UPDATE 11:07 a.m. Dec. 4: The owners of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. have filed a lawsuit alleging that the government did not follow proper procedures in making its decision not to renew the farm’s lease. Learn more here.

Original story:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — An historic Northern California oyster farm along Point Reyes National Seashore will be shut down and the site converted to a wilderness area, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced on Thursday.

Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Salazar said he will not renew the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. lease that expires Friday. The move will bring a close to a yearslong environmental battle over the site.

“After careful consideration of the applicable law and policy, I have directed the National Park Service to allow the permit for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to expire … and to return the Drakes Estero to the state of wilderness that Congress designated for it in 1976,” Salazar said in a statement.

Salazar visited the oyster farm last week and said he did not make the decision lightly.

Point Reyes National Seashore was added to the national parks system by Congress in 1962, and protects more than 80 miles of California coastline.

The Interior secretary also has the power to lease the park’s lands for dairy and cattle-ranching purposes. Currently there are 15 beef and dairy ranches operating along the Point Reyes seashore. Those ranches will remain open under the decision Thursday.

Oyster farm owner Kevin Lunny, whose family also operates one of the cattle ranches, said he was disappointed by the decision and was still trying to figure out his next move. He had been asking for a 10-year extension of his lease.

“This is going to be devastating to our families, our community and our county,” Lunny said. “This is wrong beyond words in our opinion.”

He said Salazar called to tell him about the decision.

Lunny bought the oyster company in 2004, knowing the lease expired in 2012. But his lawyers felt an extension could be negotiated, so he decided to take on the fight.

The company will have to remove its property from park land and waters within 90 days. Because the lease was set to expire, the company gets no compensation for the decision.

Salazar did not stop all commercial activities in the park. He sought to extend the terms of the cattle ranch leases from 10 to 20 years.

“Ranching operations have a long and important history on the Point Reyes peninsula and will be continued at Point Reyes National Seashore,” he said.

Environmentalists and the National Park Service said the farm’s operations threatened nearby harbor seals and other native species. The area is a key pupping site for the seals.

The oyster farm had many powerful allies who fought vociferously on its behalf. Many hailed the oyster operation as an example of sustainable aquaculture and the local foods movement.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the National Academy of Sciences claimed park officials were trying to get rid of the oyster farm by exaggerating its negative impacts on the environment.

On Thursday, Feinstein said she was extremely disappointed by the decision by Salazar that will put 30 people out of work.

“The National Park Service’s review process has been flawed from the beginning with false and misleading science,” she said in a statement.

To resolve the dispute over the seals, more than $1 million in taxpayer money was spent on environmental assessment studies, according to records. That study was used by Salazar to make his final decision.

California’s other senator, Barbara Boxer, voiced support for Salazar’s choice, saying he made his decision based on science and law.

Conservationists rejoiced at the move, saying it will return one of the few coastal wildernesses in the country to its natural state.

“Protecting Drakes Estero, America’s only West Coast marine wilderness park, will restore health — and hope — for the ocean and for the interests of all of the people of this country,” oceanographer Sylvia Earle said.

Feds Deny Oyster Farm Lease Renewal 4 December,2012KQED News Staff and Wires

  • If the National Academy of Sciences is closed minded in this aspect and being brainwashed by structural business theory, corporate or otherwise, our future looks grim indeed. Kudos to Salazar for playing an important part in the reduction of global warning and saving the environment!

    • Wildfriend

      Amen!!! Well said!!!

    • EM

      Another local food system destroyed. The destruction of this resource will have more of an impact on global warming.

    • dlw

      BS. You clearly don’t know anything about the actual issues.

    • DLW

      I believe in actual science and reason, not political self serving BS. You clearly don’t know anything about the real issues here. It is a tragedy and will lead to further travesties.


        What do transvestites have to do with anything?

    • Animal Spirits

      So you actually think the National Academy of Sciences did NOT act with scientific thought and instead was ‘brainwashed’ by business? The future does look grim indeed.

  • matthewacob

    What a disappointment. When my mother, Sue Jacob, was head of EAC, she would have shared Kevin Lunny’s sentiments exactly- the area was meant to be mixed use.

  • lowellgrad

    I was born and raised in San Francisco. As a child I went to Point Reyes long before it was “federalized”. The “National Seashore” designation made great sense when it included the existing agricultural uses. This notion that it must be returned to some imagined wilderness is so narrow minded as to turn me into a red-neck, right wing mindless Republican! First the PETA people take away our foie gras and now Salazar takes away our oysters. Can chocolate and wine be far behind?

  • Gina

    Further proof that Salazar is a worthless bureaucrat with his head stuck so far up his own… enough said.

  • Oysters are a canary in the coal mine providing continuous natural and scientific monitoring for pristine waters. Secretary Ken Salazar has this decision backwards.


      He’s the one behind the backing of Solyndra. Look at how well that turned out for the local economy.

  • DLW

    FOR SHAME!! It just goes to show that enough loud and arrogant people can force their petty desires on the rest of us. That oyster farm HELPS the ecology, it doesn’t hurt it at all.

