Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The Drakes Bay Oyster Company is located in Drakes Estero within the Point Reyes National Seashore. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Options have about run out for the embattled Drakes Bay Oyster Company. A new court order may be the final blow for the oyster farm, located within the Point Reyes National Seashore.  The aquaculture operation had appealed a decision by the Department of the Interior to allow its lease to lapse. Owner Kevin Lunny had hoped the farm would be allowed to remain open while things were sorted out.

But in a two-to-one decision handed down Tuesday (embedded below), the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals backed up a district court’s ruling not to grant a preliminary injunction — in other words, the farm can’t stay open while it awaits the outcome of its appeal.

“If this is followed through without challenge, it could allow the Park Service to step in and force us to kill 19 million oysters,” said Lunny. “Put them in a landfill, and send 30 families down the road with no jobs and demolish their homes.”

The Marin Independent Journal offers some background on the battle:

The closure order came on Nov. 29 of last year, when Salazar announced he would allow a 40-year lease — originally negotiated with the Johnson Oyster Co. in 1972 and taken on by Drakes Bay — to expire. In 1972, the federal government bought the land from Johnson for $79,200 and provided the lease. Lunny took over the lease in 2004.

Salazar wrote in his decision that Lunny was explicitly informed “no new permit will be issued” after the 2012 expiration date.

The court found that the farm was not likely to prove that then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar violated the law when he decided not to allow the farm to renew its lease.

In its decision, the court quickly gets to the heart of the conflict: “This appeal, which pits an oyster farm, oyster lovers and well-known ‘foodies’ against environmentalists aligned with the federal government, has generated considerable attention in the San Francisco Bay area.”

Environmental groups are hailing this decision as a victory.

“It is a really big deal,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “It’s the third time that the oyster company has definitively been told no, and we believe that it’s time to move on.”

Lunny said he’s consulting with lawyers to figure out possible next steps. But his only remaining hope would most likely be a reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Appeals Court Rules Against Drakes Bay Oyster Company 4 September,2013Molly Samuel

  • jefflz

    Salazar made a trade-off with the Sierra Club zealots to keep them off
    the backs of his Colorado rancher pals. Obama demonstrated very poor
    judgement when he appointed Cowboy Salazar (another of his pathetic
    misguided attempts at failed bipartisanship). The Sierra Club zealots,
    the EAC of Marin County, two-faced Jared Huffman, and the National Park
    Service through outright lies and misrepresentation have done as much as
    they can to promote environmental purism – the “back to wilderness
    concept” over the mixed use that made it possible to create the Pt.
    Reyes National Seashore in the first place. They have defied the wishes
    of the inhabitants of Marin County who do indeed actually visit the park
    and buy oysters with pleasure. The Lunnys have been model stewards of
    the space they maintain, have cleaned up the old Johnson farm mess, and
    have made DBOC a place to enjoy for the entire population. The vast
    majority of local residents want the oyster farm to stay. Shame on
    Salazar, the NPS, the Sierra Club and all environmental zealots who have
    fought for the destruction of this valuable resource. And shame on the
    9th Circuit Court for not doing their homework!!

  • RaisingmykidsRIGHT

    Lunny has no one to blame but himself. How dumb can you be to buy a lease and think you can continue it when you were told over and over again it wasn’t going to happen?


Molly Samuel

Molly Samuel joined KQED as an intern in 2007, and since then has worked here as a reporter, producer, director and blogger. Before becoming KQED Science’s Multimedia Producer, she was a producer for Climate Watch. Molly has also reported for NPR, KALW and High Country News, and has produced audio stories for The Encyclopedia of Life and the Oakland Museum of California. She was a fellow with the Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism and a journalist-in-residence at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. Molly has a degree in Ancient Greek from Oberlin College and is a co-founder of the record label True Panther Sounds.

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