02-25-13 9th Circuit Court establishes Website for Drakes Bay Oyster Co. v. Salazar, 13-15227

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. v. Salazar, 13-15227.

The link above takes you to the Ninth Circuit Court website where you may get updates mentioned below:

Due to the level of interest in this case, this site has been created to notify the media and public of procedures and rules for admission to proceedings, as well as access to case information.”

Please check this website regularly for updates.

02-22-13 TO 02-23-13 24 Hour Vigil

24-Hour Vigil

 

Of PRAYER, MEDITATION, MUSIC, SONG, & FOOD

OFFERED for the intention of

Reversing the decision to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company &

Saving the Jobs, Housing, and Livelihood of the 30 HISPANIC Workers

WHERE AND WHEN?

6:45 PM Friday night, February 22 to

6:45 PM Saturday night, February 23

Sacred Heart Church

10189 State Route 1, Olema 94950

 

 

Not Catholic? Not into Religion? Don’t believe in God?

No Problem!

an Intention to Save the Oyster Company is all You Need!

Can’t Attend? Set Aside a Time to Join Us in Spirit

 

Bring Your Favorite Prayers, Meditations, Songs

If You Play an Instrument, Bring It, you may get to play for us

If You Cook or Bake, Bring Something to Share With Us.

 

The Freitas Center will be Open Throughout the Vigil Serving  

Coffee, tea, Hot Chocolate, and any food You Bring to Share

 

Come, spend a few minutes, spend an hour or

Spend the entire 24 hours with us!

 

You May Want to Bring Pillows, Cushions, or a Sleeping Bag

Wear comfortable clothes

All are welcome!

02-21-13 75-page report details misconduct – performance & execution of investigations under Mary Kendall.

02-21-13 “House Natural Resources Committee… released a scathing 75-page report detailing misconduct in the performance and execution of IG investigations under the four-year tenure of “Acting” IG – Mary Kendall….

What is so striking – the categories of issues identified in this House Committee Report (having nothing to do with NPS at Point Reyes) are almost identical to the suite of issues involving NPS science at Drakes Estero – unfinished IG reports, gross errors, glaring omissions, significant misrepresentations, altered data, missing emails – and the list goes on. “

 

This is the story of TWO REPORTS – one from House Natural Resources Committee (just released) AND the second, a new Inspector General’s Report, prepared by the OIG under DOI IG Mary Kendall, on NPS science at Point Reyes/Drakes Estero (released in early February).

 

In a letter to President Obama this past week, House Natural Resources Committee Chair, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), told the President to appoint a permanent Inspector General at the Interior Department and released a scathing 75-page report detailing misconduct in the performance and execution of IG investigations under the four-year tenure of “Acting” IG – Mary Kendall.

 

A few weeks ago, on February 7, 2013 (five months late), OIG Kendall released the results of what was supposed to be a misconduct investigation on NPS Science at Drakes Estero (on false sound data in the NPS DEIS for the DBOC permit extension).  There’s no nice way to say it:  The IG’s report is a white-wash, from start-to-finish.  I won’t go into the details here, but in the coming next few days, the OIG misconduct will be exposed.  A story this past week in the Point Reyes Light only scratched the surface.

 

The House Committee report is posted on the Committee’s web site and can be accessed from the following link:  http://naturalresources.house.gov/uploadedfiles/oversightreportdepartmentofinterior.pdf

 

What is so striking – the categories of issues identified in this House Committee Report (having nothing to do with NPS at Point Reyes) are almost identical to the suite of issues involving NPS science at Drakes Estero – unfinished IG reports, gross errors, glaring omissions, significant misrepresentations, altered data, missing emails – and the list goes on.

 

From the IG’s Report – Selected Examples of Getting it Wrong:

 

*             NPS regulations are crystal clear, the NPS was required – MANDATORILY – to measure the sound from Kevin’s oyster boats, the oyster tumbler and other noise-generating machines.  MEASURE IT.  NPS didn’t bother.  NPS can’t say they didn’t know — the mandatory regulation was in place for more than a decade — since 2001.  Instead, the IG investigators interviewed several NPS officials and NPS contractors, and then quoted them, in their overdue report, explaining (words to the effect), “oh, we don’t do it that way…we use proxy data all the time.”  Armed with an “that’s-the-way-we-do-it” explanation, the IG then effectively concluded, if they do it all the time, it must be okay.  So much for law and policy.  So much for mandatory regulations.  NPS didn’t bother.  The IG didn’t care.

 

*             The Goodman Misconduct Complaint, submitted last April, set forth six major allegations against the NPS.  Kendall and her OIG team didn’t bother to address three of them.   The IG turned their back on half the Goodman complaint.  Another way to look at it – the IG simply “airbrushed” away major elements of the Complaint.

 

*             IG Investigators, Vince Haecker and Trey DeLaPena, told Kevin, when they originally interviewed him, that he would be given an opportunity to “ground truth/fact check” NPS responses.  Kevin never heard from the investigators again.  Lunny requests, several months later, for follow-up meetings went unanswered – ignored.

 

A week ago, within days of the latest IG report giving NPS a clean bill-of-ethical-health, Justice Department lawyers raced to Federal Court, and, citing the IG’s report, told Judges at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Lunny complaints about NPS science were wrong and the oyster farm was causing real environmental impacts.  This is after the Secretary said he wasn’t finalizing the EIS, failed to submit it (as required) to EPA, failed to publish it in the Federal Register, failed to allow a 30-day comment period, failed to produce a Record of Decision (ROD) as set forth, in writing to Kevin and Nancy Lunny in September 2010, and then said, the day he announced he was shutting down the farm – the EIS didn’t matter.

 

If the sound from Kevin’s oyster tumbler was as loud as NPS said it was, as the OIG confirmed as valid and the Department of Justice told the Federal Courts, then the conversation between Kevin and Nancy Lunny and Interior Secretary Salazar (depicted in the photo below could not have taken place) – and would have been drowned out by the noise.  But it wasn’t.

 

 

From the Russian River Times – “On his visit to the oyster farm,  Salazar and Kevin and Nancy Lunny hold a perfectly normal conversation in front of the oyster tumbler. Nancy is holding a sound meter, which was used to measure the levels to compare with the values in the Draft EIS and Final EIS, which were based on ‘imported’ data rather than the actual measurement required by NPS policy.   At the NPS reported sound levels, which would have been clearly audible over a mile away, this conversation would have been impossible. ”

Instead of investigating NPS and their serial misconduct Kendall and the OIG decided to “partner” with NPS.  With the most recent IG’s report, Inspector General Kendall’s integrity was undeniably compromised.  From the just-published House Committee Report, and the examples set forth in it, we now learn that the Interior Department’s ethical problems were not limited to NPS and what continues to unfold at Drakes Estero.

 

The Committee press release is pasted into this email, below.  Articles from Greenwire, “Hastings Faults Acting IG for ‘Accommodating’ Admin, Urges Obama to Appoint Permanent Watchdog,” and THE Hill “Senior House Republican Calls on Obama to Replace ‘Accommodating’ Interior Watchdog.” are also pasted below.

 

 

Press Release

Chairman Hastings Calls for President Obama to Appoint Permanent Inspector General for the Department of the Interior
Committee Staff Report Highlights Mismanagement of IG under Mary Kendall’s Administration

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 21, 2013 – House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) today wrote to President Obama requesting that he nominate a permanent Inspector General for the Department of the Interior. Since the Department’s previous Inspector General Earl Devaney was appointed to a new position nearly four years ago, the Department’s Office of Inspector General (IG) has been run by Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, serving in an acting capacity.

Committee staff also released a report today, entitled “Holding Interior Watchdog Accountable,” that details mismanagement by Ms. Kendall while overseeing the IG. These include: not pursuing investigations involving political appointees or Administration priorities; informing senior Department officials of problems without conducting formal investigations and not issuing reports to Congress and the public; not adequately documenting the management of IG investigations and operations; serving in an appointed policy role in conflict with the IG’s investigative duties; preventing an investigator from seeking information from a White House official; and providing inaccurate and misleading information to Congress.

The report also details how Ms. Kendall has openly expressed the desire to receive the nomination to become the permanent Inspector General while administering the IG’s oversight role in a manner that was privately accommodating to senior Department officials and the Obama Administration compared to the IG’s more assertive style in past Administrations.

Click here to read a copy of the letter.

Click here to read a copy of the report.

“There have been too many instances where the Department’s IG office has been mismanaged by Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall, serving as acting Inspector General, and IG Chief of Staff Stephen Hardgrove. For too long, their accommodation of the Department’s leadership have compromised and undermined the professional work of the IG’s career staff. It is time to end the decline in trust that has resulted from their administration of the IG and provide the office with a clear leader empowered with the authority that flows from the permanence and independence of a Presidential nomination and Senate confirmation,” wrote Chairman Hastings in the letter to President Obama. “I urge you to act without further delay to nominate a well-qualified, uncompromised individual to serve as a permanent Inspector General for the Department of the Interior.”

The report examines a number of specific actions and decisions by Ms. Kendall and IG Chief of Staff Hardgrove, several of which have not been publically discussed prior to the release of this Committee staff report:

Not Actively Pursuing Ethics Investigations. The IG on several occasions did not fully investigate allegations of misconduct by the Obama Administration in the same manner and thoroughness as previous Administrations and chose to handle problems informally without issuing public reports or informing Congress. Examples:

 

1) IG Chief of Staff Hardgrove made a unilateral decision not to pursue a complaint filed with the IG’s Office of Whistleblower Protection from a Bureau of Reclamation scientist who believed he was wrongfully terminated for questioning the scientific integrity of the Department’s decision to remove the Klamath River dams

 

2) No ethics review or evaluations were conducted by the IG into Counselor to the Secretary Steve Black’s romantic relationship with a renewable energy lobbyist to determine whether a violation of federal ethics and conflict of interest laws occurred with his work on renewable energy issues for the Department

 

3) The IG did not comprehensively investigate and publicly report on allegations that former BOEMRE Director Michael Bromwich may have interfered in the Joint Investigation Team’s Deepwater Horizon investigation for political purposes.

Renewable Energy Study. Despite the extensive work of a team of auditors, Ms. Kendall decided not to finalize a draft study of the Department’s renewable energy program that had critical findings. The IG allowed political appointees at the Department offer extensive edits, reviews and comments to the study and Ms. Kendall made personal edits to the study that softened the report to the point that it caused dispute and disagreement among her own staff.

 

Drilling Moratorium Report Investigation. The IG conducted an investigation into the editing of the Department of the Interior’s Drilling Moratorium Report that made it to appear as though the six-month drilling moratorium in the Gulf of Mexico was supported by engineering experts when it was not. Emails from the IG’s investigators detail how they were not able to obtain all DOI documents that may have been relevant to their investigation, and they were prevented from interviewing Secretary Salazar or White House staff involved in editing the report. There have since been concerns over possible whistleblower retaliation. In addition, Ms. Kendall testified before Congress that she was not involved in the process of developing the Drilling Moratorium Report, yet served on Secretary Salazar’s OCS Safety Oversight board. This conflicting policy role undermined her ability to be impartial in investigating a matter that she had direct knowledge of and involvement with. Ms. Kendall also testified that she had never read the Drilling Moratorium Report, but internal IG documents suggest otherwise.
Background
Ms. Kendall is currently under investigation by the Integrity Committee of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency for potential conflict of interests and lack of independence related to the Drilling Moratorium Report and subsequent IG investigations.

A bipartisan group of Senators also recently called on President Obama to fill vacant Inspector General positions at six departments, including the Department of the Interior.

###

Contact: Jill Strait or Spencer Pederson 202-226-9019

http://naturalresources.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=320559

 

E&ENews PM 

4. INTERIOR:

Hastings faults acting IG for ‘accommodating’ admin, urges Obama to appoint permanent watchdog

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013

House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) today called on President Obama to appoint a permanent inspector general at the Interior Department, arguing that the acting IG has failed to hold the agency and the administration accountable.

Republican committee staff today also released a report arguing that acting IG Mary Kendall since 2009 has taken an “accommodating and cooperative approach” to the post that has undermined the office’s independence. Without being confirmed, Kendall is faced with the awkward task of demanding accountability of the administration while also seeking the president’s nomination, the report notes.

“For too long, their accommodation of the department’s leadership have compromised and undermined the professional work of the IG’s career staff,” Hastings said in a statement. “It is time to end the decline in trust that has resulted from their administration of the IG and provide the office with a clear leader empowered with the authority that flows from the permanence and independence of a presidential nomination and Senate confirmation.”

Hastings last Congress led an investigation into Kendall’s probe of an Interior report that erroneously claimed the agency’s moratorium on deepwater drilling following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was supported by outside engineers. Hastings claimed Kendall oversaw a biased investigation of the report’s editing, which found no conclusive evidence that the mistakes were intentional.

Hastings’ request comes nearly a month after a bipartisan group of 16 senators urged Obama to nominate candidates to fill vacant inspector general posts at six major federal agencies, including Interior (E&E Daily, Jan. 25).

Members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by incoming Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.) and ranking member Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), said IGs’ task of “speaking truth to power” can be especially difficult for acting officials who lack presidential endorsement or Senate confirmation.

An email to the White House this afternoon was not returned by press time.

 
Senior House Republican calls on Obama to replace ‘accommodating’ Interior watchdog

By Zack Colman – 02/21/13 12:10 PM ET

House Natural Resources Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) wants President Obama to replace the acting head of Interior Department’s internal watchdog for being too soft on the White House.

Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall has helmed Interior’s Office of Inspector General for four years. Hastings said in a Thursday letter to Obama that replacing Kendall would remedy an office “in serious need of independent leadership.”

House Natural Resources Republicans have slammed Kendall’s role in reviewing a report that called for a six-month Gulf of Mexico deepwater drilling freeze following the 2010 BP oil spill, which the White House implemented.

Hastings said Kendall and her chief of staff, Stephen Hardgrove, have “compromised and undermined” the Interior’s internal watchdog. He labeled their performance as “privately accommodating to senior Department officials and your administration” in an effort for Kendall to nab permanent inspector general position.

The commitee questioned issues beyond the drilling moratorium in a report released Thursday. The report alleges, among other items, that the inspector general dropped a review of renewable energy programs on federal lands that the committee said would have reflected poorly on the administration.

Kris Kolesnik, a spokesman with the Interior Office of Inspector General, said the watchdog could not “meaningfully respond to the selective soliloquy” of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Anyone interested in the whole story would have to read all the testimony from the August 2, 2012 hearing, talk to all of those that were involved in the matters reported on, and have access to all the documents and interviews made available to the committee staff. The committee’s February 21, 2013 report paints a very biased picture,” Kolesnik said in a Thursday statement.

Hastings and committee Republicans have mainly questioned Kendall’s impartiality in investigating the May 2010 report that called for the drilling moratorium and other drilling-safety measures.

They say internal Interior emails showed Kendall was in meetings to develop the report she later probed.

Kendall has denied she had any part in writing the report. She said she was involved in meetings to get up to speed with deepwater drilling issues.

Republicans and industry opposed the temporary ban, calling it an overreaction to the April 2010 BP oil spill.

Hastings has convened several hearings on the May 2010 report, which has included subpoenas.

Interior has criticized the committee’s tactics, noting it has complied with Hastings’ requests for information and documents related to the report.

— This story was updated at 6:01 p.m.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/284223-senior-house-republican-calls-on-obama-to-replace-accommodating-interior-watchdog#ixzz2LcoNHCoB

 

 

 

 

 

02-14-13 Pt Reyes Light: Coastal Commission Trumped Up Claims Against DBOC

Coastal Commission Trumped Up Claims Against Drakes Bay

Point Reyes Light, February 14, 2013

By Sarah Rolph

Last week, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) approved an enforcement against Drakes Bay Oyster Farm (DBOC), a combined Cease and Desist Order and Restoration Order.  The press release from the local activist group Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (EAC), which works closely with the CCC, makes the situation sound serious.  The EAC says “DBOC violated multiple provisions of the 2007 Consent Order,” and cites issues such as “ongoing unpermitted development” and “violations of harbor seal protection requirements.”

 

In fact, these purported violations could hardly be more un-serious. The “unpermitted development” refers to things like digging a necessary trench for electrical work, installing a fence in the parking area, and adding a few new picnic tables. The so-called “violations of harbor seal protection requirements” can be traced to a misunderstanding about where the oyster boats are allowed to go.  CCC maintains a definition of the “lateral channel” that DBOC doesn’t recognize.  The oyster boats have not been traveling in new places—the CCC is apparently unfamiliar with the lay of the land here.

The EAC and the CCC report that the Restoration Order addresses “impacts to eelgrass from motorboat propeller cuts, impacts to water quality from wooden racks treated with chromated copper arsenate, the spread of the aggressive and highly invasive Didemnum vexillum, the spread of other invasive species including Manila clams, and the general nature of ongoing mariculture operations.”

Here, too, the claims are grossly exaggerated.

As has been reported many times over the course of this controversy, the eelgrass in Drakes Estero is quite healthy.  The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) noted in its 2009 review that “the total percentage of eelgrass area lost (1%) or partially degraded by propeller scars (7%) and thus attributable to oyster mariculture represents about 8% of all eelgrass habitat in Drakes Estero as of 2007. Eelgrass has approximately doubled in areal cover in Drakes Estero from 1991 to 2007, implying little systemic threat from the existing intensity of oyster culturing activities. Oysters have the potential to benefit eelgrass because their filtering activity improves local water clarity (and hence light penetration) and because they release biodeposits and ammonium (plant nutrients).”

The so-called impacts to water quality from treated wooden racks would be news to everyone who monitors the water quality in Drakes Estero.  It’s not mentioned in the water quality section of the Park Service Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The tunicate Didemnum vexillum is harmless.  Its presence was covered by the 2009 NAS report, which  described it as a “pest.”

