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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)
    Get the Flash Player to heard this audio.

  • 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)
    Get the Flash Player to see hear the audio.

  • 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)
    Get the Flash Player to see hear the audio.

  • 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)
    Get the Flash Player to hear this audio.

  • 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.


Kurt, I believe these folks are who Zeb and imtnbke could be referring to. The dialogue is extreme, I believe.

TA, great article. The "environmentalists" are an interesting bunch. First, they put out of work 30 people, and then want to give them a measly $5000 to help out. But clearly, being able to put a label on a few acres of coast line was more important than people's livelihood.

Edited to play nice.

Regarding trailadvocate's link above, Felicity Barringer is an excellent New York Times reporter. Unlike many (in fact most) environmental reporters, she hasn't allowed her presumed immersion in the culture of orthodox environmentalism to taint her ability to report accurately. To use the vernacular, she hasn't drunk the Kool-Aid, and that is rare among environmental journalists.

So it's instructive that she accurately identifies the Point Reyes oyster farm ouster as the product of an environmentalist temperance crusade. Particularly noteworthy is this language in her column:

"On the linguistic front, two adjectives were repeatedly wielded by wilderness advocates in pressing their case. The estuary was deemed 'pristine,' with all those connotations of purity, even though people have been working there in one way or another for 100 years. It was also called 'iconic,' as if a small Northern California inlet were sacred to a vast number of people. (One wilderness advocate has repeatedly called it 'a church.')

"The oyster farm was predictably described as 'industrial' and 'commercial,' as if it were a giant factory, not a modest mariculture business."

We mountain bikers hear the same overheated rhetoric from wilderness advocates.

In fact, more and more they're starting to remind me of Islamist fanatics. The Wilderness purists want to drive out oyster farms, bicycles, baby strollers, and historical structures like a lookout in Washington state. Of the latter effort, the National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote:

"A small group of wilderness advocates have made it their mission to erase the imprint of human culture in wilderness areas, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation is pushing back." Source:

The only inaccuracy in that quotation is the reference to a "small group" of such individuals. The desire to purge Wilderness is rife among a large swath of Wilderness preachers.

It's markedly similar to the Taliban's religiously inspired mission to wipe out anything that it sees as un-Islamic, such as the historical Buddhist carvings in Afghanistan and, in recent weeks, Al Qaeda's destruction of important historical structures in Mali:

One thing is for sure: the Wilderness strict constructionists are amassing enemies left and right. When the National Trust for Historic Preservation has become fed up with their messianic crusades, you know they're going to face headwinds in the future.

Hi, Kurt --

I see all sorts of sharp-tongued dialogue on NPT and as long as it doesn't get too insulting, I don't find it objectionable. I gather that you dislike one term that I used in my reply. I see nothing wrong with it, but since it could prove a distraction, allowing people to focus on me rather than the point I'm trying to make, I'll edit my comment to use a less direct noun. (For others' reference, we're not talking about profanity here or anything close, but rather an acerbic term that people use to refer to Wilderness advocates with strict views.)

I disagree, imtnbke, that it's fine and dandy to use disparaging tags to identify either groups or individuals. That's one of the approaches, I believe, that has led to all the divisiveness in the country. People seem to have forgotten how to be courteous and respectful.

It long has been the policy of the Traveler to accept any and all comments -- as long as they're presented in a constructive approach without demeaning or attacking another individual. You don't have to agree with their position. But we certainly expect one and all to approach discussions with a modicum of respect. If necessary, please reread our Code of Conduct.

If that's not possible, than I would suggest you refrain from commenting.

C'mon, Zeb, no need to use disparaging tags.

Lee won't be happy until every single acre of open space becomes wilderness and is fenced off so that humans can't disturb the pristine wild landscape. :)

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