A federal judge is allowing Drake’s Bay Oyster Company to stay at Point Reyes National Seashore while it fights an eviction order in court, according to lawyers representing the farm.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in November that the federal government would not renew the farm’s lease at the national park.
The farm’s 40-year lease was originally negotiated with the Johnson Oyster Co. in 1972 and taken on by Drakes Bay in 2004 with the full knowledge that it would expire eight years later.
Facing a March 1 deadline to vacate the park, owner Kevin Lunny filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
Lunny lost that round, and brought his case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The new ruling allows the farm to stay until its appeal is heard. The court said it would schedule a hearing for the week of May 13-17.
“We are beyond thrilled that our business will now remain open while we continue to fight the decisions from the court and Secretary Salazar that have put our business at risk,” said Lunny in a written statement. “Our fight is, and will continue to be, about the great service Drakes Bay Oyster Farm provides to the community as an innovative sustainable farm, an educational resource, and part of the economic fiber of Marin County.”
Lunny is represented by Cause of Action, a public interest law firm based in Washington D.C., which posted the judge’s ruling.
The Interior Department could not be reached for comment on the ruling, but has declined to comment on the litigation in the past.
In explaining the reason for the ruling, the court said, “Appelants’ emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal is granted, because there are serious legal questions and the balance of hardships tips sharply in appelants’ favor.”
Neal Desai, pacific region associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association, wants to see the oyster farm leave the park.
“We are confident the District Court got it right when it decided that the Interior Secretary had full discretion to let the lease expire and that the oyster company was unlikely to win its lawsuit,” he said in a statement.
“The 9th Circuit Court’s decision today unfortunately delays by two months the ability for Americans to enjoy their national park wilderness.”
Here’s some background on the case from the Associated Press:
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….
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.