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UPDATED: U.S. Supreme Court Refuses To Consider Case Of Point Reyes National Seashore Oyster Company


Editor's note: This updates with comments from Drakes Bay Oyster Co. owner Kevin Lunny.

An adverse ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, while disappointing, does not automatically signal the end of oyster farming at Point Reyes National Seashore, according to the owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

Kevin Lunny said Monday afternoon that he planned to sit down with his attorneys to review the decision by the Supreme Court not to take up his fight against the Interior Department to remain in business at the national seashore's Drakes Estero. One option, he said, would be to return to a lower court to pursue the gist of his lawsuit against the Interior Department; the lower court rulings that have gone against Drakes Bay so far focused around Mr. Lunny's request for a temporary restraining order to allow him to continue farming oysters while pursuing that lawsuit.

“While we had hoped the Supreme Court would grant our cert petition requesting a review of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, our federal case against the government now returns to the District Court, where we will be making decisions over the next few weeks about how to proceed," he said in a prepared statement.

"We do plan to continue to fight for what's right here. To fight for our employees, to try to protect a third of the state's shellfish production that comes form Drakes Bay. We believe we're correct and we believe we're fighting for all the right reasons," he said later at a press conference. "We see this fight is not really just for the oyster farm. If we see this kind of treatment be allowed, and not stopped, we fear that there could be consequences" for other agricultural operations on public lands.

While last year there had been an effort in Congress to legislate a 10-year extension of the oyster company's lease, on Monday the Drakes Bay owner didn't know if that remained a possibility.

The Supreme Court on Monday didn't comment when it rejected the petition from Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to review its case. In its petition to the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, the company's lawyers had raised three questions:

* Whether federal courts lack jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act to review an agency action that is arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion when the statute authorizing the action does not impose specific requirements governing the exercise of discretion.

* Whether federal agencies can evade review of their actions under the National Environmental Policy Act by designating their actions as "conservation efforts" when the records shows that the action will cause significant adverse environmental effects.

* Whether an agency commits prejudicial error when it makes false statements in an environmental impact statement, and then asserts that it would have made the same decision even if the false statements had been corrected.

In January the judges of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider a ruling by a three-judge panel of that court. In that ruling in September 2013, the 2-1 majority ruling held that, "Drakes Bay’s disagreement with the value judgments made by the Secretary is not a legitimate basis on which to set aside the decision. Once we determine, as we have, that the Secretary did not violate any statutory mandate, it is not our province to intercede in his discretionary decision."

When Drakes Bay bought out the farm's previous owners in 2005, the existing lease for the operation ran through November 2012. While Mr. Lunny had been optimistic he could obtain a lease renewal from the National Park Service, then-Interior Secretary Salazar declined that request in November 2012, saying Congress long had intended for Drakes Estero where the oyster farm was based to become part of the Philip Burton Wilderness.

As soon as Mr. Salazar rendered his decision, the National Park Service officially designated the estero as wilderness, something envisioned when the Point Reyes National Seashore Wilderness Act was passed in 1976. The wilderness legislation that set aside 25,370 acres of the national seashore as wilderness cited another 8,003 acres encompassing the estero that would be "essentially managed as wilderness, to the extent possible, with efforts to steadily continue to remove all obstacles to the eventual conversion of these lands and waters to wilderness status" -- and the oyster operation was seen as being incompatible with such a designation.

Drakes Bay's lawyers sued over Mr. Salazar's decision, arguing that it was arbitrary and capricious and violated both the federal government's Administrative Procedures Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Whether Monday's decision marks the end of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. remains to be seen, as there have been efforts in Congress to legislate an extension to the company's lease at Point Reyes.

Mr. Lunny said it was also unclear Monday how soon the National Park Service might move to shut down his oyster farm.


Ok, folks, when we have to start deleting comments it's time to close the thread. 

Something like 65% of Montana is open to mountain bikes.  The way the mountain biking, and orv culture whines they make it seem like a MAJORITY of trails are closed to them.  It's not.  And yes, there are our national parks and wilderness areas that are preserved for walkers, and have limits to ORVs and mountain bikes, and there is a lot of that to explore.  I never said there wasn't.  I have spent much of my life seeking those areas, and still haven't gotten close to visiting all that there is to see in them.  There's only one major National Park in states like Montana, Oregon, and Nevada, only a handful in Wyoming.  But that's not good enough for the mountain bike crowd.  They want every place opened up to them. They have more than enough places to ride. In fact the % of land that is open to them in public lands is above 50% in almost every state, not less than that.  Wilderness comprises a mere 4% of our landscape in the US. A small number. 

Actually, through hikers usually carry more than 45 lbs.   And yes, the shelters can be busy in the spring to fall...but hey, what would I know since I spend so much time in the Smokies?

As for experiencing nature. Whizzing by in a mountain bike doesn't allow one to stop and see the little things. 

This comment was edited to remove a gratuitous comment.--Ed.

Mountain biking isnt restricted by any means.

It's not? Does that mean someone can bike anyware?  Of course not, but then, that is what "restricted" means.  The fact it exists in one place doesn't mean it isn't restricted elsewhere.  Using your argument, one can say there is no lack of Wilderness and Parks- look at all the Wilderness and Parks that exist.  You can always go those places if you want Wilderness or Parks.

As to backpacking the AT - first, any respectable thruhiker on the AT wouldn't have more than 45 lbs in his pack and I challange you to call any of them "powder puffs".  Second some shelters may be jammed but for the vast majority of the shelters the vast majority of the time, they are well below capacity.  Oh, and BTW, its not the NPS that builds AT shelters. 

