Renowned Chef, Farm Bureau Support Oyster Company's Bid To Remain At Point Reyes National Seashore

Alice Waters, a chef renowned for her insistence on the freshest organically grown and locally produced ingredients, has signed on to a "friend of the court" brief in support of an oyster company trying to hold on to its operations at Point Reyes National Seashore on California.

The brief (attached below) filed Thursday in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also was supported by the Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco, the Tomales Bay Oyster Company, Stacey Carlsen, Agricultural Commissioner, County of Marin, the Marin County Farm Bureau, the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the California Farm Bureau Federation, Food Democracy Now, the Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture, and Marin Organic.

The appellate court late last month granted Drakes Bay Oyster Co. an injunction to block the National Park Service from ending its lease at the national seashore until a hearing in May on the matter. The company's lease expired at the end of November, and Congress had directed the Park Service to officially declare Drakes Estero a wilderness area once all non-conforming uses were removed.

In seeking the temporary restraining order, Drakes Bay'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.

The amicus brief said Ms. Waters, the owner of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, has over the course of nearly 40 years "helped create a community of scores of local farmers and ranchers, such as the Lunnys (owners of DBOC), whose dedication to sustainable aquaculture and agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients."

The 37-page filing also argued that "closing the oyster farm would have a broad, negative and immediate impact, on the local economy and the sustainable agriculture and food industry in the San Francisco Bay Area, on the school children of the workers who live in the housing units onsite, and, in the longer term, on food security and the U.S. balance of trade. Closing down the oyster farm in Drakes Estero, which has existed since the early 1930s, would be inconsistent with the best thinking of the modern environmental movement and further tear at the fabric of an historic rural community that the Point Reyes National Seashore [Seashore] was created to help preserve."

The brief, along with voicing the signatories' support for the oyster company, also argued that there's an ongoing evolution in how society views nature.

"Chief Scientist for The Nature Conservancy, Peter Kareiva, is a leading advocate for the need for 21st century conservationists to become more 'people friendly' and to deal with 'working landscapes,' including fisheries," the brief notes.

The filing also cites an article in Slate that quoted Emma Marris, described as a leader of the "modernist environmental movement," as saying, “we must temper our romantic notion of untrammeled wilderness’ and embrace the jumbled bits and pieces of nature that are all around us – in our backyards, in city parks, and farms."

AttachmentSize
Amicus-Drakes Bay Oyster v Salazar-FINAL.pdf81.32 KB

Comments

Rock On, Drakes Bay Oyster and for the best of reasons.

"...there's an ongoing evolution in how society views nature." This is a frightening statement. Within the context of this "evolution," if this kind of situation, where business (i.e., money, even if it is locally earned and spent money) wins over maintaining or restoring wild lands, over time we stand to lose the integrity of all wilds lands, whether they be semi-wild and close to San Fransisco or in Alaska's backcountry. If this oyster farm stays, I think this is a precedent that will have huge ramifications and repercussions throughout supposedly protected areas. The line in the sand has to be drawn somewhere, I hope it can be drawn on the sands of Drake's Estero.

Baloney. The oyster farm should stay as part of the area, providing jobs and valuable products to a large urban area who wants it.... It makes no sense to me to remove it simply for the sake of something that isn't there...

Ms. Moritsch, YOUR BIG PICTURE IS BS. This is a local issue and deserves to be decided locally and not on some big political stage which is a complete disconnect to reason but more about political correctness and power. You are over the line Ms. Moritsch, respectfully.

There are already precendents of commercial/nonconforming activities that predated wilderness designation staying in potential or full wilderness. Some are preventing the conversion of potential wilderness to full wilderness, while others happen in full wilderness.

There are dams on Lake Aloha in Desolation Wilderness. There are backpacker camps in potential wilderness in Yosemite and Sequoia that stay as a matter of policy. Commercial grazing permits are renewed regularly for wilderness lands, and Salazar as a cattle man has no issue with them. Roads exist in full wilderness to access dams and for maintenance purposes. And the real kicker is that preexisting mining claims can still be mined even in wilderness areas. Death Valley has over a dozen open mining claims, and mining could still legally continue even in areas that have been designated full wilderness.

The key is that these area all preexisting operations. Allowing DBOC to continue operations wouldn't really set a precedent, because there's already ample precedent. And the meantime, Salazar threw in a good word for the cattle ranches. While they're not technically in the wilderness plan, they certainly dump cattle waste into Drakes Estero and create a major impact on the wilderness characteristics of Drakes Estero.

