You are here

Oil And Water Don't Mix: How The Energy Industry Is Using Yosemite's Merced River And Point Reyes' Drakes Bay To Facilitate Public Land Exploitation


What is the real motive behind Americans For Prosperity's push against the National Park Service's preferred alternative for managing the Yosemite Valley?

Editor's note: In the following commentary, Barbara Moristch raises questions into the forces behind efforts to see an oyster farm remain in business at Point Reyes National Seashore and to further open the Yosemite Valley to recreation.

During a recent Sunday, as I relaxed into numerous lovely tributes to mothers posted all over Facebook, I scrolled upon a video link shared by a group called “Yosemite for Everyone.” The video, produced by AFP-TV, was called “Common Sense with David Spady.” After opening with a view of the American and California flags waving in front of the state's Capitol, the video focused on a Yosemite National Park entrance sign. Out of sight, a man calmly said: “Tourists and outdoor enthusiasts beware. The heavy boots of environmentalism are about to stomp on your visitor rights in Yosemite National Park.”

Then, the casually-dressed Mr. Spady appears in front of a video screen displaying a film of Yosemite Falls that makes it look like he is actually in Yosemite. And then Mr. Spady begins to spread insidious dis-information about the 2013 Draft Merced River Plan, and to slam the National Park Service. The video can be viewed at this website.

Anti-Park Service Propaganda?

The video is very misleading. For example, Mr. Spady refers several times to 1864 legislation that ceded Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias from the federal government to California, emphasizing the fact that “Yosemite was set aside for public use, resort, and recreation,” and that this designation was to be “inalienable in perpetuity.”

This is true, but Mr. Spady fails to explain that the state of California grossly mismanaged the lands, allowing rampant development and extensive damage to occur. In 1906, the valley and grove were ceded back to the federal government. In 1916, the National Park Service was created, and the agency took over management of the ceded lands plus the much larger Yosemite National Park.

And lest we forget, even though the state grant emphasized use, the mandate of the NPS, based on its enabling legislation, is to promote and regulate the use of the federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations, to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

Court decisions and public input have upheld the ideal that resource preservation must trump use if such use will impair park resources.

I continued scrolling, pondering the brouhaha generated by the draft Merced River Plan that is intended to guide responsible management of the valley with an eye on protecting the river. I couldn’t understand why so many people were so up in arms about plans to remove an ice skating rink, swimming pools, and commercial rentals of bikes, rafts, and horses. As an ecologist, I feel removing the ice rink, pools, and bike rentals is unnecessary; they don’t adversely affect natural resources. But, horses and river rafting have significant impacts on riparian and aquatic habitats, and it would benefit the valley to have them more stringently regulated or eliminated.

I could understand minor disappointment over the proposed changes, but a lot of people and organizations came out strongly opposed to the plan, when the preferred alternative really won’t change much about the Yosemite Valley experience. In my opinion, the plan doesn’t go nearly far enough to protect resources associated with the Merced River.

Will The Park Service Plan Adversely Impact Enjoyment Of Yosemite?

One illustration of the “brouhaha” is a recent on-line petition called “Save Yosemite for our Families!” which implored people to “Help Us Save Yosemite National Park!” It declared, “If the following draft proposed by the National Park Service goes into effect, it will be harder if not impossible for you to enjoy Yosemite.” This makes the plan sound draconian, which it’s not. There is no indication as to who started this petition.

The list of plan opponents crying about the proposed changes in services in Yosemite includes, among others, the American Recreation Coalition, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, the Mariposa and Tuolumne County Boards of Supervisors, and local area Congressman Tom McClintock. The common feature shared by many, if not most, of these entities is they either make money off of park use, or represent people who do.

