Controversy — July 26, 2013, 4:22 pm

The West Coast Oyster War

The campaign to shut down a family oyster farm exposes an unflattering side of the American conservation movement

Low Tide at Drakes Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore, California. ©© David Berry (Flickr)

Low Tide at Drakes Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore, California. ©© David Berry (Flickr)

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company sits on a picturesque lagoon in the Point Reyes National Seashore, a dramatic, windswept peninsula jutting into the Pacific about forty miles north of San Francisco. The setting is pristine, and roughly 2.5 million people visit the park each year to walk its vast empty beaches, birdwatch in its foggy woods, and stroll through its meadows of high grasses. On a clear spring day, you can hike up a rocky bluff and watch pairs of calving grey whales migrate north through the emerald waters below, one blowhole exhalation at a time.

Point Reyes is a hallowed piece of the National Park System, and its history is a triumph of environmental policy over the greed of man. At one point late in the development-happy 1950s, a group of businessmen began to eye the peninsula, with visions of a coastal development featuring shopping malls and parking lots like those that have since bisected much of southern Marin County. Aghast, the area’s ranching and farming families, many of whom had roots there dating to the mid-1800s, teamed up with the Sierra Club and the government to work out a deal. Landowners received long-term leases, renewable for generations, and the National Park Service (NPS) took over a prize piece of real estate. The chapter stands as local folklore, with an evident lesson to the two dozen or so families still working leases in the national parkland: a commitment to the environment is all that stands between Pacific splendor and another Jersey Shore.

But this solution brought its own set of problems. Walled off from market forces, the park became a stage on which endless struggles of environmental law and policy play out: public land versus private business, wilderness versus agriculture, and, in the discouraging case of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, politics versus science. Seven months and four lawsuits ago, then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar ordered the family-owned oyster farm to clear out of the lagoon — part of an ecologically sensitive bay known as Drakes Estero[1] — where it has been producing oysters since the mid-1930s.

[1] The bay is named for the British explorer Sir Francis Drake, who is believed to have landed here in 1579.

[2] Including the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Nature Conservancy, and the National Parks Conservation Association.

The environmental establishment[2] cheered the decision, but some influential progressives in the Bay Area were appalled, and when the farm refused to leave, the fight escalated and drew in a peculiar assortment of bedfellows. Alice Waters, California’s culinary eminence and a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement, signed on to a federal-court brief filed on the farm’s behalf, putting her on the same side as Louisiana senator David Vitter (R.), who included a clause on a sweeping G.O.P. energy bill — one permitting the Keystone XL Pipeline to be constructed and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to be drilled for oil — to grant the oyster company another twenty years on its lease. California senator Dianne Feinstein (D.), the farm’s leading advocate in Washington, co-sponsored a separate Vitter budget-resolution amendment that sought the same lease extension. Shortly before Salazar issued his eviction notice last November, Michael Pollan, the bestselling author and national conscience on sustainable food, wrote in an open letter to Salazar and Feinstein that “it would be a shame — in fact an outrage — if the company were closed down as a result of the Park Service’s ideological rigidity and misuse of science.”

[3] From the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website: “Farming oysters brings little risk of pollution or escapees, and habitat effects from the farms are minimal. Unlike some farmed fish, oysters minimally impact marine resources as they don’t rely on wild-caught fish — in the form of fishmeal or fish oil — for food. And, thanks to the oyster’s filter-feeding action, oyster farms can actually benefit the surrounding coastal waters.”

For Pollan, Waters, and other progressives, the farm epitomizes an agricultural future in which small, conservation-minded producers build sustainable local food economies.[3] Environmentalism is central to this philosophy, but in an interview with the New York Times,  Bay Area restaurateur Patricia Unterman characterized the environmentalists’ mindset as “doctrinaire and unnuanced.” The farm she described as “a rare and beautiful use of land and water” is viewed by the Sierra Club as an unholy industrialization of a beloved national park.

Though the case will ultimately be decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals later this summer, the environmental lobby has been waging a public-relations blitz to stir passions among its donor base. In interviews, blog posts, op-eds, and fundraising pleas, the movement has played loose with the facts, its claims becoming enmeshed with the national partisan air war: Thanks to Senator Vitter’s support, the oyster company is part of a “big oil agenda.” Since the company (temporarily) accepted pro bono legal help from a conservative outfit in Washington, D.C., it has “close ties to the ultra-conservative Koch brothers.” Worse still, one editor at the East Bay Express darkly informed his readers, “The farm’s owners, Kevin and Nancy Lunny, also have repeatedly appeared on Fox News to promote their campaign.”

Beds belonging to the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Point Reyes National Seashore. ©© Alan Grinberg (Flickr)

Beds belonging to the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, Point Reyes National Seashore. ©© Alan Grinberg (Flickr)

Kevin Lunny, the oysterman in question, grew up on Point Reyes, the grandson of a rancher. He stuck with the family business, and when the food movement boomed he was well-suited and well-situated for the times. His livestock were the first certified-organic beef cattle in Marin County, and today you can buy Lunny Ranch grass-fed, organic beef in the area’s Whole Foods markets. He sits on the board of the local organic-producers’ association, earned an award from the Society of Rangeland Management for best practices in California, and, in 2004, with an eye on expanding the family business for his children and grandchildren, bought the oyster farm from an aging neighbor. Oystering was a gamble; there was no guarantee that the government would renew the farm’s forty-year lease, and he knew that Drakes Estero was listed by the Department of Interior as “potential wilderness,” an elastic word of ill portent.

But with assistance from the National Park Service, Lunny invested money and time in cleanup and modernization; in 2007, he was even featured in an NPS booklet called Stewardship Begins with People. “From our house, we look out over the oyster beds and the estuary every day,” he is quoted as saying. “It’s a beautiful view and it’s something that we love and cherish. We’re deeply committed to that ecosystem and its protection.”

Seals, Drakes Estero. ©© Alan Grinberg (Flickr)

Seals, Drakes Estero. ©© Alan Grinberg (Flickr)

Just months after publishing Stewardship Begins with People, however, NPS released a revised edition with Lunny’s image photoshopped out and his quotations redacted. Even as the park service had publicly celebrated Lunny, it was building a case against him. In 2006, it had intensified its scrutiny of the farm, ordering wave after wave of studies and reports on the oyster farm’s environmental impact on the estuary. Two hidden surveillance cameras snapped nearly 300,000 photos over three years, aiming to prove that boats used for gathering oysters from different areas of the bay were disturbing a nearby colony of harbor seals, who had become the focus of the agency’s case. But the seals typically bask on sandbars 700 yards from the nearest farm equipment, and the report raised immediate flags.

On April 28, 2007, a Marin County Supervisor put in a call to Dr. Corey Goodman, a former Stanford biology professor and a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), to review the case. Goodman was shocked by what he found. Data so simple, he told me, “any high schooler or junior high schooler could understand it,” was riddled with errors. When Feinstein asked for a formal NAS review, their verdict was that the park service had “selectively presented, over-interpreted, or misrepresented” the science. Gavin Frost, an NPS solicitor who also reviewed the case, found that his agency was “blurring the line between exploration and advocacy.”

With the park service’s science being roundly debunked, Salazar ordered it in October 2009 to conduct an updated Environmental Impact Statement, which it did, and which was later found also to include stunning misrepresentations. One of these involved noise measurements that allegedly proved Lunny’s oyster boats were disturbing the seals, but that turned out to be from a seventeen-year-old study of jet-ski noise in New Jersey. “I have followed this saga for several years now,” Pollan wrote to Salazar and Feinstein last fall, “with a mounting sense of wonder and disappointment in the behavior of the Park Service.” Feinstein has been just as direct. Last spring, she wrote that the Park Service “has repeatedly misrepresented the scientific record since 2006 to portray the farm as environmentally harmful.”

But the time had come to turn “potential wilderness” into the real thing. When Salazar made his final ruling, he sidestepped the thicket of bunk science, acknowledging that it “had generated much controversy,” and claimed that his “decision is based on matters of law and policy” — put simply, the government was under no obligation to renew the farm’s lease. Salazar gave Lunny ninety days to clear out his equipment and assets, including $2 million worth of oysters.

The story of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company is at this point obscured by ideological fog. Even basic facts are being misrepresented. The environmental lobby insists, for example, that Drakes Estero will now become “the first marine wilderness area on the West Coast” outside of Alaska, a claim that has been repeated as fact by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, ABC and NBC affiliates in San Francisco, the local West Marin Environmental Action Committee, most national environmental organizations, and the Park Service itself. And yet according to the government’s own records, this isn’t true. As Salazar noted in his ruling, the Limantour Estero, which is adjacent to Drakes, was converted in 1999 “from potential to designated wilderness, becoming the first (and still only) marine wilderness on the Pacific coast of the United States outside of Alaska.”

[4] To take another example, Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association has sent out literature implying that the harbor seals in Drakes Estero are members of an endangered species, which they are not. Desai told me he used the term “in the context of [the seals] are at risk of harm,” a dizzyingly broad application.

This sort of casual regard for the facts[4] led Lunny to tell Fox Business News that the campaign being waged against him “embarrasses most environmentalists,” and is now describing the action as “wilderness activism.” With a decision from the 9th Circuit expected soon, the environmental lobby has been treating the case like the closing days of an election-season campaign. After contacting several different organizations in California and Washington, D.C., for comment, I learned that many of the country’s oldest and largest environmental groups have agreed that only two people — Neal Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association and Amy Trainer of the West Marin Environmental Action Committee — will speak on the record about Drakes Bay. One person I interviewed for this story, an environmental-law expert deeply familiar with the case, emailed me after an hour-long interview to ask me not to use anything that was said, even anonymously, out of fear of career-ending reprisal.

In Conservation and Local Economy, Wendell Berry writes, “The long-standing division between conservationists and farmers, ranchers, and other private small-business people is distressing because it is to a considerable extent false.” The Drakes Bay oyster war reveals the entrenching of this division thanks to political money and ideology. The oyster farm predates the national park by three decades, but for environmental groups that have invested heavily in the farm’s removal, any negotiation that allows it to remain has become unthinkable, an inexorable step toward strip mining the Grand Canyon. “As much as the Park Service and the Sierra Club would like to pretend otherwise,” Pollan writes, “Point Reyes National Seashore has been an agricultural community for nearly two centuries.” To ignore that entire history and insist on one definition of wilderness would, he said, “consign the place to being a museum to an idea.”

Single Page

More from Michael Ames:

Context October 2, 2015, 11:04 am

Captive Markets

Why we won’t get prison reform

From the February 2015 issue

Captive Market

Why we won’t get prison reform

Postcard July 30, 2014, 6:38 pm

My Un-Private Idaho

Bowe Bergdahl, the political-entertainment complex, and the personal costs of scandal

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

  • Conservationist

    Wilderness drives passions to a high level. Its protection and its creation always has and it always will. Found within that passion are people on both sides who make mistakes. But it should be made clear – as romantic as this commercial operation is it is not “in tune” with nature. Its oysters are not native Olympia oysters, nor are its clams native. Restoration of those native species would provide the same “ecosystem” benefits – whatever they may be – without the disruption commercial harvesting activities bring. Reefs would be created and remain as they were 150 years ago, stabilizing the sediments and providing a permanent habitat. Wilderness is not a “sort of” definition. It is naïve to believe this is not being looked on, and in some cases supported, by those industries who wish to see other wilderness areas commercially developed – whether “big oil” or other shellfish companies.

    • sarahrolph

      This comment makes no sense.

      It doesn’t matter in the least that the oysters are non-native. The native Olympia oysters were over-harvested 100 years ago. Yes, that species would provide the same ecosystem benefits (cleaning the water is the most important one), but so what? Commercial harvesting activities do not bring any disruption, so your restoration plan would not provide any net benefit.

      Indeed, it would be a net loss. Your argument ignores an important aspect of this story: people want to eat these oysters. There is a robust market for them. This oyster farm is an important part of the California shellfish market, providing a huge economic benefit to the area. The oyster farm directly supports 30 working families in West Marin.
      This sweet little historic oyster farm also provides educational and cultural benefits–generations of Seashore visitors have loved this place, generations of school kids have toured this historic facility and learned about this sustainable food source. This is a hugely successful scientific operation that does significant research on oyster-growing techniques and provides an award-winning product.
      You would destroy all of this for the illusion of wilderness?

      There is no earthly reason the oyster farm should be kicked out so that Drakes Estero can receive a paper designation of wilderness when it is already managed as wilderness and is as pristine as any wilderness area can be that is also a recreational area. The Park Service is not proposing to curtail those recreational activities, so the wilderness argument is a complete red herring. This place has a road running through it.

      Finally, one has to laugh at the charge that one would be “naive” to believe that the campaign against Drakes Bay Oyster is NOT being supported by “big oil” or some other nefarious interests. People support DBOC because people like oysters, and people like community farming, and people like historic cultural resources and multi-generation traditions. There is no evidence that the oyster farm harms the environment, and there never has been. Who is naive here?

      Wilderness zealots, many of them paid professionals, work hard spreading false rumors about the oyster farm. It doesn’t take a genius to notice that. The vocabulary is obviously part of a campaign: “big oil,” “outside interests,” “Koch brothers,” “deal is a deal”… That deal meme has gotten a lot of traction, but it is simply not true. It’s the Park Service that tried to change the deal on the Lunnys, as I documented here:

      • Conservationist

        Sarah, you are naïve to believe harvesting actions are not a disruption of the ecosystem. Papers by Bret Dumbauld – a member of the National Science Foundation panel who reviewed the draft EIS – are clear in stating aquaculture is not restoration. “Thus the ecological role of cultured bivalves as habitat, particularly when nonnative, needs to be studied separately and not inferred from studies of bivalve reefs.” Does your “people want to eat oysters” mean that because people want to build homes the few remaining tracts of Redwoods should be logged? There was no “deal” changed, no matter how many different ways PR people or “story tellers” such as yourself try to spin it. This is a commercial operation preventing the formation of a designated wilderness.

        • sarahrolph

          Restoration is entirely beside the point. What do you have against commerce?
          What is your evidence that this historic oyster farm is “preventing the formation of a designated wilderness”? That’s incorrect.
          On what basis are you challenging my reporting about the changed “deal”? The story I linked is not spin. It includes many, many facts. You have not refuted even one of them.
          No, there is no equivalency between oyster-eating and logging the redwoods–the notion is absurd.
          I stand by my comments and my reporting. I am a reputable professional writer who has followed this story closely for seven years, as I am writing a book about the Lunnys. Who are you?

          • Conservationist

            Sarah, The only thing of significance in your “story” is this: “…the Lunnys signed the permit,…” which ended in 2012.

            Re renewal, the use of the words “may be issued” in the1972 Reservation of Use and Occupancy is not “shall” nor did Feinstein’s rider include the word “shall.”
            The rest of your PR is hearsay and unsubstantiated, something which the courts will eventually agree with.

