Letters from 2005 show that the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin opposed an extension beyond 2012 of the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. lease at Point Reyes National Seashore, contrary to claims made by the company's owner.
Catherine Caufield, who at the time was the executive director of the committee, wrote three letters between January 28, 2005, and March 29, 2005, outlining her group's position on whether Drakes Bay should be given a lease renewal beyond November 2012.
"We have met with Mr. (Kevin) Lunny, who has been a good steward of his ranching operations in the park. We hope and expect him to be a similarly good steward for the remaining life of the oyster operation lease. He is making good progress in cleaning up the operation," Ms. Caufield wrote then-Superintendent Don Neubacher in January 2005. "We believe that the oyster operation should not continue past 2012 and the oyster site must be cleaned up from its legacy of poor stewardship. In addition the interim facilities must be appropriately designed with the full knowledge and expectation that operations will cease in 2012.
In March of that year she wrote then-U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey to make clear the EAC's position on Drakes Estero.
"We believe that the Johnson’s lease area should become part of the Phillip Burton Wilderness Area when the lease expires in 2012. The wilderness legislation for Point Reyes National (Public Law 94-544, October 18, 1976) is abundantly clear on this matter," wrote Ms. Caufield. "The federal act designated Drakes Estero as potential wilderness and the House Report (94-1680) stated that it was the intent of Congress that there be 'efforts to steadily continue to remove all obstacles to the eventual conversion of these lands and waters to wilderness status.'”
Later that month she corresponded again with Superintendent Neubacher.
"We support (Mr. Lunys) desire to assume the lease and to be allowed to raise, process, and sell oysters in the Park until the lease expires in 2012, on condition that all federal, state, and local environmental and health standards are met," Ms. Caufield wrote. "These standards will help mitigate the operation’s impacts on the Estero and its wildlife. In 2012, when the lease expires, we support making the Johnson’s lease area part of the Phillip Burton Wilderness Area., as mandated by the wilderness legislation for Point Reyes National (Public Law 94-544, October 18, 1976)."
Ms. Caufield provided the letters to the Traveler after Mr. Lunny told the Traveler that she was open to a compromise that would allow his oyster farm to continue operations beyond 2012.
The back and forth leads up to a May 14 hearing before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on whether the oyster company should be awarded a temporary restraining order that would allow it to continue operations until its lawsuit against the National Park Service over a lease extension is heard.
Last November, then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar declined to exercise a renewal option contained within the lease agreement. In opting to let the lease expire on its own, the Interior secretary said Congress intended that the waters of Drakes Estero would become official wilderness.
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