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Last week, Secretary of the Interior issued a long-awaited decision on the fate of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, located within Point Reyes National Seashore. He ordered the oyster farm removed. The farm was, by all accounts, a model of sustainable agriculture. Meanwhile, National Park Service employees allegedly engaged in wrongdoing in their zeal to kick out the oyster farm. Dianne Feinstein favored the oyster farm. Sympathies lay with the sustainable oyster farmer. After Salazar ruled against the farm, op-eds were written calling for President Obama to reverse Salazar's decision.

It's a trap. You're being used by Darrell Issa and the Koch brothers.

As background, John F. Kennedy declared Point Reyes a National Seashore in 1962, permitting businesses onsite 50 years to leave. Congress passed a law in 1976 designating the coast as a marine wilderness once the oyster farm left. Kevin Lunny bought the oyster farm in 2004 and gambled on an extension. And he did everything right in winning the favor of powerful Bay Area folk, including Senator Feinstein. Feinstein placed a clause in a 2009 appropriations bill giving Salazar the option to choose to renew the lease, expiring November 30, 2012.

On November 29, Salazar decided against the oyster farm. The area will now become the United States' first marine wilderness.

Sure enough, Kevin Lunny sued. His counsel is Dan Epstein of Cause of Action. Who is Dan Epstein? Mother Jones explains:

a former GOP counsel on the House's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform under California Republican Darrell Issa. Epstein is also a veteran employee of billionaires Charles and David Koch; he used to work at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and for a Koch Industries lawyer.
Yes, the model of environmental sustainability is being represented by a scion of Darrell Issa and the Koch brothers. Not because Epstein likes oysters or environmental sustainability, but rather because fossil fueled Republicans really, really likes the idea of commercial businesses on wilderness land. Or, as he puts it: "'Cause of Action is committed to ensuring that federal agency decision-making that can affect economic prosperity in the United States is held to the scrutiny of public accountability,' his statement also read."

The East Bay Express explains the real reasons for Ken Salazar's decision: "It wasn't about the environmental impacts of Drakes Bay Oyster Company at Point Reyes National Seashore; it was about precedent." Once one commercial operation is allowed on what is supposed to be wilderness, untrammeled by humanity, then you allow others. And that's exactly what Epstein and his powerful friends want.

Salazar has made the correct decision here in weighing not only the environmental footprint of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company but also the precedent that would be set by allowing commercial operations in wilderness and wilderness study areas.

Point Reyes' oysters are only the appetizers on the menu of the Koch brothers and Darrell Issa. The main course is the shale gas of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other wilderness atop fossil fuels.

Originally posted to Public Lands on Fri Dec 07, 2012 at 12:06 PM PST.

Also republished by California politics.

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