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Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Seeks TRO To Keep Point Reyes National Seashore Oyster Farm In Business


Politics stalked the national park system throughout 2007. From snowmobiles in Yellowstone to off-road vehicles in Big Cypress, it seemed natural resources and careful stewardship were trumped too often.

We heard both National Park Service Director Mary Bomar and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne promise that science and careful stewardship would rule the national parks, and yet it seemed those promises fell short.

Not all the news surrounding the parks was negative, though. Congress approved President Bush's hefty funding increase for the parks, the National Park Foundation held a summit to explore partnership and philanthropy in the parks, and the Centennial Challenge was launched.

That said, here's a look at some of the top stories that rippled across the national park system in 2007:

  • Yellowstone snowmobiles. Despite scientific reports that detailed how snow coaches were the best alternative for Yellowstone's environment, wildlife, employees and visitors, park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis approved a plan to allow as many as 540 snowmobiles per day into Yellowstone. That decision, which conservation groups have promised to test in court, could have consequences far beyond Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks as I noted back in November.

    Rick Smith, of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, speaks of decision (1:00)
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  • Fran Mainella points finger at Interior Department. A year after leaving her job as director of the National Park Service, Fran Mainella told the Traveler that Interior Department officials, not her office, called the shots on allowing snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park.

    Fran Mainella talks to the 'Traveler' (4:34)
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  • Jet skis. Conservation groups asked the Park Service to reinstate bans against personal watercraft in Gulf Islands and Cape Lookout national seashores as well as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. If the agency balks, the groups say they'll take it to court over the matter.

  • ORVs in Big Cypress National Preserve. A decision by Big Cypress Superintendent Karen Gustin to reopen 20 miles of off-road vehicle routes was greeted by a lawsuit just before Christmas when a coalition of groups filed a lawsuit to overturn that decision.

  • Katmai Bear Hunt. A groundswell of public outrage greeted the annual hunt of brown bears in Katmai National Preserve. Though hunting technically is allowed in the preserve, the seeming habituation of bears to humans created the impression that the bear hunt was akin to "shooting fish in a barrel" and prompted calls for the Park Service to end the hunt. Watch Video

  • Park Service budget. President Bush proposed, and Congress approved, a hefty funding increase for the National Park Service. True, the $2.39 billion FY08 budget cannibalizes some sections of the agency's budget so its base operations funding will rise $153.4 million. But an increase is an increase.

  • Centennial Challenge. In his fiscal 2008 budget request, President Bush proposed a Centennial Challenge with visions of infusing $3 billion, in a mix of public and private funding, into the park system as the National Park Service moves towards its centennial in 2016. Though controversial on several fronts, and falling short of his 2000 campaign promise to spend $5 billion to wipe out the Park Service's maintenance backlog, the initiative gained congressional approval, though not exactly as the president requested it.

    Kempthorne Announces Centennial Projects; Podcast (10:50)
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  • National Park Foundation Leadership Summit on Partnership and Philanthropy. Private philanthropy long has played a crucial role in the construction and health of the national park system. To explore how philanthropy and partnerships can bolster the parks as they head to the National Park Service's centennial in 2016, the National Park Foundation in October convened a summit in Austin, Texas, to examine the possibilities.

    NPS Director Mary Bomar addresses Leadership Summit (1:45)
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  • The Demise of the National Parks Pass. This much-loved $50 pass, which got its holder into as many parks as they wanted for a year, died on January 1 when the $80 America the Beautiful Pass came to be. However, congressional efforts towards the end of 2007 could spur the return of the National Parks Pass.

  • Climate Change. In a telling report, the Government Accountability Office said the Interior Department has failed to provide the National Park Service with the tools it needs to cope with climate change and its impacts on the national park system.


Overriding Salazar's decision would be a positive. Either by Salazar himself or the incumbent Secretary of Interior. Considering how PC rules, it wouldn't surprise me if the most considered qualification is that it be a women. Consideration for those 30 jobs and a century of tradition of which the Bay area has grown to appreciate in a multiple of ways, would be a low percentage bet but I will remain hopeful.


Presumably government lawyers helped write the oyster farm's lease agreement, and if they were thinking ahead, they will have specified in the lease that the farm owner bears the costs of eventual removal of the infrastructure. But perhaps the owner will declare bankruptcy and walk away from the expense.Such language is in the reservation of use signed in 1972. I really doubt that they could just walk away. I doubt the farm is set up as an LLC, but I could be wrong. Kevin and Nancy Lunny operate the G Ranch at Point Reyes, and they have lots of assets. I doubt they would simply walk away. However, it sound like they'd like to exhaust all avenues before tearing things down. If they tear it down there's really no going back.

I'd think an interesting possibility would be that there will be a new Secretary of the Interior. The new Secretary might conceivably override Salazar's decision. I'm not sure how this might sit with the law, but who knows what is and isn't legal.

Personally having been a part of an intimate relationship with things wild from serious Bering Sea storms with no refuge to leading first time adventurers (old and new) into the wilds of our Parks I truly believe the trend to seperate people from witnessing and experiencing places like Drakes Bay whether it be working the Oyster Beds or just seeing it in operation is a loss in many ways.

This from Earth Island Journal. In Defense of Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

Presumably government lawyers helped write the oyster farm's lease agreement, and if they were thinking ahead, they will have specified in the lease that the farm owner bears the costs of eventual removal of the infrastructure. But perhaps the owner will declare bankruptcy and walk away from the expense.

I read that this impending closure is going to reduce California oyster production by about 40%. I suppose people in Prince Edward Island and Puget Sound will be happy.

The interesting thing will be to see what the government will do in a couple months when the oyster racks are still there. From what I read, it would take two years for the company to remove all of it. What a cluster..

The latest San Francisco Daily Journal article, from yesterday, suggests that the Federal District Court judge in Oakland, Calif., is likely to rule in the government's favor, based on her questions and comments at the hearing this week.

A federal court is holding this morning a hearing on the oyster farm's application for a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of Secretary Salazar's decision to close it.

The San Francisco Daily Journal legal newspaper has a fine article in yesterday's edition (Jan. 24) on the legal maneuvering and various legal experts' views on the farm's chances of success.

Unfortunately, the Daily Journal doesn't make its content public. (See But if you live in California, you can stop by the local law library at your county courthouse or law school and read the article there. Or if you have a friend who's a lawyer, he/she may have a subscription and will let you read the article.

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