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National Park Service Enjoined By Court From Forcing Oyster Farm Out Of Point Reyes National Seashore


An oyster company's legal battle to continue operations in Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore will continue into the spring following an appellate court's ruling. NPS photo of Drakes Estero.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked the National Park Service from forcing an oyster farm out of Point Reyes National Seashore and scheduled a hearing on the dispute for May.

In a terse order filed Monday, the appellate court granted the request for an emergency injunction from the Drakes Bay Oyster Co., whose lease to operate in the national seashore's waters expired in November. The appellate court was asked to consider the motion after a lower court denied the same request.

"Appellants’ emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal is granted, because there are serious legal questions and the balance of hardships tips sharply in appellants’ favor," the order read.

On February 4, a U.S. District Court judge declined to issue a temporary restraining order that would have allowed the oyster farm to continue operations in Drakes Estero while its owner, Kevin Lunny, pursued a lawsuit against the federal government.

In seeking the TRO, the company's lawyers argued that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar broke the Administrative Procedures Act and violated the National Environmental Policy Act when he decided last November not to extend the lease for 10 years. In denying the lease extension, the Interior secretary cited the value of wilderness and congressional intent. On the very next day, Park Service Director Jon Jarvis declared the estero part of the Philip Burton Wilderness at the Seashore, effective December 4.

In her ruling, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers held that she had no jurisdiction to rule on whether the Interior secretary broke the APA, and even if she did, Mr. Lunny did not prove that Secretary Salazar acted arbitrary or capricious, or abused his discretion, in his decision.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. also is facing a cease-and-desist order handed it by the California Coastal Commission last month. That order cited unpermitted operations in the seashore's waters by the oyster company, land alterations, debris from the farming operations, violations of previous cease-and-desist orders, and company boats operating in waters that were supposed to be closed to traffic due to harbor seal pupping.


This is fascinating. The noose is clearly around the oyster farm's neck. I see the farm going bankrupt and the NPS paying for the farm removal. I wonder if the farm had to post a bond to remove everything.

It is fascinating. The noose is indeed tightening. I think I'll root for the underdog. I wish the oyster company well in a battle with an over-reaching government agency.

Mike, I just don't follow your claim about an over-reaching federal agency. Congress decided nearly 40 years ago that this area would be preserved as wilderness. For all the American people, and those yet to come. Now, I could see your point if this was an inholding owned by the oyster farm and the government was trying to take it over, but that's not the case at all.

Congress decided nearly 40 years ago that this area would be preserved as wilderness.

But as the bill's sponsors have testified, it was not their intent to eliminate the oyster farm. It would appear that the agency indeed has reached farther than was intended.

If it wasn't their intent, they should have raised that issue as the bill made its way through the congressional meat-grinder. If they weren't happy with the way the wilderness act was approved by Congress in 1976, I think it was, why didn't they move to amend it?

If you can cite exactly where the over-reach occurred, I'd definitely like to see it. Unfortunately for the oyster company, at this point the record fully supports the wilderness designation.

While I try to avoid emotional arguments in these posts, this time I'll make an exception. I think the Oyster Farm provides value to the area, is compatable with most NPS objectives, perpetuates a lifestyle rarely seen in America today, has been a good steward during their operations, adds diversity and interest to the NPS site, provides a quality product under private enterprise that is valued by it's customers, etc. I could go on and on and on but won't.

I do intend to use the liberal strategy of expressing my opinion without any supporting facts or providing any supporting documentation when requested by others.

After reading some of the tripe presented here as arguments in support of the NPS and their actions by people like Lee, PJ or Rick B I don't think that is too much to ask. I will not however, stoop to calling anyone a liar, dupe for industry (or the NPS), traitor or any of the other pejoratives used by frequent liberal commentators. I will also try not to use the 'completely unrelated straw man' arguments others seem to enjoy.

I enjoy this site and it's stories but do wish we had a higher caliber of expression of opinions...principally by liberals but occasionally the other side slips up as well... none of us are perfect, but of course, all of us can improve our efforts.

Mike, you raise some good points, but when do we decide we'll agree with and follow congressional actions, and when do we decide we don't like their decisions and so the heck with them? That's a key question in this matter.

That said, I disagree with your pejorative slant to "liberal." That's way too broad of a brush. I do agree with your distaste for some of the tripe in recent days, from both political persuasions, and have deleted some comments that went too far.

We are working on a way to resolve that flow if those who comment can't constrain themselves. Like you, I wish there was a more regular high-road approach to these discussions. Opinions are fine, supporting documentation even better, but when folks get down in the gutter and start tossing mud and worse, it reflects badly not just on themselves, but on the Traveler itself, I'm afraid to say.

There actually was one comment to me off-site the other day about "the trolls on (the site are vicious and everywhere."

Folks who might offer some of that high-brow thought you desire are leery of commenting because they fear they'll unjustly be attacked or the thread will be hijacked. That's not what the Traveler is about.

As I've long said, we welcome discussion from all points of view as long as it's constructive and without brick throwing -- and that applies to liberals, conservatives, and every other segment of society. Put another way, don't write something that you wouldn't tell someone face-to-face over dinner.

Nice reply Kurt. My brush may be too broad. Maybe.

I haven't been watching this site that long but what really bothers me is that some of the absolute worst offenders that I see are some of those who post your stories. Start there with some sort of corrective action, please.

I agree that 'the trolls are vicious'. I hope i ain't one of them and don't think I am....

This site has some great stories, as I said, I enjoy it. It can be used for constructive argument by all sides as you say. Maybe if we can minimize some of the 'crap' that gets posted a higher caliber of commenters will appear....

BTW, I don't wish a highbrow type of discussion necessarily, but I do wish for one where people are courteous, honest and as you have said, don't write something they won't tell someone to their face.

Thanks for all you do. I realize with a bunch of unidentified commenters it probably ain't easy.

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