according to the examiner’s report.

In hindsight, Uberuaga concedes the sale’s timing with the park’s contract plan and RMI’s open contract looks suspicious. “I could see where there was an appearance of conflict,” he said. Aside from suggesting it would prevent him from “fully carrying out” his job, Uberuaga has never explained his failure to recuse himself from business decisions involving RMI.

He told The Times he agreed with Jarvis’ 2002 order to recuse him from contracting matters while his children were employed by RMI.

Yet later that year, he signed a multiyear real-estate contract with an owner of the same company and deemed a recusal unnecessary — a contention he still defends.

“My rationale at the time was that all my work would be reviewed by others,” he told The Times.

“I felt like what I did with my disclosure was enough, really. Otherwise, someone would have said something to me.”

That someone might have been Jarvis, who was briefed on the property sale, records show. Despite his unequivocal recusal of Uberuaga in 2002 for what appeared to be a less-serious appearance of conflict, Jarvis told investigators he agreed no recusal was necessary after the real-estate deal.

A spokesman for Jarvis, David Barna, issued a statement describing the park service’s extremely high ethical standards and the “stringent penalties” for violators.

“Even the appearance of a conflict of interest is unacceptable,” Barna wrote, adding: “David Uberuaga is a devoted public servant. Allegations of a conflict of interest regarding a concessionaire at Mount Rainier were thoroughly investigated … and resolved.”

“Are you serious?”

Whittaker, who grew up on the mountain and has seen superintendents come and go, laughed at the notion his expensive purchase was an attempt to gain favor with the park boss. If he was a co-conspirator, he said, he was a lousy one.

“Kickbacks, special consideration… are you serious?” Whittaker said. “We got, if anything, less attention after the real-estate deal.”

RMI lost roughly a third of its overall Rainier climbing revenue with the 2006 contract revisions, he said. The company’s franchise fee — a percentage of gross receipts paid to the park — jumped from 4 percent to 7 percent in previous contracts to 15 percent. The company in 2010 paid the park $305,000 on $2.1 million in gross revenues.

But Whittaker also concedes the timing of the transaction “looks very cozy and close. I understand how people could look at that and think there was something going on. But I have nothing to hide.”

He did pay a “premium” price for the property, he said. He had hoped to use the property for a new welcome center and climbing museum, a public/private partnership that for now, at least, lacks any public financing.

But Whittaker had another reason to jump on the land in 2002: A competitor, Eric Simonson’s International Mountain Guides, was looking at it, too, hoping to expand in Ashford if and when RMI’s climbing monopoly ended.

Simonson said all three companies work cooperatively on the mountain today, with controversy over the contracts mostly a memory. But after recently learning of the federal investigation, he wonders whether RMI’s still-handsome share of the Rainier climbing bounty was the result of a truly objective process.

“To what extent was influence exerted? I don’t know,” he said. “But clearly Peter Whittaker has no reason to want to piss off the superintendent. If throwing him an extra hundred thousand or so on his house or something was a way of making him feel the love, then, you know, feel the love.”


09-02-11 Senator Feinstein letter to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

08-11-11 Pete McCloskey letter to Secretary of the Interior

McCloskey to Salazar re DBOC 08-11-11

McCloskey to Salazar re DBOC 08-11-11 Exhibits

10-18-10 Dr. Corey Goodman on Trust and Accountability in Science

October 18, 2010, Dr. Corey Goodman was invited to speak to the California Council on Science and Technology in their meeting on Trust and Accountability in Science and Technology.

The audio and slides from this presentation are available on YouTube in six 12 minute parts. To begin viewing this presentation click on the link: http://www.youtube.com/Coreysgoodman

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