          • sarahrolph

            Baloney. My story reports the facts:

            “After the Lunnys purchased the oyster farm and spent a small fortune cleaning up the operation, instead of putting the Ancillary Use SUP in DBOC’s name, Neubacher rewrote this SUP to include a new clause requiring that the oyster
            farm vacate the premises in 2012. Explains Lunny, “Don attempted to contractually remove our chance for renewal seven years before the expiration, cancelling the renewal clause we had spent months talking about.”

            Given the extreme change in the agreement, this was a permit the Lunnys could not and did not sign. The Lunnys were supported in this decision by both Senator Feinstein and then-director of the National Park Service Mary Bomar.

            Senator Feinstein became involved in early May, 2007 at the request of the Marin County Board of Supervisors. The Supervisors had become alarmed at the false science created by the NPS and the false rumors Neubacher spread about the

            At a meeting in Olema, CA on July 21, 2007 (attended by Senator Feinstein, Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, NPS Director Mary Bomar, NPS Regional Director Jon Jarvis, Superintendent Neubacher, DOI Solicitor’s Office attorney
            Molly Ross, Dr. Corey Goodman, and Kevin Lunny), Director Bomar removed Neubacher from the negotiations and ordered Jarvis to deal directly with the Lunnys.

            Bomar specifically ordered Jarvis to remove the surrender clause added by Neubacher. The Jarvis rewrite of the SUP added multiple unjustified restrictions and new assertions of jurisdiction, but once the surrender clause was removed in
            2008, the Lunnys signed the permit, considering it the best option available.”

            The permit they signed was renewable. Nobody has said the renewal was required, just that it was possible. So your “shall” vs “may” argument is irrelevant.
            The point is that the Lunnys never sought to change any “deal,” and that the Park Service DID seek to change it.

          • Conservationist

            Respectfully, what you describe is negotiating a contract Sarah.
   The courts will determine whether there is a legal issue with the negotiated, agreed to, and signed contract. You are free to frame a negotiation process however you please, in as many words you wish.

          • sarahrolph

            I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to think I don’t believe in negotiation. And I’m sorry to drone on at length about the details. But this was NOT a contract negotiation. It was an unnecessary and inappropriate attempt to change an existing agreement, by one person who was acting against policy. If it were simply a matter of negotiating a contract, the “negotiator” would not have been removed from the process.

          • Bruce

            How about the notification in during escrow (and why do we call it escrow class?) that the park had no intention of renewing the RUO? Is there going to be a heartwarming chapter in your book about the CCC’s unanimous cease and desist order against DBOC?

          • sarahrolph

            You can learn all about the renewal scam in the article I linked elsewhere on this page. In fact I presented an excerpt in another comment that contains the details. Former Superindentent Neubacher’s bait-and-switch scheme is one of the things that got the Park Service into hot water at the beginning of this saga.

            The chapter on the Coastal Commission will not be the least bit heartwarming. It’s a sad tale, and a sobering one. The Commission was created in the 1970s by well-intentioned legislation. It is now a rogue organization that is part of the environmental lobby Ames rightly criticizes in his story for having “played loose with the facts.”
            The cease and desist order is based on falsehoods. The DBOC law team made that very clear yesterday, when it filed a motion correcting misrepresentations made by Commission counsel in court (as reported here: )

            Those who are interested in the latest on the Coastal Commission may want to read this story:
            Among other interesting details, that story has a quote from Coastal Commission founder and longtime director, the late Peter Douglas, praising Phyllis Faber, a founding member of the Commission who is now suing the Commission for its malfeasance. Nobody is more sad about that than Ms. Faber. But some people are willing to stick their necks out for the truth; that’s something I applaud.

          • Bruce

            Could you explain why Steve Kinsey, who brought Cory Goodman into this and is the chairman of the California Coastal Commission voted to make the cease and desist order unanimous? This session of the CCC is available on line. It seems that everyone was really fed up with Kevin Lunny’s repeated and ongoing violations evasions and deceptions.

            We have all kinds of quotations from the past, it is a great way to deflect attention from the central issue, Kevin Lunny was clearly informed that he park had no intention of renewing his Right of Use and Occupancy, No one forced him to buy the farm. This isn’t a cause, it’s a rip off.

      • Bruce

        There were never any native oysters in the estero. This another Lunny fiction. There is excess oyster capacity in Humboldt Bay—EAC has never advocated elimination of the ranches—another Lunny fiction. Seven years is not a ‘multigenerational tradition’. Would you care to name the ‘Paid professionals. The Pacific Ocean was doing a pretty good job keeping the estero clean before oysters were commercially planted there.

        • sarahrolph

          The Lunnys took over the stewardship of the oyster farm roughly seven years ago from the Johnson family (when Charles Johnson died and his family was unable to afford the required investments to solve the problems they had created; the Lunnys took over and made the necessary investments, to the benefit of the community). The oyster farm has been part of the Point Reyes agricultural community for generations, since the 1930s.

          What is your evidence that there were never any native oysters in Drakes Estero? The National Academy of Sciences, in its first report debunking the NPS false science, makes it clear that there were. (Shellfish Mariculture in Drakes Estero, Point Reyes National Seashore, California; Committee on Best Practices for Shellfish Mariculture and the Effects of Commercial Activities in Drakes Estero, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California, National Research Council.)
          From the report:

          “Oyster mariculture began in Drakes Estero with the
          introduction of the nonnative Pacific oyster (Crassotrea gigas) in 1932, after the beds of the native Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) had been depleted throughout the region by
          overharvest, and has been conducted continuously from that date forward.”

          The Academy criticizes NPS for rewriting history (among other things):

          “Drakes Estero: A Sheltered Wilderness Estuary [the original
          fraudulent report written by the Park Service] never achieved a rigorous and balanced synthesis of the mariculture impacts. Overall, the report gave an interpretation of the science that exaggerated the negative and overlooked potentially beneficial effects of the oyster culture operation….”

          “Because the likely beneficial functions of oysters in
          biogeochemical processes were not acknowledged, they did not appear to play a role in NPS decision making. Similarly, NPS did not mention that Olympia oysters were part of the historic ecological baseline condition of Drakes Estero and that, in the past, Olympia oysters could have played a significant role in the biogeochemical processes of the estero.”

          “Perhaps the ecologically most significant modifications of
          Drakes Estero follow from the local human over-exploitation and functional extinction of the native Olympia oyster population. The Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, was a former constituent of Drakes Estero of some appreciable but unquantifiable abundance, as evidenced by the mounds of its shells in the Coast Miwok midden near the on-land facilities of DBOC and other shell middens excavated around Drakes Estero (Stewart and Praetzellis, 2003).”
          The paid professionals I refer to are the people who are part of what Ames calls in the story “the environmental lobby.” The paid professionals I am most familiar with are Amy Trainer and Neal Desai. Ms. Trainer was recruited as executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (EAC) specifically to work against the oyster farm. In her words, “I was brought here to kick butt and take names.” It is a paid position–she is a professional activist. Helping the Park Service evict the Lunnys would be her big break–until now she has been a small-time operator. Mr. Desai is a paid professional working for NPCA. He is famous in West Marin for sending out direct mail that falsely claims that the Harbor seal is an endangered species.

          • Bruce

            The Lunnys took over for the benefit of themselves. Quit trying to make this sound like a great sacrifice, it’s not. Nor is it a cause. They’ve made millions of dollars out there and have roiled this community like nothing else has for their personal benefit. With enough smoke and enough mirrors maybe you can change the the word ‘may’ to ‘shall’.

            It is my understanding that there were oyster shells on top of the middens not inside of them.

            Could you please explain the unanimous cease and desist order against DBOC?

          • sarahrolph

            The best explanation of the CCC actions come from CCC vice chair and Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, who called it “morally disturbing.”
            Peter Gleick, in his column at Huffington Post, published an article of mine that includes the Kinsey quote and some context. Peter has written three excellent stories on this; there are links to them here, in his introduction to my piece:

          • Bruce

            Curiously, ‘morally disturbing’ though he found it, Steve Kinsey, as chairman, voted with the majority to make it a unanimous cease and desist order. You can see this hearing on line. you may find it disturbing to your point of view.

      • RonKeffer


  • John Seal

    The bottom line is that the Drake’s Bay lease is up and they need to close. Environmentalists should indeed be wary of those strange legal bedfellows making common cause with the oyster farm – a ruling in their favour will set off a land rush by property developers and business people seeking to open up even more ‘protected’ federal space for exploitation.

    • Creta Pullen, proud supporter

      You commenters—John Seal–(if that’s your real name, which I seriously doubt)–and EX-oyster worker, Pt. Lover–you are pathetic. If you believe so strongly in this tack that you’re taking of disrupting a situation that’s been in existence since the Native Americans first trod the shores along Drakes Estero,,why are you so afraid to stand up under your REAL names–you seem to be cloaking yourselves in the shadow of your beliefs as though they, too, are your way of disguising the truth of the situation.

      • invernessnative

        Oysters are not native to the Drake’s Estero. Nor did Native Americans ever harvest oysters from those waters. Archaeological digs have made this very clear. Check your facts.

        • sarahrolph

          Where are you getting YOUR facts?

          The National Academy of Sciences, in its first report debunking the NPS false science, makes it quite clear that there were native oysters in the estero:

          “Perhaps the ecologically most significant modifications of
          Drakes Estero follow from the local human over-exploitation and functional extinction of the native Olympia oyster population. The Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, was a former constituent of Drakes Estero of some appreciable but unquantifiable abundance, as evidenced by the mounds of its shells in the Coast Miwok midden near the on-land facilities of DBOC and other shell middens excavated around Drakes Estero (Stewart and Praetzellis, 2003).”

          Do you have some evidence to the contrary? What “archaeological digs” are you referring to?

          • Conservationist

            Sarah, You should not quote from a pre-publication paper. More current research by Praetzellis was done, after the final NAS paper, who concluded “their [Olympia oyster] absence at all but two archaeological sites in Drakes Estero make it more likely that the oysters were brought in from Tomales Bay.” (search ARCHAEOLOGY OF OSTREA LURIDA IN DRAKES ESTERO, POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE: Konzak and Praetzellis, July 2011)

          • sarahrolph

            Thanks for the citation. I remember that the Park Service came up with this crackpot theory, in response to the Academy’s report, that there had never been any native oysters in Drakes Estero, but I didn’t realize they had managed to get it published.

          • Bruce

            The National Academy of Sciences made no such determination of ‘false science’ and in fact said the the best science was used despite some mistakes. These are Corey Goodman’s imaginings.

          • RonKeffer

            Like I said earlier………go back and read all of the information. He clearly lied and misrepresented his knowledge,… It was proven

        • Creta Pullen, proud supporter

          Again, Invernessnative–you are dancing around the issues with false statements…My facts are clear–yours are like the name you’ve penned (hiding yourself)-where are your legs, you seem to be skipping from one innuendo to another, but can’t SUPPORT your comments. Words are ever so easy to spew–but they disappear into thin air—-why don’t you do the same and let these people continue to accomplish the outstanding service they’ve done to our environment, our community and our healthy way of life. What have YOU done?

      • Bruce

        You should move out here and you’ll see the problem with ‘telling the truth.’ Sophisticated PR early and often have set this up as a cause, a litmus test for being ‘local’. It’s simply not true. I have received numerous replies to the two letters that I’ve managed to get into the West Marin Citizen—thanking me for calling DBOC out on its misrepresentations. I grew up out here and I’ve been back for thirty five years now— I really don’t need to be sanctified by the pro-Lunny lobby. This ’cause’ is a fraud, a flannel facade over a naked land grab, That’s why it’s being fought with a lot of rightwing money. Isn’t it curious that the one person who stands to make millions, who is always pointing the accusing finger of false science, who is vilifying the environmentalists and biologists, the man who has roiled the tight West Marin environmental community—he is beyond reproach. None of this would be happening if he had just honored the agreement and left in 2012. But Kevin Lunny had a ”hope’ to change that agreement and here we are. This great guy seems to think that his business interests trump the entire West Marin community, its long and vibrant connection to environmental causes, and the relationships between neighbors this fake cause has eroded. Wendell Berry my ass.

  • Point Reyes Seashore Lover

    Apparently the author of this article couldn’t see thru the “ideological fog” long enough to actually discover the facts. It’s all very simple. A deal is a deal. The oyster company was told it would have to shut down. It agreed to that deal. And now, with the help of right-wing backers like Vitter and House Republicans, egged on by Fox News and with the legal assistance of Cause of Action (a property rights legal firm staffed by ex-Koch Brothers employees), it has hired a PR crisis communications director that whips up articles like these. This is a national seashore. And a wilderness area. Yet this corporation, that signed a deal to leave, wants to continue operating. The California Coastal Commission is among those who don’t find this notion romantic, and a court just ruled that it must comply with the Commission’s requirements to curb its plastics pollution, introduction of non-native Manilla clams, and remove its marine “vomit.” This is not some innocent farmer getting kicked off his land by big government; it’s someone who made a bad bet that he could continue operating in an area designated as wilderness by President John F. Kennedy and continue to pollute. Fortunately, the courts so far have sided with the Obama Administration, which has had the backbone to stand up to legislators who should know better. And as for the science, Mr. Goodman sound a lot like those who question climate change by citing false science that multiple agencies have routinely dismissed.

    • Michael Ames

      I don’t usually weigh in on my own stories, but this particular commenter has made some accusations that need to be addressed.

      1. Regarding PR: My editor and I worked on this article with total independence. It was not “whipped up” by a PR crisis firm. I did my research independently, sought out and interviewed the sources quoted independently, and was never contacted by anyone working in professional communications on behalf of the oyster farm. To suggest that either myself or Harper’s would run PR as independent journalism is false and misunderstands the point of what we do. In the context of this issue especially, where national news outlets have been misled by actual PR professionals to publish false talking points as facts, it’s also absurd.

      2. Diane Feinstein is the farm’s main advocate in Washington. If she has become a tool of some vast right-wing conspiracy, it’s news to me.

      3. Drakes Estero was not designated as wilderness by President John F. Kennedy. It was listed as “potential wilderness” by the Bill Burton Wilderness Act of 1976.

      4. I am not a shill for corporate interests (and if I am, I haven’t seen any paychecks to date). Two other reporters who covered this story in-depth came to similar conclusions that were published by Grist (“Green vs. green: The Slimy Battle for Drakes Bay”) and San Francisco Weekly “Shuck and Jive: Drakes Bay Oyster Company Forces a Redefinition of Environmentalism”), neither of which qualify as right-wing publications. This story interested me not because I like to see environmental laws diluted. It interests me because I think we should all be concerned when political interest groups engage in deception.