Finally, as to "seeing more" it depends on what you want to see.  If you want to sit still and watch a single animals behavior then obviously a bike is not the right tool.  If you want to see a large variety of terrain and vistas, sitting in one spot isn't going to make it. 


Mountain biking isnt restricted by any means.  I already posted maps for you that show trails where one can mountain bike.  Utah alone has so much terrain open to mountain bikes it would take many lifetimes to do them all.  Since you cant have "ALL places to mountain bike", that doesn't by any means make your entire sport locked out.  Quit whining.

Secondly, just because a bunch of powder puffs that probably couldnt carry more than 45 lbs on their backs and hate to hike, doesn't mean that others don't enjoy such an activity. So many of our National Parks already have their fill of backpackers. It's not like they can "grow more land", so permits and regulations put limits on the activity.  Every year, the AT is packed with through hikers attempting the trail.  The shelters can be jam packed with people and it's not like the NPS wants to make more shelters to accomodate more and more and more.  Also, your comment that you see more while mountain biking is wrong - completely wrong.  I film for a living, and the best way to see wildlife behavior is not by a bike or car, but it's when you are sitting still, silent in the wilderness observing the life around you.

Wow, there is so much to respond to! I've been off this thread for six hours and look what happens!


I think we mountain bikers are, unfortunately, in somewhat the same cultural position as BMW drivers. I would guess 99% of BMW drivers are perfectly polite. And there is nothing inherently menacing about a BMW, any more than there is about a bicycle. But there's something about driving a BMW that draws out a small but noticeable number of jerks. Whether they bought the BMW and became a jerk, or were a jerk and that's why they bought a BMW, I don't know. But the upshot of this phenomenon is that some people (1) look at any BMW driver and think he/she must be a jerk, and (2) also think 50% of all BMW drivers are jerks. It's an interesting psychological phenomenon.

There are similar stereotypes for Volvo drivers, by the way (timid and incompetent drivers), and drivers who live in Oregon (crawling along at laughably slow speeds). Even though that's not true of most Volvo drivers or most Oregonians.

The mountain bike equivalent of this is something I rarely see, but I do see it. A year or two ago, in a Bay Area park popular with Latino and Asian families with many kids, a single mountain biker was riding down a narrow trail offensively fast, likely causing alarm to the young parents with their young children (or, if they weren't alarmed, because I don't recall with exactitude if they were, they should have been). It was just one guy who was a jerk. And since then, easily 2000 other mountain bikers have ridden that same stretch in perfect politeness, including me 100 times. But even I, a dedicated mountain bike access advocate, remember that one jerk. So you can bet the families probably do too. Then combine that with people's suspicion of new cultural phenomena and the nice, clubby arrangement for hikers and pack outfitters that has long existed in wilderness and the national parks, and the result is . . . well, it's too bad.


But to restrict mountain biking the way it's now restricted in the U.S. is a cure far worse than the mountain-biking-jerk disease. Look at our overweight and obesity rates. And look at how many kids are wildly enthusiastic about a wilderness hike. The first figure (lack of fitness) is high, the second (kids champing at the bit to put on a backpack) is low, at least by historical levels, as far as I can tell from decades of anecdotal observation.

Nor does it in my experience -- at least not the sensible and careful and mature ones.

However, there is some hope out there.  Ogden City just opened a bike park on some forest / city land at 9th street, not far from my home.  It opened last month.  One stated purpose is to try to get bike racers to do their thing there instead of on shared trails.  Here's a photo from the opening day:

Cody Kelley makes a huge jump on the new trails of the Ogden Bike Park during a grand opening event at the park at the top of 9th Street in Ogden Saturday, May 24, 2014. (BRIAN NICHOLSON/Special to the Standard-Examiner)

But there is absolutely no point in trying to continue with this discussion thread.  Keep smiling and come visit us someday.  Hike some of our trails and you'll have a chance to see how agile you really are.

Hmmmm. Hiking along a trail ticks off bikers?

Not in my experience

Our local fire department responds to about five mountain bike accidents on the forest here each month. Mostly loss of control usually due to excessive speed.

And of course you can document that.  So 5 a month out of what? 5000 rides? 10,000?  What percent is that?

Hmmmm.  Hiking along a trail ticks off bikers?

Recently, the USFS shut down a "bike race" that was being advertised around here.  It's stated objective was to set a new speed record for the Indian Trail.  The little flyers they had posted at the trail head warned hikers to be careful because they were hoping for more than fifty bikes to show up and race on June 8.  But I guess that warning was a courtesy, no?  Two FS LE rangers were stationed at the trailhead and sent bikers away.  That caused a bit of a kerfluffle and I heard a report that the race went forward a few days later when the treefuzz weren't looking.

Our local fire department responds to about five mountain bike accidents on the forest here each month.   Mostly loss of control usually due to excessive speed.  Normally, one or two of the monthly victims were not the ones riding the bikes.  It's also unusual for the biker who caused the injury to stick around unless they were hurt, too.  All this, and the continual problems with bikers building "jumps" and other obstacles is leading to discussion on the district of banning bikes on at least some trails.  In this territory, some of the biking community is the worst enemy their sport has.

Some of the courtesy or lack thereof may have something to do with local demographics.  This city is largely a working class area and the majority of mountain bike users seem to be young kids who have little education and a lot of growing up still ahead of them -- if they survive.

But we are now way off topic . . . . and then, I'm just exaggerating, right?

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