Trail advocate--must you be so hostile? I am so tired of hair-trigger reactions to suggestions people don't like. It would be good to notch up the respect level if you want to retain credibility (adding "respectfully" doesn't cut it). Simply because you disagree with my BIG PICTURE does not mean it is BS. Mike G--Baloney? At least that is not profane. YPW--correct about commercial/nonconforming uses. Perhaps removal of the oyster farm would set a precedent in the other direction--toward removing those non-conforming uses? Only about 5% of the entire United States is protected as wilderness. Because Alaska has just over half of America's wilderness, only about 2.7% of the contiguous United States—an area about the size of Minnesota—is protected as wilderness. Why can't we commit to full protection (i.e., work to remove non-conforming structures and uses) of this small part of the country? Why must human "wants" always take precedence over wildlife and wildlands?

Because humans are a part of this environment. They are present and will continue to be present. "Full protection", whatever that means is a pipe dream for those who would eliminate humans from the environment. I like wild lands too, Barbara but I don't want all human participation in any part of the environment eliminated....

Mike--Yes, humans are a "part" of the environment, but just a part, yet we are prone to inserting ourselves and pretty much dominating and usurping the entire Earth, at the expense of other species and habitats. Nowhere did I say that I want to eliminate humans from the environment--no, I realize that is not possible or desirable. I don't advocate that at all. By "full protection," I mean that I advocate doing as much as we can to minimize human impacts on wilderness and wild areas (and the rest of the planet for that matter, but certainly to varying degrees), I mean phasing out commercial and non-conforming uses in wilderness. I feel it is the least we can do, to retain and enhance small parts of the planet for other species, and, ultimately for human benefit long-term. I don't quite understand your phrase: I don't want all human participation in any part of the environment eliminated...Could you clarify this for me please? And thanks for engaging.

I just don't see how a commercial oyster farm fits into a wilderness area--- decide locally??? Hey every American citizen has ownership of that land and all have a right to decide how its used. I agree with Barbara--why the snide remarks because someone doesn't agree with your opinion?? If we had allowed locals to decide what happened to Grand Teton there would be gas stations and hotels sitting right in front of the Teton range.Personally I'd like to see the oyster farm removed from my property.

This idea of "wilderness" is somewhat of an artificial construct. Simply declaring an area "wilderness" doesn't necessarily mean it has or doesn't have wilderness characteristics. Yellowstone NP doesn't have any declared wilderness, but it has all the characteristics. It's all about how an area is managed and not whether or not a certain tag has been applied to the land or water.

In addition to that, Drakes Estero is de facto wilderness. The only things that separate it from what would otherwise characterize full wilderness under the law are the oyster racks and the use of motorized boats to access the racks. Is it any better or worse for it?

Some seem to have this idea that wilderness is this unspoiled land. I've noted the dams. There's one right next to the Mist Trail in Yosemite. There are several in Desolation Wilderness near Tahoe. There's still a building at the top of Mt Whitney straddling Forest Service and NPS wilderness areas. There are patrol cabins in full wilderness. In Yosemite they have these steel trail signs in full wilderness. I've noted the commercial grazing rights that Salazar approves of in wilderness. This would hardly be a precedent either way.

gutz54:
I just don't see how a commercial oyster farm fits into a wilderness area--- decide locally??? Hey every American citizen has ownership of that land and all have a right to decide how its used. I agree with Barbara--why the snide remarks because someone doesn't agree with your opinion?? If we had allowed locals to decide what happened to Grand Teton there would be gas stations and hotels sitting right in front of the Teton range.Personally I'd like to see the oyster farm removed from my property.
The oyster farm has an interesting history. At one time the farm and the land (dry land by the way) was owned outright by a guy named Charlie Johnson. He had that land as well as water bottom leases issued by the State of California. Then National Park Service built a park around that land. At the time the park was opened, Johnsons Oyster was an inholding. Then they came to Charlie Johnson with an offer. Either take this offer to buy your land with a 40 year leaseback and option to renew, or we use eminent domain to buy out your farm and we don't have to lease it back to you. Whether or not you agree with the use of eminent domain or not, it's pretty obvious that the sale of the farm's land to NPS was coerced.

Not only that, but at the time of the agreement, Drakes Estero wasn't even slated to be wilderness. Even at the time of the Point Reyes Wilderness Act, nobody thought that it meant that the oyster farm had to leave at the end of the RUO. For instance, the Yosemite High Sierra camps remain indefinitely, and the land they sit on remains potential wilderness indefinitely. The primary author of the Point Reyes Wilderness Act says that there no reason why it couldn't remain potential wilderness until such time as the oyster farm owner's voluntarily cease operations.