Yosemite’s primary concession operator, Delaware North Companies, also stirred up opposition to the plan, although they did so with a bit more finesse. For example, on their blog site they have a post titled: “The Merced River Plan Removes Raft Rentals in Preferred Alternative 5.” The post starts by asking, “Have you ever taken a leisurely float down the Merced River in Yosemite Valley?” They tell readers that raft rentals will be curtailed under the plan, and that private rafters will require permits. Then they ask, “What do you think?” They suggest readers comment on the plan and provide the link for comments.

As I considered the incredible power of social media to influence public opinion in ways both productive and destructive, I came upon another post that really got my attention—it indicated there might be a link between the slanderous Spady video and the infamous Koch brothers.

Connecting The Dots

A quick Google search revealed that AFP, which produced the Spady video, stands for Americans for Prosperity, an American conservative political advocacy group headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Mr. Spady is AFP’s California state director.

The Center for the Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch says Americans for Prosperity is a group fronting special interests founded in 2004 by oil billionaire David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries). AFP is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Brothers, Inc., and is the third-largest recipient of funding from the Koch Family Foundations. Before 2003, when the AFP was called Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation, it received $18,460,912 in funding; more than 80 percent came from the Koch Family Foundations.

Koch Family Foundations is funded by the billionaires who lead Koch Industries. According to Forbes, Koch Industries is the second-largest privately held company, and the largest privately-owned energy company in the United States. Koch Industries has made money in the oil business, primarily oil refining. Presently, it holds stakes in pipelines, refineries, fertilizer, forest products, and chemical technology.

SourceWatch states AFP is also connected to oil giant ExxonMobil. According to ExxonSecrets, between 1998 and 2001, Citizens for A Sound Economy and Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation received $380,250 from ExxonMobil.

Huffington Post blogger Rick Jacobs calls David Spady “the Koch Brothers' hit man in California.”

In addition to infiltrating the Merced River planning process, the Koch brothers have been linked to the controversy swirling around an oyster farm at Drakes Bay in Point Reyes National Seashore. In 1962, John F. Kennedy declared Point Reyes a National Seashore, and permitted businesses were given 50 years to leave. Congress passed a law in 1976 designating the coast as a marine wilderness once that oyster farm, Drakes Bay Oyster Co., left. Point Reyes cattle rancher Kevin Lunny bought the oyster farm in 2004, hoping for a lease extension.

Mr. Lunny mustered support from the growing sustainable food movement as well as U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, who placed a clause in a 2009 appropriations bill giving then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar the option to renew the lease. Last November 29, Secretary Salazar decided against the renewal—the area would become a marine wilderness.

The East Bay Express, in its December 5, 2012, edition, explained the real reason for Ken Salazar's decision: "It wasn't about the environmental impacts of Drakes Bay Oyster Company at Point Reyes National Seashore; it was about precedent." Once one commercial operation is allowed on what is supposed to be wilderness, the Express offered, the door would be open for others to follow suit.

Kevin Lunny sued. Part of his legal team initially was Dan Epstein of Cause of Action. According to Mother Jones, Dan Epstein is “a former GOP counsel on the House's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform under California Republican Darrell Issa. Epstein is also a veteran employee of billionaires Charles and David Koch; he used to work at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and for a Koch Industries lawyer.

Cause of Action’s website states the group “… is a non-profit, nonpartisan government accountability organization that fights to protect economic opportunity when federal regulations, spending and cronyism threaten it.”

So, as The Daily Kos put it last December 7, at Point Reyes, “…the model of environmental sustainability is being represented by a scion of Darrell Issa and the Koch brothers. Not because Epstein likes oysters or environmental sustainability, but rather because fossil fueled Republicans really, really like the idea of commercial businesses on wilderness land.”

(Editor's note: Mr. Lunny ended his relationship with Cause of Action late last month after the legal firm went after PBS over a segment it did on the oyster farm's situation.)

If the involvement of Epstein, Issa, and the Koch Brothers was not evidence enough of the link between the oyster farm and the keen interest of multi-national corporations in exploiting public lands, the Energy Production and Project Delivery Act of 2013 provides the smoking gun.