There is no evidence that clams are spreading.  Perhaps the EAC has mixed up its accusations; clams feature in another exaggerated complaint stemming from a clerical error at the Fish & Wildlife department that resulted in the misplacement of some clams until the error was discovered.  (The clams are now back where they are supposed to be.)

As to why EAC or CCC have an issue with “ongoing mariculture operations,” that’s a question that may never be answered.  Suffice to say the groups share a strong dislike of the oyster farm.

The one fact that seems to be technically true is that the Lunnys do not have the required Coastal Development Permit (CDP).  Yet the Lunnys say they have completed that application, that no additional info has been requested of them, and that CCC staff recommended in 2010 that the finalization of the CDP be postponed until the DBOC EIS was completed by the Park Service.

The CCC’s Cease and Desist and Restoration Order is nothing more than a collection of trumped-up charges that have been carefully crafted to shore up the Park Service narrative.

For years, NPS has made false claims of DBOC harm to the environment.  The 2009 NAS review found that the Park Service had “selectively presented, overinterpreted, or misrepresented the available scientific information on DBOC operations by exaggerating the negative and overlooking potentially beneficial effects” – damning language coming from scientists, who are famously conservative about such matters.  The Department of Interior Inspector General reported in March 2011 that it found the Park Service staff at Point Reyes guilty of “misconduct [that] arose from incomplete and biased evaluation and from blurring the line between exploration and advocacy through research,” and that “responses from NPS employees reveal a collective but troubling mindset.”

That didn’t stop NPS from including the same false claims, and more, in their EIS—but that document was found to be so lacking in substance by the National Academy’s 2012 review that it has now been effectively discarded.  Thus the need for something to reinforce the false narrative.

Marin County supervisor and CCC vice-chair Steve Kinsey voted for the Order because he found it technically correct, given that the CDP isn’t official.  But even so, he calls the situation “morally disturbing,” saying the CCC “repeated the same disproven assertions that the operation was harming harbor seals and eelgrass” NPS has made.  Says Kinsey, “CCC staff chose to portray the Lunnys as irresponsible operators to aid and abet the Park Service’s myopic interest in terminating the lease. Given the unequivocal support of aquaculture written into the Coastal Act and the specific support in Marin’s Local Coastal Program, I am deeply disappointed in the staff’s attitude and complicity with the NPS.”

The desire to remove DBOC flies in the face of every county, state, and federal policy about oyster aquaculture.  Oyster farming is known to help the environment, as noted above by the NAS; this is of course why oyster restoration projects are under way all over the world.  The Marin County planning documents call for support of aquaculture, the PRNS General Management Plan supports it, and even the CCC charter, the Coastal Act says “aquaculture is a coastal-dependent use which should be encouraged to augment food supplies.”

Something is very wrong here.

Sarah Rolph is a freelance writer working on a book about the Lunnys.  Her website is http://www.sarahrolph.com.

02-14-13 No. Bay Biz: DBOC Royal Shucking by NPS

02-14-13 North Bay Biz Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s Royal Shucking by NPS

…the Park Service was a party to reports that doctored the science, shaded the truth or spun the data regarding how the oyster business negatively affected the park. The reports were designed to influence public opinion and to paint the oyster operation as being bad for the environment or poor stewards of the Estero. While it was eventually acknowledged that the reports were flawed, the damage was done.

 

The White House is about small business…mostly. The Obama administration has spent plenty of time talking about small business and its role in restoring the economy. But in this case there were 30 people pink slipped when Salazar put the hammer to Drakes Bay.

Bill Meagher
Columnist: Bill Meagher

February, 2013 Issue

 

On a cold November Thursday, Ken Salazar made a boatload of enemies with a single phone call.

 

The secretary of the U.S. Interior Department chose that day to announce his decision that the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, the family-run seafood business that became a fixture in Drakes Estero at Point Reyes National Seashore, had 90 days to depart the premises.

 

He’d visited West Marin the week before, taken a tour of the facility and sat with owner Kevin Lunny. It was the right thing for Salazar to do, though only he knows if his mind was already made up to tell Lunny his business had run its course. Salazar had company—there are many people in the North Bay who believe he did the right thing by dispatching the oyster operation.

 

There are also plenty of folks who feel Lunny and company got the wood put to them without the benefit of so much as a kiss. It’s a debate that was playing out in Marin in a loud manner as folks were hanging Christmas lights and I was putting this column to bed. I won’t try to cover every angle now as I have but 1,000 words and I’ll do a longer story later. For now, there are a few lessons that can be drawn from this tale.

 

For those who’ve been hiding out in the witness protection program, this is the down and dirty version. The Lunny family bought the company in 2005 from Johnson Oyster Company, and inherited a “reservation of use,” which essentially let it farm oysters until November 2012, when a 40-year lease expired. The National Park Service, as well as National Parks Conservation Association, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and a host of local environmental organizations made it clear that the business should vacate and the Estero revert back to its natural state as “wilderness” and “untrammeled by man.”

 

It wasn’t like nobody was in favor of Drakes Bay Oyster getting a longer lease, however. Politically powerful Senator Diane Feinstein has been outspoken in her support of the business, and local restaurants and seafood lovers of every stripe have sided with Lunny. The Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture and Marin Organic backed the operation as well.

 

But, in the end, Salazar sent Lunny packing.

 

Lesson One: The end justifies the means. The National Park Service made no secret it preferred that the oyster company get out. It was cordial in dealing with the company and, most of the time, it was professional as well. But on at least two occasions, the Park Service was a party to reports that doctored the science, shaded the truth or spun the data regarding how the oyster business negatively affected the park. The reports were designed to influence public opinion and to paint the oyster operation as being bad for the environment or poor stewards of the Estero. While it was eventually acknowledged that the reports were flawed, the damage was done. A level playing field is nice, but W.C. Fields once advised that giving a sucker an even break was not the profitable path to follow.

 

Lesson Two: Political backing ain’t what it used to be. Back in the days when I spent a fair amount of time covering politics, having a sitting U.S. senator on your side was a pretty good thing. It didn’t guarantee you’d win every fight, but that was certainly the way to bet if you were the kind who enjoyed a sporting wager. In this particular contest, DiFi lined up on one side and Senator Barbara Boxer managed to play it both ways. In 2009, she and Feinstein supported the lengthening of the lease between Drakes Bay and the National Park Service. But when Salazar pulled the trigger, Boxer said she supported him saying he made the decision “based on the law and the science.” Political lightweight Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey wound up backing the NPS as well. That and $3 will get you a nice cup of coffee at Toby’s Feed Barn in Point Reyes.

 

Lesson Three: Organic and sustainable is nice, but not a game changer. Marin has long championed foods that were free from the taint of chemicals as well as local goods. The first farmers market in the country was birthed here, and the concept of having a menu rich with locally grown veggies as well as meat, poultry and fish has become gospel to those who worship at Our Lady of the Blessed Foodie. Drakes Bay was a pretty fair example of an operation that fit with those principles. But, in the end, the scoreboard didn’t read its way.

 

Lesson Four: Pack a good lawyer. Salazar knew no matter what way he came down, somebody was going to be suing Uncle Sammy, and he’d rather that somebody be Lunny than a group of environmental organizations that are experienced enough to have legal counsel well-versed in suing the feds. And to be sure, Lunny is bringing a suit. Ironically, a nonprofit representing the oyster farm, Cause of Action, has ties to the Koch Brothers. The Brothers Koch bankrolled lots of conservative causes and advocacy groups including the Tea Party.

 

Lesson Five: The White House is about small business…mostly. The Obama administration has spent plenty of time talking about small business and its role in restoring the economy. But in this case there were 30 people pink slipped when Salazar put the hammer to Drakes Bay. At the same time, however, he took the opportunity to assure all the ranches and dairies that operate in Point Reyes National Seashore that the Interior Department planned to extend the leases of their businesses 10 to 20 years.

02-12-13 National Grange (nation’s oldest agri org) Response(s) to NPS decision to oust DBOC

02-12-13 National Grange blog: A response(s) to NPS decision to remove DBOC

“Dig deeper and you will see that it is… MUCH MORE about ignoring the intent of the original law, ignoring good science, exploiting tax dollars,

and having federal. government ignoring and overriding … your state rights;

 in short, decisions weren’t made on common-sense facts and figures and the removal of the farm will greatly hurt the community….

… this isn’t like fighting a big box company that would put the small shops out of business….

the oyster farm is one of the keystone farms out in the Pt. Reyes area and allows for many of the local businesses and restaurants to thrive because of the farm’s existence.

  • If you believe in sustainable farming,
  • if you support low-carbon footprint farming to help mitigate climate change,
  • if you understand the important role of oysters in an eco-system
  • if you further understand the important position that each player has to keep a small community healthy and happy ,-
  • then you understand that saving this farm is not simply ‘about a business’.

If instead ‘environmentalist emotion’ tugs harder at you heartstrings

[If] your ‘trust in the government runs stronger than the truth…then unfortunately you are looking at the situation with an unbalanced and unclear viewpoint.”

 

Kvoth  February 11, 2013 at 3:11 PM

Something needs to be done to prevent the farm from being removed!

 

  1. Anne O' Leary, Arlington, VA  February 11, 2013 at 4:17 PM

Thanks to the National Grange for recognizing the plight of Drake’s Bay Oyster Company and the threat to California ranchers posed by this flagrant abuse of NPS authority. I hope Grange members and supporters will rally to this worthwhile cause!

 

  1. Nancy K. Cadigan  February 11, 2013 at 8:58 PM

I am a Granger & I support the National Park Service plans to create a marine wilderness at Drakes Estero. I feel this is an issue about a business sueing the government because their lease extension was denied.
The federal government has never before extended the lease of a ” nonconforming” commercial operation, such as an oyster farm, on public land designated by Congress to become wilderness. Yeah for wilderness

 

  1. Frank Gyorgy  February 12, 2013 at 6:46 AM

The closing of DBOC is a shocking example of a corrupt Federal Agency. NPS spent 6 million plus tax dollars creating false science showing environmental harm by the oyster operation. Salazar approved those methods and then stated the science didn’t matter.

 

  1. Yannick Phillips  February 12, 2013 at 8:07 AM

I’m a California Granger and I am in full support of the oyster farm. I’m responding to Nancy’s statement:
“I feel this is an issue about a business suing the government because their lease extension was denied.”

On the face of it, I could see how you might think that, Nancy. Dig deeper and you will see that it is not about that at all and MUCH MORE about ignoring the intent of the original law, ignoring good science, exploiting tax dollars, and having fed. gov’t ignoring and overriding our/your state rights; in short, decisions weren’t made on common-sense facts and figures and the removal of the farm will greatly hurt the community. That is why much of the Pt. Reyes community greatly SUPPORTS the sustainable oyster farm staying put. Nancy, this isn’t like fighting a big box company that would put the small shops out of business….the oyster farm is one of the keystone farms out in the Pt. Reyes area and allows for many of the local businesses and restaurants to thrive because of the farm’s existence. If you believe in sustainable farming, if you support low carbon footprint farming to help mitigate climate change, if you understand the important role of oysters in an eco-system and if you further understand the important position that each player has to keep a small community healthy and happy ,-then you understand that saving this farm is not simply ‘about a business’. If instead ‘environmentalist emotion’ tugs harder at you heartstrings and your ‘trust in the gov’t’ runs stronger than the truth…then unfortunately you are looking at the situation with a unbalanced and unclear viewpoint.

 

To read the full article from the National Grange blog, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your web browser:

http://nationalgrangeviewfromthehill.blogspot.com/

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02-09-13 Defend Rural America Founder states, “Arguments to destroy DBOC are fraudulent!”

02-09-13

“Having evaluated the so-called “scientific” arguments made in favor of destroying the Klamath River Dams and Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, I and other DRA members conclude these arguments are fraudulent. There is already substantial, credible, and documented scientific analysis provided by Dr. John Menke, Dr. Paul Houser, Dr. Corey Goodman, and others that exposes the information is being intentionally falsified to justify a pre-determined outcome irrespective of the truth or the people.

Continued use of the discredited “science” to justify the destruction of these dams would, in my opinion, be actionable. Individuals could and should be held liable for actual and punitive damages. Fraud defeats any claimed shield of immunity.”

 

Defend Rural America is a voluntary coalition of Americans that are committed to the truth, the Constitution, and a republican form of government. It has 2,000 members in California and Oregon, and a national reach of over 45,000. We are strongly committed to the preservation of the Klamath River dams.

The KBRA/KHSA seeks to displace the representative governments of 9 counties with a group of unelected, unaccountable, and non-transparent so-called “stakeholders” that would govern the most important resources of these 9 counties, namely, the Klamath River and all that it provides. Many if not most of these “stakeholders” would suffer no consequences of their decisions, as they don’t live or earn their living in these communities.

It is documented nearly 80% of Siskiyou County voters voted to keep the dams, knowing full well their destruction would also destroy the river, the salmon, the current ecosystem, and the county’s economy, communities, and families. There is also no doubt destruction of the dams would violate numerous federal environmental laws, result in damages, and constitute a “take” the size of which would eclipse anything the people have done.

Having evaluated the so-called “scientific” arguments made in favor of destroying the Klamath River Dams and Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, I and other DRA members conclude these arguments are fraudulent. There is already substantial, credible, and documented scientific analysis provided by Dr. John Menke, Dr. Paul Houser, Dr. Corey Goodman, and others that exposes the information is being intentionally falsified to justify a pre-determined outcome irrespective of the truth or the people.

Continued use of the discredited “science” to justify the destruction of these dams would, in my opinion, be actionable. Individuals could and should be held liable for actual and punitive damages. Fraud defeats any claimed shield of immunity.

I encourage the Klamath County Commissioners to carefully weigh the decisions they make.

 

Regards,

Kirk MacKenzie, Founder

Defend Rural America

02-06-13 Oldest Agricultural Organization, National Grange supports DBOC in letter to Obama

Dear Lunny family and friends,

The National Grange has sent a letter to Pres. Obama in support of the farm. 

For those not aware of the National Grange, it is the oldest agricultural organization in the United States.

(their national building is across from the White House).

Warmly,

Yannick A. Phillips

Sonoma Valley Grange

Here is the letter: (click the link below to see the letter on National Grange Letterhead or read the letter below it)

NG Drake’s Oyster Bay letter to WH-1

Dear President Obama:

On behalf of the National Grange and the nearly 160,000 members we represent, I write to you today to ask
for your support and help in keeping a small but vital family farm alive by reversing the November 28,
2012 decision of former Interior Secretary Salazar not to renew the Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm’s special-use
permit. The farm has been owned by the Lunny family in the Pt. Reyes area of California for almost 100
years. This little farm produces almost 50% of all oysters in California. This farm and other such oyster
farms have environmental benefits for the ecosystem and that is why the federal government presently
spends millions of taxpayer dollars to help restore oysters and shellfish in numerous areas in the United
States as filter feeders of our waters.
At the National Grange, we pride ourselves in supporting farmers and their quest to feed our citizens
nationwide. A farm is not simply another business on Main Street; it is a business that keeps people
nourished and has vital importance to every American. We understand that law and policy cannot always
satisfy all parties that are directly or indirectly involved, but in this case, the law and policy that formed the
basis of the agency’s discretion seem to have trumped over common sense for the core community of Pt.
Reyes. In essence, former Secretary Salazar decided to put a small, sustainable family farm out of business
in order to allow the farm’s property to revert to “wilderness,” even though other adjacent farmers and
ranchers are allowed to continue operating in that same area.
In addition, law and policy seem to have trumped the overseen ramifications that will occur throughout
California- a state greatly strapped for money- beyond the outskirts of the small community of Pt. Reyes.
Though far from California, we in D.C. can envision the considerable negative consequences that will
unfold should Secretary Salazar’s decision stand. As just one example, the agricultural runoff into the
Drakes Estero from the remaining agricultural operations that were spared from Secretary Salazar’s
decision will not be filtered once the oysters are forcibly removed by the National Park Service. In
addition, California will now have to import a greater number of oysters from foreign nations such as
China. We ask that you urgently consider overturning former Secretary Salazar’s misguided decision and
help bring back a more peaceful and integrated decision that highlights sustainable, environmentally
friendly and low carbon footprint agriculture rather than tossing it aside. The wilderness area of Pt. Reyes
and the Lunny’s sustainable, small family farm can certainly co-exist, as they have done for nearly 100
years. Thank you for your consideration.

01-23-13 Dispelling the Myths about the DBOC Conflict with the NPS

Posted by Communications Staff in Blog on January 23, 2013 12:30 pm / no comments

The decision last November by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar not to renew The Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s lease was based on a number of inaccurate and misleading claims. Here are five myths that the Secretary, his supporters, and the National Park Service use to justify the oyster farm’s eviction from Drakes Estero:

 

Myth #1:

The Secretary’s decision was based on sound science.

National Park Service researchers claimed that oyster farming operations in Drakes Estero damaged eelgrass beds and upset seal breeding patterns.  Yet other NPS reports contradicted these claims, and the National Academy of Sciences stated that the Park Service had “exaggerated the negative and overlooked the potentially beneficial aspects of the oyster culture operation.” Marine biologist Corey Goodman, who independently studied the farm’s impact on the region’s ecology, called the Park Service research “a stunning misuse of science by our federal government.”  Secretary Salazar ultimately decided that the Park Service’s inaccurate Environmental Impact Study was “not material” to his final decision, ignoring federal law that requires such a study be taken into account.

Myth #2:

Renewing the lease would set a precedent.

Some people were concerned that allowing the oyster company to remain in Drakes Estero would create a model of privatization that other leaseholders in national parks could follow.  However, the 2009 law granting Salazar the right to extend the lease another ten years expressly states that the provision would not be viewed as precedent.  In fact, Salazar’s removal of the oyster company is likely to set a standard in the opposite direction, with more working farms and orchards expelled from national park lands.

