Oyster Farm Won’t Get Interest Groups’ Backing

     (CN) – Environmental groups have sided against a decades-old California oyster farm trying to stay in business amid a federal order that would shut it down this February.
     Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council and Save Our Seashore moved Friday to intervene on behalf of the federal agencies sued days earlier by Drakes Bay Oyster Co.
     Oysters have been cultivated on approximately 1,060 underwater acres of Drakes Estero for over 85 years. Drakes Bay owns two underwater leases through the California Fish and Game Commission that allows them to farm oysters there. It says its 1.5-acre onshore facility employs 31 full-time workers and produces 40 percent of California’s oyster supply.
     The Lunny family, which has owned Drakes Bay since 2004, says the farm has been operating on a 40-year Reservation of Use and Occupancy that expired on Nov. 30, 2012. Though this deal allegedly said that the National Park Service could issue the farm a special-use permit at the end of the term, the agency refused to issue the permit.
     Left to determine the farm’s fate, Salazar refused to issue a 10-year permit and gave Drakes Bay 90 days to clear out.
     Drakes Bay alleges that the federal agencies intentionally skewed a required environmental impact statement and have manipulated studies on it since 2006.
     U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., echoed these sentiments in a letter to the California Fish and Game Commission this spring.
     “I became concerned about this issue when I found that the science regarding the impacts of the oyster farm had been manipulated, and that the oyster farm operator had been treated in a biased and unfair manner,” Feinstein wrote. “The Park Service has repeatedly misrepresented the scientific record since 2006 to portray the farm as environmentally harmful, and it is my belief that the Park Service is doing everything it can to justify ending the oyster farm’s operations.”
     In a supporting memorandum, the environmentalists say that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure entitles them to intervene in Drakes Bay litigation.
     Congress directed the Park Service to administer the area “without impairment of its natural value,” and in a manner “supportive of the maximum protection, restoration and preservation of the natural environment,” when it designated the Point Reyes National Seashore 50 years ago, according to the motion.
     Drakes Estero is also covered by the Point Reyes Wilderness Act, which consists of a 25,370-acre wilderness designation and over 8,000 acres of “potential” wilderness, they say.
     The groups are represented by Trent Orr and George Torgun of Earthjustice in San Francisco.

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