This is how the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm begins their plea for support in a local controversy.
A third-generation ranching family in Point Reyes, the Lunnys purchased this historic oyster farm to revive a part of our community and ensure the health of the estero. We provide local jobs and a sustainable food product that supports local businesses. Our stewardship of the oyster farm has resulted in award-winning oysters, and has protected the pristine waters of Drakes Estero and its abundant wildlife.What is not mentioned:
In November 2012, the National Park Service issued a decision that would shut down our business. In the course of this decision, NPS misrepresented the law, our contracts with the State of California, and the results of scientific studies. The fight is not over. We are in court to protest this. We need your help to continue.
The Phillip Burton Wilderness Act of 1976 set the stage to preserve Drakes Estero as wilderness for the public to enjoy and wildlife to thrive. The clear intent of the Act is that this critical wildlife resource should be protected as full wilderness once all human obstacles are removed.This lease expired in 2012, and the Lunny family purchased the farm in 2005 knowing this expiration would occur. At the time of purchase republicans controlled the White House and both chambers of congress.
The Phillip Burton Wilderness Act specifically designated Drakes Estero as 'potential wilderness' because of temporary nonconforming uses such as the 40 year oyster operation lease.
Despite Drakes Estero being located in an area where people are sensitive to environmental issues, there has been a real conversation about whether an exception should be made for this particular family. That, to me, is not encouraging.
Oyster farm flap reverberates far beyond Drake's Bay according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
To Cause of Action, a little-known Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group that has provided the oyster company about $200,000 worth of free legal services, the case is about curbing government regulatory overreach.There's more:
To critics — including another nonprofit organization, California Common Cause — the oyster farm's challenge to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's authority fits into a national effort to promote for-profit use of national parks and wilderness areas.
Amid the controversy stand Charles and David Koch, the billionaire brothers who own the nation's second-largest privately held corporation and are well-known for supporting conservative political causes, such as the tea party.
Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, said the case could set a "dangerous precedent" for the national parks and wilderness system.In a separate article by the same newspaper whose reporters are doing a good job investigating this controversy the headline reads:
Drakes Estero was supposed to be "on a one-way path to becoming wilderness," which could be reversed by the oyster farm's challenge. "That is very troubling," said Trainer, whose organization wants the farm closed.
Meanwhile, California Common Cause is questioning how the case fits into what it calls a conservative-inspired movement to "privatize public lands for profit," said Helen Grieco, the organization's Northern California organizer.
That campaign, Grieco said in a Common Cause report, includes recent efforts to permit uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park.
"Is it just this little oyster farm?" she said of the Drakes Bay lawsuit. "Somebody's investing a chunk of change in this case. Who benefits?"
A Republican bill in Congress intended to boost jobs and tax revenue through expanded offshore oil drilling, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and other measures also would allow Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to stay in business, saving 30 jobs on the Marin County coast.The LA Times has more:
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who introduced the legislation in the Senate, said in a written statement that it would create 2 million jobs and generate more than $2 trillion in federal taxes over the next 30 years by "increasing access to our domestic resources."
The final section of the bill, titled the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013, would grant the oyster company in the Point Reyes National Seashore a permit for up to 20 years.
It also says that the 2,500-acre estero "shall not be converted to a designated wilderness," apparently reversing the intent established by Congress in 1976.
POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE — To hear Kevin Lunny tell it, he's just a little guy, draining his life's savings to stand up to a heartless federal agency bent on closing down his family's oyster farm here.Thank you for taking time to read about Drakes Estero, the West Coast's only marine wilderness.
It's a compelling tale, a years-long soap opera replete with allegations of scientific misconduct and government overreach. Tea party activists have taken up his cause, citing it as an example of government quashing free enterprise and environmentalism run amok. Lunny also has the support of powerhouse conservative law firms representing him pro bono, and Cause of Action, a Washington, D.C.-based government watchdog group with ties to the conservative Koch brothers.
Others, however, don't buy his story. They say Lunny and some of his supporters have distorted what is a very simple case: The owners of the oyster farm north of San Francisco agreed 40 years ago to shut down in 2012, and Lunny is trying to break the contract.
Due diligence is needed.