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Close to Home: Time to halt Point Reyes degradation

  • Drakes Bay Oyster Co., located inside Point Reyes National Seashore, is challenging a denial of a permit renewal. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

In its quest to privatize the West Coast's only marine wilderness area — Drakes Estero at Point Reyes National Seashore — the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. has submitted various unsupported claims to the federal courts. Thankfully, two courts have rejected the company's lawsuit.

But now the company has filed yet another appeal, hoping that the full U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel will help the company continue operating even though its lease on taxpayer-owned land expired almost a year ago.

The company claims that two federal courts were wrong when they concluded that the National Park Service, not the state of California, had primary jurisdiction to permit commercial aquaculture on national park property. Directly undermining the company's claims are the positions of three state agencies (the state Lands Commission, Department of Fish and Wildlife and Coastal Commission) that have written that the Park Service gets to decide what to permit on this federal property.

It's not just the law, it's common sense. It's also what the company agreed to because when it bought out the original operation in 2004, the oyster company signed a lease that explicitly stated the state aquaculture lease was “contingent on a concurrent federal Reservation of Use and Occupancy for fee land in the Point Reyes National Seashore.”

Delivering the nail in the coffin was the state Attorney General's Office, which wrote in 2013 that the company's state lease was contingent on the Interior Department granting a new permit and because that permission to operate was declined, the company's state lease is “no longer valid and cannot be relied upon by the company as authority to operate” in the estero.

If you are wondering what the company's campaign is about, simply look at the list of ultra-conservative supporters backing its campaign. It includes Koch-brothers funded organizations such as the Pacific Legal Foundation and Americans For Prosperity and politicians such as Sen. David Vitter, R- La., who introduced legislation this year that would expedite permitting for the Keystone XL pipeline, allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, permit drilling off the coast of California and also provide Drakes Bay Oyster Co. with an unprecedented new permit by stripping national park wilderness protections.

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