Myth #3:

Removing the oyster farm would improve the region’s environmental health.

When owner Kevin Lunny first bought The Drakes Bay Oyster Company in 2004, he took out a $300,000 loan to clean and restore the farm.  Because his family’s livelihood depended on the productivity of Drakes Estero, he was careful to keep the waters clean and productive by clearing the bay of debris and trash left by hikers and kayakers.  The oysters themselves actually improved the bay’s water quality byfiltering out algae that inhibits eelgrass growth.

Myth #4:

The disagreement is between environmentalists and the agriculture industry.

As a committed environmentalist, Kevin Lunny turned The Drakes Bay Oyster Company into a model of sustainable agriculture.  “It’s extremely healthy for the environment,” Mr. Lunny said. “There are no feeds, no fertilizers, no chemicals.”  Biologist Corey Goodman called Mr. Lunny “one of the pioneers for organic and sustainable agriculture that also protects the environment.” Advocates for the consumption of locally-produced food to reduce its environmental footprint have long supported the oyster farm, which sells nearly all its product to tourists and local restaurants. With Drakes Bay accounting for 40 percent of the state’s oyster production, California restaurants will have to fly oysters in from the Pacific Northwest or East Coast, increasing greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions.

Myth #5:

The Drakes Bay fight is only about politics: It’s Democrats versus Republicans

Some contend that the fight over Drakes Bay is politically split along ideological fault lines. This too is untrue. First, there has been an outpouring of support from a community where most bi-partisan races were easily won in 75/25 percent split (Democrats/Republicans). Further, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein has been a staunch defender of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, as well as a fierce critic of the National Park Service and Department of the Interior. In addition to crafting legislation, Feinstein has been outspoken in her support, even writing a letter to Secretary Salazar last March that called on him to renew the lease. With demonstrated partisan support, this issue isn’t split along party lines.

01-23-13 Peter Gleick on Sustainable Agriculture, Wilderness & DBOC: The Role of Science in Policy

Sustainable Agriculture, Wilderness and DrakesBay Oysters: The Role of Science in Policy

Posted: 01/23/2013 6:47 pm, by Peter Gleick

In the past couple of years, a debate in Northern California 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 what is now 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. Supporters of local sustainable agriculture believe the farm should remain because of its history, benign environmental impacts, and role in the local economy. In late 2012, after an extensive debate marked by disturbing scientific misconduct and abuse, local acrimony among long-time friends, and controversy among federal and state agencies, Interior Secretary Salazar ruled that the farm should be closed, giving the owners a mere 90 days to remove their operations, fire their employees, and abandon the farm.

Parts of Drakes Estero have long been recognized as potential wilderness. At the same time, the oyster farm has long been recognized as a key player in the historic local sustainable agriculture of the region, along with several ranches that remain open and operating. The farm provides as much as 40 percent of the state’s supply of fresh oysters and provides important local jobs. Even the sponsors of the original Point Reyes Wilderness Act wrote to Secretary Salazar supporting retention of the oyster farm as part of the pastoral zone in the Estero.

Wilderness versus local sustainable agricultural? These kinds of debates hinge on choosing among conflicting and subjective societal preferences as well as scientific evidence and analysis — precisely the things that make public discourse, discussion and debate important. But this fight has pitted environmentalist versus environmentalist, and in this fairly liberal community, neighbor versus neighbor.

In truth, the environmental “community” has never had much of a unified, ideological voice. Rather, it consists of millions of people who in one way or another support some forms of environmental protection and regulation, albeit with widely divergent political views and even differences of opinion around specific issues. As far back as the late 1800s and early 1900s there were recognized distinctions between the “conservation” and “preservation” movements, reflected in part in the ideologies of Gifford Pinchot and John Muir. Pinchot, a Republican who served the nation in many positions, including most prominently as head of federal forestry programs under President Theodore Roosevelt, believed in the public protection and ownership of forestry, but also in the economically efficient use of natural resources. Early preservationists such as John Muir believed in saving, and setting aside untouched and protected, the best of the unspoiled lands of the nation for future generations.

Deep down, I’m a preservationist: John Muir’s voice and vision featured prominently in my wedding vows and my world view, and I’m dismayed at the ongoing relentless destruction of our critical planetary ecosystems. But I’m also a pragmatist: I understand and recognize the complexities of modern society and meeting the basic needs of society in a sustainable way. I find myself arguing both sides of many of these issues, when faced with dogmatic, ideological positions.

These internal environmental disputes are legion: there are pro- and anti-nuclear environmentalists; a vigorous debate over the role of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture; differences of opinion over the role of natural gas in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change; disputes over the advantages and disadvantages of hydropower and dams; and more. These disputes are among the most interesting and challenging in the world of environmental science and policy: they involve values, priorities, culture and economics, but they also involve issues of science.

Too often in the past few years bad science, or indeed a philosophy antithetical to science, has been pushed by special interests and some policymakers. This isn’t new — there is a long history of pseudoscientific or downright anti-scientific thinking and political culture — ironic, given how much founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin valued science. Examples include creationism, moon-landing denialism, claims linking vaccines to autism, denials that tobacco causes cancer, and most recently the denial of the realities of climate change. This anti-science mentality is especially discouraging given how vital America’s scientific and technological strengths are to our economic and political strengths. In the area of climate change, for example, the respectedscientific journal Nature recently called Congressional inactions on climate “fundamentally anti-science” and an example of “willful ignorance,” saying:

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.

Good science should have played a key role in the DrakesBay debacle, and open community discussion should have as well. But we didn’t get good science. Instead, the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior (DoI), and some local environmental supporters (with whom I often have strong common cause) manipulated, misreported and misrepresented science in their desire to support expanded wilderness. In an effort to produce a rationale to close the farm, false arguments were made that the farm damaged or disturbed local seagrasses, water quality, marine mammals and ecosystem diversity. These arguments have, one after another, been shown to be based on bad science and contradicted by evidence hidden or suppressed or ignored by federal agencies. The efforts of local scientists, especially Dr. Corey Goodman, professor emeritus from both Stanford and Berkeley and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Science, were central to revealing the extent of scientific misconduct. Reviews by independent scientists and now confirmed by investigations at the Department of Interior and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences show that arguments of environmental harm from the oyster farm were misleading and wrong. One of those reviews criticized the “willingness to allow subjective beliefs and values to guide scientific conclusions,” the use of “subjective conclusions, vague temporal and geographic references, and questionable mathematic calculations,” and “misconduct [that] arose from incomplete and biased evaluation and from blurring the line between exploration and advocacy through research.” The review by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the Park Service:

selectively presented, over-interpreted, or misrepresented the available science on the potential impacts of the oyster mariculture operation.

In this case, I believe the decision to close the farm was the wrong one, done for the wrong reason, and it should be overturned. Supporters of the farm are still fighting, and it is possible that there will be a change of heart at either the federal level, or in the courts. But these kinds of disputes will continue throughout the country as we continue to seek to balance conservationist and preservationist ethics and objectives. No matter where this balance falls, however, 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 preferences and ideology.

[Dr. Peter Gleick doesn’t eat oysters and he likes wilderness. But he also likes science and sustainable local agriculture.]

Peter H. Gleick

 

Dr. Peter H. Gleick is co-founder and president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California. He is a hydroclimatologist by training, with a B.S. from Yale University and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley from the Energy and Resources Group. His research and writing address the critical connections between water and human health, the hydrological impacts of climate change, sustainable water use, privatization and globalization, and international conflicts over water resources.

Dr. Gleick is an internationally recognized water expert and was named a MacArthur Fellow in October 2003 for his work. In 2001, Gleick was dubbed a “visionary on the environment” by the British Broadcasting Corporation. In 2006 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C. In 2011, he and his Pacific Institute were awarded The U.S. Water Prize.

Gleick serves on the boards of numerous journals and organizations, and is the author of many scientific papers and nine books, including the biennial water report, “The World’s Water,” “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water,” published by Island Press (Washington, D.C.), and his latest, “A 21st Century U.S. Water Policy” (Oxford University Press, NY).

Show full bio

01-23-13 Salazar Decision Hides from History, Abandons Science

After seven years of repeated National Park Service (NPS) allegations that Drakes Bay Oyster Farm harmed the environment, the multimillion-dollar NPS Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) created to support those claims was quietly abandoned by Interior Department Secretary Salazar and NPS Director Jarvis, raising fresh questions about the propriety of the process.  Secretary Salazar claims his decision against the oyster farm was based on sound legal interpretation, yet he cited no legal opinion or analysis document. The Salazar decision was a complete reversal of established NPS policy.  And it directly contradicted previous NEPA assessments of the very same oyster farm.

 

russianrivertimes

 

Salazar Oyster Farm Decision Hides from History and Abandons Science

Posted on January 23, 2013 by russianrivertimes

 By Sarah Rolph

After seven years of repeated National Park Service (NPS) allegations that Drakes Bay Oyster Farm harmed the environment, the multimillion-dollar NPS Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) created to support those claims was quietly abandoned by Interior Department Secretary Salazar and NPS Director Jarvis, raising fresh questions about the propriety of the process.  Secretary Salazar claims his decision against the oyster farm was based on sound legal interpretation, yet he cited no legal opinion or analysis document. The Salazar decision was a complete reversal of established NPS policy.  And it directly contradicted previous NEPA assessments of the very same oyster farm.

Just fourteen years ago, in 1998, Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS) officials supported plans to upgrade the shore operations of the oyster farm (then owned by the Johnson family).  This was to be a major construction project, creating a new, modern visitor and education center that would also house the oyster processing facility.

NPS held that a full EIS was not necessary for the upgrade, and instead created an Environmental Assessment (EA), pursuant to the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA).  The EA was fully approved by MarinCounty officials, who jointly with the NPS issued a Negative Declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as being consistent with their coastal planning policy.  The local community was supportive, including local environmental organizations.  A Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was issued by NPS, and the project was approved.  Sadly, Mr. Johnson died before the project could be completed.

The contrast between the NPS 1998 NEPA process and the NPS 2012 NEPA process could not be more stark.

The NPS 1998 EA cited support for aquaculture in the NPS General Management Plan (GMP) for Point Reyes National Seashore, cited the county approvals as significant, stated that “no special-status species are found in the project site area,” and made no mention of a sunset date for the oyster farm—in fact, the EA cited as an issue to be addressed “the long-term status of the lease agreement past 2012.”

The NPS EIS ignored the existing GMP, ignored the county, contained an entire section on endangered species it claimed would be impacted (most of which do not even exist in the estero), and alleged incorrectly that existing law required that the lease agreement not be extended past 2012.

No public statements have been made about what, if anything, in law, policy, and science has changed since 1998 to justify the Park Service changing its position from strong support of the oyster farm to its current position that the law requires it to be shut down.

While NPS was silent as to its reasons for the change, its new position was supported and promoted by a vociferous group of wilderness activists, often citing the same bogus science.

For example, the National Park Conservation Association (NPCA), sent an online mass mailing to its members in October 2011 saying “Drakes Estero is home to several endangered plants and animals, including eelgrass, harbor seals, and birds including Black Brant and Great Egrets. Yet industry wants the waters for its motorized oyster boats…”

The definition of an endangered species is, of course, a matter of Federal law.  None of the species named here were or are actually endangered—the claim was fabricated.  In fact, eelgrass has doubled in Drakes Estero during the past 20 years, and according to federal agencies, harbor seals are at near-carrying capacity in Drakes Estero.  It’s a gross exaggeration and deliberate distortion to say that “industry wants the waters,” for motorboats or anything else.

If the oyster farm did harm the environment, it would be a simple matter to report this to the appropriate authorities—the California Fish and Game and/or the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (which is responsible for wildlife protection).  This has never happened.

NationalAcademy of Science (NAS) reviews, directed by Congress, found NPS claims of harm to be without merit.  In 2009, the NAS found that NPS scientific documents “selectively presented, over-interpreted, or misrepresented” data.  In 2012, the NAS review of the NPS Draft EIS found “a high level of uncertainty” with the document’s impact assessments for harbor seals, the coastal flood zone, water quality, soundscapes, and socioeconomics. The NAS determined  “there could be reasonable, equally scientific, alternate conclusions for impact intensity.”  That’s a very polite way of saying that the document is not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Nevertheless, groups such as NPCA relentlessly worked to claim otherwise with misleading advocacy campaigns, even going so far as to flood the public review process for the EIS with non-substantive comments.

In November 2011, the NPCA and three other groups sent online mass mailings to their members encouraging them to “take action” by clicking to send a form letter to NPS.  The form letter was sent directly into the Park Service comment database, thanks to sophisticated software from Convio, an Austin, TX firm that provides what it calls “constituent engagement solutions” to “help organizations translate their mission into online or integrated marketing programs that successfully acquire, engage, and convert individuals into lasting supporters.”

While these programs may be appropriate for fundraising and some kinds of advocacy, the use of these systems to populate a NEPA public-comment database is troubling.  The public comment process is meant for informed, substantive comments on pending federal activities.  The NEPA guidelines state:  “Commenting is not a form of “voting” on an alternative. The number of negative comments an agency receives does not prevent an action from moving forward.”  Not only do NEPA guidelines specify that the process is not intended to be a vote, it also makes it clear that form letters must be treated differently from substantive comments.

Yet the activists conducted a campaign to create thousands of form letters.

What’s more, they did this with emails that were highly misleading.  For example, one begins:  “The National Park Service wants to hear from you! Should they preserve the only marine wilderness on the West Coast or commercialize it?”  One would never know from this that the oyster farm in question already exists, and has for eight decades.

Nor would one know from this pitch that this is a request for a NEPA comment.  Significantly, the mass mailings do not even mention that the point of the solicitation is a comment on an EIS, much less suggest that recipients read and consider that document.

Yet the results of the mailings were trumpeted as if they were informed, substantive comments.  On March 1, 2012, NPS issued a press release saying it had “posted 52,473 public comment letters.” Minutes later, the wilderness activists issued a press release that said:  “Of the 52,473 public comments submitted on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), 92% (48,396) supported ending the private commercial use of the estuary and designating full protection for America’s only marine wilderness on the West Coast.”  Most of these 48,396 comments were exact-duplicate form letters sent via the Convio campaign.

The Park Service and its allies did not act in good faith.  As independent scientist Dr. Corey Goodman said when first interviewed by the author in 2009, “I just watch it evolve month after month and I realize my government—I’m sure there are a lot of fine individuals—but overall, my government doesn’t have any ethics when it comes to scientific data, and doesn’t actually care about scientific integrity; it just cares about winning and getting its way.”

That Goodman statement was hauntingly prescient.  The NPS falsified science, abused the NEPA process, disregarded its own policies and guidelines, and pretended that the 1998 EA—which should have been a baseline for the EIS—did not exist.  DOI and NPS spent more than two million taxpayer dollars to prepare an EIS that was abandoned nine days before the Secretary made his decision to close the oyster farm.  It is undeniably clear:  Secretary Salazar’s misguided decision hides from real history and abandons responsible science.

Sarah Rolph is a freelance writer based in Carlisle, Massachusetts.  A California native whose favorite place is Point Reyes, she is writing a book about the Lunny family. Her website is www.sarahrolph.com

John Hulls contributed to this article. 

Russian River Times stories on NPS Science at Point Reyes National Seashore and all RR Times oyster farm stories can be found at:  http://russianrivertimes.wordpress.com/category/oyster-farm/ .  Sarah Rolph can be reached at sarah@sarahrolph.com

 

01-20-13 Court hearing for drakes bay oyster company | Cause of Action

Court hearing for drakes bay oyster company | Cause of Action.

 

Media Advisory: Court Hearing to Determine the Future of Drakes Bay Oyster Company Scheduled for Jan 25

 

WHAT:  A hearing in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California to determine whether to grant a Preliminary Injunction and allow Drakes Bay Oyster Company to continue operations on their family farm.

After receiving news on November 29, 2012 from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that their family-run oyster farm could no longer remain on National Park Service land, the Lunny family enlisted the help of Cause of Action, as well as Stoel Rives, LLP, SSL Law Firm, LLP, and Briscoe Ivester & Bazel, LLP, to help fight for their farm, family, and their community against the government’s abuse of authority.

On December 18, Cause of Action filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction, which if granted, will allow Drakes Bay Oyster Company to remain in business until the merits of the National Park Service and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar decision to shut down the farm have been decided by the Court.

WHO:   Kevin Lunny, owner, Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Amber Abbasi, Chief Counsel for Regulatory Affairs at Cause of Action

Ryan Waterman, of Counsel at Stoel Rives, LLP
Peter Prows, Partner at Briscoe Ivester & Bazel, LLP

Cause of Action is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that uses investigative, legal, and communications tools to educate the public on how government accountability and transparency protects taxpayer interests and economic opportunity.

WHEN: Friday, January 25, 2013 at 2:00pm Pacific Time

WHERE: Oakland Courthouse, Courtroom 5 – 2nd Floor

1301 Clay Street, OaklandCA 94612

RSVP: This hearing is open to the media and the public. Cameras will not be allowed inside the courtroom.

To speak with Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company or Amber Abbasi, Chief Counsel for Regulatory Affairs at Cause of Action, contact Mary Beth Hutchins,mary.beth.hutchins@causeofaction.org or Jamie Morris, jamie.morris@causeofaction.org, at

            202-499-4232      

01/05/2013 Wall Street Journal deputy Editor Blasts Ken Salazar’s decision to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company

01-05-2013 Hosted by Paul Gigot, the Pulitzer-Prize winning editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, the weekly half-hour program “Journal Editorial Report” features newsmakers and members of the Journal editorial page staff debating the major economic, political and cultural issues of the day.

This week’s show, “Hits & Misses: 1/5/13“, features Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. He is the third to speak on the program. His topic is Ken Salazar shutting down Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

His piece begins one minute and three seconds (01:03) into the less than two-minute segment. (You can advance directly to his segment by using your mouse pointer and the progress bar, or just wait until the preceding two pieces finish.)