This bill, introduced by Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, on February 27, would expedite permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for gas and oil development, allow more offshore drilling, cripple the Endangered Species Act with respect to greenhouse gas or climate change impacts on any species, and, last but not least, extend the oyster farm’s operating permit for at least ten years. As the East Bay Express noted this past March 27, “...Republican lawmakers increasingly view the oyster farm as a poster child for the rights of corporations operating on public land.”

As counterpoint to the Spady video, I would say: “Everyone who cares about the future of national parks and other public lands beware! The very wealthy who seek only to line their pockets more lavishly at your expense are about to destroy every bit of public land they can gain access to.”

AFP doesn’t care about the Merced River Plan, Yosemite Valley, or Drakes Bay; they have a much bigger agenda. They want to ensure businesses already operating on public lands are securely locked in place, and they want unlimited access to further exploit America’s public lands, primarily to extract fossil fuel based energy resources at minimal cost to their companies.

Yosemite’s ice rink and swimming pools, and Point Reyes' oysters are symbolic, pawns in the efforts by the Koch brothers and their “cronies” to exploit public lands. Next it will be shale resources under Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and other parks and wilderness areas that harbor fossil fuels.

The Drakes Bay controversy, the Yosemite video, and much of the anti-river plan, anti-National Park Service sentiment is being stirred up as part of a much larger campaign being waged by multinational corporations to manipulate public opinion, to instill fear, anger, and divisiveness in people (i.e., the millions who love national parks), and to elicit knee-jerk reactions against the National Park Service and “radical environmentalists” for supposedly taking away people’s “rights” to enjoy their public lands.

The National Park Service is not perfect, but it doesn’t deserve this kind of slander, which degrades support for the agency among the general public, paves the way for gross exploitation of public land, and allows the very rich to make deeper, destructive inroads into our most glorious national treasures. These efforts by big business to turn people against each other and government agencies, even the National Park Service, which has long been held in very high esteem by the American public, are extremely damaging.

We can’t allow this kind of fear-mongering and defamation to go on when we know the ulterior motive is only to generate huge short-term profits for the already very wealthy at the expense of the most beautiful and special places in the United States. If we do, we stand to lose it all.

Barbara J. Moritsch worked for the National Park Service as an ecologist and interpretive naturalist in five western parks, including Yosemite. She holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in natural resources and environmental science, and currently lives in Eagle, Idaho with her husband Tom, two cats, two dogs, and three horses. She is the author of The Soul of Yosemite: Finding, Defending, and Saving the Valley's Sacred Wild Nature.


Having grown up in California and spending most summers in the Sierras I can truly say that I am both conflicted and concerned with the dialogue on all sides. I find that when people visit places like Yosemite, they access a bond to nature that they may have never known was there. For me, the longer I vamp and am out of cell range, the better for my soul and love of the national parks. Everyone deserves access to this and it may not look like I want, but they deserve a chance to start experiencing being in the wilderness and not just looking at a picture or reading a book about how you used to be able to visit such sights. I also am concerned about over crowding, but that is a simple supply and demand fix I support keeping access to as many possible in mind (part of the purpose of our National Parks). I also have seen the Spady videos and know that the accusations made are off - he stafor the the same thing you do at heart as a wilderness lover himself and is against hidden special interest. His videos are educating to keep big government from taking constitutional rights away from peoplunlike you and me. We can all use boyhood insights offer and do best to appreciate all sides. There is no secret oil drilling plot at hand.

Speaking of oil, this thing just turned up in my spam folder today. If nothing else, it's very interesting reading.

Price target raised on Polar Petroleum to $27...

[color=#000]BUY:[/color] POLR

 Scientists estimating 558 million recoverable barrels...

 Pending news could potentially boost barrels even further...

 3 Supermajor oil companies advancing on POLR's doorstep...

 Breaking news: Russian oil-giant now moving in...