    I love wilderness as much as anyone but that area hasn’t been “wilderness” for 200 years.

    This decision is about a few small minded selfish people who want their own way and a so-called Secretary of the Interior who can’t differentiate reality from the loads of blather.

  • A bad decision.

  • Sad…I’ve been going up there from the Bay Area for over 50 years and always loved picking up some oysters. As has been noted, the oyster is the “canary in the coalmine” and one of the best indicators that something is out of whack environmentally. The entire hydroenvironment of Pt. Reyes is one of the healthiest on earth, and there is no impact on harbour, elephant or any other seals that can be pinned on the oyster farm. Furthermore, dozens of people have just lost their jobs, and we’ll be importing oysters from elsewhere on the west coast, and using valuable resources to do it. Greeeeat thinking there, Salazar.

  • knbfarm

    I think some of you are missing the bigger issue. Lunny bought the “farm” five years ago knowing that the lease was going to expire at the end of the month. This has nothing to do with oysters as a food source, or how good they are for the economy, or the environment. Oysters as a food source is B.S. how many people rely on oysters to feed there families? The price he paid for the farm reflected the fact that the business was only viable for five years. He is the one that decided to fight to extended the permit, which forced the government to waist all the money on the EIS and related studies. If the oyster farm is so important why did they give it a 40 year lease? Why didn’t they write it into the law to allow it to exist forever? I’m surprised we have not heard from Lunny’s lawyers about the inevitable law suit which will no doubt cost us taxpayers more money to fight this bozo. Hey I want to start a berry farm in Yosemite do you think Fienstien will help me run a private for profit business on public land?

  • dcsprocket

    This is really bad for the local economy and the park. a lot of people go to Pt.Reyes national seashore for the oysters and to go to the beach and the Light house, whats next close down the visitors center and Drake beach parking lot its right in the middle of the Estero i think some of the environmentalist go to far the ends do not justify the means. i grew up and moved away long before most of the people that want to shut everything down even new were Inverness was,


    Interesting the difference between federal libs and local ones. Even the local libs have to stick up for their constituents. The Feds have no such compunction. Be careful watch you wish for, libs, when you fantasize about that all-powerful state! LOL

  • Jim Spitze

    Salazar is a doctrinaire, purist, dictator. In his mind, what the people want doesn’t count at all. We are going to get more and more of this kind of stuff in the next four years … a nanny government that wants to tell us how to live our lives … and, sadly, now intends to enforce its will upon us.

    • Gina

      UN agenda 21 at work people! That’s what all this BS is about!

  • The local environmental forces that have contributed to the destruction of this wonderful operation have completely lost my support. I have donated money in the past to some of them, but never again. There has to be a balanced voice in all these things, and clearly the people who pushed for this have no sense of balance, and no sense of shame. Well, shame on them, anyway.

  • Pissed off Californian

    just another example of our government supporting our economy! They are just working so hard to create jobs and stimulate the economy….HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. What a joke the govt is…no wonder why we’ve been in a 4 year long recession.

  • CrownPointHomeOwner

    Well, well, well, looks like Norcal “progressives” are reaping what they sow. Centralized power and control is great until they inevitably start taking decisions that you do not agree with. Hopefully the majority of commenters on this blog are realizing that it usually sucks when big government takes over local decisions. Oakland’s marijuana dispensaries will soon go the way of the Pt. Reyes oysters – who cares what the People of California want – after all, Big Brother Washington DC knows better than you.

  • PJP

    I can’t believe they are not concerned about the crap and piss off the local hillsides into the bay vs. the cleansing attributes of the oyster bivalve !

    • dlw

      They are. The oyster farm was a test case to see if they can destroy all the dairies there as well. One excuse being that the cows are (now) polluting the water!!

      Bureaucrat a__ h___s

  • Tim

    Sorry people but you can’t ignore the context. The farms lease was set to expire this year SINCE THE PARK WAS FOUNDED. The owner of the farm at that time agreed to those terms. It was never going to be an issue. Someone bought the farm cheap 10 years ago, knowing that was the deal, but apparrently hoping he could play politics and end up with a bargain. It almost worked, mostly because Feinstein is terrible. But this is the right decision. This isnt the radical new environmental movement destroying tradition, it is simply a contract being fulfilled, despite the sneaky businessman with connections in high places trying to play on Marin county’s love of local, sustainable business.

    • dlw

      According to one of the legislators who wrote the original bill, what you say is not true. The dairies, for example, can remain indefinitely. It isn’t even clear whether the NPS can dictate what becomes of the oyster farm since the state retains management control of coastal waters. Hopefully that lawsuit will prevail.



  • fisherman

    Yet more proof why Feinstein and Boxer are worthless and bad for California. Again more flawed science propagated by the anti’s in this state.