Click on, or copy and paste, either link below to be taken directly to the “Hits & Misses: 1/5/13” segment of the Journal Editorial Report

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/journal-editorial-report/index.html

Jan 5, 2013 1:42

Hits & Misses: 1/5/13

01-03-2013 What Dr. Corey Goodman does in his “spare time…”

From: Corey Goodman [mailto:corey.goodman@me.com]
Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2013 8:27 AM
To: Jane Gyorgy
Subject: what I do in my spare time when I’m not dealing with NPS misconduct …

 In biotech trifecta, startup lassos $31M, a CEO and a lead drug from Pfizer

January 3, 2013 | By John Carroll

A San Francisco-based startup biotech has landed a seasoned industry veteran to take the helm, in-licensed a Phase II-ready treatment for chronic migraine from Pfizer ($PFE) and lined up $31 million in venture backing from a team of high-profile venture backers. VenBio led the round with Canaan Partners, InterWest Partners, and Sofinnova Ventures all chipping in.

Labrys Biologics snagged the worldwide rights to RN-307, an antibody that binds to calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which was in Rinat’s pipeline when Pfizer bought out the company in 2006. And serial biotech entrepreneur and noted neuroscientist Corey Goodman, a managing director at venBio and chairman of the newly formed developer, says it will travel a well-understood pathway in an attempt to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of an unending series of migraines.

“RN-307 is an ideal candidate for a prophylactic drug for chronic migraine that is capable of reducing both frequency and severity of migraine without debilitating side effects,” said Goodman. “There is significant interest in new treatments that can improve upon the limited efficacy of current pharmaceuticals.”

Running the show is Steve James, a biotech veteran with 20 years’ experience in the industry, including a stint as CEO of KAI Pharmaceuticals, recently scooped up by Amgen ($AMGN) for $315 million. The upstart biotech plans to launch its Phase II study later this year.

“Chronic migraine sufferers represent a large, underserved patient group and there is significant interest in the industry in developing a treatment option with superior outcomes,” said Wende Hutton, a general partner at Canaan Partners, who is joining the board. “Labrys now retains full ownership of a promising drug candidate for migraine and other indications which are causally linked to CGRP.”

 

Labrys Biologics Secures $31 Million Series A Financing from Venture Capital Firms; Acquires Phase 2 Ready Antibody for Chronic Migraine from Pfizer

 

Published: Thursday, 3 Jan 2013 | 7:30 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Labrys Biologics Inc., a company focused on treatments for chronic migraine, today announced the completion of a $31 Million Series A financing from four leading venture capital firms, venBio, Canaan Partners, InterWest Partners, and Sofinnova Ventures. With the close of the financing, Labrys has acquired RN-307 from Pfizer Inc., a Phase 2 ready anti-CGRP humanized monoclonal antibody for the treatment of chronic migraine. In addition, Steven P. James has been appointed President and CEO.

Under the terms of the agreement with Pfizer, Labrys acquired worldwide rights to RN-307. Pfizer received an upfront payment and will be eligible to receive milestone payments, royalties on any sales, and a liquidity payment if Labrys is acquired. Additional details were not disclosed.

RN-307 is a monoclonal antibody that binds to calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a validated target in migraines. RN-307 has successfully completed Phase 1 trials in more than 74 patients, and Labrys expects to initiate Phase 2 clinical trials in 2013. RN-307 was originally discovered and developed by Rinat Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Pfizer in 2006.

“RN-307 is an ideal candidate for a prophylactic drug for chronic migraine that is capable of reducing both frequency and severity of migraines without debilitating side effects,” said Corey Goodman, Ph.D., Chairman, founder of Labrys, and a Managing Director at venBio, which led the financing. “There is significant interest in new treatments that can improve upon the limited efficacy of current pharmaceuticals.”

Chronic migraine, defined as fifteen or more headache days per month, is a serious and widespread condition that affects approximately 6 million people, or 2% of the U.S. population. Chronic migraineurs suffer from debilitating headaches frequently accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and fatigue, and they often report periods of lost productivity. Migraines affect women over men by a ratio of three to one. There is a significant need for chronic migraine therapies with better efficacy and improved safety.

“RN-307 is an example of Pfizer’s leading expertise in designing optimized biologics, and we are pleased that the capable team at Labrys will continue to pursue the development of this potential candidate for patients with migraines,” said Jaume Pons, SVP and Chief Scientific Officer of Pfizer’s Rinat Research Unit based in South San Francisco, California.

Steve James, who has been named president and CEO of Labrys, has over 20 years of pharma and biotech experience most recently as CEO of KAI Pharmaceuticals which was acquired in 2012 by Amgen.

“Labrys is off to a terrific start with a promising drug candidate and a strong financial position,” said James. “We have a defined regulatory path in chronic migraine, a broad market opportunity with significant demand for better treatments, and a top syndicate of venture investors that will bring tremendous strategic value to the company.”

“Chronic migraine sufferers represent a large, underserved patient group and there is significant interest in the industry in developing a treatment option with superior outcomes,” said Wende Hutton, General Partner at Canaan Partners. “Labrys now retains full ownership of a promising drug candidate for migraine and other indications which are causally linked to CGRP.”

Joining Steve James, Corey Goodman, and Wende Hutton on the board of Labrys are Nina Kjellson of InterWest Partners and Mike Powell of Sofinnova Ventures.

About Labrys Biologics
Labrys Biologics is a private, venture-financed development stage biotechnology company focused on treatments for chronic migraine. Labrys’ lead candidate, RN-307, is an anti-CGRP monoclonal antibody for the treatment of chronic migraine slated to enter Phase 2 clinical trials in 2013. Founded in late 2012, Labrys is backed by venBio, Canaan Partners, InterWest Partners and Sofinnova Ventures.

 

01-02-2013 Wall Street Journal “Scramble of Oysters as Farm Faces Closure”

At Sonoma’s Meritage Martini Oyster Bar & Grille, for example, the eatery faces having to order all of its oysters from Washington state, says executive chef-proprietor Carlo Cavallo. Mr. Cavallo says he gets his local oysters from Drakes and tried to arrange a new supply from the other major producer, Hog Island Oyster Co., but was turned down.

“There’s the cachet of not being able to eat the local oyster,” Mr. Cavallo says. “It makes us look like idiots.”

 

WALL STREET JOURNAL

Scramble for Oysters as Farm Faces Closure

By Jim Carlton

2 January 2013

20:30 GMT

The Wall Street Journal Online

Copyright 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE—The planned closure of the long-running Drakes Bay Oyster Co. oyster farm is creating a crisis for the family-owned company and causing a stir in the local food scene, with some Bay Area restaurants now scrambling to find an alternative source of the locally harvested shellfish.

 

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar ordered Drakes Bay in late November to clear out in 90 days following the expiration, on Nov. 30, of its 40-year lease with the National Park Service on the Point Reyes National Seashore. The objective is to get the surrounding estuary to revert to wilderness.

 

Drakes Bay immediately stopped buying baby oysters to grow in the water, though it has continued production of the ones it already had. The farm supplies more than half the locally harvested oysters in the Bay Area market, often for wholesale prices of 70 cents an oyster, says Drakes manager Scott Yancy.

 

Dozens of Bay Area restaurants that have gotten much of their local oyster supply from Drakes are being left in the lurch, say Drakes and several of the eateries because there is only one other major oyster harvester in the region and it is already at capacity.

 

At Sonoma’s Meritage Martini Oyster Bar & Grille, for example, the eatery faces having to order all of its oysters from Washington state, says executive chef-proprietor Carlo Cavallo. Mr. Cavallo says he gets his local oysters from Drakes and tried to arrange a new supply from the other major producer, Hog Island Oyster Co., but was turned down.

 

“There’s the cachet of not being able to eat the local oyster,” Mr. Cavallo says. “It makes us look like idiots.

 

John Finger, president and chief executive of Hog Island, which has an oyster farm in nearby Tamales Bay, says his Sausalito-based company has gotten calls from “a half dozen” restaurants including Meritage seeking a new oyster source.

 

“I have to say no,” Mr. Cavallo says, adding Hog Island has been unable to meet rising local demand for oysters in the past two years.

 

Kevin Lunny, who owns Drakes with his wife, Nancy, says their company sells out of the 450,000 pounds of shucked oysters it produces annually, all for the Bay Area market. One week in mid-December, he says, 49 Bay Area restaurants had placed orders for Drakes oysters.

 

“We want to be farm to table as much as we can,” Mr. Lunny says, as he led a tour of the rustic operation on a recent blustery day.

 

The Interior Department’s decision not to renew the farm’s 40-year lease capped a yearslong debate between environmentalists and Drakes and its supporters over whether the oyster farm harms Drakes Estero, an estuary where historians believe English explorer Sir Francis Drake landed in 1579 during his circumnavigation of the world.

 

Some environmentalists say the oyster farm disturbs harbor seals, among other negative effects. Supporters of the farm say there has been no such proof, and add that the oysters help the environment by filtering the waters.

 

In his decision, Mr. Salazar cited a 1976 wilderness designation that Congress made for the Point Reyes National Seashore. Environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council have long pushed for the estuary to be made the first such coastal wilderness along the West Coast of the lower 48 states.

 

The oyster farm—purchased by the Lunnys in December 2004—was long set to lose its lease from the National Park Service in 2012 so that could happen, says Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee, a local green group. “They [Drakes] should have been planning,” she says, referring to the fact that the Lunnys knew when they bought the farm that the oyster lease was set to expire in 2012.

 

On Dec. 3, Mr. Lunny and Drakes filed suit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against the Interior Department seeking a court order barring the closure, partly on the grounds that an environmental impact statement wasn’t prepared correctly. The suit also said the shutdown would throw the farm’s 31 employees out of work and “permanently tear the fabric of a rural community” in West Marin.

 

One longtime Drakes employee, Jorge Mata, who lives with his wife and three children in farm-provided housing, says they will have to find a new place and he and his wife will look for new jobs. “I don’t know what I’ll do,” says Mr. Mata, 48 years old, who has worked at the oyster farm for 30 years.

 

Interior officials declined to comment beyond an initial news release on Mr. Salazar’s action. The government has extended Drakes’s shutdown date to March 15, pending a Jan. 25 court hearing.

 

Local restaurants, meanwhile, face varying impacts if the shutdown goes through. Some go exclusively through Drakes, such as Cafe Reyes in nearby Point Reyes Station, which serves oysters along with pizza and other dishes. Cafe Reyes owner Robert Harvell says if he can’t find another local oyster source, he may just quit serving oysters, even though 60% of his customers—many of them tourists—order them.

 

“Point Reyes is known for oysters,” Mr. Harvell says. “I don’t know how it would go over if I served Washington oysters.” His establishment sells Drakes oysters for $19.50 a dozen.

 

Other restaurants serve oysters from other states, as well as from both Hog Island and Drakes.

 

Supporters of the shutdown say the impacts to the local oyster supply are exaggerated. Neal Desai, an associate director for the National Parks Conservation Association, says plenty of oysters are available along the West Coast, including Humboldt County in Northern California.

 

Other environmentalists say they are sympathetic to the disruptions, but add that doesn’t change their views. “If the demand for oyster is that great,” says Ms. Trainer of the Environmental Action Committee, “some entrepreneur will find a suitable place to grow them.”

 

Write to Jim Carlton at jim.carlton@wsj.com

(c) 2013 Factiva, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

 

01-01-2013 Pacifica Tribune “A Left Coast View”

In 1976 Congress established the Point Reyes National Seashore that encompasses this area. Several local farms were designated ‘historic’ and, along with the oyster operation, were allowed to stay. West Marin has been at the forefront of sustainable farming methods for decades and continues this nature friendly industry today. As stated, DBOC is also an adherent to environmentally sensitive farming methods. However, an overzealous group of environmentalists have used misleading and misrepresented scientific studies to convince the National Park Service to terminate DBOC’s lease this past November. This is not only a shame, as a traditional family business with about 30 workers will be shut down, but an environmental faux pas as well. DBOC is the only California oyster farm and produces almost half of what the state consumes. The demand is not going to go away. The replacement proteins will now be shipped in from Asia or the east coast. What kinds of carbon footprint conditions were considered in this move?

 

 

A Left Coast View

By John Blanchard

Pacifica Tribune Columnist

Posted:   01/01/2013 05:02:39 PM PST

Updated:   01/01/2013 05:02:40 PM PST

Posted:

MercuryNews.com

For this view from the Left Coast we begin with a meander through the bucolic, pastoral green hills of West Marin out to Drakes Estero, a four-fingered inlet of Drakes Bay just north of San Francisco.

Passing grazing livestock and waterfowl through the rolling farmland a left turn takes us on a bumpy, gravel road leading down to the tidal flats of Drakes Estero and the Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Oyster farming has existed in Drakes Estero for about a hundred years. The Johnson Oyster Company developed and utilized sustainable farming techniques to grow their oysters for 60 years. In 2004 the Lunny family, who had been farming in those hills for four generations and known for their certified organic, grass fed beef cattle, purchased the oyster company to continue the tradition.

In 1976 Congress established the Point Reyes National Seashore that encompasses this area. Several local farms were designated ‘historic’ and, along with the oyster operation, were allowed to stay. West Marin has been at the forefront of sustainable farming methods for decades and continues this nature friendly industry today. As stated, DBOC is also an adherent to environmentally sensitive farming methods. However, an overzealous group of environmentalists have used misleading and misrepresented scientific studies to convince the National Park Service to terminate DBOC’s lease this past November. This is not only a shame, as a traditional family business with about 30 workers will be shut down, but an environmental faux pas as well. DBOC is the only California oyster farm and produces almost half of what the state consumes. The demand is not going to go away. The replacement proteins will now be shipped in from Asia or the east coast. What kinds of carbon footprint conditions were considered in this move?

The irony of this truly non-progressive mixed bag of environmental policies we have is in force just a short way down the road from here. As the migrating waterfowl that are attracted to the Estero fly just over the hill to Tomales Bay State Preserve a mile or two to the east they are picked off one by one by hunters hiding in the marsh as this parcel is managed by the California State Department of Fish and Game. This far thinking organization, which we pay for, preserves the natural world so that it may be hunted and fished for sport. Recall the (knuckle)-Head of this Department smiling broadly to the camera as he hoisted the carcass of a wild cougar that his dogs chased up a tree in Idaho and he shot in cold blood. In Idaho, by the way, because California, at least, bans killing mountain lions for sport.

Many State and Federal agencies and nonprofit groups have been established with the well-intended aspiration of conserving and protecting our natural environment. Emotionally it feeds our soul. Intelligently we have amassed quite a bit of information that teaches us that our wellbeing and, in fact, our continued existence is dependent upon living with our environment rather than in spite of it. But individually, it seems, our views are all over the place as to why and how we do this.

Bringing it back home, Pacifica has recently escaped the foolery of this jumbled understanding of environmentalism. The Endangered Species Act is an important legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 1973. The ESA has its basis in Ecology which is the study of the relationships between living organisms and their natural environment. Our Biosphere is made up of numerous ecosystems that are all interrelated to each other. An effect on one organism can disrupt the entire ecosystem.

This is why six environmental groups sued to have the Sharp Park Golf Course shut down to preserve these listed species. But finally common sense won out. Last October a biological opinion by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife considered that the facility could be managed in such a way that would not further endanger the garter snake and the red legged frog and could continue its operation. The opinion also provided a list of terms and conditions that must be incorporated into the maintenance of the course. Why couldn’t that farming family in West Marin be given a similar list of conditions?

Sharp Park is a beautiful and historic course. It does not generate an enormous amount of traffic but it is used and, like DBOC, should be able to exist and be used naturally into perpetuity. Luckily for us it looks like, at least, SPGC will.

12-18-12 In Defense of Drakes Bay Oyster Company

I can … understand why this was a no-brainer for national environmental organizations. In calling for the closure of the oyster farm, they were advocating for an important principle: Whenever possible, potential wildernesses should receive full wilderness protection, and commercial enterprises removed.

In this case, however, the principle is misaligned with the place. For all of the reasons alluded to … — ecological, cultural, educational, recreational — it doesn’t make sense to consider Drakes Estero a wilderness area.

I worry about what this disconnect between the ideal and the specific reveals of the environmental movement. The twentieth century activists who saved Point Reyes knew well that conservationism, in its best sense, is all about a love of place. Affection for place is how the ur-pastoralist Wendell Berry explains it. At the risk of being too cynical, I don’t see much love of place in the behavior of national environmental groups involved in this fight. Not when an overwhelming percentage of Marin residents — many, if not most of them, committed environmentalists — support the oyster farm. Not when I happen to know that the conservation director of a Big Green group advocating for the oyster farm’s closure has never stepped foot in Point Reyes National Seashore.•  Not when I consider the wall of silence (see here and here and here) that greeted the Interior Department’s move — just two days before Salazar’s Drakes Estero decision — to open 20 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas leasing. The whole affair strikes me as an easy way for national environmental organizations to win some points with a largely symbolic victory and also, on the flip side, a relatively easy way for the Obama Administration to throw environmentalists a bone.

Latest News

In Defense of Drakes Bay Oyster Company

BY JASON MARK – DECEMBER 18, 2012Follow Jason Mark on Twitter

Field Notes from Point Reyes National Seashore

The latest environmental controversy has to do with a small, little animal whose anus passes through the middle of its heart.

For those of you who aren’t molluscologists, I am referring to the oyster (Crassostrea virginica orCrassotrea gigas). And for those who don’t happen to live in the rarified precincts of Marin County, California, I am talking about the long running battle over Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a family-run outfit located at the center of one of our most unique national parks, Point Reyes National Seashore.

