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.

Drakes Bay Oyster Co. workers harvest strings of oysters on Schooner Bay near Point Reyes. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Drakes Bay Oyster Co. workers harvest strings of oysters on Schooner Bay near Point Reyes. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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.

Drake’s Bay Oyster Farm Gets Reprieve from Point Reyes Eviction 25 February,2013Laird Harrison

  • “The 9th Circuit Court’s decision today unfortunately delays by two
    months the ability for Americans to enjoy their national park

    We can enjoy the wilderness just fine WITH the Drakes Bay Oyster Company in Operation. They are an asset to the area

    • I have to agree; it’s part of the culture of West Marin…

    • AZanimal

      I have enjoyed Point Reyes so much and so many times with the company there. That is just an absurd statement. I love Point Reyes AND oysters. Why can’t we all just get along?

    • y_p_w

      Yeah – how is it going to make it easier to enjoy? One of the biggest worries by the actual users (kayakers) is that once the oyster farm is gone, NPS starts to limit access by closing off the road to the farm and letting it and the parking lot revert to vegetation. That road is the prime kayak launching site for Drakes Estero and the only practical place to do it without carrying a kayak for a mile.

      • Miwok

        Witch part of wilderness don’t you understand?

        • y_p_w

          Do you understand what is wilderness? I’ve done plenty of activity in wilderness areas, and it’s doesn’t mean “people keep out”.

          The oyster farm’s shore operations (the road, parking lot, buildings, docks) are not in the wilderness plan. Only the water area was designated as potential wilderness. In addition to that, kayaking is allowed in wilderness areas.

          • Miwok

            So, if the water area is wilderness, what the kayaks have to do here? Does the near Tomales bay, or SF bay are not big enough for you? Why does human should spoil every part of this planet in the name of business or recreation?

          • y_p_w

            Do you understand the legal definition of “wilderness” under the 1964 Wilderness Act? It generally (but not always) bars “mechanical transport”. It doesn’t ban human beings, and it doesn’t ban “nonmechanical” transport such as canoes, kayaks. rowboats, horses, or mules.

            I’ve been in designated wilderness areas before. It’s not off-limits to people. I’ve hiked in Yosemite, SEKI, Desolation, and Point Reyes as well as other wilderness areas. A wilderness designation isn’t put in place to keep people out.

  • Joanne

    How many appeals does this case warrant? When is an environmental law NOT open to debate among developers?? The Wilderness Act is so much more important than one man’s attempt to game the system.

    • y_p_w

      This isn’t really an issue about environmental law per se.

      The reservation of use that was allowed to lapse was actually for the land area where the oyster farm’s shore operations sit. The Secretary of the Interior was given express authority to issue a special use permit to extend the RUO, and if he had granted it there wouldn’t have been much of an issue with the farm continuing (with probable lawsuits calling for the farm to be removed of course). The original legislation actually mandated a 10 year special use permit, but Senator Feinstein relented when a couple of Senators made a stink about it.

      The oyster racks (currently in the potential wilderness) are in water bottom leases from the California Dept of Fish and Game. There’s controversy over who has authority, but CDFG claims they still have authority until they evict the oyster farm (and I don’t believe they have).

  • John H

    The facts of the case are that the Special Use Permit for the farm contains an extension clause, and the actual oyster operations in the Estero are under a lease from Cal Fish And Game that expires in 2029. Lunny is entitled to have the lease extension judged under NPS policy, not the whim of the superintendent. The current General Management Plan for Point Reyes National Seashore includes the oyster farm, admittedly though the Park Service has repeatedly promised to upgrade the plan. One might well conclude that the PRNS wanted to get rid of the oyster farm to avoid controversy in submitting an updated plan for public approval.

    DBOC has been subject to a barrage of false claims such as these promulgated by a small group of environmentalists, and Desai is one of the main malefactors. For a detailed explanation as to how a small group of extremists have disrupted the process,please see: ‘National Enviro Group Smears Local Oyster Farm’ at: https://russianrivertimes.wordpress.com/2011/11/28/national-enviro-group-smears-local-oyster-farm/

    For example, the article contains copyrighted photos (mine) which Desai edited and submitted, along with his group to other organizations and agencies, claiming that it showed DBOC was violating harbor seal protection protocols. He also submitted the photos to the National Parks Traveller, which withdrew them when shown the actual photos.

    This lack of integrity by environmental extremists is terribly damaging to the credibility of the overall environmental community right when we need them most.

  • SFTom

    Why is Salazar seeking to extend the cattle ranch leases from 10 to 20 years while he seeks to terminate the lease of the oyster “ranch?”

    • Bigfoot

      Cattle are an invasive species!


    Probably wants to re-lease it out to somebody who’s going to pay more money everything’s about money these days

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