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Judge Upholds Removal of Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm

| February 5, 2013
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By Jason Dearen, Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge on Monday denied a Northern California oyster farm’s request to have its removal from Point Reyes National Seashore overturned, and ruled against allowing it to continue doing business in the park while its lawsuit is being heard in court.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. workers harvest strings of oysters on Schooner Bay near Point Reyes. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. workers harvest strings of oysters on Schooner Bay near Point Reyes. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The judge denied owner Kevin Lunny’s request to void Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s refusal to renew the historic oyster farm’s lease for another 10 years.

The rulings dealt a blow to the popular Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s last-ditch effort to remain in business beyond its March 15 eviction date.

Point Reyes National Seashore was added to the national parks system by Congress in 1962, and protects more than 80 miles of California coastline. It is managed by the National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers wrote in her decision that she did not believe she had authority to overturn Salazar, and that even if she did, “plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of the claims.”

Salazar, in denying Lunny’s request to extend the lease, said the land should be returned to wilderness status as Congress decided in the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act. He ordered Lunny to remove all of the farm’s property from the pristine waters of the Drakes Estero.

Environmentalists and park officials said the oyster farm’s motor boats and equipment threaten nearby harbor seals and polluted the otherwise clean waters.

The farm found powerful allies in Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the National Academy of Sciences, which charged that the National Park Service was trying to get rid of the oyster farm by exaggerating its negative impacts on the environment.

Amber Abbasi, an attorney for Cause of Action, the legal group that brought the suit on behalf of the farm, released a statement expressing disappointment in the judge’s decision.

“Without this injunction, not only will a small business close, but families will be forced out of their homes, and the community will lose a sustainable farming resource,” Abbasi said in the statement. “The Lunnys are weighing their options for next steps and will make their decision known in the coming days.”

Interior spokesman Blake Androff said he would not comment because the case is still ongoing.

“Today’s decision is another affirmation of the principle that `a deal is a deal,’” Johanna Wald, senior counselor at the National Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “The preservation of Drakes Estero will be enjoyed by millions of Californians and lovers of wilderness and parks for generations to come.”

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  • rick jones

    Salazar, in denying Lunny’s request to extend the lease, said the land should be returned to wilderness status as Congress decided in the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act. He ordered Lunny to remove all of the farm’s property from the pristine waters of the Drakes Estero.

    Environmentalists and park officials said the oyster farm’s motor boats and equipment threaten nearby harbor seals and polluted the otherwise clean waters.

    If the waters are indeed pristine, then the oyster farm cannot be polluting them. If the oyster farm is indeed polluting the waters, then they cannot be pristine.

    “Today’s decision is another affirmation of the principle that `a deal is a deal,’” Johanna Wald, senior counselor at the National Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “The preservation of Drakes Estero will be enjoyed by millions of Californians and lovers of wilderness and parks for generations to come.”

    But millions of Californians and lovers of wilderness enjoying Drakes Estero will leave it pristine?

  • http://www.facebook.com/thevelvetvalentine Velvet Valentine

    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2013/01/29/18730960.php these are the environmental fines they are up against currently. They have a cease & desist order against them from the coastal commission as well. KQED your writing on this did not show the environmental side at all. A lot of attention has been given to a private interest. Drakes Estero belongs to tax payers. This is public land & will now remain so. This is a small victory for the environment. Who has no voice except for dedicated volunteers.

  • Armchair Environmentalists

    The oysters are helping keep the bay clean! The oysters do far more work in keeping the waters clean than the crazed environmentalists who think that any commercial activity = environmental damage.

    • eatyrspinach

      It’s not like the oysters are going anywhere, Armchair; they were there in the beginning before being commodified, and they’ll stay after this case sends the Lunny’s packing. It’d be a bum precedent to set to allow an extension to their lease in one of the prettiest and cleanest coastal areas in the country.

  • Paul Feyling

    I believe the campaign against the oyster company is misguided. As a taxpayer and an environmentalist I recognize the contribution the oyster company makes to the local economy, to sustainable aquaculture, and the water quality of Drakes Bay Estero – oysters are filter feeders, after all. The park was established with the promise of maintaining the historic agricultural activities. Oysters had been farmed there or decades when the park was founded. Yes, later the bay was designated “potential wilderness”. It will always be “potential” wilderness as long as there are human visitors. it is disingenuous to say “a deal is a deal” when the renewal option for the oyster company existed. The Park Service itself proposed a model aquaculture eduction center there in the late 1990s.

    Lets direct our environmental campaigns against the larger forces, the “bad guys”, like the mining companies that really pose a threat.

  • michael47

    It’s good to remember the difference between a Wilderness and a National Park.1.5 million visitors a year and Drakes would be a mess, in probability, a Concession. Think Curry Company in Yosemite. Luckily, Drakes is cold and clammy most of the year (clams and oysters, seals love it), So it probably won’t ever be worn out, dug up, trailed to death, picnic’d up with trash, baby diapers, dog feces, etc. No “Pristine” where humans go, we know. The oyster farm is a concession. If you can afford oysters buy from a farm that is not subsidized by us all. That is the marketplace, not a private company with a ‘deal’ with the Fed on the side.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Hauser/1336596489 Bob Hauser

    That federal “judge” is a spineless puke and is bought and paid for by a coprophagous bunch of environiks who are using the banner of “protecting the planet” as a subterfuge to destroy all private businesses in the country…old hat really. Don’t expect anything remotely akin to honesty out of America’s current cash crop of “judges” in the JU$T U$ system…the only ray of hope the company has is a COMMONLAW jury trial….screw a damned “judge” that is nothing more than a political plug-in for the Wallow Street stink rich who wish to wipe out the independent American business owner. The whole thing stinks from here to the far side of Hell with Beltway theater script written by the Ovomit regime.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Hauser/1336596489 Bob Hauser

    I would most strongly encourage the Drakes bay company to get in touch with Steve Hempfling of the Free Enterprise Society in Clovis, ca….they are trench fighters for the Constitution.

  • Melissa

    we love going there and buying oysters
    environmentalists here you suck go away