 ---Buy this stock up to $13.50 per share... with a $27 price target

  Read report / See video here

   Dear Subscriber,

Less than a month ago I told my readers to load up on Polar Petroleum (POLR) --- a tiny Alaskan oil company with a stunning oil project which scientists say could produce up to 558 million barrels of crude.

And listen --- shares in POLR have already begun to skyrocket. BUT --- the increases we've seen could be PEANUTS compared to what's coming next... (more details on POLR's stunning new developments below).

  Yes, Polar Petroleum (POLR) is now COMPLETELY SURROUNDED by the major oil companies --- including Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips and now international oil giant Repsol...

But in a stunning twist, Russian oil-heavyweight Rosneft --- one of the biggest oil companies in the world --- has just signed a deal to extend its reach into Alaska's red-hot North Slope.

Folks, the stunning "Alaskan oil-rush" I predicted is just getting started, and POLR shares are screaming higher.

Could Rosneft, Exxon, or Repsol be gobbling up shares in POLR right now? Is that what's making POLR shares go ballistic? It wouldn't surprise me, but listen ---

  POLR shares could soon be going supernova, and if my projections are right, then Polar Petroleum (POLR) could get "taken-out" in a major Big-Oil bidding-war which generates a massive windfall for POLR investors.

 My estimates place Polar Petroleum's (POLR) resource value at as much as $5 billion --- possibly higher --- translating into a potential $100 in per-share resource. And yet POLR's market capitalization is relatively puny in comparison.

But now, the value of POLR shares could be about to dramatically increase yet again, as the company just announced they could be sitting on a shale oil resource IN ADDITION to the 558 million recoverable barrels which the scientists have already estimated.

Polar Petroleum (POLR) has just announced there could be shale-oil resources ABOVE-AND-BEYOND their estimated 558 million recoverable barrels...

Although POLR's geologists haven't yet revealed what Polar's total shale oil resource could be, I think I can guess what's coming: Polar's next-door-neighbor has recently announced it struck oil in their shale formations AND NOW HALLIBURTON (a $40 billion NYSE-listed company) has rushed in to partner with them. Plus, the Government of Alaska has been notified that ANOTHER 100 BILLION barrels may potentially remain in the source rocks. What does all this mean?

Folks, it means this Alaskan oil-play just keeps getting bigger, and POLR investors are reaping the rewards...

 Read report / See video here

Governor Parnell has just rammed through legislation which could send shares in Polar Petroleum (POLR) through the roof...

Supermajors such as Exxon, BP, and ConocoPhillips may be on the verge of an "acquisition binge" sending shares in tiny Alaskan oil companies like POLR through the roof...

Look --- If Polar Petroleum has only one-tenth of the shale oil which their immediate neighbor could have, they'd be sitting on another 200 million barrels of crude ABOVE-AND-BEYOND the 558 million recoverable barrels they've already estimated. In light of Polar's potential shale-oil update, I've adjusted my price target for Polar Petroleum (POLR) upwards to $27 per share, and am telling my readers "Buy Up to $13.50" ... meaning we could see POLR become the hottest junior oil stock of 2013. (See below to find out just how high shares in POLR could go...)

If you haven't already placed your buy order, I suggest you consider doing so immediately. Now that Alaska's Governor has approved new oil legislation designed to boost production, the entire North Slope of Alaska is turning into an "oil-rush" area play. Exxon, BP and ConocoPhillips are now competing with massive players like Repsol and Rosneft (more on this below) who are "swooping" into Alaska in the wake of Governor Parnell's dramatic announcement.

And now, Polar Petroleum (POLR) is harvesting the spoil. Plus, now that the oil majors have TOTALLY SURROUNDED Polar's world class oil project, they could be positioning to "take a run" at acquiring POLR in what could be one-of-several high profile takeovers.

But listen --- the Governor's high-impact legislation and a potential 'supermajor bidding war' are just two reasons I expect to see shares in Polar Petroleum (POLR) continue soaring higher...