Barbara Moritsch:
Mike--Yes, humans are a "part" of the environment, but just a part, yet we are prone to inserting ourselves and pretty much dominating and usurping the entire Earth, at the expense of other species and habitats. Nowhere did I say that I want to eliminate humans from the environment--no, I realize that is not possible or desirable. I don't advocate that at all. By "full protection," I mean that I advocate doing as much as we can to minimize human impacts on wilderness and wild areas (and the rest of the planet for that matter, but certainly to varying degrees), I mean phasing out commercial and non-conforming uses in wilderness. I feel it is the least we can do, to retain and enhance small parts of the planet for other species, and, ultimately for human benefit long-term. I don't quite understand your phrase: I don't want all human participation in any part of the environment eliminated...Could you clarify this for me please? And thanks for engaging.
No - you operate under the law. The Wilderness Act allows for non-permanent commercial activities such as horse/mule packing services and fishing/hunting/hiking guides. It specifically allows for motorized boating in the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness. Specific wilderness legislation sets out exceptions for dams, roads, motorized recreation, etc that were in place before the wilderness designation. Potential wilderness areas are allowed to continue to remain potential wilderness areas until such time as the "nonconforming uses" cease. Commercial grazing is allowed to continue. The main difficulty is that once a right is established, it's really difficult to take away someone's rights. The Wilderness Act itself doesn't mention dams or other manmade structures, but it's been pretty well established in the courts that a water district's existing rights can't be usurped because an area was declared a wilderness area.

What you do isn't declare that "It's now full wilderness", but take steps to manage the environment in such a way that maintains the health of the ecosystem. Drakes Estero is the focal point of this conversation. I hear some act as if removing the oyster racks will be a universal good. I think it could turn out to be poor for the environment. Right now the area is surrounded by cattle/dairy ranches to the north. They urinate/defecate in the soil and when it rains that cattle effluent flows into Drakes Estero. Right now the farmed shellfish are a check on that by absorbing those excess nutrients and maintaining clarity of the water. Remove those and who knows what happens. I've heard credible suggestions that it could result in a hypoxic dead zone similar to the one in the Gulf of Mexico around the Mississippi River Delta.

Well ypw if those oysters are filtering out all that cattle shizzit out of the water at Drakes,I think I'll be darn sure to ask if the next dozen raw oysters I order came from there!!!LOL

This modern concept of Wilderness implies that humans don't belong there, however, historically humans have always lived and shaped nature (what we call wilderness now) in northern America. So, we're really trying to recreate a wilderness that never existed in the first place.


[= 14px; line-height: 18px; background-color: #ffffff] I feel it is the least we can do, to retain and enhance small parts of the planet for other species, and, ultimately for human benefit long-term.[/]


[= 14px; line-height: 18px]I honestly don't see how removing the oyster operation does anything to enhance the estrero. However, I can tell pretty easily how the impact is a net negative short term and long term for human beings.[/]

gutz54:
Well ypw if those oysters are filtering out all that cattle shizzit out of the water at Drakes,I think I'll be darn sure to ask if the next dozen raw oysters I order came from there!!!LOL
If you eat any meat, think about the conditions. Cows eat all sorts of stuff, including hay or grass that's been exposed to their own feces. If you consume organic produce, exactly what do you think organic fertilizer is and do you suppose that some of it got on the surface?

No matter where you get oysters, they've been exposed to some sort of fecal material, whether that's runoff from a creek or the assorted stuff that fish or birds excrete into the water. In addition to that, Drakes Bay Oyster Farm is by acreage the largest shellfish farm in California. When it rains they have a large area to pick where to harvest. I asked about it once, and was told that they harvest from areas further away from the shore after heavy rains such that bacterial levels are lower. After heavy rains, all of the oyster farms in Tomales Bay shut down harvest until such time as the coliform bacteria levels go down.

As humans we have this huge hangup over what comes out of the rear end of an animal. But talk to any backpacker who drinks treated water. That creek has assorted animal waste dispersed in it. It's safe to drink once it's treated, but it's still deer/bear/squirrel poop that's in there.

And if you eat oysters, remember that's the entire animal you're eating, including the digestive system and all of the crap that it was getting ready to release until someone came in and ripped off its top shell.

Thats why i always check before i eat a raw oyster to be sure it recently had a BM...