Here’s the latest headlines: On November 29, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that he would not renew Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s operating permit, and gave the oyster farm 90 days to close its doors. Salazar’s decision was the culmination of a seven-year-long debate (or, if you prefer, a 40-year-long one) over whether the oyster farm is compatible with Drake Estero’s designation as a wilderness area.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Stanford professor Richard White described the contretemps this way: “On one side are liberal Democrats … who promote local and organic foods. … On the other side are liberal Democrats who advocate on behalf of wilderness and public access to parks. But only one side [the wilderness advocates] have the law on their side.”

If only the matter were so simple.

Beyond the impassioned back-and-forth over what exactly the science says about the estuary where the oyster farm is located, beyond the parsing over the original intent of the Point Reyes Wilderness Act of 1976, there lie much bigger questions. For starters, how do we define “wilderness”? And, more to the point, how do we measure the value of a pastoral landscape against the value of a wild one?

National environmental groups have been unanimous in demanding that Drakes Estero should become a fully protected wilderness, and the oyster farm removed.  “The National Park Service rightly concluded in its study that the oyster factory is damaging the national park; full wilderness protection is the best way to preserve this fragile area,” the Sierra Club said in a statement following the Salazar announcement. In its statement, NRDC said: “With today’s announcement, Point Reyes’ DrakesBay becomes the very first marine wilderness along the Pacific, and it will take its rightful place as one of the nation’s most precious and protected wild places along with designated wilderness areas at Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Zion and other national parks. Its preservation will enrich the lives of people today and for generations to come.”

As a passionate backpacker and hiker, I’m instinctively sympathetic to this viewpoint. Wilderness is all too rare (and becoming rarer) and we need more places that aren’t stamped with humanity’s insignia.

But Drake’s Estero is not that place. Having followed this controversy for years — and having spent several spells living in Point Reyes Station, the hamlet at the edge of the park — I strongly believe the oyster farm should stay.

It seems to me the debate over the ecological impact of Drakes Bay Oyster Company is all backwards. The issue isn’t whether shellfish farming is compatible with the ideal of wilderness. Rather, it’s whether a wilderness is compatible with the pastoral landscape that surrounds Drake’s Estero.

Some background: In 1962 President Kennedy signed a law establishing a national seashore on the largely undeveloped, triangle-shaped peninsula about 30 miles north of the Golden GateBridge. The designation was a landmark achievement for conservationists. The suburbs of San Francisco had begun encroaching on what historically had been a bucolic area of ranches, farms and dairies. Logging was underway on Inverness Ridge, and real estate interests were starting to carve subdivisions into the bluff overlooking LimantourBeach, a miles-long expanse of white sand surrounded by tall, white cliffs. Environmentalists, led by the Sierra Club’s David Brower(also the founder of this publication), launched a campaign to stop the bulldozers. They won. Congress passed a bill “to save and preserve, for purposes of public recreation, benefit, and inspiration, a portion of the diminishing seashore of the United States that remains undeveloped.”

The new protected area was unlike any other national park before — or since. Point Reyes ranchers and dairymen had been opposed to the park, so Congress crafted a compromise to allow them to stay. The federal government would buy out the farmers and then lease the land back to them so they could continue their agricultural traditions. Point Reyes National Seashore would strike a balance between recreation, wilderness preservation, and pastoral land use.

This arrangement continues today. More than two million people visit the park every year. What they find there is an eclectic landscape of fog-shrouded and moss-hung forests, pristine beaches, wind-swept dunes, tidal estuaries … and miles of open rangeland grazed by cows and some chickens. While the park’s northern and southern sections at Tomales Point and Inverness Ridge are designated as wilderness, the interior of park (about one third of the park’s 71,000 acres) is what’s called the “pastoral zone.” It is a working landscape of (mostly organic) dairies and ranches that supply milk, butter, and meat to Northern Californians.

When the park was created in 1962, the large, hand-shaped estuary at the heart of peninsula was left in a kind of limbo. Drake’s Estero (named for the English pirate Sir Francis Drake, who beached his booty-laden ship, the Golden Hinde, there in the summer of 1579 for repairs) is a shallow lagoon of about 2,200 acres. The tidal marshes and secluded beaches of the estero are popular with some of the 470 species of birds spotted in Point Reyes.  Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) use the lagoon’s mudflats to haul-out, sunbathe and, in the springtime, rear their pups. The estuary is also an ideal location for mariculture. In 1935 an oyster farm was established on the northeast shore of the central finger of the estuary. It was soon one of the largest shellfish producers in the state.

In 1972 the federal government bought out Johnson’s Oyster Farm, the outfit then running the operation, and gave Johnson a conditional use permit to keep farming there until 2012. In 2005 a third generation Point Reyes rancher named Kevin Lunny, whose family still operates the Historic G Ranch to the northwest of the estuary, bought the oyster farm from Johnson. Lunny cleaned up the place, rebranded it as Drakes Bay Oyster Company, and announced his intention to seek a lease extension from the National Park Service and continue operating past 2012.

That’s when the controversy exploded. Some area environmentalists (emphasis on some) were outraged at the prospect of not seeing the estuary receive the full wilderness protection they believed the law demanded. They were quickly joined by national environmental organizations that were eager to secure the first marine wilderness area on the West Coast. (For the record, Earth Island Institute chose not to take sides in the controversy.) The ranchers and dairies closed ranks in support of Lunny family, fearing that if the Park Service kicked out the oyster farm they would be next. Locals split into warring factions. People began trading polemics and potshots in the Point Reyes Light and the West Marin Citizen. In a place where late model Priuses and mud-splattered F-250 pickups seem to split the road evenly, the debate became a litmus test of loyalty. A Point Reyes Station merchant, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the issue is so emotional, told me: “It’s the most divisive issue I’ve seen in the 16 years that we’ve been here.”

 

• • •

 

 

In his excellent new book, An Island in Time, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Point Reyes National Seashore, Northern California author John Hart offers this encapsulation of the controversy, “Two matters … seem essential: the exact intent of Congress in the Point Reyes Wilderness Act of 1976, and the extent to which the presence of the oyster farm is known to be changing the environment of Drakes Estero.”

Here’s what Amy Trainer, the executive director of theEnvironmental Action Committee of West Marin, the loudest and most impassioned critics of the oyster farm, has to say about mariculture’s impact on the estuary: “There are tens of thousands of birds, both resident and migrating, that stop over in the estero. The [oyster company’s] motorboats flush them. The science is very clear on that. They get disturbed when they are resting and foraging. Both the Marine Mammal Commission studies and peer-reviewed science have showed that, from time to time, mariculture operations do disturb harbor seals. You know, this is one of the main breeding sites on the California coast for harbor seal pupping.”

Actually, the science on the matter isn’t as clear as Trainer makes it sound. It would take a whole book to document the scientific back-and-forth on the issue (including the accusations of misrepresented findings and shoddy research), but suffice to say that the best available evidence regarding the oyster farm’s impact on wildlife is inconclusive.

A National Academies of Science report from 2009 said the data on oyster farm-related harbor seal disturbance was so thin that it “cannot be used to infer cause and effect,” and called for “a more detailed assessment.” A professor from UC-Davis who reviewed the Park Service’s draft environmental impact study on the oyster farm removal observed that “impacts of oyster aquaculture on birds are speculative and unsupported by peer-reviewed publications.” And what about theMarine Mammal Commission report Trainer refers to? It concluded that the data supporting the claim that oyster farming disturbs the harbor seals “are scant and have been stretched to their limit” and that “analyses are not sufficient to demonstrate a causal relationship.” As the commission pointed out, the Park Service’s own fact-finding suggests that the worst culprit for harbor seal disturbance might not be the oyster farm, but rather recreational kayakers.

I asked Kevin Lunny, the owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, about his thoughts on the question of seal disturbance. “There is no evidence that says there is major adverse effects,” Lunny told me, after rattling off the reports cited above. “There isn’t enough data. They can’t make that claim, and we can’t make the opposite claim.” He later added,

“They [the harbor seals] habituate. They get used to boats going in and out of there. They don’t even lift their head. They could care less if we are out there. They are used to us, they are used to activity.”

Then, in what I’m sure is a practiced line, Lunny said: “They’re called harbor seals.”

In his seven-page memo ordering the closure of the oyster farm, Secretary Salazar acknowledged that “there is scientific uncertainty and a lack of consensus in the record regarding the precise nature and scope of impacts that [Drake’s Bay Oyster Company’s] operations have on wilderness resources.” His decision was based, Salazar said, on the 1976 law designating parts of the national seashore as wilderness. According to Salazar, “Congress clearly expressed its view that, but for the nonconforming uses, the estero possessed wilderness characteristics and was worthy of wilderness designation.”

Here, too, the record isn’t all that clear. The authors of the Point Reyes Wilderness Act created a whole new term to describe Drakes Estero — potential wilderness. The estuary received the conditional designation precisely because of the presence of the oyster farm. The question then becomes: Did the law’s authors intend for the oyster farm to eventually disappear?

Salazar obviously thinks so. But some of the people who were involved in crafting the legislation have a different take. In a letter sent to Salazar in the fall of 2011, former US Representatives Pete McCloskey and John Burton, along with former California Assemblyman William T. Bagley, wrote: “The seashore is somewhat unique in the National Park System in that from the beginning, it was intended to have a considerable part of its area, consisting of the historic scenic ranches being leased back to their owners, and to retain an oyster farm and California’s only oyster cannery in the Drakes Estero [sic]. The estero sits in the middle of those 20,000 acres of ranches designated as a pastoral zone; the oyster plant and cannery on the shores of Drakes Estero are in that pastoral zone.”

The question of Congress’s original intent will get a full hearing soon. Earlier this month Lunny filed a lawsuit against the Department of the Interior charging the agency with failing to do a full review as required under NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act) and the Administrative Procedure Act. Lunny is also seeking a temporary restraining order allowing the oyster farm to continue operating while the case is in court.

The way West Marin environmental activist Amy Trainer sees it: “This is about law and policy. Congress was very clear that this estuary — this is the only chance on the entire West Coast, and it’s the only one so far in the continental United States, where we have a chance to have a marine wilderness experience.”

But will a Drakes Estero absent the oyster farm really be a “marine wilderness experience”? I hope that in deciding the case Judge Elizabeth Laporte will consider that question, because I don’t think it’s as obvious as Trainer or Salazar or the national environmental organizations make it seem.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 has a clear definition of the wild. In what is one of the most eloquent passages in US legislation, the act says: “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

As most visitors to the estuary will tell you, Drakes Estero — even without the oyster farm — is not a place that meets that standard.

 

• • •

 

Ten days after Salazar announced the closure of the oyster farm I took a trip to Point Reyes National Seashore to remind myself of what is at stake in this fight. By way of disclosure, I should say that Point Reyes is one of my favorite places in the world. I have hiked its trails countless times: trekking the wind-blown bluffs of Tomales Point where the Tule elk live, bird-watching at Abbots Lagoon, slogging through the soggy trails of the aptly named Muddy Hollow. I can tell you that there is nothing like leaving San Francisco at 5 PM, driving across the Golden GateBridge, and after a shoreline hike pitching tent at Coast Camp as the sun goes down. A good part of my heart is attached to the landscape there.

It was an ideal Northern California December day for hiking. The hills were Ireland-green after a spate of heavy rainstorms. The sky was clear and bright blue and the air chilly. The sign at the Drakes Estero trailhead reminded my companion and I that we were about to enter a “cultural landscape” — a place that humans have been using for centuries.

After a short walk through a grove of pines (the remnants of a former Christmas tree farm), we made our way down to the bridge that crosses the labyrinth-like mudflats. The tide was ebbing and the channel there was low, so we didn’t spot any rays or sharks, but on the far side of HomeBay we could see a large number of white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). From the bridge the trails climbs the bluffs above the estero, drops down to a small fresh water pond, climbs again, and again drops down to another fresh water reservoir held in place by a simple earthen dike. At one of the inlets we spotted a large group of dunlins (Calidris alpina) scuttling about in the shallows; a trio of great egrets (Ardea alba) stood about as a single great blue heron (Ardea herodias) stalked its lunch. Although it was out of sight, past the far west edge of the estero, we could hear the roar of the Pacific Ocean at the GreatBeach, like a never-ending freight train rumbling in the distance.

In most places the trail was a muddy mess. The situation had been made worse by the herds of cattle that also make their home on the estero. Their footprints were obvious, and it was clear how much erosion they cause with their constant traffic. We encountered a large herd of Angus and Hereford cattle (Bos taurus) grazing near a lone eucalyptus tree. After passing through their midst, I turned and counted them: at least 82 head in that one spot alone. (Later, on the ridges above Limantour estero, we would pass through a herd at least a third as large.)

We kept hiking southward through the grasslands and the coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) showing off its downy winter blooms, and eventually found a nice picnic spot on a hill. To the north, the estero. To the south, the western tip of Limantour spit. At the mouth of the estuary, the very critter at the center of the controversy: a herd of at least 50 harbor seals, sunning themselves on a mudflat. During the hour we spent snacking, not one of them moved from their spot. The seals did not seem the least discomfited by the oyster platform about 200 yards away from their haul-out. They appeared way less uneasy than the five or six mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) I spotted watching us bipeds with studied disinterest.

This, in short, is what makes Point Reyes exceptional: The ability to see scores of birds, dozens of cattle, a herd of seals and the occasional prancing deer — all within just a few miles and all in a mixed landscape of natural wonders and human artifacts. The juxtaposition of the natural and the pastoral is, for this hiker at least, why the place feels wondrous. Yes, I know that the stock tank right before the junction with the Drakes Head trail is artificial. But I like the way that the water’s reflection makes the scene there seem bigger, even as the barn at the Historic D Ranch, seen from that point, makes the space feel smaller and somehow more homey. Sure, the dikes that help form the ponds around the estero’s edge are fake — and they help create the perfect habitat for the grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) we caught sight of. It was a thrill to walk no more than 12 feet from a cow as she nursed her offspring, and to experience the young calves test their courage by staying on the trail until we were barely an arm’s length away. And it was equally a thrill when we spotted the tracks and scat of a coyote (Canis latrans) on the little-traveled White Gate trail as the alder groves settled into dusk.

Point Reyes National Seashore has always been an experiment in co-existence. My recent hike there offers evidence that the experiment mostly has been successful. Until, that is, the oyster farm controversy shattered the peace.

It’s important to note that the cattle that graze the banks of the estero aren’t going anywhere. Secretary Salazar, in his memo shutting down the oyster farm, ordered the Department of Interior to pursue extending the leases of the area’s ranches and dairies and went out of his way to recognize the importance of the park’s pastoral character. “These working ranches are a vibrant and compatible part of Point Reyes National Seashore, and both now and in the future present an important contribution to Point Reyes’ superlative natural and cultural resources,” Salazar wrote. Even Amy Trainer, considered uncompromising by some people in Point Reyes, concedes that the cattle are there to stay. “This is a compatible use, to have sort of this working landscape.”

I have a hard time understanding how the cattle grazing fits within the ideal — or the legal definition — of wilderness. As long as there are ranchers riding horseback or riding ATVs to manage their herds, the estero won’t be one of those places where “man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Barbed wire fences and gates aren’t something I associate with the wild.

In any case, I don’t believe the estero should be considered wilderness, no matter what Congress has said. The wilderness experience is valuable for the sense of awe that solitude in a magnificent setting can provide — something close to spiritual awakening or religious revelation. The pastoral experience is far different, but no less valuable. The working landscape of fields and farms illustrates how dependent we are on natural systems even as we shape them to our own ends. Whereas the wilderness is special because it’s untouched, the pastoral is important because it’s interactive.

When I asked Kevin Lunny about the difference between the wild and the pastoral, he explained it simply. “People are fascinated with where their food comes from,” he told me. “We have 50,000 visitors a year. The oyster farm is one of the most popular attractions in the park. We are interpreting the landscape around us. We explain how oysters grow, to everyone from little kids to marine biology classes.” He later said: “And driving through the pastoral zone is cool, too. I grew up with it, seeing seashore visitors loving it — driving into our ranch when we’re working cows. And they are coming from the City, and they go, ‘What are you doing?’ And we say, ‘Come on, watch for a while.’ And they are completely fascinated.”

If we need the wilderness because it is inspirational, we need the pastoral because it is instructive. The intimacy of the pastoral experience offers a lesson in how we are involved in a web of relationships to plants, to other animals, to the rhythm of the weather and the tides. A working landscape — perhaps even more than a wild one — situates us, showing us our place on this planet.

 

• • •

 

During our conversation I asked the Environmental Action Committee’s Amy Trainer to tell me why she sees a difference between terrestrial agriculture and mariculture. Why are the ranches OK, but not the oyster farm? Especially given that oyster farming likely requires less human intervention in the ecosystem than the cattle ranching. (“With the oyster farm, you don’t feed, you don’t fertilize. There’s no cultivation at all,” Lunny said.) Also considering the fact that the oysters, as bottom feeders, are helping to keep the estero clean by filtering the cow shit.

Trainer had difficulty explaining why the oyster farm, in and of itself, is so bad. Instead, she kept coming back to the ideal of the rule of law: Back in 1976, Congress said this should be a wilderness, so it was time to make it wilderness. “This has never been about the Drakes Bay Oyster Company,” she said. “It has always been about upholding the very clear law and policy. … This has never, ever happened —  that once Congress has declared a potential wilderness area, and there’s a lease expiration, that commercial rights would be extended. That’s never happened. And whether it’s oil or oysters, it’s the same precedent that could be applicable. That if you have friends in high places, you can get special treatment.”

I get the point Trainer is trying to make (even if her statement is misleading*).  There are rules, and the rules need to be followed. Overt Congressional meddling in established environmental policy — like the 2009 appropriations rider sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein that gave decision-making power over the estero to the Secretary of the Interior — is usually a bad idea. As just one example, see the 2011 removal of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List.

I can also understand why this was a no-brainer for national environmental organizations. In calling for the closure of the oyster farm, they were advocating for an important principle: Whenever possible, potential wildernesses should receive full wilderness protection, and commercial enterprises removed.

In this case, however, the principle is misaligned with the place. For all of the reasons alluded to above — ecological, cultural, educational, recreational — it doesn’t make sense to consider Drakes Estero a wilderness area.

I worry about what this disconnect between the ideal and the specific reveals of the environmental movement. The twentieth century activists who saved Point Reyes knew well that conservationism, in its best sense, is all about a love of place. Affection for place is how the ur-pastoralist Wendell Berry explains it. At the risk of being too cynical, I don’t see much love of place in the behavior of national environmental groups involved in this fight. Not when an overwhelming percentage of Marin residents — many, if not most of them, committed environmentalists — support the oyster farm. Not when I happen to know that the conservation director of a Big Green group advocating for the oyster farm’s closure has never stepped foot in Point Reyes National Seashore.•  Not when I consider the wall of silence (see here and here and here) that greeted the Interior Department’s move — just two days before Salazar’s Drakes Estero decision — to open 20 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas leasing. The whole affair strikes me as an easy way for national environmental organizations to win some points with a largely symbolic victory and also, on the flip side, a relatively easy way for the Obama Administration to throw environmentalists a bone.

My cynicism is probably just an expression of my frustration. But I simply can’t see many upsides to this decision (if it’s upheld in court, as I’m sorry to say I expect it will be). Californians will lose an important sustainable food producer. At least two dozen people in West Marin will lose their jobs. Visitors to the national park will lose an opportunity to learn a little something new about marine ecology. For the birds and the harbor seals the closing of the oyster farm will likely be a wash. The only winners are likely to be kayakers — and I would guess that some of them will come to miss the chance to paddle around the shellfish platforms.

In its statement released after Salazar’s closure announcement, the NRDC said the “preservation” (air quotes intended) of Drakes Estero “will enrich the lives of people.” Maybe. But for those of us who live here in Northern California, and who really know and love Point Reyes, I can only see how it makes us poorer.

 

This article has been corrected from the original version, which stated that Earth Island Institute was formally in support of closing the oyster farm. In fact, the institute decided not to take a position on the issue.

 

 


* In An Island In Time John Hart points out that there are 29 other “potential wilderness” areas in national parks. Most of them are “potential” because they aren’t federally owned or are encumbered by other property rights. Utility corridors with power lines account for most of the rest. Oil wells in potential wildernesses seem a remote possibility.

 

Jason Mark, Editor, Earth Island Journal
Jason Mark is a writer-farmer with a deep background in environmental politics.  In addition to his work in the Earth Island Journal, his writings have appeared in the San Francisco ChronicleThe NationThe Progressive,Utne ReaderOrionGastronomicaGrist.org, Alternet.org, E magazine, andYes!  He is a co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots and also co-author with Kevin Danaher of Insurrection: Citizen Challenges to Corporate Power. When not writing and editing, he co-manages Alemany Farm, San Francisco’s largest food production site.

12-16-12 Kayak companies are FOR DBOC, not against as dEIS claimed!

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/12/16/18728228.php

North Bay / Marin | U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense | Labor & Workers

More on Drakes Bay Oyster Company

by D. Boyer
Sunday Dec 16th, 2012 10:52 AM

Drakes Bay Oyster Company Special Use Permit Environmental Statement contradicts actual kayakers experience’s with that company on Drakes Bay.

After publishing the first piece about the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, I discovered new information in regards to Kayakers comments about the existence of that company in Drakes Bay. In a statement released by the 3 local kayaking companies there appears to be all positive comments about the existence of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Drakes Bay. As a matter of fact the three top kayaking companies in the area, have stated that Draft Environmental Impact Statement did not accurately reflect their experiences with the DBOC. The impact statement indicates that the wilderness area is disrupted by the pneumatic tools and or powerboats, but representatives from those kayak companies state that the existence of the Drakes bay Oyster company adds to the wilderness experience instead of impacting them negatively.

I have enclosed the text from their statement below:
As the three largest and longest operating local kayaking companies, that consistently provide the majority of kayaking tours on Drakes Estero, we feel it important to provide a statement of our experiences of Drakes Estero and Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Between our 3 companies we operate at least 85% of the public kayaking tours on Drakes Estero. We feel the paragraph below misrepresents the wilderness experience that we have consistently encountered over the years and that we have been misrepresented within this section of the impact statement. “In 2010, three of the authorized kayak operators reported providing tours in Drakes Estero. In total, 221 visitors were accommodated on these tours during the 8-month period Drakes Estero is open to kayakers. Drakes Estero, which is congressionally designed potential wilderness, offers kayakers an outstanding opportunity for solitude while enjoying primitive and unconfined recreation. This is a hallmark quality of a designated wilderness area. Such a wilderness experience, however, is currently subject to interruption by motorized boat traffic, handheld pneumatic drills, and other generators of noise associated with DBOC operations. A more in-depth description of the soundscapes within the project area can be found in the “Soundscapes” section of this chapter. Additional background on wilderness qualities can be found in the “Impact Topic: Wilderness” section.” (p. 213 DEIS)

During our many kayak outings on the estero, the “soundscape” of the wilderness area has not been impacted by the noise of the farm. The use of power tools can be heard while one is on shore preparing to launch, but the noise quickly fades after leaving the shore in Schooner Bay paddling toward the potential wilderness area. While kayaking on Home Bay and Creamery Bay, any noise of farm operation is undetectable. Over many years of operating tours on the estero, we have never had guides or clients comment on the pneumatic drills negatively impacting their experience while kayaking or hiking within the estero.

Oyster boats are rarely seen in action and if we do encounter boats, they are always very respectful of our presence, making sure not to disturb us or wildlife in any way. “I have been guiding on the estero for four years and only once have I encountered a motor boat. And it was on purpose. Kevin Lunny was meeting our group at the oyster beds to discuss the history of aquaculture, and his oyster farming techniques.” Tressa Bronner, Point Reyes Outdoors

We feel that the above section of the DEIS does not accurately represent our experience of Drakes Estero or Drakes Bay Oyster Company and infers that we have stated these complaints to the park or others when we have not. Nor we have we been contacted directly by the park for feedback on our experiences concerning either Drakes Estero or Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

Attached you will find comments from the individual companies that collectively signed this statement.
Thank you.
Laurie Manarik, Mike Rudolph, Tressa Bronner – Point Reyes Outdoors – Point Reyes Station
Bob Licht, Steve Hayward – Sea Trek Kayaking Center – Sausalito
John Granatir, Pamalah McNeilly – Blue Waters Kayaking – Inverness

Point Reyes Outdoors Company Statement:
I have kayaked and hiked Drakes Estero personally and professionally since 1992 and have never been disappointed with the wilderness experience. The launching experience however, has been much improved since the Lunny family took over operation of the Oyster Farm. Not only have they cleaned and improved the physical location but they offer an educational and historical component that enhances our client’s experience of the area. Their willingness to share information on sustainable aquaculture and its history in the area has been a terrific addition to tours for school groups and scout troops.

Having the DBOC operation means there is an emergency phone and boats within the estero and accessible to us which provides a welcome level of comfort, knowing help is available in an area that is hard for rescue operations to get to quickly. While this is not a component of wilderness, their generous assistance did help us get a client who was having trouble breathing back to shore quickly and without incident.

Laurie Manarik, Point Reyes Outdoors – Point Reyes Station
http://www.pointreyesoutdoors.com

Sea Trek Company Statement:

I have always felt that the Oyster Company adds rather than distracts from the paddling experience. It is rare that people get to see an environmentally conscious operation and they like to find out the story of how oysters are grown. It is similar to MALT taking people on educational tours of the Strauss Dairy. We have never heard any complaints from our clients about the noise or distraction of motorboats. The expectation is that one is entering a working Bay which only adds to the experience and we still see the requisite amount of wildlife, seals and waterfowl. We haven’t noticed that they are disturbed by the operation.
Bob Licht/Owner – Sea Trek Kayak and Paddleboard Center
http://www.seatrek.com

Blue Waters Kayak Company Statement:
We at Blue Waters Kayaking feel that the presence of Drake’s Oyster Farm has not been of any detriment to Blue Waters Kayaking or any of our clients. On the contrary, we feel that it has positive cultural and historical significance, is of economic importance to the local community, is a significant example of benign, non-harmful aquaculture, is a safety resource for recreation users, and is in general a model and well run company that should have the option of continued presence on Drake’s Estero. We do not feel that the “wilderness” aspect of the Estero is compromised by the presence of the Oyster farm.
John Granitir & Pamalah MacNeily – Blue Water Kayak
http://www.bwkayak.com

§Drakes Bay Oyster Company Special Use Permit Environmental Statement

by D. Boyer Sunday Dec 16th, 2012 10:52 AM

 

 

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http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/12/16/18728228.php

North Bay / Marin | U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense | Labor & Workers

More on Drakes Bay Oyster Company

by D. Boyer
Sunday Dec 16th, 2012 10:52 AM

Drakes Bay Oyster Company Special Use Permit Environmental Statement contradicts actual kayakers experience’s with that company on Drakes Bay.

 

 

After publishing the first piece about the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, I discovered new information in regards to Kayakers comments about the existence of that company in Drakes Bay. In a statement released by the 3 local kayaking companies there appears to be all positive comments about the existence of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Drakes Bay. As a matter of fact the three top kayaking companies in the area, have stated that Draft Environmental Impact Statement did not accurately reflect their experiences with the DBOC. The impact statement indicates that the wilderness area is disrupted by the pneumatic tools and or powerboats, but representatives from those kayak companies state that the existence of the Drakes bay Oyster company adds to the wilderness experience instead of impacting them negatively. I have enclosed the text from their statement below:
As the three largest and longest operating local kayaking companies, that consistently provide the majority of kayaking tours on Drakes Estero, we feel it important to provide a statement of our experiences of Drakes Estero and Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Between our 3 companies we operate at least 85% of the public kayaking tours on Drakes Estero. We feel the paragraph below misrepresents the wilderness experience that we have consistently encountered over the years and that we have been misrepresented within this section of the impact statement. “In 2010, three of the authorized kayak operators reported providing tours in Drakes Estero. In total, 221 visitors were accommodated on these tours during the 8-month period Drakes Estero is open to kayakers. Drakes Estero, which is congressionally designed potential wilderness, offers kayakers an outstanding opportunity for solitude while enjoying primitive and unconfined recreation. This is a hallmark quality of a designated wilderness area. Such a wilderness experience, however, is currently subject to interruption by motorized boat traffic, handheld pneumatic drills, and other generators of noise associated with DBOC operations. A more in-depth description of the soundscapes within the project area can be found in the “Soundscapes” section of this chapter. Additional background on wilderness qualities can be found in the “Impact Topic: Wilderness” section.” (p. 213 DEIS)

During our many kayak outings on the estero, the “soundscape” of the wilderness area has not been impacted by the noise of the farm. The use of power tools can be heard while one is on shore preparing to launch, but the noise quickly fades after leaving the shore in Schooner Bay paddling toward the potential wilderness area. While kayaking on Home Bay and Creamery Bay, any noise of farm operation is undetectable. Over many years of operating tours on the estero, we have never had guides or clients comment on the pneumatic drills negatively impacting their experience while kayaking or hiking within the estero.

Oyster boats are rarely seen in action and if we do encounter boats, they are always very respectful of our presence, making sure not to disturb us or wildlife in any way. “I have been guiding on the estero for four years and only once have I encountered a motor boat. And it was on purpose. Kevin Lunny was meeting our group at the oyster beds to discuss the history of aquaculture, and his oyster farming techniques.” Tressa Bronner, Point Reyes Outdoors

We feel that the above section of the DEIS does not accurately represent our experience of Drakes Estero or Drakes Bay Oyster Company and infers that we have stated these complaints to the park or others when we have not. Nor we have we been contacted directly by the park for feedback on our experiences concerning either Drakes Estero or Drakes Bay Oyster Company.

Attached you will find comments from the individual companies that collectively signed this statement.
Thank you.
Laurie Manarik, Mike Rudolph, Tressa Bronner – Point Reyes Outdoors – Point Reyes Station
Bob Licht, Steve Hayward – Sea Trek Kayaking Center – Sausalito
John Granatir, Pamalah McNeilly – Blue Waters Kayaking – Inverness

Point Reyes Outdoors Company Statement:
I have kayaked and hiked Drakes Estero personally and professionally since 1992 and have never been disappointed with the wilderness experience. The launching experience however, has been much improved since the Lunny family took over operation of the Oyster Farm. Not only have they cleaned and improved the physical location but they offer an educational and historical component that enhances our client’s experience of the area. Their willingness to share information on sustainable aquaculture and its history in the area has been a terrific addition to tours for school groups and scout troops.

Having the DBOC operation means there is an emergency phone and boats within the estero and accessible to us which provides a welcome level of comfort, knowing help is available in an area that is hard for rescue operations to get to quickly. While this is not a component of wilderness, their generous assistance did help us get a client who was having trouble breathing back to shore quickly and without incident.

Laurie Manarik, Point Reyes Outdoors – Point Reyes Station
http://www.pointreyesoutdoors.com

Sea Trek Company Statement:

I have always felt that the Oyster Company adds rather than distracts from the paddling experience. It is rare that people get to see an environmentally conscious operation and they like to find out the story of how oysters are grown. It is similar to MALT taking people on educational tours of the Strauss Dairy. We have never heard any complaints from our clients about the noise or distraction of motorboats. The expectation is that one is entering a working Bay which only adds to the experience and we still see the requisite amount of wildlife, seals and waterfowl. We haven’t noticed that they are disturbed by the operation.
Bob Licht/Owner – Sea Trek Kayak and Paddleboard Center
http://www.seatrek.com

Blue Waters Kayak Company Statement:
We at Blue Waters Kayaking feel that the presence of Drake’s Oyster Farm has not been of any detriment to Blue Waters Kayaking or any of our clients. On the contrary, we feel that it has positive cultural and historical significance, is of economic importance to the local community, is a significant example of benign, non-harmful aquaculture, is a safety resource for recreation users, and is in general a model and well run company that should have the option of continued presence on Drake’s Estero. We do not feel that the “wilderness” aspect of the Estero is compromised by the presence of the Oyster farm.
John Granitir & Pamalah MacNeily – Blue Water Kayak


http://www.bwkayak.com

§Drakes Bay Oyster Company Special Use Permit Environmental Statement

by D. Boyer Sunday Dec 16th, 2012 10:52 AM

 

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12-13-12 Fox News interviews Kevin Lunny of Drake’s Bay Oyster Company

12-13-12 Fox News interviews Kevin Lunny

For the VIDEO, please Click on the link below, or copy and paste it into your web browser

http://causeofaction.org/2012/12/14/kevin-lunny-on-fox-friends/

12-13-12 Tune and Call in Sat 12-15-12, AM1080, KSCO, 10am to 12 Pacific to hear and speak with Dr. Goodman & Kevin Lunny

Listen to AM 1080, KSCO News Talk Radio this Saturday, 12-15-12, ten AM to noon Pacific Time – live stream at http://ksco.com/

His guests will be Dr. Corey Goodman, the NAS Scientist who uncovered the scientific misconduct by the NPS, and Kevin Lunny, owner of DBOC, me, and others.

Late last week, I contacted the owner of KSCO 1080 AM radio station out of Santa Cruz, Michael Zwerling. He immediately made a date to tour Drakes Bay Oyster Company with me on Tuesday, 12-11-12.

As a result of what he saw and heard, he is dedicating the entire two hours of his Saturday 12-15-12 show to the fight to save DBOC.

Tune in Saturday, Call in with your questions, or comments.

An archive of the program will be available on their website.

Sincerely,

Jane Gyorgy

12-12-12 Temp restraining order Applied for by DBOC – “proof of serious irreparable harm” and “in the public interest”

12-13-12 Tess Elliott, Editor Point Reyes Light

On Wednesday four law firms working pro bono for Drakes Bay Oyster Company applied for a temporary restraining order with the federal district court in San Francisco.

The filing states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s order to shut down the oyster farm would result in the immediate loss of 2.5 million oyster larvae and the layoff of one-third of the farm’s workforce—roughly 10 individuals—over the holiday season; it notes that 15 people live on the farm, including seven children.

It also argues that fulfilling the Secretary’s order to dismantle operations and remove all infrastructure within 90 days is not possible.

The lawyers state that a restraining order must be granted in cases in which there is proof of serious irreparable harm and where it is in public interest to grant a restraining order. A hearing on the request has not yet been set.

 

12-11-12 WSJ Welcome to the Salazar Wilderness, Shame on the Interior Department

“The Lunny family, which has made major improvements to the farm operation it took over in 2004, has been hounded for years by a National Park Service with a vendetta so chilling that any rancher on federal lands should be alarmed. Goaded by a clutch of environmental groups, the Park Service has resorted to tactics that might have come straight from Nixon’s dirty-tricks department. For instance, the Park Service alleged that the farm’s oyster boats disturbed the quiet of the area, but the measurements used were revealed to have been taken in New Jersey—and involved jet skis.”

December 10, 2012, 7:14 p.m. ET

Welcome to the Salazar Wilderness

Shame on the Interior Department for trying to drum a family-owned enterprise out of business.

By MICHAEL MORITZ

After a seaside area has been designated as wilderness, when is it considered pristine enough by Washington’s standards? Is it after airplanes have been banned from flying over it? After electricity pylons and telephone cables have been removed, cars and bikers prohibited, the roads torn up? When hikers are forbidden access to trails, and kayakers, sailors and snorkelers banished from the water? When eucalyptus trees and other foreign species are eradicated? Or only after Miwok Indians’ arrowheads have been excavated and placed in a museum?

Apparently it is none of the above, at least according to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Instead, he seems to think that turning a tiny portion of the lovely coastline of California’s Marin County (part of the National Seashore) into the first marine wilderness in the continental United States also requires destroying a family-run oyster operation that has conducted business in the same spot for eight decades.

So Mr. Salazar recently ordered the business to close within 90 days—a decision that will spell ruin for the Lunny family, owners of Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm, which supplies 40% of California’s oysters.

The Lunny family, which has made major improvements to the farm operation it took over in 2004, has been hounded for years by a National Park Service with a vendetta so chilling that any rancher on federal lands should be alarmed. Goaded by a clutch of environmental groups, the Park Service has resorted to tactics that might have come straight from Nixon’s dirty-tricks department. For instance, the Park Service alleged that the farm’s oyster boats disturbed the quiet of the area, but the measurements used were revealed to have been taken in New Jersey—and involved jet skis.

For years, Park Service officials have colluded with the California Coastal Commission to hammer the small oyster company with allegations about purported abuses and violations of some of the many overlapping, confusing and contradictory permits with which it is supposed to comply.

12-11-2012 Letter to Sierra Club to Cancel Membership with Pledge to campaign against

I was bcc’d on the below email to the Sierra Club sent at 9:44 AM 12-11-12

Dear Matt,

 

Thank you for your email reminding me it is year end, and time to make tax deductible donations to non-profits that do “good”. 

 

HOWEVER:

 

After Sierra Club’s decision to support  bad science, a flawed EIS, and the purely political decision to close  Drakes Bay Oyster Company out in California by an Interior Secretary who puts his own political career (running for Gov of Colorado) above fact-based science, the integrity of the Federal rules associated with the EIS process, true multiple use and sustainable natural resource management, and common sense; NOT ONLY will I never give to the Sierra Club again, but I will campaign against the organization for the rest of my life! Sierra Club has morphed into a political gamesmanship organization vs. the science-based resource conservation advocacy group whose annual meetings I attended througout the 1970’s.

 

I have removed myself from your subscription service, and I am recommending that all the true conservationists and social activists in my network give any planned year-end Sierra Club tax deductible donations or donations to other self-perpetuating, self-righteous elitist campaigns to Drakes Bay Oyster Company of Point Reyes Station, CA 94956. It’s a small, community-oriented town and the Post Office folks know the Lunny family personally like almost everyone else there, and they will make sure your cards and letters get to them without having to disclose the family’s or farm’s PO Box to spammers.

 

THE Sierra Club has replaced the hopes and dreams of a blessed Christmas with the grim reality of what a lump of coal is worth: a truly dismal and hungry New Year for the 30 employees of Drakes Bay Oyster Company and their extended families, as well as the local businesses who depend on local dollars–not the monied elitist who never visit, never spend locally, and do not give a damn about local, sustainable, or community except perhaps for bragging rights over high-end martinis.

 

Perhaps Sierra Club will join in helping the community recover from the loss of the most environmentally conscious, small scale oyster company on the Pacific Coast that was the core of the West Marin Local, Sustainable, Organic Foodie movement by sending an apology and donation to the Drakes Bay Oyster Company to help them support the hard working and long-dedicated employees who have already told their kids “Sorry, no money for Christmas this year.” 

 

Regards,

 

M Ann Miller

5th Generation Farmer

Lifelong Conservationist

Versailles, Indiana, USA

 

12-09-12 Marin IJ: Oyster Farm Ouster Signals End to All Agriculture in PRNS

“THE DECISION by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to shut the Lunny family’s oyster farm ultimately will spell the doom of all commercial agriculture on Point Reyes. Within the next 20 years you can bet that the remaining dairy and cattle ranches in the National Seashore will go the way of the dodo.

The existence of private cattle and dairy ranches seemingly offends environmental activists and Interior Department staffers. Most philosophically oppose any private sector involvement, no matter how benign or sustainable, on the peninsula.

Here’s how they’ll do the deed. They’ll contend that fecal runoff from dairy and beef cattle is raising nitrogen levels in Drakes Estero and Tomales Bay. They will assert that harms the newly pristine wilderness created when oyster harvesting was banned. Ergo, dairy and cattle ranches must go.”

 

Dick Spotswood: Oyster farm’s ouster signals end of all commercial agriculture in Point Reyes National Seashore

By Dick Spotswood
Special to the IJ

Posted:   12/09/2012 05:00:00 AM PST

THE DECISION by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to shut the Lunny family’s oyster farm ultimately will spell the doom of all commercial agriculture on Point Reyes. Within the next 20 years you can bet that the remaining dairy and cattle ranches in the National Seashore will go the way of the dodo.

The existence of private cattle and dairy ranches seemingly offends environmental activists and Interior Department staffers. Most philosophically oppose any private sector involvement, no matter how benign or sustainable, on the peninsula.

Here’s how they’ll do the deed. They’ll contend that fecal runoff from dairy and beef cattle is raising nitrogen levels in Drakes Estero and Tomales Bay. They will assert that harms the newly pristine wilderness created when oyster harvesting was banned. Ergo, dairy and cattle ranches must go.

There will be the usual voluminous reports so beloved by the activist community. Like the questionable studies on Lunny’s oysters, their conclusions will be determined far in advance of any actual research.

Recall that when the Point Reyes National Seashore wilderness area was created in the 1970s by Rep. Phil Burton, the goal of most Marinites was preservation of the peninsula’s historic agriculture and aquaculture heritage.

The National Seashore was then the only available vehicle to preserve Point Reyes’ centuries-old tradition of working ranches. If the Marin


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Agricultural Land Trust had been around, agriculture-friendly MALT would have been the preferred route to make this happen.

Some West Marinites then feared the Park Service was untrustworthy and would eventually go back on promises to retain ranching in perpetuity.

After the Point Reyes experience, why would other locales trust Interior Department assurances when it comes to efforts to save open ranch and farm lands throughout the American West?

Match the death of the oyster farm with the widely unpopular fiasco over filmmaker George Lucas’ failed effort to create green jobs at Grady Ranch. If the environmental community has a few more “victories” like this, they will lose both popular support and political clout.

The whole “oyster” brouhaha is an exercise in hypocrisy.

Start with activists boasting they are proponents of “environmental justice.” That’s defined as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin or income with respect to the development of … environmental policies.”

Try telling that to the 30 men and women who have lost their oyster harvesting jobs and, in 90 days, their homes. If the dairies go away, explain it to the West Marin ranch hands and small-town business workers, half of whom are Hispanic, when the economic sources of their livelihood evaporate.

Don’t patronize these blue collar workers with some bureaucratic offers of job retraining as trail guides. They get it. If the Interior Department phases out agriculture, they are toast.

If the dairies and beef ranches are shut, all that these blue- collar workers will have left to foster their rural lifestyle is a tourist-based economy serving those who are, like most of activists and Park Service honchos, idealistic white folks with upper-middle class backgrounds.

Regional agencies that constantly sermonize that Marin must do more to provide “affordable housing” are amazingly silent when truly affordable rural housing is lost.

Given the impact on the West Marin Latino community if commercial ranching dies, it’s odd that the agencies’ usual sanctimonious yearning for “diversity” is given short shrift.

It will come to no good if the “last great place” loses working ranches and dependent small towns are decimated. Along with jobs, housing and lifestyle, if commercial agriculture dies, Point Reyes will lose much of what made it “the last best place.”

Columnist Dick Spotswood of Mill Valley shares his views on local politics twice weekly in the IJ. His email address is spotswood@comcast.net.

12/07/2012 Marin IJ: Backlash to Oyster Farm Ouster Sends Message to D.C.

Editorial: Backlash to Point Reyes oyster farm ouster sends a message to D.C.

Marin Independent Journal Editorial

Posted:   12/07/2012 05:00:00 AM PST

 

Kevin Lunny, right, seated, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, listens to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, left, at a meeting regarding the future of the oyster operation on Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore, Calif. on Wednesday, November 21, 2012.(Special to the IJ/Jocelyn Knight) Jocelyn Knight

 

KEN SALAZAR is far from the most popular man in Marin right now.

The secretary of the U.S. Interior Department announced last week that the lease for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. will not be renewed, ending 100 years of oyster farming in Drakes Estero.

His decision, while not a surprise, triggered a flood of local reaction that has mostly taken him to task.

The IJ has received more than 45 letters to the editor on the issue. They are running about 80 percent in favor of the oyster farm getting a longer lease on life. There also have been hundreds of comments posted on IJ stories online.

The outrage in Marin is genuine, but we don’t expect Salazar to change his mind, despite the reaction here and the lawsuit filed this week by Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co., and his supporters. Salazar and other federal officials knew this was a no-win situation, that the government would be sued regardless of his decision. They would rather deal with a lawsuit by an oyster farmer than with one by major environmental and conservation groups.

That doesn’t make his decision right. It just makes it political.

His decision clearly ticked off local residents.

Most of the letter writers want the oyster farm to stay. Many authors identify them as environmentalists. Many have lived in the county for decades. They decry the lack of local control in this decision. They praise the oyster operation for being a sustainable form of aquaculture with minimal environmental impacts. They bemoan the demise of a longtime small business with 30 employees. Many were customers. Some said they don’t even like oysters but are appalled. Some question the Park Service’s overarching goal of returning Drakes Estero to wilderness, a designation that was part of federal legislation in 1976.

They are angry.

We don’t blame them. And this is the reaction in a county that has a long and proud history of protecting and preserving open space.

The Wilderness Act’s goal is to create the first marine wilderness on the West Coast in Drakes Estero. That is the basis of Salazar’s decision, even though he had the latitude to renew the oyster lease.

To create a marine wilderness area in the middle of a national park used by 2 million people a year, in an estero that is next to historic working ranches and roads leading to nearby commercial park service operations, doesn’t make sense.

National environmental groups have drawn a line in the sand on this issue of a pocket of marine wilderness in the middle of a urban park and refused to bend. The National Park Service even resorted to the use of bad science and heavyhanded tactics to give them what they want.

This approach, and the treatment of a well-known small local agriculture operation, is why so many Marin residents are upset and speaking out.

For the Original Article click on the link below or copy and paste it into your web browser:

http://www.marinij.com/opinion/ci_22142051/editorial-backlash-point-reyes-oyster-farm-ouster-sends

 

For Related Stories [published in the Marin Independent Journal]: (if any of these links do not work, please use the above link to the original article, and click on the links there)

 

12-07-2012 National Review: A Shucking Shame!

The examples of bad science are abundant. In another report, Goodman discovered that the Park Service had claimed the oyster farm had an adverse effect on red-legged frogs, an endangered species. One problem: Red-legged frogs live in fresh water, not the salt water of the oyster farm. Goodman dug further and found that the Park Service was claiming that the presence of Drake’s Bay Oyster Co. put the red-legged frog at “increased risk for vehicle strikes.” In other words, the government was claiming that an endangered frog might somehow trek toward the seashore, cross a road, and get hit by a car on the half-mile path leading to the oyster farm.

Meanwhile, the Lunnys, working with lawyers from Cause of Action, have launched one final attempt to keep their farm. They say they were not afforded due process and have lost their property through arbitrary action of the government — both claims are constitutional. Furthermore, they allege that Interior violated the National Environmental Policy Act and that the Park Service violated its own rules. On Monday, the Lunnys filed for injunctive relief, which would allow them to continue to operate the farm until a court rules on the case.

To be sure, it’s an uphill battle. The Interior Department has millions of taxpayer dollars at its disposal. Meanwhile, the Lunnys are on the brink of bankruptcy.

 

 

NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE          www.nationalreview.com

A Shucking Shame

By Jillian Kay Melchior

December 7, 2012 8:10 P.M.

 

Brigid and Sean knew from their father’s face that the news was not good. Over a short phone call, the Lunny family learned that a decision from the federal government would cost them their livelihood, their family home, and their retirement plan.

“I was standing in our little oyster shack, the retail store where people gather,” says Kevin Lunny, the patriarch and owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. “The phone rang, and my daughter answered it. She said, ‘It’s Secretary Salazar, for you.’ We all knew, and we were all waiting. None of us could sleep, none of us could physically eat as we were awaiting the decision. Sean’s looking at me. Brigid’s looking at me. About a minute into the conversation, I hadn’t said anything, and they were both in tears because they could see my face. This was not the decision we’d hoped for and prayed for. Walking out of that room and onto the dock where our 30 employees were waiting — you had all 30 of us in tears because it’s a tragedy.”

On November 29, Ken Salazar, secretary of the Department of the Interior, announced his decision not to renew Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s lease on National Park Service land in Marin County, about 30 miles north of San Francisco. Citing the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act, the National Park Service intends to establish a federally designated wilderness area, the first on the West Coast, on the land where the oyster farm has long operated.

The Lunnys and their 31 full-time employees, many of whom have worked for decades on the family farm, will lose their jobs. Fifteen, who lived on the premises, will also lose their homes. And the company, which has functioned on the property for decades, has only three months to vacate.

One would hope the Interior Department would do everything in its power to preserve a small business unless it had a good reason to do otherwise. As it was, recent legislation explicitly allowed the Interior Department to extend the oyster farm’s lease for ten years. But it looks like the National Park Service wanted the land as wilderness, then set about to obtain it at all costs. Salazar largely avoided mentioning science in his decision — probably because the Interior Department and National Park Service studies measuring the environmental impact of the oyster farm have been riddled with errors.

* * *

Corey Goodman, a 61-year-old professor emeritus at Stanford and Berkeley, is an animated man. When he explains a concept, he gestures often. Though he can explain complicated scientific studies simply, he’s brilliant, a lauded scientist with an impressive résumé that spans the academic, private, and public sectors. Elected in the 1990s to the National Academy of Sciences, the most respected scientific organization in the United States, Goodman became interested in science and public policy, chairing the Board of Life Sciences. He has long expressed his commitment to science before politics.

A California resident, Goodman received a phone call from the Marin County supervisor, Steve Kinsey, in 2007. Kinsey recounted the Park Service’s recent allegations of environmental damage from a small oyster farm with an otherwise impeccable reputation, then asked Goodman to fact-check the government’s claims. Goodman agreed, reviewed the data, and attended a public hearing on Drakes Bay Oyster Co. He had never met the Lunnys, but he was appalled at what he heard from the Park Service officials: Their statements completely conflicted with what Goodman had found.

“I sat and listened to the Park Service that day make the most incredible claims,” he tells National Review Online. “We hadn’t heard exaggeration,” Goodman recalls. “We’d heard things that were simply not true.”

His interest piqued, Goodman embarked on what became a five-year examination of the Interior Department and National Park Service studies of the oyster farm.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Goodman says. “It’s a stunning misuse of science by our federal government. . . . They have spent a huge amount of money trying to find harm when it doesn’t exist. . . . The Park Service was determined to get rid of the oyster farm, and they simply made [the environmental damage] up. . . . These people aren’t following the data. They’re following a predetermined agenda.”

At one point, the Park Service issued a glossy brochure claiming that oyster feces were causing significant damage to the eelgrass and fish. Skeptical, Goodman investigated, examining previous data from the California Department of Fish and Game, as well as reports from none other than the National Park Service. Based on those government studies, Goodman discovered that the oyster farm actually had some of the healthiest eelgrass in California, a turf that had doubled in size in the past decade. Goodman also chased down a UC Davis report that showed the fish populations were thriving.

Reviewing the Park Service’s sourcing, he found very specific numbers about tons of oyster feces’ being produced, all referenced to a 1991 study. Diligently, Goodman tracked that report down. He found that while the paper cited by the Park Service did examine the sediments surrounding the oyster farm, it concluded that there was no problem with oyster feces there. The 1991 paper, in turn, cited another study measuring oyster feces, one from 1955 that examined a totally different type of oyster off the coast of Japan. The Park Service had taken these old numbers from a foreign land and claimed they were data from present-day Drake’s Bay Oyster Co.

Finally, Goodman found a 2005 study examining the ecosystem in the water surrounding the oyster farm — funded, oddly enough, with National Park Service money. That report concluded that, near Drakes Bay Oyster Co., the dominant organic sediment was from the lush, abundant eelgrass. In other words, the National Park Service’s claim about damage to the eelgrass and fish was not only poorly researched; it was flagrantly wrong.

“Either it’s just really sloppy science,” Goodman says, “or it’s deliberate. But when you see the same people do the same thing over and over and over again, it’s hard not to conclude intent.”

The examples of bad science are abundant. In another report, Goodman discovered that the Park Service had claimed the oyster farm had an adverse effect on red-legged frogs, an endangered species. One problem: Red-legged frogs live in fresh water, not the salt water of the oyster farm. Goodman dug further and found that the Park Service was claiming that the presence of Drake’s Bay Oyster Co. put the red-legged frog at “increased risk for vehicle strikes.” In other words, the government was claiming that an endangered frog might somehow trek toward the seashore, cross a road, and get hit by a car on the half-mile path leading to the oyster farm.

And recently, the Park Service complained that one of the “major impacts” of the farm was on the soundscape of the surrounding parklands. The Park Service was talking about noise from Lunny’s plastic oyster tumbler, a machine used to sort oysters by size, powered by a tiny, one-quarter-horsepower electric motor. But rather than measuring the sound from the oyster tumbler itself, Goodman discovered the Park Service had used as a stand-in some noise-disruption data from a 400-horsepower cement truck, and later from a portable metal army cement mixer filled with gravel and stone. And — here’s the kicker — the Park Service also assumed an ambient silence level roughly comparable to that of the Vatican library. It was an imaginative report, but it had nothing to do with the sound situation near the oyster farm.

Those are just some of the examples. After examining years of data about the oyster farm, Goodman has reported that the federal government’s reports were repeatedly inaccurate. He has also concluded that “Kevin Lunny is an environmental icon,” “a great steward of the environment,” and “one of the pioneers for organic and sustainable agriculture that also protects the environment.”

Nevertheless, the federal government’s data maligning the Lunnys’ farm was disseminated to environmental groups and immediately publicized. The faulty data were frequently cited by these organizations, even after the National Park Service was forced to admit errors. The Save Drakes Bay Coalition, a group of more than 40 local, regional, and national environmental organizations, all took up the cause of evicting Drakes Bay Oyster Co. from the Park Service land. The Lunnys say that they usually agree with such environmental groups and that the groundless attack caught them off guard.

* * *

Meanwhile, instead of apologizing for its scientific errors and dropping its case, the federal government has resorted to personal attacks when its data were proven faulty, Goodman says. He has also been careful about ensuring that there are no conflicts of interest, receiving no compensation from the Lunny family, Drakes Bay Oyster Co., or any of the other parties involved. He told me that his involvement was initially at the request of the Marin County supervisor, and later at the request of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.).

Nevertheless, Goodman says, if he were 25 and a scientific neophyte, “they would have destroyed me by now. . . . They would have just rolled me over.” It’s been hard, though, for the federal government to dismiss a scientist with Goodman’s credentials. But he says he worries about the precedent this case sets.

“I’ve been outraged by the way my government, in the National Park Service and with the seeming approval of the Department of the Interior, has misused science over and over,” he says. “This sends a terrible example throughout the federal government. If they get away with this — which so far they have — it sends the signal to every young scientist throughout the federal government to forget about science, forget about data, find out what your boss wants.”

These botched pseudo-scientific studies should be a central consideration in the battle over Drakes Bay Oyster Co. But the Interior Department has attempted to relegate science to the sideline in this decision. If Secretary Salazar prevails, it will be thanks to a grossly flawed interpretation not only of science but of law.

Back in 2004, the National Park Service had issued an opinion stating that the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act, which designates the surrounding Drakes Estero as a potential wilderness area, did not allow the oyster farm’s leasing permits to be extended.

Senator Feinstein decided to champion the cause of the small oyster farm, crafting a rider to an appropriations bill that explicitly allowed the Interior Department to extend the oyster farm’s lease for ten years, “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” She also directed Salazar to “take into consideration recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences Report.”

What happened then is suspicious, to say the least. At first, the Interior Department began following the procedures outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act: Before it made a decision on the lease, the law required Interior to complete a draft environmental-impact statement, analyze the results, allow for public involvement and comment, issue a final environmental-impact statement, invite public comment again, and then issue the final decision.

However, Goodman and others at the National Academy of Sciences found numerous problems with Interior’s environmental-impact statements, some of which were just described. Furthermore, the Interior Department was running behind schedule. It issued its final environmental-impact statement the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, just days before the final decision on the lease permit for Drakes Bay Oyster Co. was due. That didn’t allow enough time for the period of public comment mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act.

So Salazar simply reinterpreted the law. He claimed that because Feinstein’s rider had given him authority to extend the lease “notwithstanding any other provisions of law,” he was free to deny the lease and disregard the National Environmental Policy Act, too. That would also allow him to make a decision without considering the findings — and many errors — within the environmental-impact statements. It essentially took the science out of the decision.

“That’s a fairly broad grant of authority that [Salazar] is embracing there,” says Amber Abbasi, chief counsel for Cause of Action, a government-accountability group representing the Lunnys. She adds that the history of Feinstein’s rider legislation “clearly indicates that Section 124 was passed to rebut the National Park Service Interpretation of the 1976 Wilderness Act.”

The Lunnys’ interpretation of Feinstein’s rider seems spot-on. After all, Feinstein wrote that she “authored legislation to give the Interior Secretary the option to extend the oyster company’s lease by ten years.” The senator also wrote that “the Park Service has repeatedly misrepresented the scientific record since 2006 to portray the farm as environmentally harmful, and it is my belief that the Park Service is doing everything it can to justify ending the oyster farm’s operations.”

The Lunny family bought Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in 2004, but their history with the land goes back even further. Kevin Lunny was born and raised on a cow-and-dairy farm that overlooked the oyster farm, a child of the Point Reyes National Seashore. When Drakes Bay Oyster Co. went for sale, Lunny was thrilled. “It’s such a beautiful, sustainable food system,” he tells National Review Online.

“It’s extremely healthy for the environment. There’s no feeds, no fertilizers, no chemicals. . . . [We] got very involved and passionate about the local-food movement, organic production, sustainability, and local marketing.”

A committed environmentalist, Lunny wanted to farm oysters in a responsible way. He took out a $300,000 loan to clean the farm and restore the property, using the old Lunny family cow ranch as collateral. As the Lunnys’ reputation for good oysters and responsible, sustainable agriculture grew, the farm became more and more popular. The Lunnys were able to make payments on their loan, maintain their employees, and stabilize their inventory. The farm was holding its own.

The Interior Department’s decision not only kills the farm but also financially ruins the Lunny family. The farm is home to an inventory of baby oysters worth nearly $5 million, all too young to be harvested and sold. Furthermore, with their business shuttered, the Lunnys will have no way to repay the loan they took out to improve the farmland, so they’ll probably also lose the cattle ranch they used as collateral.

“This is not a store where we can have a fire sale, sell everything off the shelves, and go away,” Lunny says. “The Park Service is asking us to kill all these oysters, destroy all this food, get out before they can even be harvested. There’s no way for us to recover our investment.”

* * *

The National Park Service would not take questions from National Review Online, referring reporters instead to the Interior Department. Blake Androff, the Interior Department’s spokesman, would not respond to questions about the numerous scientific errors in the National Park Service and Interior Department reports. He also wouldn’t comment on why the Lunnys were given only 30 days to vacate the premises.

Instead, Androff responded with an e-mailed statement: “The Secretary made his decision after careful consideration of the applicable law and policy. The Department will carefully review the complaint and any related materials that may be filed. The Department does not comment on litigation.”

The Sierra Club, the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, and the Marin Conservation League — all of whom have made the environmental case against the oyster farm — did not return phone calls by the time this story was filed.

And Gordon Bennett, spokesman for Save Our Seashore, said that, “with all due respect, we’re not opposing the oyster farm. We’re supporting wilderness.” He said that, regarding the oyster farm, “it doesn’t matter if they’re doing good or bad. It’s irrelevant.” He added that it was the Lunnys’ responsibility to prepare for job losses and provide retraining opportunities and severance to the employees who were out of work when the farm was evicted.

Meanwhile, the Lunnys, working with lawyers from Cause of Action, have launched one final attempt to keep their farm. They say they were not afforded due process and have lost their property through arbitrary action of the government — both claims are constitutional. Furthermore, they allege that Interior violated the National Environmental Policy Act and that the Park Service violated its own rules. On Monday, the Lunnys filed for injunctive relief, which would allow them to continue to operate the farm until a court rules on the case.

To be sure, it’s an uphill battle. The Interior Department has millions of taxpayer dollars at its disposal. Meanwhile, the Lunnys are on the brink of bankruptcy.

“We’re saying now, ‘We are dead,’” Lunny says. “It’s a really insensitive and harsh way to throw us out. [It] will completely destroy us.”

Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. 

 

© National Review Online 2012. All Rights Reserved.

 

12-06-2012 The Pulitzer Prize Winning Point Reyes Light on the Ouster of the Oyster Farm

Below is an article written by the editor of this Pulitzer Prize winning paper, Tess Elliott.

Ordered to close, oyster farmer sues federal government

 A government watchdog group filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kevin Lunny on Monday alleging that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision to close Drakes Bay Oyster Company violates the United States Constitution and the American Procedure Act, and that the release of the controversial Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the oyster farm violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Data Quality Act.

The Secretary’s decision was made on the eve of the expiration of the farm’s operating agreement with the National Park Service and a week after the release of the EIS.

As part of the lawsuit, Cause of Action, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit working pro bono, requested a temporary restraining order and permission for the farm to continue operating until the litigation is resolved. The park service had declared its right to enter the property to inspect and monitor at any time during the next 90 days—the length of time Mr. Lunny was given to wind down activities before Drakes Estero is converted from a potential to a designated wilderness area.

Should that conversion occur, the 2,500-acre estuary would join nearby Estero de Limantour, which was converted from potential to designated wilderness in 1999, as the only federally protected marine wilderness areas on the West Coast.

The civil action suit, filed with the United States District Court for the Northern California District, requests the court either issue a 10-year permit that would allow the farm to operate under the terms of its original agreement, or require that the Interior Department and park service prepare a new EIS for review by a “neutral decision-maker.” Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte will preside over the case.

Cause of Action’s complaint argues that Secretary Salazar’s decision to shutter the historic farm and cannery is “null and void, of no effect, as unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment; arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, in violation of the [Administrative Procedure Act]” and that the issuance of the EIS was in violation of NEPA and the Data Quality Act.

It names Secretary Salazar and Jon Jarvis, director of the park service, as defendants, along with other unnamed federal employees who “knowingly or recklessly provided, presented, gave, or are otherwise responsible for false and deliberately misleading information, misrepresented data, misstatements, material omissions, and other material inaccuracies in the [EIS] or otherwise acted in bad faith in the environmental review process.”

Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, said his organization became involved when they saw that “Interior was using scientific data we viewed as flawed to justify a draft EIS to deny a permit. “[This lawsuit] tells the story about how flawed science can lead to real-world impacts, allowing the government to engage in arbitrary and capricious actions to shut down small businesses,” he said on Tuesday.

He expects Judge Laporte to rule on the restraining order and injunctive relief “as soon as a hearing can be calendared.”

In a press release announcing the decision last Thursday, Secretary Salazar said he had taken the matter very seriously. “We’ve undertaken a robust public process to review the matter from all sides, and I have personally visited the park to meet with the company and members of the community,” he stated.

The Secretary spent one day visiting with Mr. Lunny and his wife, Nancy, six of their supporters, 10 wilderness advocates and park service employees—the latter meetings behind closed doors—on November 21, one day before Thanksgiving and a week before he issued his decision.

In a seven-page memo addressed to Mr. Jarvis last Thursday, the Secretary explained that he had based his decision on the 1972 legislation establishing Point Reyes National Seashore. He said that legislation allowed for ranching and dairying “in keeping with the historic use of that land” but did not authorize mariculture.

He acknowledged that the operating agreement made at that time with Johnson Oyster Company indicated the “possibility of a new permit after the [agreement’s] expiration but in no way suggested that one would definitely be issued.”

He expressed his wishes that the park service affirm a commitment to continued agriculture in the seashore as well as aid Mr. Lunny’s workers in their relocation.

“Because of the importance of sustainable agriculture on pastoral lands within Point Reyes, I direct that you pursue extending permits for the ranchers within those pastoral lands to 20-year terms,” he wrote. Historically the ranchers were granted renewable five-year leases but in recent years the park service was authorized to extend those to 10 years. Like the oyster farm, the ranchers originally were granted Reservations of Use and Occupancy, which were later renewed through short-term Special Use Permits such as that sought by Mr. Lunny.

The Secretary told Mr. Jarvis to “use all legal authorizations at your disposal” to assist with relocation, employment opportunities and job training for the 31 employees, 15 of whom live on the farm.

On Tuesday Point Reyes National Seashore officials hosted a “stakeholder” meeting at headquarters about the fate of the workers; the meeting was unpublicized, and neither Mr. Lunny nor his workers were informed of the event, which seashore spokeswoman Melanie Gunn called “open.”

She declined to say who was invited or what was discussed. This was the second such invitation-only “stakeholder” meeting in recent weeks, the first occurring during Secretary Salazar’s visit.

Cause of Action’s suit, co-signed by San Diego law firm Stoel Rives, also working pro bono, takes issue with Secretary Salazar’s interpretation of the very legislation that gives him the authority to decide the oyster farm’s fate. That legislation was written by Senator Dianne Feinstein, a staunch oyster farm supporter, and passed as an amendment to a 2009 appropriations bill.

In his memo last Thursday, the Secretary described his power to make the decision as “notwithstanding of any other provision of law,” quoting the 2009 bill. He wrote that the preparation of an EIS was therefore unnecessary, but that the document had helped to inform his decision anyway.

But Mr. Lunny’s lawyers said the decision was still subject to NEPA, which requires the preparation of an EIS for any major governmental decision. And they said the 2009 Feinstein bill left Interior Department ample time to follow NEPA procedures.

Instead, the park service waited until the fall of 2010 to begin work on a draft EIS. The final version was not released until the week before the oyster farm’s lease expired, allowing no time for public review and comment. And other NEPA procedures were ignored, including the submission of the final EIS to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, which had not taken place as of Wednesday.

Nor did the EIS address substantive criticism levied by the National Academy of Sciences and community stakeholders, many of whom were left feeling that the document was both legally inadequate and substantively flawed.

Other critics say the park service and Interior misled the public by acting as though they were following NEPA—and spending over $1 million on an EIS that was ultimately thrown by the wayside.

Cause of Action also alleges that Secretary Salazar’s decision constitutes a “taking” by the federal government. There are currently eight to 10 million oysters in Drakes Estero and only a fraction of those will be harvested within 90 days, Mr. Lunny said. He estimates the value of those oysters at harvest at $4 to $5 million.

Amber Abbasi, chief counsel for regulatory affairs at Cause of Action, said the park service’s termination of Mr. Lunny’s state water-bottom lease also constitutes a taking. That lease is good through 2029, though it was modified at the request of the former superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore to hinge on the farm’s federal lease, which covers only the onshore facilities.

Ms. Abbasi argues that Secretary Salazar’s decision-making process was “subject to statutory and constitutional limits that protect the procedural rights of individuals and businesses. We are asking that the Court review that decision-making process and hold the agencies accountable for their disregard of the law.”

12-06-2012 West Marin Citizen Editorials, Articles and Letters

The decision not to renew DBOC’s lease and evict within 90 days stunned our community. Below is a link to one of our two local papers. I invite you to read for yourself the reaction of our community.

Page 2, bottom right corner box titled “Local Reaction” the “Citizen Editorial Board” made this comment:

“….This edition of the Citizen includes numerous
letters, articles and columns in support
of DBOC and/or opposition to
Salazar’s decision, and none taking the opposite
view. This is not because of any editorial
bias on our part – it simply reflects
the material we have received, unsolicited….”

To read the edition, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your web browser:

WM_Citizen_20121206

 

 

12-06-2012 Letter to the Editor, unedited

12-06-2012 Below is my original, full response, to the letter to the editor which appeared in  both local weekly papers titled “A Time for Peace”, (West Marin Citizen, and Pulitzer Prize winning Point Reyes Light letter to the editor, November 29, 2012)

Dear Editor:

The signatories [of that letter] must remember: “In order to have peace, one must work for justice.” 85 to 90% of us know the so-called “side that did not prevail” has not seen justice and must seek justice through Congress and the Courts – a right and duty we own as citizens of this country.

They want Marin County Board of Supervisor Steve Kinsey to represent both sides when the science, the data, and the truth, are omitted by the opposition? Then, when called on it, they proceed to defame the character of anyone who disagrees, and continue to manufacture and promulgate falsehoods, and we should all “reconcile” ourselves to Salazar’s decision?

  1. In that case, I suppose
    1. the founders of this country should have “reconciled” themselves to England’s rule over us;
    2. Lincoln should have “reconciled” himself to the segregationists
    3. the Suffragettes should have “reconciled” themselves to their lot in life, gone home, donned their aprons and gotten back to their housework
    4. and Roe should have “reconciled” herself to her pregnancy and had the baby
  1. They mention the damage “it” has done and want there to be a reconciliation
    1. “to cause to accept or to be resigned to something not desired (as to his/her fate)
    2. or to win over to friendliness, cause to become amicable”)
    3. but fail to recognize 85 to 90% of us (West Marinites and Marinites by all polls taken) are for the continuation of the farm.

Who is causing the damage to the community by insisting that 85 to 90% of us shut up and take it?

Jane Gyorgy

Point Reyes Station

12-05-12 IBD: Oyster Farm Loses To Federal Bullies And Eco-Fanatics

12-05-12 Investors Business Daily, Closed:

The federal government wants California’s biggest oyster farm to shut down. Not because it’s broken the law or is irredeemably dirty. Washington just wants it to go away.

Last week, one day before the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s 40-year-lease expired, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar himself told the company that the deal was not going to be renewed. He gave the business 90 days to clear out of the Point Reyes National Seashore estuary in west Marin County.

The oyster company operates on about 1,100 acres of a 2,700-acre plot that Washington wants to return to nature. Salazar, who toured Point Reyes two weeks ago, could have renewed the lease for 10 years.

But pressure from radical environmentalists was too strong. So yet again, humans — at least 30 will lose their livelihoods — yield to someone’s definition of the ideal.

If ever there was a business that environmentalists should have supported, it was the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. By all reliable accounts, it was a clean, sustainable source of food for nearly 80 years.

One local told the San Francisco Chronicle the farm provided “a good organic food source in our backyard.”

“A department head in Washington, D.C., shouldn’t be able to tell this community it can’t eat oysters,” said Sarah Cane of San Rafael.

Another local, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, was also upset by Salazar’s decision. She strongly implied the fix was in. The federal review process was flawed, she said, “with false and misleading science, which was also used in the environmental impact statement.”

In a November editorial, the Marin Independent Journal, which endorsed only Democrats in the fall elections, agreed that the parks service used “bad science and heavy-handed tactics to make its case.”

A Marin County resident who said at one time she didn’t know which side to believe in the ongoing tension between Drakes and the government finally determined that the “National Park Service as well as the Department of the Interior — were not telling the truth.”

She also blogged that she had become “outraged by the injustice, the abuse of power and the disregard for the ordinary person and the small-business owner.”

This isn’t just a local problem. It has national impact.

If a militant federal bureaucracy and fanatical private groups can team up to shut down a business for environmental reasons in an already pristine estuary, then there’s not much outside of their reach. Rather than government by the people, we have government by bullies.

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