 The fact is, there are several more reasons why POLR could soon blast through $27.00 per share... and then go on to post even bigger increases... (more details below)

Listen, Polar Petroleum has the key features which I look for in a winning junior oil stock:

 Huge potential recoverable oil resource with multi-billion dollar upside

Assets in an area-play oil zone with mammoth, multi-zone potential

 Drill-ready oil project with high-impact upside

Underlying oil price in a major uptrend

And yet, Wall Street hasn't even heard of Polar Petroleum (POLR) --- at least not yet. My readers stand to make a stunning windfall when the 'herd' discovers this amazing stock.

So let me summarize:

Polar Petroleum (POLR) has an advanced oil project in the heart of Alaska's 'mega-production zone' --- the prolific 16 billion barrel North Slope...

It's surrounded by three of the world's supermajors who've locked-up the neighboring multi-billion barrel supergiant Prudhoe Bay oil deposit and could be desperate for more reserves...

Russian oil-heavyweight Rosneft has just moved into the play...

International oil-major Repsol has bought the land right up to Polar's (POLR) doorstep...

There's a "political kicker" which is igniting a "new Alaskan oil rush..."

An emerging oil play has been identified which could contain up to 2 billion additional barrels of oil...

The entire region is now confirmed to have massive shale oil potential which could soon send Alaskan oil production through-the-roof...

Geologists now confirm that Polar Petroleum could have 558 million recoverable barrels...

 POLR could potentially be sitting on a vast shale resource IN ADDITION to their estimated 558 million barrels...

The fact is, Polar Petroleum has everything we could hope for in terms of:

 near-term profit potential...

long-term massive growth prospects...

 enormous regional upside...

multiple technology factors...

 multi-zone oil potential...

and several majors each of whom could send the stock skyrocketing in a bidding-war for Polar's assets...

The world's top oil companies have acquired the land surrounding Polar Petroleum's Alaskan oil project. Exxon, BP and ConocoPhillips know there are massive quantities of oil throughout the entire region. Polar Petroleum (POLR) could be sitting on 558 million recoverable barrels PLUS shale oil resources. On that basis alone, the share price could blast through $27 per share...

    Translation: Polar Petroleum's share price could soon go "supernova"...

All knowledgeable investors must own a piece of this oil bonanza immediately.

 Read report / See video here

In my two-decades as a geologist and market professional, I've rarely seen a junior oil company with this much near term profit potential.

Yet the fact is, at its current share price, the market capitalization of Polar Petroleum is relatively puny. And exciting news could soon be coming out. All major indicators point to the company being valued at a higher multiple in the near-term.

Polar Petroleum could be a

At that point, Polar Petroleum could be climbing the ladder of oil-industry leaders and successful investors may be in the enviable position of deciding what to do with their profits.

Investors in Polar Petroleum have been handed a chance to multiply their money several times over...

Buy Polar Petroleum (POLR) before a stampede of investors begins rushing into a rising market for this stock

If you want to maximize your chances of making huge profits, I suggest you consider buying this stock.

The markets are --- temporarily --- unaware of the enormous value that could be waiting to explode in Polar Petroleum's share price. This may be the consummate buying opportunity, albeit one that may not last long.

Wall Street is temporarily unaware of Polar Petroleum (POLR) --- Buy Shares to 'lock-in' your position before herd buying potentially sends the stock out of reach

The fact is, you need to consider buying shares... if you haven't already done so. This could be your chance to buy Polar Petroleum at its current levels before it soars much, much higher.

If you are an astute investor who likes to buy stocks before the herd, I suggest you consider purchasing the stock now... before it potentially skyrockets and gets completely out of reach.

 If you are a new investor to oil stocks, you probably missed out on all the other winners. While other investors were loading up on big-gainers, you were getting left behind.


Pick up shares in Polar Petroleum (POLR) or it could be too late...