      • Local Bystander

        You report that Diane Feinstein is the farm’s main advocate in Washington, I am wondering if you ever looked into why she has spent so much time and energy working on this. Why does she keep trying to ram the DBOC lease extension through congress attached to various bills. Because this is what her constituents want? Really? Is that how it works? If you had done a little more research you might have found some original material to work with and tapped into the true heart of the story.

        Likewise, did you actually interview Alice Waters and get her actual opinion, or are you just reporting what you read in the news? Again, I think had you actually talked to her, you might have found a different story.

        Its relatively easy to come in from the outside, read all the different stories that have been written, get some quotes from the usual suspects and whip up a simple, easy conclusion like you’ve done here. As a result, you didn’t really add much to what’s already been said.

        • sarahrolph

          How many of these anonymous comments are being written by the same person?

          • Local Bystander

            My guess is that the people who are anonymously commenting actually live in Point Reyes versus somewhere else, like yourself. Its much easier to be have a strong opinion on an issue in the comments section, like you do all over the place, when you don’t have to run into everyone involved in the issue on a regular basis.

          • sarahrolph

            I visit Point Reyes frequently, and know a lot of people there.

          • Local Bystander

            I’m sure you do. Next time you come bring Michael Ames with you, set up shop at Tobys and let everyone know how much you know about the DBOC.

          • sarahrolph

            The point is, I am using my real name because I am telling the truth, not because this is a comment section and not because I never meet anyone involved in the issue, as you implied. I’m not sure why it would be a problem to “have to run into everyone involved” unless perhaps one was not telling the truth.

          • Conservationist

            You could ask Harpers/Ames to look at the IP addresses of those commenting Sarah. You might be surprised. It may turn out those supporting DB are all from the same computer, maybe all on the east coast. As for “telling the truth” it may be better put that “it’s the truth as I’m told it.”

          • Bruce

            Maybe you should move out here and you’ll see the problem with ‘telling the truth.’ Sophisticated PR early and often have set this up as a cause, a litmus test for being ‘local’. It’s simply not true. I have received numerous replies to the two letters that I’ve managed to get into the West Marin Citizen—thanking me for calling DBOC out on its misrepresentations. I grew up out here and I’ve been back for thirty five years now— I really don’t need to be sanctified by the pro-Lunny lobby. This ’cause’ is a fraud, a flannel facade over a naked land grab, That’s why it’s being fought with a lot of rightwing money. Isn’t it curious that the one person who stands to make millions, who is always pointing the accusing finger of false science, who is vilifying the environmentalists and biologists, the man who has roiled the tight West Marin environmental community—he is beyond reproach. None of this would be happening if he had just honored the agreement and left in 2012. But Kevin Lunny had a ”hope’ to change that agreement and here we are. This great guy seems to think that his business interests trump the entire West Marin community, its long and vibrant connection to environmental causes, and the relationships between neighbors this fake cause has eroded. Wendell Berry my ass.

      • Bruce

        Somehow you overlooked, as Kevin Lunny does, the unanimous cease and desist order by the California Coastal Commission? This included the vote of Steve Kinsey, the chairman and the person responsible for bringing Cory Goodman on board. Oh, I know,in Lunnyspeak they’re in cahoots with the park, it’s all a vast conspiracy, like when the fire department and the police show up at the same accident. And we wouldn’t want to suggest that the legal team run by a former Koch Bros operative and Daryl Issa lieutenant, and foundations that have weakening the grip on public lands as their primary agenda might not have protecting the environment at the top of their to do lists—why that would be an Ad Hominem attack, wouldn’t it? And it just wouldn’t be neighborly to bring up a forty year old document that expressly designates Drakes Bay Estero as wilderness, or clear notification before finalizing the sale to the Lunnys that the park had no intention of renewing the Right of Use and Occupancy.

        We should just gather round the campfire and listen to the stories of the Lunny’s historic seven year tenure at what used to be “Johnson’s Oysters” before being changed to to “Drakes Bay Oyster Company” by Kevin Lunny shortly after saying he wouldn’t change the historic name. A campfire is an appropriate venue to hear these tales, too, because Drakes Bay Oyster Company pays the park less, for its five acres with a house and 1140 acres of tideland than any of us would pay to camp in that park.

        Wendell Berry—really?

  • Save Our Pt. Reyes Park

    I strongly support organic sustainable agriculture and I love
    oysters but the attempt by Drakes Oyster Company and their corporate allies to
    deny wilderness status to Drakes Estero has nothing to do with farming and
    everything to do with opening publicly owned wilderness lands to development.
    Pt. Reyes National Seashore is a wonderful example of cooperation between
    agriculture, the national park system, and wilderness. My family, friends, and
    thousands of people worked for years to protect this national treasure. The
    current owners formed their oyster company in 2005 and purchased the seven
    years remaining on a permit knowing that the Estero is a designated wilderness
    area. They should honor the lease agreement and contracts, follow the rules and
    policies and respect the 1976 wilderness designation. This is not an issue of
    “farmer” vs big government. The real issue here is that private
    development and industry interests have been working for years to overturn
    environmental laws and allow natural resource extraction, fracking and
    commercial development in the wilderness areas, national parks, oceans,
    estuaries and other publicly owned and protected lands. As a member of the
    public, one of the millions of owners of the Point Reyes National Seashore, I
    urge all Americans to protect Drakes Estero wilderness and stop the attempt to
    privatize and commercialize our national park and wilderness systems by
    powerful private business interests. American taxpayers have waited 40 years
    for wilderness designation for Drakes Bay Marine Estuary in our beloved Point
    Reyes National Seashore. We stand firm in protecting National Parks,
    wilderness, publicly owned lands and the commonwealth of the United States of
    America for future generations. We will not be fooled by another attempt by
    special interests with friends in high places to attack the National Park
    Service, subvert the Wilderness Act and put shellfish
    operations in protected estuaries! Please support our National Parks, the law
    and wilderness designation for Drakes Estero in Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

  • Mike Petonic

    None of these comments address the article. And all the comments seem to be anti-DBOC.

    The article is highlighting the misuse of science, in short, fraud, in order to achieve the park service’s agenda.

    This will come out in the open and careers will be disgraced.

    If the simple argument of “the lease is over, end of story” was such a shoe-in, why the need for fraudulent reports and falsified data? Because that argument isn’t enough, clearly, and both sides know it.

    • Conservationist

      My neighbor left for a job overseas and leased his house for a year. Upon his return the tenant demanded a study on the economic hardship his having to move would create before he would leave. After it was confirmed moving has an expense associated with it he was asked to leave. He then said when he taught class in school data was perfect and that because this data was not perfect a new study needed to be done before he would move. And he would not mow the lawn while this was being argued about. The argument is that simple.

      • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

        The property was sold to the NPS in 1962 IN EXCHANGE FOR renewable leases. Not one farmer, not one rancher, not one dairy, nor did the Sierra Club intend to put themselves out of business. The intention was to preserve the agricultural foundation of the area. IN 1962 they knew it, the Sierra Club who brokered the deal with the NPS knew it, the NPS knew it. Again, in 1976 the In 1976, the Presidentially appointed commission Citizen’s Commission’s chairman, Frank Boerger, wrote to Congress
        explaining the oyster farm is “considered desirable by both the public
        and park managers”, and that the farm should “continue unrestrained by
        wilderness designation.” in its recommendation to congress. The then superintendent of the Point Reyes National Seashore, Don Neubacher, knew it in 1998 when he went to the bank asking for a loan to tear down all the facilities eleven hundred square feet, and rebuild a new eleven thousand square foot facility to house the oyster processing, cannery, biological center, visitor center, etc and told the bank he had every intention of renewing the lease in 2012. Now, people like you need to get an education in the facts, not propaganda. Go to http://www.OysterZone.ORG and read the documents under these two headings: “Legal” and “Scientific Reports & Investigations.

        • Conservationist

          Jane, Kevin Lunny signed a special use permit he negotiated. He
          knew clearly what people were thinking in 2004 and 2005. He gambled. The courts will decide if his use of land in a wilderness area is fair and equitable to the taxpayers who own it. The attorneys and PR people will decide how turbid they want to make it appear.

          • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

            Again, READ the documents under the title Legal on http://www.OysterZone.ORG

            Simply repeating the same uninformed line doesn’t make it true. The lease was RENEWABLE in 1962,
            The lease was RENEWABLE in 1976
            The lease was going to be renewed PER the Superintendent of Point Reyes National Seashore, DON NEUBACHER, written statement to the bank in 1998 after he spent thousands of dollars obtaining a NEPA report of a Finding of No Significant Impact, and on architectural plans to tear down the old eleven hundred square foot facilities and completely rebuild a new eleven THOUSAND SQUARE FOOT facility.

            Make an effort to get yourself informed with more than propaganda. The documents you will find at http://www.OysterZone.ORG under the headings “Legal” and Scientific Reports & Investigations” will help you better understand, unless you are afraid of discovering the truth…

          • Conservationist

            Jane, Again respectfully, the time you have put into your site is admirable. There’s nothing wrong with that. The truth you find there is yours. But again, this is, at its base, a contract issue and that will be decided by the courts – someday. Not here, nor on your blog.

          • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

            Conservationist, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts. Read for yourself the scientific reports on the blog http://www.OysterZone.ORG. Once you find out that every claim of environmental harm has been debunked, then tell me why it is that so-called conservationists cannot see the forest for the trees. Oyster Farming is compatible with nature. Drakes Bay Oyster Company is especially compatible for their dedication to environmentalism – it is an Organic farm that gives back to the environment.

          • Bruce

            This farm is not ‘organic’ nor is its operation benign. It spreads invasive species (Didemnum vexilum and its oyster boats make thousands of trips a year. The operation is much more intrusive on the environment due to Kevin Lunny’s focus on the more profitable and more management intensive ‘singles’ vs. clusters which are canned. Further, he planted millions of invasive Manilla clams without authorization.These are only some of the reasons he is currently under a unanimous cease and desist order from the California Coastal Commission. Kevin Lunny’s claim that he’s ‘cleaning up the estero’ not only sells out his fellow cattle ranchers, it is also hogwash. Shouldn’t one sweetheart lease, (the G ranch) in a national park be enough for him?

            These facts are in addition to the simple and decisive fact that his lease is up.

          • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

            Get your facts right. Didemnum exists worldwide. The number of trips is no where near thousands. The rest of your post is not worth the effort. You obviously are being fed, and swallowing, the misinformation and exaggerations by the anti-oyster groups. Again, research the FACTS, do not just regurgitate the pap.

          • Conservationist

            Jane Gyorgy, If you devoted half the time to your house cleaning business you do to responding with the broken record responses you do you would be wealthy and could buy an oyster company somewhere other than Drakes Estero and the wilderness it is part of. Then you could sit back and imagine how you have saved the world. Until then, your repetition of the PR junk intended to allow one family to profit further from federal lands which they (and yes, others) pay virtually nothing for only makes one wonder: what do you have to profit from this? More houses to clean?

          • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

            Imagine going hand in
            hand to the NPS with representatives of the Sierra Club to negotiate a deal to
            protect yours and your neighbor’s properties from developers. A deal is struck
            where you and your fellow ranchers and farmers agree to sell your collective
            properties in exchange for RENEWABLE LEASES specifically to continue agriculture
            and mariculture in your neck of the woods. Further imagine, an act of Congress,
            call it the Wilderness Act, where the authors of which are still alive and
            attesting to the fact that it was always their intention to continue agriculture
            and Mariculture in your neck of the woods. Imagine letters incorporated into the
            record stating, in a word, KEEP THE OYSTER FARM accompanied by letters and
            statements such as these:

            quote is taken from the letter submitted to
            “Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Chairman of the Senate Parks and Recreation Subcommittee” and
            made a part of the record for the Hearings on Point Reyes Wilderness
            Legislation, before the Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation of the Committee on
            Interior and Insular Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-Fourth Congress, 2d
            The letter is addressed to Hon.
            J. Bennett Johnston, Chairman, Parks and Recreation Subcommittee, Washington, D.C. found on page 356, in his opening
            paragraph and we have this statement:
            Chariman: My name is Jerry Friedman. I am a resident of West Marin and am
            serving my second term as Chairman of the Marin County Planning Commission.
            During the past four months I have been representing Congressman John Burton on
            all matters relevant to the House counterpart of S. 2472 H.R. 8003. Today I am
            here representing the following: Marin Conservation League, Tomales Bay
            Association, Inverness Association, ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION COMMITTEE OF WEST
            MARIN, League of Women Voters as well as for the Bay Area: Environmental Forum,
            Marin & Sonoma branches, as well as Assemblyman Michael
            (continued at the top of page 357)
            We accordingly hope that the tidal zone will be managed as wilderness area and
            we find this approach consistent with the State’s reservation of fishing and
            mineral rights. We wish to note the following points in this
            A. S. 2472 would allow the
            continued use and operation of Johnson’s Oyster Company in Drake’s
            E. We note nothing in the law
            which precludes the Congress from designating the tidal zone as wilderness
            despite the reservation of fishing and mineral rights….”
            Page 358:
            “….It is
            rare that so many organizations have agreed upon wilderness legislation for a
            given area. It is also unusual that such wilderness status DOES NOT IN ANY WAY

            And this

            (This is followed in
            the record on page 358 – 361 by the followingJ
            [GGNRA] CITIZENS ADVISORY COMMISSION….a fifteen-person Commission appointed in
            January 1975 by the Secretary of the Interior in accordance with the law
            establishing the Recreation Area….”
            compromises presented have won acceptance from representatives of each sector of
            the public that expressed concern. It is therefore hoped that the entire
            recommendation can be included in the legislation and the Committee report, so
            that the special provisions necessary at Point
            Reyes are firmly established. In that way, future administrative
            decisions can be assured of being in consonance with the principles and the
            details recommended.
            “Two activities presently carried on
            within the seashore existed prior to its establishment as a park and have since
            been considered desirable by both the public and park managers. Because they
            both entail use of motorized equipment, specific provision should be made in
            wilderness legislation to allow the following uses to continue unrestrained by
            wilderness designation:
            1 Ranching
            operations on that portion of the “pastoral zone” that falls within the proposed
            2 Operation of Johnson’s
            Oyster Farm including the use of motorboats and the repair and construction of
            oyster racks and other activities in conformance with the terms of the existing
            1,000 acre lease from the State of California.”
            The final bill
            designated Drakes Estero as only “potential wilderness”.
            The Interior
            Department told Congress that Drakes Estero could not be full wilderness until
            gave up its rights there–which it has NOT

            imagine that all those in favor of the continuation have turned against you and
            want you, your oyster farm, and after that, all the farms and ranches removed
            from the region. Hard to imagine, but that is precisely what is happening in
            Point Reyes to Drakes Bay Oyster Company and what will happen next to the
            ranchers and farmers who’s leases will be terminated at some point in the near
            enough future on the grounds of polluting the estero. What once was a land of
            local, sustainable, renewable food production will be come Wilder-Land, a fake
            wilderness for the 2.5 million tourists will still trample through via
            automobile, bus, motorcycle, hikers and kayakers will continue to be the number
            one cause of disturbance to the seals.

            “PR Junk?” NO, FACTS, YES!!!

          • Conservationist

            “Mariculture” is not mentioned in any law passed and signed. No laws passed and signed mention “oyster farm”. No law says DBOC “shall” be issued a new lease nor does anything DBOC signed. Selective use of words creating a National Seashore written in 1961 and selective snippets of “opinions” make for good PR but they are not law, any more than a 1961 statement that “Construction of a harbor of refuge” means a marina should have been built. Your paranoia about cattle and dairy farms “being next” is nothing but PR FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt). However, they should be required to pay fair market value for the use of those taxpayer owned lands and should not be polluting waters. California did retain rights to fish and mineral rights. But the lease DBOC operates under – and which California agreed to when it transferred bottom lands to the Federal government – is contingent on DBOC having a permit for their “cannery” which they do not. It is only being temporarily extended while the “unpaid” attorneys file suits. You are right about one thing – when DBOC ceases operation other sources will disturb seals. The rest of your “imagination” is PR junk, like that your company cleans up after a flood.

          • George W. Berry

            First, my humble apologies to Sir. Francis Drake for the typo. in the previous post. Now, down to business: Bruce, if you have such a strong argument, why do you find it necessary to fabricate “facts”? First of all, Manila Clams, although not native, are NOT classified as an invasive species:

            Second, Manila Clams had ALREADY spread up and down the Pacific Coast BEFORE Kevin started farming them:

            If I can do this research, why can’t you? You are invited to state your case on the Sedona Dreams show and prove your statements with FACTS, not propaganda:

          • sarahrolph

            The agreement Lunny signed has a renewal clause. It hardly matters what people were thinking. DBOC is not in a wilderness area. The issue in the courts is not whether this use of land is “fair and equitable to the taxpayers” although you echo well the arguments of Interior’s attorneys. The case is about government abuse of power.

          • Bruce

            Would ‘fair and equitable to taxpayers’ include renting five acres with a house and 1140 acres of tideland for less than the cost of a campsite? Lunny doesn’t even pay enough per year to maintain the roads his equipment and business cost, as a paving contractor he probably knows that.

    • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org


    • Bruce

      This is due to the simple fact that the article doesn’t address reality. The issue should never have been, ‘what is Drakes Bay Oyster Company harming?’ but rather, ‘what is it impeding?’ It is impeding the return to wilderness and the appreciation of that fact by the people that paid for it, i.e the taxpayers of the country. The shameless attempt to confer great historical significance to Lunny’s seven year tenure when he was clearly informed that the park was terminating the business in 2012, (before he owned it), is worthy of FOX news. None of Dr Goodman’s claims of ‘false science’ have been substantiated beyond the insular world of Lunny supporters. Yes there have been errors as there always are in science, which is why creating a controversy around science was so crucial to the disinformation campaign against the park. This is a tactic developed by the tobacco industry in the fifties, and used by the oil industry to delay a response to global warming today. Simply put, ‘the lease is over, end of story’ was a shoe-in—until these trumped up, extraneous issues were brought forth by Lunny and his minions.

      • Mike Petonic

        Bruce — I follow your argument but I think that you’re overlooking a couple of major holes:

        1) “The public paid for it” argument. This would hold true if there were not misconduct by the public agencies in determining the policy that they’re going to execute. That’s part of the the point of this article. That’s kind of like saying the Bible is true because it says so in the Bible. A circular argument.

        2) Why would the NPS need to have justification if the “lease is over” argument was valid? It should have been end of story, right? “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

        • Bruce

          It is enough. The false, ‘merchants of doubt’ controversy is created by Kevin Lunny and his supporters. As he said to me with regard to the notification he received during escrow, before he bought the business, ‘It was our hope to change that.’ We are seeing that hope play our with expensive lawyering and political string pulling. It worked for the tobacco industry, it worked fro the oil lobby to stifle the response to global warming, maybe it will work here. After all, in a country that has transmuted money into free speech anything is possible. Maybe you see the triumph of one man’s economic gain over the public interest as good, and the author or all this turmoil as niice—I guess we just have different values. However this plays out, I don’t.

          • hhumbert

            I think you have a valid opinion, Bruce. I disagree with your opinion — I believe that most folks around PRS want DBOC to survive. I know that I do. That Kevin Lunny wants to provide a livelihood, well, that’s capitalism. He also happens to provide 25+ jobs in the area, which is highly needed. I wouldn’t equate the oyster farm with tobacco, the oil, or other industries that have used misinformation to propagate their deadly agenda.

            In this case, I believe that the NPS has used misinformation, and it is my hope that it will all come out in the end. It’s the falsification and the “might makes right” attitude that really sticks in my craw.

          • Bruce

            You might want to refer to the “Frost report of the US Dept of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, Gavin M. Frost, Attorney-advisor of 3-22-2011 “Public report on allegations of scientific misconduct at Point Reyes National Seashore, Ca.” This report concludes that any scientific misconduct exists only in Corey Goodman’s and Kevin Lunny’s imaginations.
            When the oil rigs show up off the coast is the jobs argument still going to hold? You have to understand that this is spin and sophisticated PR. It isn’t “our” oyster farm, it’s our parkland. Kevin Lunny set out in the beginning to change that fact. He is being defended by the industries that you say can’t be equated with oysters—I didn’t set up that equation, David Vitter of excel pipeline fame and Dan Epstein of cause of action did, that’s why they funded Lunny’s legal battle.
            Kevin Lunny has roiled this community and the strong environmental core in West Marin as nothing ever has—all for his economic benefit. Period.

          • y_p_w

            I’ve read the Frost Report. It’s scathing towards the use of science by NPS in this case. The deal is that “criminal misconduct” or “scientific misconduct” is a tough standard to meet – one that can lead to firings for cause or jail time.


            “NPS employees erred but did not misstep in any manner described as criminal misconduct or scientific misconduct for which the Agency could impose and successfully defend disciplinary actions.”

          • VHanson

            Scathing? Sounds more like you’re relying on trumped up spin & unfounded charges by one unreliable “informant.”

            “The factual record firmly supports conclusions that there was no criminal violation or scientific misconduct …” (p.1)

            “Instead, persuasive evidence shows that no desire to delude motivated or influenced any NPS employee’s actions with regard to the photographic data.” (p.27)

            “An unbiased analysis of relevant facts and law leads to the conclusion that no NPS employee manipulated or intentionally omitted the photographic research in an effort to defraud, deceive, or mislead any person or organization. Objective findings further demonstrate that no NPS senior executive or scientist intentionally manipulated, changed, or omitted research so that data was inaccurately represented in the research record.” (p.34)

            “[The informant] … unilaterally concluded that the provided information did not support comments made by NPS employees on May 8, 2007, rejected the possibility of honest but different scientific opinions, and immediately accused [NPS employees] of scientific misconduct in the form of fabricated or falsified claims.” (p.8)

          • Critical Eye

            Sadly, the article confuses conservationist with environmentalists. A conservationist tries to mitigate the damage to the environment and can allow for man’s structures and presence as part of the whole. As given for examples, by the buildings at Yosemite and Grand Canyon, with efforts to get people involved with the wild, with trails that allow handicapped and cars/buses and roads for the elderly, a conservationist works with man to preserve but involve man. The current environmentalist views man as an infestation on the wilderness, seeks to remove man, and have a hands-off policy to land management. As given for example, by removing ranchers and all grazing farm animals from the Channel Island to return the islands to wilderness, which has caused non-native species to overgrow the native, with chest high non-native fennel, a conservationist understands that man has destroyed the original environment and works with nature to fix problems of created by non-native species, logging, fire cycle of flammable plants and replanting, erosion, pollution, etc. that man has created, and uses active intervention to manage and mitigate the damage man’s hurt to nature. A conservationist would gladly embrace the environmental stewardship of Drake’s Bay oyster company because the bay is cleaner for it; however, the environmentalists want to drive all evidence of man from the face of wilderness, and while Drake’s Bay is a farming community, the zeal and passion to restore it to wild place is part of the vision that comes from the current extreme environmental movement. If not for the original bill making the Point Reyes Area, which included a clause to protect the ranchers, they too would have been part of the uproar to be booted likewise as the Channel Islands because an environmentalist wants no trace of man and no ease nor reason for the public to come if one isn’t solely there to gaze upon the wilderness. What the environmentalists don’t get is that if you don’t keep people supporting wilderness and coming for whatever reason, the people will stop the funding of it. Coming for oysters made people see Point Reyes. What is happening is counter-productive. And all the legal wrangling that has been said in these comments won’t save the wilderness if in 2 generations, no one cares.

          • VHanson

            That’s a big “if” — clearly people DO continue to care about keeping wildlands and open space free from commercial blight and accessible to the public. Since the early 1930s Marin environmentalists have led the drive to purchase and protect this wild landscape. That’s why West Marin still looks so astonishingly beautiful and ‘natural’. We’ve never needed oysters for inspiration – that’s just industry spin.
            As for ‘protecting ranchers’ you might find it instructive to actually read, “the original bill making the Point Reyes Area.” Public Law 87-657 set a limit of 50 years non-commercial use for owner-occupiers of parcels over 500 acres – clearly this envisioned NO human occupation after 2012. Subsequent legislation allows for the Pastoral Zone for rangeland and Wilderness Areas for uncultivated ‘nature’. The stark, black-and-white poles you set up do not reflect the real situation.

          • RonKeffer

            where are the environmentalist when it comes to the Homeless. Do they scatter disease, waste, occupy public areas, they build fires, they use the land, they collect welfare, they continue to have babies. I think we should give the homeless in Santa Clara County a one way bus ticket to the West Marin Coast and see what the “tree huggers do”

          • RonKeffer

            Very well said. Thank you

          • BHarriman

            Great post; I wish there was more discussion around this aspect. There is so much talk about who is right with respect to legality and interpretation previous contracts, but not so much about what is the “right thing to do” going forward. As of today there is a paved road going through the middle of the park, so it’s hard to argue this is pristine wilderness, and it’s not like the oyster farm is a hotel resort. I’ve been going there for over 30 years; it’s very low key (aside from recent politics), and pretty much has been the same physically as long as I can remember. I keep coming back because the oysters, in my opinion, are consistently the best quality on the west coast. I don’t believe that happens without having a sustainable operation, and even though this is a private business, it just doesn’t make any sense for the business owner to damage the very environment that he relies on for the quality of his product. In that sense I figure he is economically motivated to be a good steward of the land and water. This *should* be a good example of a win-win public/private partnership. But whether you are a oyster fan or not, you have to be aware that the oyster farm IS a destination, and many people come into the park for the oysters first, and then enjoy hiking and sightseeing second. If the farm is closed and many fewer people use the park, I just don’t see how that is a public benefit.

          • Hania

            very well put. I would add that oysters provide a very important service to the environment by filtering water. I have witnessed this on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia where a small oyster farm has had very positive impact on the quality of the water.

          • RonKeffer

            You better go back and read all the information again………DO YOUR HOMEWORK then speak

          • RonKeffer

            They do not prosecute themselves, they stand by each other, Look at Edwards, misspent campaign money while courting a mistress…..what happened, there are many coverups with our administration, our politicians protect one another. We still have no information on Benghazi. It is clear that Benghazi was a cover up for The United States causing harm and trying to start a war, Look at the Sheriff of San Francisco, a convicted felon still in office. and you want us, the american public to listen to what you say.

          • RonKeffer

            how can you trust our government in any report. Look how they twisted the information about Drakes Bay……took pictures, had other people with credentials write reports only to be ignored. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar out and out lied, got others to lie and deceit the American Public and those citizens that live on or near DRAKES BAY OYSTER FARM

          • RonKeffer

            I believe Public Interest goes far beyond Dakes Bay Oyster Farm. It actually goes all the way to Washington where our politicians twist the truth to make laws in their favor. The Public Interest is to “NOT GET INVOLVED IN THE SYRIA CONFLICT”. The Public Interest is not to make laws that try to dissolve our constitution. Global Warming is a JOKE. Homeless increases because there is no Money to be made, the issue only costs money. Law enforcement goes after DUI arrests because it is profitable, while the drug dealer and user on YOUR street corner is ignored because they become a liability to the City, the State, The County, The Federal Government because of the cost of the court system and the incarceration. The average DUI pays the fine, goes to school, pay that fee, gets an increase in Insurance, and pays, pays and pays, while the Hookers, drug dealers, and users continue to do the crime without doing the time. it is all about INCOME and Liabilities. It is all about the almighty dollar. It has nothing to do with public interest. wouldn’t you think that public interests speak when :

            The setting is pristine, and roughly 2.5 million people visit the park each year to walk its vast empty beaches, birdwatch in its foggy woods, and stroll through its meadows of high grasses. On a clear spring day, you can hike up a rocky bluff and watch pairs of calving grey whales migrate north through the emerald waters below, one blowhole exhalation at a time. Oh and while they are there, they can enjoy a scrumptious oyster, which is part of the environment that helps clean up the water……what a treat that would be.

          • Bruce

            you really don’t have to sacrifice public land for your oyster dude—you don’t have to make a contribution to a well off paving contractor. There is no higher cause here than Kevin Lunny’s bank account.

      • George W. Berry

        Bruce, this article DOES address reality, and it is shameless of you to attempt to equate Michael Ames’ excellent presentation with FOX news. The NPS did not simply make “errors”. What emerges is a pattern of lies, distortions, & fabrications: The very phrase you use, “return to wilderness” is both your own illusion and an oxymoron. The Point Reyes environment surrounding Drake’s Bay hosts 2.6 MILLION visitors/year. The environment in 2013 is NOT the REAL wilderness that Sir Frances Drake and his crew would have seen hundreds of years ago. Contrary to the cooked books of NPS “science” and Joe Mueller, the Drake’s Bay area DID host a significant native oyster population, which was decimated over time. This fact is not, as you state, just the position of “Lunny and his minions” (How scientific of YOU!). I have interviewed both Joe Mueller and Dr. Corey Goodman, and have provided Joe more air time than Corey. Oysters are so vital to the environment that they are being aggressively reseeded on both the East and West Coasts. Kevin Lunny is providing the oyster shells to reseed native oysters in the San Francisco Bay area, without the help of his “minions”, or you.

      • RonKeffer

        Imply put, our government has lied, has falsified information, and has made a complete ass out of themselves. The agencies can’t even figure out who has jurisdiction regarding Drakes Bay. Even the Monterey Bay aquarium say that DB is not a threat to the environment. Our government is so corrupt that we will never know who or what to believe. This business is his livelihood he pays taxes, he supports shipping and other business. This is the American way. We do not even know if SFD ever landed here. It is assumed.

        If you “Tree hungers ” really wanted to accomplish something for state of CA why don’t you get on the band wagon regarding the salmon fisheries, or maybe clean up the streams and rivers that the homeless is contaminating. Probably because you do not have a vested interest in those areas. DBOF is not hurting anyone. He is making money and every time someone is successful the government fucks it up. I would recommend that our corrupt government should be audited by the IRS

    • VHanson

      Notwithstanding repetitious claims by oyster fans, there is NO RENEWAL clause in the permit Lunny signed 22Apr2008 as the following few excerpts clearly show. ( Or read it online at: )

      “Drakes Bay Oyster Company is hereby authorized for a period commencing on April 2008 and terminating on November 30, 2012 (“Expiration Date”) to use the following described land, improvements, and waters in the following area: the lands and improvements at Drakes Bay Estero at the former Johnson’s Oyster Site …

      2f) Revocation – This Permit may be terminated upon Default or at the discretion of the Permitter.

      23a) At the conclusion of Permittee’s authorization to use the Premises for the Permitted Uses, Permittee shall surrender and vacate the Premises, remove Permittee’s Personal Property therefrom, and repair any damage resulting from such removal.

      27a) This Permit shall terminate upon the Termination Date and any holding over by Permittee after the Termination Date shall not constitute a renewal of this Permit or give Permittee any rights under this Permit or in or to the Premises.

      32a) This instrument, together with the exhibits hereto, all of which are incorporated in this Permit by reference, constitutes the entire agreement between Permitter and Permittee with respect to the subject matter of this Permit and supersedes all prior offers, negotiations, oral and written.” [the exhibits consist of: 4 maps & Harbor Seal Protection Protocol]

      • y_p_w

        There was a renewal clause (#11) in the original 1972 reservation of use.

        • VHanson

          Johnson Oyster’s 40-year “terminable right to use and occupy [RUO] the above-described property” provides no ‘Renewal Clause.’ Those claiming otherwise ignore the legal facts: that (now expired) RUO was an actual property interest – a leasehold for a defined term. Clause 11 is a notification that any, Special Use Permit (SUP) which “may be issued for the continued occupancy” must be “in accordance with National Park Service regulations in effect at the time the reservation expires.” SUPs are permits – like a driving permit or a camping permit – they grant no rights, they are not guarantees, they are revocable by the agency at any time.

          Clause 13 states that, “Disputes concerning performance under the terms of this reservation shall be determined by the Secretary of the Interior or his duly authorized representative in a manner consistent with due process of law.” Furthermore, Clause 7 makes clear that all of Lunny’s additional developments on the porperty constitute breach of contract: “No permanent or temporary structure, sign or other improvement of any type whatsoever shall be erected by Vendor in or upon the reserved premises or improvements without the prior written approval of the Director.”

          For those not invested in defeating the ‘rule of law’ with regard to landlord-tenant contracts these facts knock Lunny’s deceptive excuses beyond the bounds of reason.

          • y_p_w

            However, it’s still a “renewal clause” in anyone’s ordinary understanding of what it would mean to renew. While they call it a “special use permit”, I think anyone who understands what that means would understand that it’s the equivalent of a lease renewal. You can play semantics all you want.

            I’m a landlord myself. I don’t take every violation of the terms as an excuse to evict my tenant. In addition to that, the land leased from NPS is 3 acres of dry land.

            However, there is currently a hold on their eviction pending the district court decision, the Coastal Commission couldn’t get a court to enforce the entirety of their cease and desist order, and the Fish and Game Commission still theoretically holds the lease. The Coastal Commission has made orders regarding the use of the waters which I’m pretty sure they have no authority. The Fish and Game Commission has sent letters to the CCC telling them to knock off their attempts to enforce the FGC’s jurisdiction, but apparently they’ve just ignored them.

            The California Fish and Game Commission is the landlord for the water bottoms. They have the authority to evict and/or order the racks removed. NPS gave an order to remove them, but I’m pretty sure that only the state has that authority.

          • VHanson

            Correcting erroneous assumptions about “anyone’s ordinary understanding” is not “play semantics.” Both of the Lunny’s contracts with NPS – the 1972 RUO and the 2008 SUP – were accepted under advise of legal counsel. Both clarify 30Nov2012 as the end of their permit to operate. Continuing to misrepresent such basic legal facts is counterproductive, at best.

            Personal projections about landlord-tenant preferences are irrelevant distractions. What you are “pretty sure” of is definitively refuted by interagency correspondence. The recent Superior Court ruling also disputes your unfounded interpretations. Beyond reaffirming the Coastal Commission’s authority, the judge’s ruling demands DBOC finally comply with its signed obligations from 2007, and additional measures for accurately & completely reporting under Penalty of Perjury! Only provisions for final removal and restoration are delayed until the Ninth Circuit’s ruling.

          • y_p_w

            It’s pretty clear to me that the Judge Duryee erred in ordering the removal of the Manila clams. DBOC has a water bottom lease from CFGC that specifically allows them to plant and harvest those clams. Manila clams are still legally being planted in Tomales Bay and other parts of California under CFGC authority.

            The Fish and Game Commission has taken up the jurisdictional issues, and apparently the Coastal Commission has ignored requests to discuss this with them. The CCC are a bunch of hacks – ones who will sue anyone who dare builds a driveway in the Coastal Zone without the CCC issuing a coastal development permit, but did allow Sean Parker to continue his horrendously damaging wedding because he’s willing to give $2.5 million to their pet projects.

            Aquaculture in California is governed by California Fish and Game Code 15000-15703. The authority to regulate aquaculture activities rests with the Fish and Game Commission. I’ve gone over the Coastal Act and can find nothing that gives the Coastal Commission specific authority over aquaculture that duplicates that of the California Dept of Fish and Wildlife or the California Fish and Game Commission. The Coastal Act in fact recognizes that the Coastal Commission must defer to the Dept of Fish and Game (now Fish and Wildlife) and the Fish and Game Commission regarding activities that those agencies regulate.


            “Section 30411 Department of Fish & Game; Fish & Game Commission; management programs; wetlands; aquaculture; coastal sites

            (a)The Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission are the principal state agencies responsible for the establishment and control of wildlife and fishery management programs and the [Coastal] commission shall not establish or impose any controls with respect thereto that duplicate or exceed regulatory controls established by these agencies pursuant to specific statutory requirements or authorization.

            (c)The Legislature finds and declares that salt water or brackish water aquaculture is a coastal-dependent use which should be encouraged to augment food supplies and to further the policies set forth in Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 825) of Division 1. The Department of Fish and Game may identify coastal sites it determines to be appropriate for aquaculture facilities. If the department identifies these sites, it shall transmit information identifying the sites to the [Coastal] commission and the relevant local government agency. The [Coastal] commission, and where appropriate, local governments, shall, consistent with the coastal planning requirements of this division, provide for as many coastal sites identified by the Department of Fish and Game for any uses that are consistent with the policies of Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 30200) of this division.

            (d)Any agency of the state owning or managing land in the coastal zone for public purposes shall be an active participant in the selection of suitable sites for aquaculture facilities and shall make the land available for use in aquaculture when feasible and consistent with other policies of this division and other provisions of law.”

            Now maybe I’m not looking thoroughly enough, but I can’t find a thing that authorizes the California Coastal Commission to declare what is or isn’t an invasive species nor give orders regarding their removal.

            However, the Fish and Game Code seems to give the Fish and Game Commission authority over aquaculture and what can and can’t be stocked.


            “FISH AND GAME CODE

            SECTION 15200-15202

            15202. The [Fish and Game] commission may prohibit the placement of specific species of aquatic plants or animals in designated waters of the state. The prohibition may not include species that are found to be native or that are stocked by the state in a location where prohibition is contemplated.”

          • VHanson

            Thanks for sharing “what’s clear” to you. Thankfully, the adults in charge, including Marin Superior Court, disagree with you. If your Clause 11 spin is so “obvious,” why was top-tier lobbying for Senator DiFi’s intervention so urgent? Pondering how “mutual option to renew” works without “both sides coming to an agreement” shows your logic (and your legal insights) are failing, although your word count is exploding. Even Kevin Lunny has admitted he was fully aware there was no intention to renew.

            The depth of your fantasy about conflict between CCC & CDFW is incredible. Do you shill for Pacific Legal Foundation?

            *Love* the gratuitous biblical reference – how is that relevant ;-?

          • y_p_w

            There is no conflict between the CCC and CFGC/CDFW? I’ve actually read the meeting summaries and watched the meeting video.




            ABSENT: J. BAYLIS.
            MOTION PASSED.”

            This was the letter sent to the CCC from the President of CFGC:


            Dear Chair Shallenberger:

            The California Fish and Game Commission would like to express our concern regarding a possible overlap in authorities in regard to your February 7 agenda item number 11.1 Cease and Desist Order No. CCC-13-CD-01 (Drakes Bay Oster Company, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin Count). We request that you postpone possible action on this item until we clarify our respective authorities.

            We recognize that our two commissions have overlapping authority for conservation actions in California’s coastal zone, and we need to clarify the extent of that overlap. For example, as you know, the Coastal Commission has authority under the Coastal Act and under the consistency provision of the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act. At the same time, the California Fish and Game Commission has authority to permit aquaculture and mariculture operations in California waters. It’s important that our two bodies work in close cooperation to avoid and conflicts that might arise from the unilateral exercise of our respective authorities.

            We would like to suggest that in the future our two bodies to work more closely together in satisfying our responsibilities for conservation of California’s coastal wildlife resources. We regret the late nature of this communication but we have only just learned of your proposed action. We hope that in the future, you will notify us in advance of such proposals and look forward to working more closely with you and your staff.

            If you have any questions concerning this matter, please contact me or Executive Director Sonke Mastrup at the letterhead address or by telephone.

            Michael Sutton

            I’ve seen previous CCC consent orders that recognize CFGC lease M438-01 regarding manila clam farming and recognizing the CFGC’s right to issue those leases. I’m pretty sure that all the other shellfish farms with manila clam leases are watching this closely. Anyone reasonably reading the Coastal Act and the Fish and Game Code should come to the conclusion that it’s the authority of the CFGC to determine what is or isn’t planted for aquaculture in California waters. I’m not sure what the judge is smoking since she’s been given citations of the relevant laws. I’d be surprised if Hog Island Oyster doesn’t get involved, since they plant manila clams in Tomales Bay with a CFGC lead, and probably don’t want the CCC telling them that they have the authority to shut down that part of their business.

          • VHanson

            Quibbling about side issues distracts from the central certainties: DBOC’s extraordinary record of denying, delaying and defying court orders, permit obligations, contractual agreements, and legal restraints is unparalleled. The overwhelming majority of businesses dependent on our coastal resources, including Tomales Bay shellfish growers, succeed in sustaining profits while abiding by the law.

            California Superior Court rulings confirm the Coastal Commission’s authority to rein in DBOC’s ongoing, unpermitted development and environmental threats, including but not limited to promoting the spread of invasive species like manila clams. The Federal District Court also overruled DBOC’s complaints. Whatever the Ninth District’s evaluation of DBOC’s tenuous set of preposterously bureaucratic technicalities under Federal Administrative Procedures and Data Quality Acts, I mourn the social devastation that has consumed and divided my community. The Lunny family’s siege on Drakes Estero has, for a few million in profits, dragged West Marin through its most traumatic episode ever.

          • y_p_w

            Do you ever directly address another post?

            Manila clams are planted in Tomales Bay . I’ve bought them myself. Hog Island farms their own, but Tomales Bay Oyster buys theirs from Washington. Now who is supposed to regulate this or declare that they can’t be planted because they are invasive species? These farms rely on knowing who they work with, which are the Fish and Game Commission as well as the Dept of Fish and Wildlife. This is clearly under the Fish and Game Code, which states that prohibition of species placement is regulated by the Fish and Game Commission in Fish and Game Code 15202.

            You’ve obviously been sticking up for the Coastal Commission because you approve of this action. They recently allowed an unpermitted wedding to occur in Big Sur because a billionaire was willing to throw money to get them to delay their cease and desist order long enough for him to complete his wedding. Parts of the original C&D order were about fishery protection because a stream passing through the property that supported steelhead trout. Now I suppose the Fish and Game Commission should have stepped in to stop the wedding even if that was an incursion on CCC’s jurisdiction, since there was a fisheries management issue. And if they did I think the Coastal Commission would rightly be pissed that CFGC intruded on their authority.

            Anyone doing even a basic amount of research will understand that . That the CCC got a sympathetic judge who seems to be willing to let it slide is another matter.

          • VHanson

            As you can see, I have been responding to your PR team’s posts. I suggest you put your heads together and do your own research to answer the side issues you seem so interested in. Ask whatever CA agencies and business owners you choose to answer your questions. Your habitual tactic of misdirection – presenting ill-focused conjectures about what you claim is “obvious,” strange tangents from other gripes you apparently hold, and unsupported conclusions, opinions, and judgements – contributes nothing useful here to those wishing to understand and resolve this conflict.

            This article and this forum are directed toward discussing DBOC’s siege on publicly owned land and water and its legacy of violations, deceptions, and evasions which have wasted countless taxpayer dollars and valuable human resources in my community and among professionals in science, law, and resource protection & management.

          • y_p_w

            What PR team? I work for nobody in this discussion.

            I’ve never met or seen Kevin Lunny. I think the only Lunny family member I’ve ever met is Brigid, who works behind the counter at the retail operation.

            I’ve read the Coastal Commission’s response to why they think they now have authority to regulate manila clams as an invasive species. They believe that the 1992 multi-agency seal protocols give them that right, and that they believe the reservation of use has ended and the CFGC leases are no longer valid. Phyllis Faber certainly doesn’t agree, and she was an original commissioner on the CCC.

            The Fish and Game Commission had a fit when they found out that the CCC was intruding into their jurisdiction. More recently they seem to be under advisement to not discuss this in public from the Attorney General’s office, as I heard during the video of the May 2013 CFGC meeting. I’m thinking they’ve taken this to mediation. Probably better not for them to discuss this until an outcome is reached, but in the meantime it was pretty clear that they were pissed that CCC has been stepping on their toes.

          • VHanson

            Your 3rd-paragraph set of leaps about the CCC’s *beliefs* and authority are comical. The RUO (Reservation of Use) HAS ended (on 30Nov2012). Anyone, any agency, who *believes* otherwise is wrong, no matter how stubbornly ill-informed or how many irrelevant distractions they repeat. The CFGC has clarified that DBOC’s allotments are contingent on its compliance with law and permits from PRNS. DBOC has been violating numerous laws since its tenure began in January, 2005. It’s claim for exemption from laws everyone else abides by has, again, been rejected in court. The insult added to this abusive legacy of public injury, is their claim of *victimhood*.

            re: “I work for nobody in this discussion.” Since the pettifoggery posted by *Y_P_W* relies on minutia, and the major PR players (e.g., Lunny, Sam Singer, Pacific Legal Foundation, and undisclosed Koch operatives) are not actually participating “in this discussion,” my suspicions that these are troll-work on this topic, remain. Like so many others, *your* services may be *pro bono*. My first, clear evidence of this identity-disconnect, was when you disputed the validity of information which *you* had recently posted.

            As a West Marin resident with time & energy to devote to important local issues, I have scoured public, legal, scientific and historic records both on and off-line to form a framework for understanding this unprecedented conflict. Over the years, on various forums, I have seen comments by “Y_P_W” fit a peculiar pattern: whenever actual, factual, documents & quotes start penetrating the repetitive cloud spun by DBOC’s faux-amateur, attack-media clique (eg., Gyorgy, Rolph, et al.) *you* ‘emerge’ with misinformation-distraction-speculation that matches PR verbiage circulated by advocates of privatizing valuable public resources and eviscerating legal protections against commercializing public parks. A notable feature of your style is how strongly you imply that your text is based on solid research and live experience, while parroting obvious blunders about the locality, about inter-agency relationships, and the sequence and context of the Lunny’s conflict with their landlord (We the People). This marks you out as not merely a casual blowhard. Since covert message-manipulation is a primary tactic of DBOC and its well-funded allies (like the TeaParty’s faux *grassroots* inflammations) I hold what I consider a plausible conjecture that *you* are not what you seem.

          • RonKeffer

            does that surprise you that the put the tight lip on the CFDG because no one wants to upset the apple cart……What happened to “Freedom of Speech.

          • RonKeffer

            what interest do you have in Tomales Bay Oysters. You have a personal interest in this some way and in some form. I would like for you to come clean and disclose what you stand to GAIN personally

          • VHanson

            Please see my post above, Ron. What I hope to regain is the joy of living in a community with integrity, able to stand up against the bullying group-think that has overrun West Marin. There are many good people who have been duped by the professionally planned propaganda war waged against “The Park” as proxy for ‘the big-bad-boogeyman government’. Without Point Reyes National Seashore, West Marin would look like every other strip-malled coastal community. Indulging epicurean tastes for the ‘terroir’ of boutique oysters does NOT make one an environmentalist or a ‘steward of the land’.
            FYI: Tomales Bay has a long and proud history serving multiple uses compatibly – fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, oyster farming, agriculture, shoreline tourism, premium property, gazing in wonder, nurturing marine life, research, education, community involvement. Oysters are the ‘canary in the coal mine.’ As a significant economic value they ensure all stakeholders are responsive to threats to the watershed’s ecology and coastal habitats. The Tomales Bay Watershed Council website has more information on how responsible shellfish cultivation, properly sited and managed, benefits everyone.

          • Phil Out West Oysterlover

            At last, we get to what is really behind the fanatical drive to demolish the oyster farm- shellfish haters who accuse us of “indulging epicurean tastes for the terroir of boutique oysters…” !!!!
            California never ceded its fishing rights to the coastal waters. Imaginary “threats” larded over with “canary in the coal mine,” big oil, paper wasters, FOX news, invasive species and other such base canards are a deliberate distraction from their underlying goal: get the cafe, the diary farms, the oysters and the quarter million visitors to this imaginary “wilderness” out of the seashore.
            Perhaps the NPS, the EAC, the NPCA and the other zealots should be removed instead, and the seashore returned to the Indians, who always cultivated and enjoyed oysters before the white man came along and claimed everything.
            Yup, lets put the zealots in a big chopper and drop them off somewhere in a real wilderness with only their $1,000 sleeping bags, $250 hiking shoes, LL Bean shorts and…
            a bucket of oysters. Once the oysters run out, of course, they will come running back to Point Reyes to take up their war on oysters again. You can be sure the Drakes Beach Cafe and the “commercial” dairy farms are next on their hit list.

            Or maybe not. Maybe the grizzlies will get them, earthtones and all. A consummation devoutly to be wished!

          • George W. Berry

            VHanson – Getting your facts straight is not “quibbling about side issues”. Manila clams ARE NOT classified as an “invasive species”. See my other posts. Were you (A) Negligent or (B) Willfully Misrepresenting when you stated that Manila Clams are an invasive species? :

          • VHanson

            Here, Mr. Berry, are two instant links to long lists of citations:
            1), compiled by the European Network on Invasive Alien Species
            2) GoogleScholar (keywords: Manila Clam Invasive Species).
            I wonder what accounts for the accusatory tone of your skewed question, and erroneous claims. You, and other readers, might be interested in the book, “Merchants of Doubt” by Orekes & Conway (2010). It documents how the Tobacco Industry’s “doubt-monger” playbook is in use by industrial and ‘astroturf’ lobbyists. I find DBOC using these same tactics.

          • George W. Berry

            Hello,VHanson.The EUROPEAN network? How about the laws of State of California, or the
            laws of the United States Federal Government? Even the NPS, with all
            their fabrication of “evidence” – (for which they were reprimanded by
            the National Academy Of Sciences: ) –
            never said that the farming of Manila clams was illegal. Manila clams
            are NON NATIVE, but are NOT classified as an invasive species. That’s
            why DBOC can LEGALLY farm them. Both the NPS and the State of
            California are well aware that Kevin Lunny is farming Manila Clams. As
            for the money trail, you can easily search how the 1% like the
            Rockefellers funnel huge amounts of money to organizations like
            Greenpeace (all out of the kindness of their hearts & their concern
            for the environment & never to advance their own agenda, right?) I
            have invited both sides to present their views on my show. Here are the
            interviews, so that the listeners make up their own minds:
   Joe Mueller was invited back several
            times to present any scientific data to contradict any statement made by
            Dr. Corey Goodman, but has failed to do so:

          • y_p_w

            Again – Clause 11 is obviously a mutual option to renew. I never said both sides were required to come to an agreement to renew, but it’s not as if the end of 40 years was set in stone as a hard termination of the tenancy.


            “11. Upon expiration of the reserved term, a special use permit may be issued for continued occupancy of the property for the herein described purposes, provided however, that such permit will run concurrently with and will terminate upon the expiration of State water bottom allotments assigned to the Vendor. Any permit for continued use will be issued in accordance with National Park Service regulations in effect at the time the reservation expires.”

            As a matter of policy, they’ve been granting special use permits to the cattle and dairy ranches, and recently upped the terms to 10 years. And as a parting shot, Salazar gratuitously threw in a recommendation to up them to 20 year terms in his memo denying a special use permit for DBOC.

          • RonKeffer

            hey VHanson, what monetary gift do you plan to receive after all this redirick

          • VHanson

            The correct word is rhetoric.

            Unlike Lunny (which BTW rhymes with money) not everyone finds their primary motivation in greed.

            I live in West Marin. This has torn my community apart like no other in its history. I contribute my time and energy to several civic organizations and have devoted countless hours studying and discussing with neighbors and scholars the history and changing values of this unique community. I have read every document publicly available on this topic – including those only on microfilm or old newsprint – in legal and library archives. I HAVE done my homework – not for pay, but because the more I’ve learned about the background of this siege on Drakes Estero, the more outrageously deceptive the Lunny’s claims are shown to be. I agree with you, that without intensely hypocritical power politics in local government and from Senator Feinstein, they never could have taken us all for this horrendously expensive ride. Follow the money back to big industry players dedicated to privatizing all public resources.

            I have spoken eye-to-eye with Kevin Lunny and can report my observation that he is skilled at twisting the facts beyond recognition (some call that lying) at will, to your face, without blinking. Opposing that is my motivation. Kevin’s techniques are phenomenal. He’s fooled many sensible folks. Like many highly paid contractors he’s probably had lots of experience shifting blame while boosting the bottom line – the main concern is cashing the check and avoiding culpability.

          • RonKeffer

            Twist the facts, write you own version. It is in print

    • RonKeffer

      I hope you are right, however the politicians seem to always side swipe the laws and continue to mis inform the public without penalty.

      It is really to bad our government has takes such control of us citizens, we have become sheep. The tables will turn, and I hope I am around to not only witness their demise, but to be able to participate as well.

    • O’Brian

      The simple argument of “the lease is over, end of the story” was a shoe-in because it was and is, the law. That argument is enough, and I am very grateful to live in a part of this world where that matters.

  • Ɠ⊙иƶǾдҡĿдиɗ

    Interesting how commenters are so quick to put the Lunnys into a conspiracy theory.

    Do people know that Amy Trainer of the West Marin Environmental Action Committee, mentioned above, was recruited from out of state by a bunch of wealthy Marin folks? She’s a mercenary, hired by rich people.

    • Conservationist

      The only “conspiracy theory” being whipped up in this affair is Phyllis Faber’s belief the lease ending is somehow part of what she calls a “Grand Plan” to drive agriculture out of Marin and Sonoma Counties. Marin County needs to wake up before they find MALT dismantled.

      • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

        Remove the oyster farm and its oysters (remember them? the filter feeders of the estero – what keeps the estero waters pristine) and then people will say that the run-off from the surrounding ranches is now polluting the once pristine estero. No EIS, no EIR, no NEPA, no community input, NOTHING more will be needed to oust the dairies and ranchers! Open your eyes, read what is actually happening, and get a sense of the reality to come: Its ‘Reyes-Land’, stolen from the farmers and given to the wealthy. No more pesky local, sustainable, renewable, ecologically and economically beneficial production of food in Point Reyes! Think global, turn Benedict Arnold on the local!

        • Conservationist

          Jane, It is presumptuous to assume the few shellfish there are what keep the “waters pristine.” The non-renewal is not part of Phyllis Faber’s “Grand Plan” conspiracy to end agriculture in Marin and Sonoma Counties. The more you and she repeat it the more credibility you lose. It’s about the end of a lease and the return of land to all the citizens of the US. And if you really want to get into who Point Reyes was stolen from ask the Miwok what they think.

          • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

            Again, why continue to argue attempt to argue from a position of ignorance when you can read the scientific reports and investigations yourself at http://www.OysterZone.ORG

          • Conservationist

            Jane, Respectfully, your site has been spoon fed information which is relevant to your position. I accept that and so should everyone else. The issue of whether Kevin Lunny negotiated a contract and whether the terms of that contract were reasonable and if those terms are being met will be decided in court, not on your blog nor here. Let’s see what the final outcome of the court decision is.

          • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

            Conservationist, Respectfully, I have posted actual documents which present the facts rather than opine without evidence.

          • Conservationist

            Jane, Your documents support a world you created and chose to believe in. It’s your choice. But the issue is, at its core, a contract. As noted elsewhere, science can always be questioned – and it should be. Contract law is very different.

          • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

            Starting in reverse order:
            1) What contract? What deal? Contract law requires contracts. Show me the contract!
            2) Science in general can be questioned and should be questioned and in this case has been questioned. The troubling aspect of this particular case is there is NOTHING to support any of the PRNS’s claims. In some cases, the documentation stated the opposite of their claims, in other cases, the documentation did not exist to support their claims and in nearly 300,000 cases – the color photographs taken once a minute, every minute for twelve hours a day over the three month pupping season for four years PROVE the opposite of their claims. We’re not talking science as in quantum physics, we are talking about high school science, observe, record, state. And, since this is about science, reputable scientists do not refuse to share their data or require FOIA requests or a Senator’s (Feinstein) intervention to provide data.
            3) The documents on my blog are the ACTUAL scientific reports and investigations, the ACTUAL legal filings, for all to read and from which to make an informed decision. I did not create this world, I merely present the ACTUAL FACTS, as a reference library for those with an open enough mind to discover the truth. You can ignore the facts, be an ostrich, and bury your head in sand or, you can question both sides AND SEEK ANSWERS. It is all there for anyone with the desire to find out for his or herself.


        • Bruce

          So you’re saying that Kevin Lunny is in the business of selling downstream filters for ranches and Dairies? Somehow I don’t think this would make great copy for the oyster business. It does, however illustrate how Kevin Lunny is willing to sell even his fellow ranchers down the river (so to speak) in order to attain his goal: running a multimillion dollar oyster business in a national park for less than the cost of a camp site .

          • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

            How you do twist things around to come up with such convoluted arguments and attempt to distract from the real issues!

            Go to OysterZone.ORG and read about oysters as filter feeders if you want to know more.

            The Point Reyes National Seashore is a SEASHORE, not a “Park”.

            Ah, so you want to demonize success and at the same time you show don’t know the difference between Gross and NET profit. there is a difference, net is what is LEFT AFTER PAYING EXPENSES.

            What DBOC pays for the lease is what was agreed to by all parties when he took over the operations.

          • Bruce

            They also agreed that Kevin Lunny would leave in 2012 at the end of his Right of Use and Occupancy. I don’t resent the good deal Kevin got for the last seven years, I just don’t want to continue subsidizing a well off rancher and paving contractor and I’c like to see the estero free of his proprietary tenure. I’m not anti business, but this is a national park not a business park.

    • Bruce

      Rich people come in two flavors, those that only want more and those that can afford to tell the truth. Thankfully, several of the latter were there at the formation of Point Reyes National Seashore. I don’t think Amy Trainer aspires to be one of those rich people, I think Kevin Lunny does. Any one who would do what he has done to this community for his own economic gain does not deserve to have the name of Wendell Berry invoked in his behalf.

  • Ɠ⊙иƶǾдҡĿдиɗ

    A lot of lies by anti-Oyster Farm folks are documented in this piece. Thanks for that.

    And thanks for calling out Robert Gammon of the East Bay Express for his use of conspiracist guilt-by-association smears. That is something he does all the time locally in his provincial alt-weekly, so it’s nice to see him taken to task by a respected national magazine with liberal cred like Harper’s.

    • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org


  • Mary Lawson

    Bravo to Michael Ames for authoring such an informed report! After reading hundreds of articles citing inaccurate data, I was very grateful that THIS WRITER was spot on with the facts. Pass this one to all you know……!

  • Point Reyes local

    As one who has direct knowledge of this issue, I’m amazed to see how many errors are reported as truth! As a subscriber to Harper’s, I will certainly take a more skeptical attitude about the magazine from now on.

    The misstatements and false innuendos in the piece are too numerous to itemize. Suffice it to point out that when Mr. Lunny bought the last 7 years of the original owner’s 40-year use agreement in 2005, he signed several documents promising the Park Service he would vacate in 2012. Instead of preparing to wind down, he greatly expanded the operation and hired PR professionals to attack the Park, create a false narrative about “fraud” and pull political strings.

    Commercial enterprises like the oyster company and motorboats are both flatly prohibited in Congressionally-designated wilderness areas such as Drake’s Estero. The issue has national ramifications because mining interests, energy extraction companies and other businesses would like nothing better than to exploit public lands for their own profit– see, for example, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Hence the interest of pro-business groups and right-wing politicians.

    Instead of pointing the finger elsewhere and portraying itself as a victim, the oyster company should take responsibility for its own actions. If its case against the Park Service is allowed to proceed, it should immediately comply with orders issued by the California Coastal Commission (and more recently a state court) to halt the spread of a destructive non-native invertebrate known as “marine vomit, ” clean up plastic debris and stay out of areas reserved for breeding harbor seals.

    Bottom line: If this private enterprise is allowed to continue operating past the expiration of its use permit in a federal wilderness area and national park, a dangerous precedent wilderness area will have been set. Kudos to Secretary Salazar for standing up to the hype!

    • sarahrolph

      Please tell us your name and the source of your direct knowledge of this issue.
      Your facts are incorrect.

    • y_p_w

      Lunny was asked to sign documents stating that he wouldn’t attempt to to renew as a condition of getting several permits that Johnsons Oyster had failed to get. He refused to sign them and Senator Feinstein intervened to help get those permits in place.

      As for wilderness designation – there are the Yosemite High Sierra camps with permanent buildings, helicopter landings (to haul out waste), cooking facilities, etc. They are in potential wilderness and remain so indefinitely. Drakes Estero is potential wilderness, and I’ve seen nothing in the establishing legislation that set a timetable for the conversion to a full wilderness designation.

  • invernessnative

    As a matter of policy, I think wanting the oyster farm to stay in the Point Reyes National Seashore is a fair position to take. To continue to claim that the Park has been targeting DBOC improperly and using bad science is not entirely accurate and is not taking a comprehensive look at the record, in my opinion. The Park scientists have been cleared by the Marine Mammal Commission’s independent report and the Inspector General’s Report (more than once, I believe). Corey Goodman’s statistical analyses have been called into question by the same reports. Also, no mention of the California Coastal Commission’s cease and desist order issued to DBOC for recurring and serious violations.

    • sarahrolph

      The Park Service was not cleared by the MMC’s report (despite one sentence in the executive summary that tries to make it sound as if it had). Read Appendix F, which includes the actual reports from the seal scientists who reviewed the infamous Becker paper (the NPS document that falsely claims to have found a correlation between oyster farming and disturbance of seals). As you can see for yourself, every single seal scientist reported, some in great detail, that there is no evidence whatsoever of disturbance (much less harm) to seals.

      It’s well known that the estero is home to so many Harbor seals that it is reaching its carrying capacity.
      The Park Service is absolutely continuing to target DBOC improperly and continuing to use bad science. Look no further than that fabric of lies the EIS document. Park Service head Jon Jarvis claims it doesn’t matter that the document is full of lies, since it wasn’t officially used as the basis for Salazar’s decision not to renew (this is Jarvis’s defense against the many Data Qualty Act complaints that have been filed against this false science–the Jarvis Doctrine holds that truth only matters in certain cases). Yet lawyers for the Park Service continue to argue in court that this fraudulent document is proof that the oyster farm’s continuation is not in the public interest. They are trying to have it both ways. There is a long history of this switching back and forth–when the false science is criticized, they say that’s beside the point, it’s really a legal issue; when the legal argument falls apart, they say, well it’s really an environmental issue. They have done this over and over again.
      There have been several IG reports and most of them criticize the Park Service. The only one that didn’t is itself the subject of a complaint; sadly, Interior’s IGs are as politicized as the rest of the department.
      Dr. Goodman’s statistics were falsely called into question by the MMC report, but there has never been a valid criticism of Goodman’s scientific findings.
      The Coastal Commission orders are not based on the facts. The “violations” are not recurring or serious, they are fictional. Do you have some evidence to the contrary?

      • y_p_w

        The Coastal Commission doesn’t even have jurisdiction over the use of the water, but they’ve constantly either (without permission) acted on behalf of Fish and Game Commission or asserted jurisdiction over issues where they have no authority.

        And in the meantime they allow monstrosities such as Sean Parker’s wedding in Big Sur in violation of way too many regulations. I guess if you toss $2.5 million at some of their pet projects, then they’ll back off.

  • Bruce

    I just spent the last two Saturdays on KSCO radio Santa Cruz (Two hours each session) debating Kevin Lunny and one of his ardent supporters, Cory Goodman.

    I want to be clear about this: I do not represent nor do I belong to any environmental organization. I’m not even a particularly good debater. I speak only for myself. I grew up in West Marin and I currently live here..

    If this article wasn’t actually written by, Kevin Lunny’s big time PR firm, Sam Singer, it could have been, Invoking the name of Wendell Berry in the name of this operation is ludicrous. Kevin Lunny was informed before he purchased the business, seven years ago, (which was literally dead in the water), that the park was not going to renew the “Right of Use and Occupancy” (RUO) after 2012. Don’t take my word for this you can get the podcast from 7/20/2013 KSCO Santa Cruz and hear it in Kevin’s own words.

    The park has owned this land for forty years, predating Lunny’s stewardship by over three decades. It was declared future wilderness in 1974. The author pretends to expose some devious plan by environmentalists to claim it is the ‘first’ coastal wilderness by saying that Limantour Estero n is already wilderness is a distinction that is petty at best, both of these estuaries are in the same park and part the same ecosystem, the fact that Limantour Estero was first only underscores the reasons why Drakes Estero should follow; both of these estuaries were slated for wilderness in 1974.

    This is the kind of trivia that PR firms and the merchants of doubt thrive on.

    Mr Lunny is running a multimillion dollar business fifteeen miles into a national park and pays the park less per day to lease five acres with a house, 1140 acres of tide land than you would pay to camp in the park. He is currently under a unanimous cease and desist order, from the California Coastal Commission for numerous and longstanding environmental violations. This included the vote of the chairman of that commission, Steve Kinsey, the supervisor responsible for bringing Cory Goodman on board.

    Much is made of the pro bono legal help Lunny has gotten. But when you pull back the flannel curtain you wont find a bake sale and a five dollar car wash, but men in three piece suits and law firms that specialize in weakening federal land use policies— guess its just a coincidence, huh?

    One of the reasons the author had trouble getting people to talk on the record is that a lot of West Marin people feel intimidated by the Lunny faction. Kevin Lunny started out on a PR trajectory form the day he bought this business and he’s been very good at establishing fealty to his business interests as a litmus test for being local. He has children hand lettering signs for “our” oyster farm. I’m waiting for my check in the mail. The park has been outmaneuvered by slick PR The vaunted free press in West Marin has been taken over by his sycophantic minions. In the two letters I’ve been able to sneak into the local press I’ve had several responses, one a two page letter from a couple in Inverness, who thanked me and said that they’ve been made to feel like pariahs in their own community for voicing opposition to this operation. Both letters garnered a side bar apology by the editor and a response from Kevin Lunny. the second one had a side bar falsely claiming that I hadn’t submitted the data to substantiate my claims in time for press when in fact I had submitted eight pages of documentation within the time set out by the editor himself. It took three weeks for the owner of the West Marin Citizen to give a left handed explanation of what happened.

    The epicurean appreciation of oysters as a measure of of environmental commitment to wilderness is down on the list far below whale watching , Alice Waters can easily get her oysters from Tomales Bay, and no, we wont have to go to South Korea to get oysters, Humboldt Bay in Eureka California has surplus tideland available for oyster farming,

    Ken Salazar was right, we don’t have to turn a national park into a business park.

    The only real issue here hinges on a simple question, how much money and influence does it take to change the word “may” in a contract to “shall”?

  • Ex-Oyster Worker

    There are a number of inaccuracies in this very slanted piece. first
    it is implied the the ranching community approached the environmental
    community to lobby for the Park. The opposite is the case. The piece
    fails to mention the fact that the Lunnys knew the lease was to expire.
    And most egregious is to lead the reader to believe that the Limantour
    Estero is a separate body of water; Limantour Estero is part of the
    greater Drakes Bay Estero, they share the same exit to the sea.
    Limantour Estero is already wilderness because unlike Drakes Estero it
    has no non conforming use. The non conforming use in Drakes Estero is
    the oyster company.This issue is very complex and of interest without distorting the facts. And the other point of view is worthy of being told.

    • G

      If the “most egregious” error is the lack of distinction between Limantour and Drake’s, then that can only be a good thing for DBOC. Because, honestly, who cares about these geographical details? What does it matter, proving someone was right or wrong on some point that doesn’t have the slightest thing to do with the fate of DBOC itself?

  • Bruce (sans typos, I hope.)

    I’ve just spent the last two Saturdays on KSCO radio Santa Cruz (Two hours each session) debating Kevin Lunny and one of his ardent supporters, Cory Goodman.

    I want to be clear about this: I do not represent, nor do I belong to any environmental organization. I’m not even a particularly good debater. I speak only for myself. I grew up in West Marin and I currently live here, that’s my credential.

    If this article wasn’t actually written by Kevin Lunny’s big time PR firm, run by Sam Singer, it could have been, Invoking the name of Wendell Berry in the name of this operation is ludicrous. Kevin Lunny was informed before he purchased the business, (which was literally dead in the water) seven years ago, that the park was not going to renew the “Right of Use and Occupancy” (RUO) after 2012. He could have walked away , no one was holding a gun to his head, Don’t take my word for this, you can get the podcast from 7/20/2013 KSCO Santa Cruz and hear it in Kevin’s own words.

    Some might like to know ant besides being a rancher, Kevin is a paving contractor, and while not necessarily being an indictment, it might require a softer focus on the Wendell Berry lens. Further, the park has owned this land for forty years, predating Lunny’s seven year stewardship by over three decades. It was declared future wilderness in 1974. The author pretends to expose some devious plan by environmentalists to claim it will be the ‘first’ coastal wilderness by saying that Limantour Estero is already wilderness This is a distinction that is petty at best. Both of these estuaries are in the same park and part the same ecosystem, the fact that Limantour Estero precedes Drakes Estero pnly underscores why Drakes Estero should follow; again both of these estuaries were slated for wilderness in 1974.

    This is the kind of trivia that PR firms and the merchants of doubt thrive on. By converting this argument into a scientific showdown, endless perseveration might just change the words ‘may renew’ in the crucial contract to ‘shall renew’.

    Mr Lunny is running a multimillion dollar business fifteen miles into a national park, leasing five acres with a house and 1140 acres of tide land for less than you would pay to camp in that park. He is currently under a unanimous cease and desist order from the California Coastal Commission for numerous and longstanding environmental violations. This included the vote of the chairman of that commission, Steve Kinsey, the supervisor responsible for bringing Cory Goodman (uncritically quoted in the article) on board.

    Much is made of the “pro bono” legal help Lunny has gotten. However, when you pull back the flannel curtain you wont find a bake sale and a five dollar car wash, but men in three piece suits and law firms that specialize in weakening federal land use policies— guess its just a coincidence, huh? If you can fracture the environmental community in West Marin, imagine what you can do in West Virginia.

    One of the reasons the author had trouble getting people to talk on the record is that a lot of West Marin people feel intimidated by the Lunny faction. Kevin Lunny started out on a PR trajectory from the day he bought this business and he’s been very good at establishing fealty to his business interests as a litmus test for being ‘local’. He has children hand lettering signs for “our” oyster farm. I’ve been waiting for my check in the mail. The park has been outmaneuvered by slick PR. The vaunted free press in West Marin has been taken over by his sycophantic minions. In the two letters I’ve been able to sneak into the local press I’ve had several responses, one a two page letter from a couple in Inverness, who thanked me and said that they’ve been made to feel like pariahs in their own community for voicing opposition to this operation, another form a woman who recently moved here and likes Kevin Lunny but is skeptical of his oyster farm. Both of my letters garnered side bar apologies to Kevin Lunny by the editor and a response from Kevin Lunny, also in the sidebar. The second one had a side bar falsely claiming that I hadn’t submitted the data to substantiate my claims in time for press when in fact I had submitted eight pages of documentation within the time set out by the editor himself. It took three weeks for the owner of the West Marin Citizen to give a left handed explanation of what happened.

    The epicurean appreciation of oysters as a measure of environmental commitment to wilderness is quite a ways down on the list, far below whale watching, Alice Waters can easily get her oysters from Tomales Bay. And no, we wont have to go to South Korea should there be an emergency oyster shortage, Humboldt Bay in Eureka California has surplus tideland and newly developed infrastructure available for oyster farming,

    Ken Salazar was right, we don’t have to turn a national park into a business park.

    The only real issue here hinges on a simple question, how much money and influence does it take to change the words “may renew “to “shall renew” a contract signed in 1972? In a country that transmuted money into free speech, this should be no problem at all.


    Share ›

    • y_p_w

      He’s a paving contractor? I heard he had a minority interest in the family business, but I thought his father pretty much ran that business.

      And the Point Reyes Wilderness Act was in 1976.

  • invernessnative

    It’s ironic that Michael Ames cites the environmental lobby’s “casual regard for facts” when making a glaring factual misrepresentation himself. Anyone with google maps can take a look for herself. Limanour Estero is a part of Drakes Estero. It is simply a finger on the same estuary; as another commenter pointed out they share the same exit to Drake’s Bay. Check your facts, Harpers. This is disappointing.,Drakes+Estero&gl=us&ei=pcL3UYm3LsmriALQjoC4Aw&ved=0CCwQ8gEwAA

  • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

    To all who think they know what they are talking about,
    1. Go to http://www.OysterZone.ORG
    2. Read the documents posted under the title “Scientific Reports & Investigations”.

    You will discover that the facts are on the side of Drakes Bay Oyster Company and that Ames and Harper’s got it right.

    The Environmental Action Committee along with their Executive Director, Amy Trainer, has been particularly active in its campaign to oust the oyster farm and has been DISCREDITED (see: ). Here is an excerpt from the article:

    Recently, Amy Trainer, Director
    of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, has been exposed
    in a series of false statements against Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Trainer
    has issued a series of false news releases and made statements regarding
    the scientific evidence about the benefits of oyster farming. She and
    the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, were also behind the
    false statements that the DBOC was being funded by the conservative Koch
    brothers. It has been proven there was no tie or link between the Koch
    brothers and DBOC and Trainer and her environmental group have been

    You might think twice before writing your next annual donation check to the likes of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, National Parks Conservation Association and the EAC!

    • Conservationist

      Those reading the oysterzone post might consider this. The article referred to, part of which is copied, is taken from the San Francisco Sentinel. It is owned by Phil Siegel, associate of Sam Singer who is Drakes Bay’s professional PR representative. Sam Singer was, at one time, reported to have paid $20,000 for publication rights on the Sentinel website. Phil Siegel, who also owns PR firm MediaWorks SF, noted in an article about his purchase of the Sentinel, that “It won’t be much on the hard news side.” The article in the Sentinel declared the court decision requiring Drakes Bay to clean up its mess a “major victory” for Drakes, a declaration only they made, repeated on the oysterzone site and on the Drakes Bay Facebook site, and which Drakes Bay is now appealing. It does not make incorrect statements correct, but it does point out how tightly some are tied to each other in this affair.

    • Bruce

      Then why did ’cause of action’ become such a burden that Kevin Lunny had to jettison its legal help? Dan Epstien, its leader worked for the Koch Bros, as he worked for Daryl Issa. To my knowledge no one made a claim beyond this fact. The Pacific Legal Foundation another Lunny supporter also promotes the private use of public land. David Vitter attached a pro DBOC rider to his Keystone pipeline bill. ‘Drill baby drill” is not the call of the wild. The Republican agenda doesn’t play very well in Point Reyes so it became inconvenient to keep them on. Presenting this as a just cause and creating the division in West Marin that this has brought about, all for the personal benefit of the Lunnys is beneath contempt in my opinion.

      • www_dot_oysterzone_dot_org

        Ah, the Koch Brothers Connection Conspiracy etc., ad nauseum again! When will you and your ilk learn to stick with the actual issues, such as Scientific Integrity, Fact, and Truth?

        There are people in the world like me who learned to “Question Authority” and are willing to investigate, read the scientific reports and investigations as well as legal documents and them make them available to all to read (via http://www.OysterZone.ORG) and then there are those whom George Orwell wrote about in his book titled “Animal Farm” – they who wish to rewrite history to suit their agenda.

        Senator Dianne Feinstein — You remember her and the FACT that she is a DEMOCRAT — saw through the NPS and PRNS from the beginning and has been championing the cause for this local, sustainable, renewable, ecologically beneficial, source of Super Green Food Production and jobs for 31 persons plus housing for half of the employees and their families since 2007.

        • Conservationist

          Jane, It was Phyllis Faber becoming “disturbed” and realizing she “had been misled about the group’s [Cause of Action] mission and intentions” (quotes from Corey Goodman’s Point Reyes Light newspaper) followed by the DB’s suddenly dropping them – after their having spent hundreds of thousands in legal work – that made the Koch brothers such a big issue. You and others at DB continue to do so. It’s time to move on.

        • Bruce

          She also sponsored the bill that empowered Ken Salazar to do the right thing, which he did. Speaking of rewriting history…

  • Anne O’Leary

    Bravo to Harper’s for a fair and careful article. I confess to having let our Harper’s subscription lapse a few months back. Now my husband and I are scurrying to pick up a hard copy at a bookstore, and we’ve learned our lesson.

    The vitriol in many of the critical comments thus far seems increasingly desperate. The overwhelming majority of the Point Reyes community supports DBOC, and understands the dirty tricks the NPS has employed and the taxpayer dollars wasted trying to gather evidence against the Lunnys. The organizations that – inexplicably – refuse to abandon this cause resort to red herrings, throwing out “right wing conspiracy” charges and raising the specter of Koch Brothers involvement. These tactics won’t change scientific facts.

    • Bruce

      And false claims of false science wont change the word ‘may’ to ‘shall ‘ in a contract either.

    • O’Brian

      Who paid for the appeals and will pay for any further appeals? Sourcing out the outside legal funding only makes sense, and where it has lead is important and of interest. There are scientific facts, and there is law, and the 9th Circuit is populated with specialists in the law. The law does not care that the Point Reyes “community”, who I will assume is the population of full-time residents of Point Reyes as opposed to park visitors and the public in general, believes that they have proprietary rights to land that is not theirs. It is the Lunnys that have wasted our taxpayer dollars with their well-funded appeals and back door deals.
      Your assumptions regarding the citizens of West Marin and what they think – at the grocery store, the post office, or in church, may not warrant smugness. And keep in mind the possibility that not all of the parents, extended families and neighbors of those children paraded before the politicians and the media on those mandatory tours of the oyster farm think this has been forgivable opportunism and strong arming. Keeping the peace is of the utmost import, but don’t kid yourself about overwhelming majorities of support in what was possibly once a community where a sense of shared space was celebrated. At least I believe it was, and will be again.

  • Bruce

    This article is Fox News all the way. It is depressing to see the journalistic depths this magazine has fallen to. Kevin Lunny acknowledged to me in a debate,
    that he was notified during escrow, before he bought the business that the park
    was not going to renew his Right of Use and Occupancy. He could have walked away;no one was holding a gun to his head. It was his ‘hope’ that they could get
    that changed. What we are seeing here is an attempt to change with expensive
    lawyering and PR what was clear from the beginning. And the PR is relentless in
    West Marin—from the local, one sided press, to morning coffee, to hand
    lettered signs saying “Save our Oyster Farm” strewn around the countryside. Lunny
    cleverly set this up as a cause, and a litmus test for being ‘local’ and was
    way out in front of the park getting his message out. It is no coincidence that
    the legal firms and foundations that back him with ‘pro-bono’ legal help are
    right wing, and advocates of private use of public lands. Here’s something to
    think about: to occupy and run a multi-million dollar business on five acres
    with a house and an 1140 acre tideland lease, Kevin Lunny pays at a rate that
    is less than you would pay for an overnight camp site in the park. During this
    debate, I asked him, “If you were to prevail in this fight, would you be
    willing to have the running of the oyster farm put out to bid?” He explained
    that, no, ‘the park never puts these leases out to bid’. It is interesting that
    he has such faith that this villainous adversary, the Point Reyes National Sea
    Shore, would surely cede the business to him. But it is not surprising, deep
    down Kevin knows, as the other ranchers know, that the park is honest and
    predictable, he just didn’t like the clear message he received seven years ago.

    For those of you awaiting your check in the mail from ‘our’ oyster farm, maybe you could direct your inquiries to Sam Singer, owner of the Bay Areas largest PR firm

  • Ex-Oyster Worker

    Check out today’s ( Aug 1 ) Marin Independent Journal, in the Main Voice opinion section is a good piece by College of Marin Biology Professor, Joe Mueller

  • VHanson

    Those innocently led astray by such DBOC-generated spin as this article relies on, “Landowners received long-term leases, renewable for generations.” need only check the original legislation: Public Law 87-657 13Sep1962 “Sec6(a) “Any owner…of improved property on the date of its acquisition by the Secretary may, as a condition to such acquisition, retain the right of use and occupancy of the improved property for noncommercial residential purposed for a term of fifty years.” (1962+50=2012. JohnsonOyster got a 40-year RUO in 1972 (1972+40=2012). The Lunny family have NEVER been landowners on Point Reyes – their ranch was originally leased from RCA, then from the Seashore. This family certainly has had the wherewithal to buy ranchland, but clearly prefers the benefits of bargain-rate rental from the US government their allies love to hate. They bought JohnosnOyster’s stock and 8-year leasehold, for a mere $260K. The rental fees they pay for a monopoly on over 1,000 acres of OUR most magnificent seascape (with house, trailers and a multi-million-dollar income) costs less than $10,000 per year. That’s less than the per-diem cost of a campsite! How is it that the agenda of those with the most direct profit motive remain unquestioned, while conscientious scientists, advocates for a clean environment, and all of us appalled by this intellectual retro-virus – using reality-show tactics to undermine law and science are attacked? See if you recognize the anti-regulatory abuses documented in “Merchants of Doubt.” Deny, Delay, Defy is the 3-D strategy keeping scofflaws like DBOC afloat.

  • Sean Scully

    Nothing is mentioned about the benefits of having the oyster aquaculture in the bay. 1 million fully grown oysters will filter 55 million gallons of water a day.

    • Bruce

      Sean, the Pacific Ocean was doing a pretty good job before the shellfish industry came along.

      • Sean Scully

        Yes, Bruce nature was doing a fantastic job before man came along and raped the waters, polluted the environment, and brought in foreign diseases. I don’t dispute that at all, but we have to deal with today’s reality and not yesterday’s natural utopia.

        Efforts must be made to figure out a way to reintroduce a healthy Olympia oyster population, but that isn’t going to happen without the help of man and in the interim the oyster beds of the Drake Bay oyster company provide needed reef structure for crabs, fish and eels, as well as filtering of the waters itself.

        I raise oysters for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and it is amazing to see all the creatures using the oysters as protection from predators. I’ve seen glass shrimp, eels, minnows, crabs, and all sorts of different worms. Next weekend I get to bring them to an oyster round up where they will be placed on restored oyster beds.

        • Conservationist

          What do all those crabs/fish/eels etc. do when “home” is removed at harvesting? This commercial operation has little to do with restoration and everything to do with making money. Let’s be real. We’re not talking about “oyster beds” nor are we talking about Chesapeake Bay, which really is messed up. Drakes Estero is on the other side of the coast whose adjacent uplands are virtually undeveloped. Is Inverness the same as Trenton, New Jersey?

          • Sean Scully

            The home is there for a couple of years since most oysters take that long to reach market size. The fish and crabs use it the artificial oyster reefs for protection until they are large enough to ‘make’ it without the protection; which is less than a year.

            I never said the oyster operation had to do with restoration, just that until restoration is done, the commercial operation provides numerous benefits, including water filtration.

            I grow oysters in cages to help reseed the Chesapeake Bay, so I know what I am talking about, all you seem to know is that the Chesapeake Bay is on the Atlantic and Drakes Estero is on the Pacific.

            The Chesapeake Bay has many problems, but comparing the largest estuary in the US to Drakes Estero is not fair and virtually meaningless since the Chesapeake Bay has sections more pristine then Drakes Estero is currently.

          • Conservationist

            This is not supportable on two levels. The first is believing temporary “structures” are beneficial and the second that the Estero’s waters need filtering. An artificial marine ecosystem (of non-native species, no less) is being created then destroyed at harvest, along with anything using the “structure” to survive, every one to two years. Secondly, Drakes Estero’s waters, and those making up the rest of the Point Reyes Shoreline Wilderness, have not been proven to need any sort of “filtering”.
            Whether Chesapeake Bay has parts more “pristine” than Drakes Estero may be true. I think everyone would love to know where. On the bigger picture, as you apparently know, it’s a mess. But oysters aren’t going to fix it. Regulating upland runoff will which oysters will benefit from. Not the other way around.

          • Sean Scully

            Why can’t temporary structures be beneficial? You make a statement of fact with no basis in reality. I grow oysters in temporary structures and those temporary structures provide sanctuary for growing fish and crabs, along with thousands of other forms of life.

            You make Drakes Estero sound like it has been untouched by man and faces none of the problems, yet at the same time environmentalists are fighting against the runoff and pollution that is currently occurring. So you are saying that those environmentalist are liars and that everything, other than the oyster farm is honkey dorey in the estuary? There is no pollution being brought in from the waters of the San Francisco Bay?

            Yes, the Chesapeake Bay is a mess. The oyster population is currently between 1 and 2 percent of the historic totals. Oysters can’t fix the problem, but they can help fix the problem.

  • y_p_w

    Kind of late to the discussion, but I’d note that I’ve researched the situation with the ranches at Point Reyes.

    The issue wasn’t as simple as landowners selling out the National Park Service. Many (if not most) of the ranches at Point Reyes were run by tenant farmers. It would have been easy enough for the ranchers who wanted to stay put not to sell out to the development interests, but many of the actual landowners had no such sentimental thoughts about cattle ranching and dairy farming. The establishment of a national seashore was their way of maintaining the ranches. NPS was able to use the threat of eminent domain to get the landowners to sell. The ranchers who owned their own land had an incentive to go along if they got to lease it back, and I’m thinking that not having to pay property taxes sweetened the deal. However, the real deal was supposedly that the entire West Marin dairy industry relied on processing facilities used by dozens of different dairy farms. They needed a certain amount of “critical mass” in order to operate profitably. The rest of the West Marin dairy interests wanted to keep enough fellow dairy ranchers there to maintain capacity at these processing facilities.

    As for the old Johnsons Oyster, it was still considered an inholding at the time Point Reyes NS opened, owned free and clear by Charlie Johnson. It was purchased after the fact. I’ve read comments by Charlie Johnson’s daughter that suggest that he pretty much had to sell because they would have otherwise bought it out via eminent domain. The offer he took from NPS came with the 40 year RUO, and the superintendent said that it would likely have been renewed (the terms allowed for a renewal). If he didn’t take the offer, with eminent domain he probably doesn’t get the leaseback agreement and he’s out of business.

    The other issue is that the reservation of use was only for a few acres of dry land. The water bottoms are leased from the California Fish and Game Commission, and the terms are rather convoluted because of all the jurisdictional issues with the land-based operations.

  • Mister Wu

    At risk is about 40% of California local oyster production. With contamination of the Louisiana gulf by BP why would we want to loss that? Oysters are a high value source of many essential nutrients such as omega 3, copper, zinc and selenium.

  • O’Brian

    Perhaps at the heart of this conflict is the notion of the previously agreed upon, voted upon, understood and concisely described common good versus the good of a handful of individuals. It’s not called Point Reyes NATIONAL Seashore for nothing. Some of this land is our land. Some of these lagoons are our lagoons.

  • Mel

    July 1, 2014.
    Perhaps this form of journalism has emboldened someone who thinks he is above the law, Mr. Ames, and it has proved as unflattering as shoddy science. Please consult a lawyer the next time you try to comprehend a story that is about contracts.



October 2015

Lives by Omission

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Lifting as We Climb

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Cattle Calls

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Getting Jobbed

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Residence on Earth·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It would be nice to get through this review without recourse to the term ‘writer’s writer.’ The thing is, in the case of Joy Williams, I have seen the cliché made flesh.”
Illustration by Steven Dana
Pakistan in Miniatures·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Miniatures originated in Persia and were brought to the Indian subcontinent when the Mughals conquered it in the sixteenth century. They could take on almost any subject: landscapes or portraits; stories of love, war, or play.”
Painting by by Imran Qureshi.
Cattle Calls·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The business of being a country veterinarian is increasingly precarious. The heartland has been emptying of large-animal vets for at least two decades, as agribusiness changed the employment picture and people left the region.”
Photograph by Lance Rosenfield
Getting Jobbed·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Rosie and her husband had burned through their small savings in the first few months after she lost her job. Now their family of five relied on his minimum-wage paychecks, plus Rosie’s unemployment and food stamps, which, combined, brought them to around $2,000 per month, just above the poverty line.”
Illustrations by Taylor Callery
Lifting as We Climb·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“They never suggested that these circumstances were just; to the contrary, they resented them and abhorred the prejudice and discrimination that littered with dangerous booby traps the pathways trod by their beloved children.”
Photograph © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

Percentage change in applications for Virginia concealed-handgun permits in the year of the Virginia Tech shootings:


A Colorado woman was jailed for falsely claiming that her son is a genius.

A Florida man was charged with a felony after allegedly stealing a metal spoon worth $1.12 from a Walmart so that he could eat his Cap’n Crunch.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today