  • mission62

    This decision makes not sense at all. One has to only visit the place to see that the cattle industry is more of a threat than the tiny oyster farm that lies at the very far end of the Estero. The stench from the dairy farm can be smelled for miles in the coastal breeze. It runs off in to the ocean dumping dangerous parasites, artificial hormones and antibiotics use in the dairy industry in to the ocean. The oysters on the other hand are natural to the area, the farm is tiny and only takes up a few hundred yards and as far as I know introduces no foreign chemicals or parasites in to the sea. And the oysters, unless contaminated which would be highly unlikely in this area unless due to the cattle, are much healthier for human consumption. Stupid people have too much power.

  • What can possibly be the rationale for killing 40% of the oyster farming business in California? Our government is trying to convince us to eat the toxic seafood out of the Gulf of Mexico, while killing one of the cleanest food sources on the Pacific. Something stinks and it isn’t the oysters. This is wrong beyond belief.

    If Mr. Salazar wants to protect US waterfront properties from development, his department should put a stop to the rapid development of San Francisco’s waterfront, that is not producing any food and will add to the destruction of the Bay. They should leave the rural areas that are conducting clean food production operation for years alone.

  • Kevinr

    too bad Ken did not spend more time on researching and not basing his decision on the falsified data provided by the NPS at huge cost to us tax payers. Its a long video but very informational with good fact finding and it didn’t cost a million $

  • VishnuoriginallyfromNewOrleans

    Thank you Ken Salazar for making a difficult and honest decision. I enjoy oysters more, eat more oysters, and definitely cook better oysters than probably any of you other commenters. Frankly though, it was time for this business to shut itself down and allow the estuary to return to nature as had been intended by the original designers of the Pt. Reyes National Seashore – to whom we should all feel indebted. The oyster company was extended a very generous lease 40 years ago and the present owner’s decision to purchase it, just a few years back, was either dumb or based on the corrupt idea that he could finagle a political deal with our local Republican, wrapped-in-a-progressive-cloak, Feinstein. May her behind-closed-doors, big business dynasty continue to crumble!

  • It is of utmost importance to shut down this oyster farm in order to restore this part of Point Reyes National Seashore to it’s original habitat, which, as the California coastal Native Americans all know, was a habitat for oysters.

  • Instead of adding, one by one closing, decreasing businesses , decreasing the employed
    staff. How ironic.

  • jefflz

    This was a political decision by Salazar. He needed to placate the Sierra Club zealots who aren’t happy with all the grazing that takes place on public land in the national forests for the benefit ranchers like himself. He also needed to back his own people who were caught out in a sleazy attempt to use falsified study results to show environmental harm by DBOC. Lunny needs to get legal support and file an injunction against closure until other legal action can be taken. There is plenty of support for DBOIC in Marin County despite the actions of the Sierra Club, EAC and Lynn Woolsey, who backed Salazar, and Barbara Boxer who went along with Salazar as well.. Don’t quit Lunnys- keep up the good fight!!

  • Avery St. Clair

    Bad call, Ken. I was once proud to be an NPS volunteer, but peabrained policies like the ones that drove this decision have put me right off. It has long been a particular marvel at Pt. Reyes to see family businesses thrive in harmony with public spaces. With that symbiosis gone we’ll lose much more than we gain. Think again!

  • Jane Lake

    Now that he’s beaten back the big oyster threat, maybe Mr. Salazar can turn his attention to the man-made environmental disaster that is the Keystone XL Pipeline, carrying toxic sludge from Canada through America’s heartland to the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Lori Barber

    Losing the oyster farm will be a sad loss for our local community.

  • cbl

    Govt gone wild – go Obama

  • DLW

    I have created a Whitehouse “We the People …” petition asking the President to overturn Salazar’s decision on the Pt Reyes Oyster Farm..

    It is here: http://wh.gov/5WFv (Unfortunately I misspelled his name but …)

    I am not connected to any social network by which I might make this petition known. If any one reading this is willing, could you please publicize this to any group(s) that might be interested? I (we) have only 30 days to try to get 25,000 signatures!

    Thank you.

  • Jesse

    As a child i went to point Reyes all the time. Nature there is amazing. Oysters there are awesome. Government there is way to intense. Yuppies are also too intense. Talk about the environment all the time and leave there trash everywhere in their kayaks. What Hippocrates.

  • rxramblr

    Yet another sad example of what many view as the lack of respect (or even contempt) which the Obama administration demonstrates toward small business and the jobs they produce.

  • jw

    Marin Headlands are over grazed and poorly managed. Do not extend those Leases
    without public access and best practices. Ruining the landscape for a few more cows

  • We need PUBLIC land on our shores not private corporate greed. This million dollar company has been paying 4$ an acre to stay on public land & profit. That is less than I pay for housing or for a camp site! Of course he wants to stay! A deal is a deal & it is now in the federal registry just as you & Fienstien wanted it Kevin Lunny . I don’t know who is paying who but, this is all fishy. This has already cost the tax payers n gov 3 million dollars! To protect open spaces on our coasts. The gov is trying to protect what belongs to the people! I want to see birds & seals not OYSTER farms! Up & down the coast of California! Are only Oysters sacred?

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