You could be harvesting a windfall as the share price continues to skyrocket higher...

But remember, your window of opportunity is limited...I expect to see the share price continue leaping upward.

WARNING: I insist that you take partial profits when the share price of Polar Petroleum (POLR) doubles in price from its current levels. Let the remainder of your position ride the wave of Wall Street buying which could propel the share price even higher.

Now is the time when the rubber meets the road. It's time to act decisively.

Go online and buy shares. And get ready to make a fortune...

For maximum profits,

Ken Williams

Editor, Hard Asset Report

 ---Investors are buying this stock up to $13.50 per share... with a $27 price target

  Read report / See video here

406 First Street SE | Washington, DC 20003
Unsubscribe, but please know that we truly value your readership and would like you to stay.

If that park has a theoretical car capacity limit, it would not be that hard to limit the number of entrances. Jack up the entrance price during peak days until capacity is reached. Removing the ice rink and bike rentals won't do diddly to address that issue.

I haven't been to Yosemite in many years. I need to go back but driving 4 hours each way to see a zoo and doing a couple of short hikes (yikes) is not that appealling.

Thanks for the compliment, Lee. And thanks for the info, rmackie. I admit I have only an outsider's knowledge about what Yosemite is like—I almost fear to go there and haven't gone for years—so it's good to get your more informed perspective. It sounds like things aren't as bad as I've imagined.

Interesting post Imtnbke. I do think there is some truth in your comment that there are those on all sides of issues who have "clamped ideological devices around their heads". Perhaps I am one. In any case, I am not sure I agree with your premise that Yosemite is a lost cause, it certainly would be if we had stopped the debate over development verses holding the line on said. Actually, in my own opinion, the park has done a pretty good job, this latest round of controversy just one example. In the draft MRP, for the second time in the last 30 plus years, a visitor capacity has been proposed. It must be remembered that this is court mandated, and the courts decision is based on their interpretation of the Wild and Scenic Rivers act which mandates designation of visitor capacities in river segments. Whew! In any case, Congress has the authority to rewrite the legislation, but that is unlikely to happen. Having worked up in Yosemite on and off the last 5 years, I can tell you there are still many days that are still enjoyable during the summer months. Actually, once the day use traffic clears the Valley, around 6PM or so, it really is very quite even more so than when I started working their on a trailcrew in 1960.

In fact, I believe Barbara Moritsch, in her book, "The Soul of Yosemite", identified the crux issue, there are those days when the day use automobile traffic exceeds all facilities to accommodate resulting in all kinds of problems well documented in the current draft MRP. There are those that propose the solution is to just build more parking lots and more infrastructure to support those parking lots (restrooms, utilities, food service etc), well it is a catch 22. No, I for one agree with the efforts of this planning effort, I hope the park staff can pull it off.

Good, thougthful post, imtnbke.

Well, look, the horse has already fled the proverbial barn as far as the more popular national parks are concerned. Yosemite, like many of its popular brethren, is already a site of mass entertainment. No one in his/her right mind would go there anytime between Memorial Day and Labor Day, or indeed on any weekend at any time of the year—unless, of course, it's go to remote backcountry areas that aren't going to be much affected, if they are at all, by these plans either way.

As for the perceived sinister efforts to exploit the national parks to line the pockets of plutocrats: it's a little more subtle than that. There is a debate in this country about what public lands should be used for and whether the current rules are optimal or even sensible. This essay, firmly aligned as it is with one side of that debate, will change no one's mind.

Many people, including many environmentalists and yes, some people who value economic development above almost all else, long ago clamped ideological vises around their heads. They stay between the vice clamps as if the act alone will somehow convince others or provide them with additional wisdom to do that convincing. Alas, the effect is only to keep them immobile and staring at the ground below the workbench, even as the world accumulates experience and information and moves on without them.

I really don't see anything thought provoking in that article, but that's just me. All I see is a bunch of disjointed points linked by a lack of logical argumentation.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments