What we got here is a failure to collaborate

  • An oyster collection boat navigates between oyster racks at Drakes Bay Oyster Farm on Point Reyes National Seashore.

    Timothy Lesle
  • Jon Jarvis, nominated to head up the National Park Service.

    NPS
 

Updated Aug. 24, 2009

On July 10, President Obama announced his nomination of Jonathan Jarvis as the next director of the National Park Service. Jarvis has worked for the agency for 30 years and directed its Pacific West region since 2002. Many of his colleagues contend that he not only has scientific training, but is tenaciously committed to the "right values" -- that is, protecting wilderness and averting change in natural ecosystems. They hope Jarvis will lead the parks into their centennial celebration in 2016. He's garnered support from environmental groups, including the National Parks Conservation Association and the Sierra Club, as well as from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Jarvis knows how to preach to the wilderness choir, but national parks are about more than wild landscapes. A third of the nation's 400-some parks, monuments, seashores and heritage areas contain culturally significant "working landscapes." Park staff interacts with Navajo shepherds in Canyon de Chelly, Mormon orchard-keepers in Capitol Reef, bison ranchers in Great Sand Dunes and commercial fisherman around the Channel Islands. If his appointment goes through, Jarvis will be charged with the complex task of resolving the inevitable conflicts that arise between the parks' diverse stakeholders.

That's a tall order, perhaps nowhere taller than at California's Point Reyes National Seashore, a windswept expanse of rugged shoreline, moor-like uplands and coastal mountains where ranches, dairy and shellfish farms predate the park's formal designation in 1962. But Jarvis' poor handling of a recent controversy there raises questions about his ability to deal with cultural issues and working landscapes.

To the casual observer, Point Reyes seems like a benign blend of wildness and agrarian features. A few historic barns and corrals remind visitors that this has been a working landscape since the first settlers arrived in Marin County. Enormous mounds of cracked and intact oyster and clam shells testify to centuries of active "gardening" of native shellfish by the Miwok Indians. A commercial oyster farm has been in operation here since 1932. Kevin and Nancy Lunny purchased it in 2005 and now run it as the Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Their  sustainable aquaculture practices have been recognized in the Park Service publication Stewardship Begins with People, as well as by Eco-Farm, Marin Organic, Bioneers and Slow Food.

But beneath this peaceful, pastoral shell, the reality, like an oyster, is squishy.

Point Reyes superintendents have long attempted to balance the protection of biodiversity and wilderness values, the promotion of sustainable agriculture, and historic preservation. When the park was created, the Drakes Bay Oyster Company received a 40-year lease with an option for renewal in 2012. But the 1974 Point Reyes Wilderness Act proposed a higher level of protection for the land surrounding Drakes Bay. It didn't specifically mention removing the shellfish farm; at the time, California congressmen and park officials all considered it to be a prior "non-conforming use" worth keeping. In the 1976 hearings, Sen. John Tunney, D-Calif., pointedly affirmed that "established private rights of landowners and leaseholders will continue to be respected and protected. The existing agricultural and aquacultural uses can continue." In essence, this gave the park managers conflicting marching orders -- to "remove barriers to wilderness designation" while at the same time permitting small-scale farming, ranching and aquaculture. In fact, such food production has been sanctioned in every approved management plan for Point Reyes, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed that it be allowed to continue through at least 2015.

Point Reyes Defense
Gavin
Gavin
Aug 04, 2009 09:51 PM
I take issue with the suggestion that Point Reyes National Seashore is trying to get rid of the ranching Community. As I understand it, the ranching history of the Point Reyes Peninsula is written into the Park's charter. Meaning, that ranching, and the conservation of ranching history, will always be present at Point Reyes National Seashore. For Nabhan to suggest otherwise in an attempt to prove his point is despicable. I would assume someone who works so closely with and written about the National Park Service would know better.
Response to article from Gordon Bennett, Aug. 10
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:05 PM
Gary: I just read my August edition of the High Country News and am totally floored by your one-sided article on the Drakes Estero Wilderness controversy. I wonder who you got your "information" from and really wished you had contacted and collaborated with the Sierra Club, who has been leading this Wilderness battle for over 35 years! Furthermore, I have detailed local knowledge from living in the same town as the oyster operation.

Please contact me at your very earliest convenience so that we can discuss ways to correct the inaccuracies someone has fed to you, such as the demonstrably false claim about supposed mounds of Native American oyster shells. If you would be kind enough to provide me with your direct email address, I would happily provide you with the archeological record that thoroughly contradicts what you have been told on this specific.
And there are other specifics in your article that are also simply wrong, such as the supposed efforts of PRNS to end ranching in the Seashore, when in fact the opposite is true (and the Park's effort to retain ranching has had the support of the Sierra Club!!)

Collectively these serious error of fact call into question the conclusions you were seemingly led to make by whoever supplied these so-called "facts." Please contact me so that we can collaborate on a solution to the above problems.

Gordon Bennett
Sierra Club Spokesperson for Drakes Estero Wilderness
415-663-1881
gbatmuirb@aol.com
Response from Gary Nabhan, Aug. 12
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:29 PM
The feeling is mutual. I find your information so one-sided and erroneous that it is not very credible. There are dozens of folks who feel the same way. Reexamine your own onesidedness...I said that the area is a wilderness values, is a cultural landscape AND that the Lunnys have won sustainability awards. You, my friend, cannot even acknowledge the latter two elements. Too bad -- you're stuck
in a 1970s environmentalism that serves few people, but lots of egos. There is no reason anymore to PIT wilderness against CULTURAL LANDSCAPES AND SUSTAINABILITY. All three can be accommodated.
Counter response from Gordon Bennett, Aug. 14
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:30 PM

Gary: My point is that you have seemingly used the HCN to convey to its readers demonstrable falsehoods that appear intended to provide your article with a veneer of authenticity rather than it being clear that your article is simply one person's opinion. You are welcome to your opinion, but as a HCN subscriber, I believe that its readers deserve the facts.
 
I now have a copy of "California Indians and the Environment" that the HCN editor said you referenced in your draft as supporting your article's statement that "Enormous mounds of cracked and intact oyster and clam shells testify to centuries of active "gardening" of native shellfish by the Miwok Indians." Actually, the article refers to gardening clams, not oysters and relates to Tomales Bay, not Drakes Estero (see attached). In fact the only "enormous mounds" of oysters shells are those the exotic Japanese oysters adjacent to the commercial oyster shucking facility (see attached).
 
This is only one of numerous misstated "facts" in your article. As I said, you are welcome to your opinion, but not the facts. It is not clear from your response whether you intend to correct the mis-stated "facts" in your Opinion piece or whether you simply want to argue with me about your differing opinion. Regardless, I'm not interested in arguing with you.
 
But on behalf of the Sierra Club and the for the Alliance for Drakes Estero Wilderness, I would firmly request that HCN allow us equal space to both correct the factual record and to provide our own opinion on these matters.
 
Gordon Bennett
Sierra Club Spokesperson for Drakes Estero Wilderness
Response to article from Gerald Meral, Aug. 11
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:06 PM
Dear HCN:

I have been a subscriber for more than 20 years, but this is my first letter to the editor.

Your story about the oyster farm at Point Reyes National Seashore was full of inaccuracies, which could have been avoided with a tiny amount of effort by the author. He called me briefly, but then did not reply to my further attempts to reach him through your staff. I live within sight of Point Reyes National Seashore, and serve on the board of the local conservation group. I have worked for more than 40 years to expand and protect the Seashore.

Here are some of the mistakes in the article:

There is no evidence of Native American cultivation of endemic oysters. There are no mounds of native oysters used by Native Americans.

The Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) has been in business for only a few years. It bought out a previous owner. This mistake is made more than once.

There is no evidence that DBOC is a sustainable business. A request for documentation on sustainable practices such as use of 4 stroke engines, travel minimization, and carbon footprint documentation and mitigation has been ignored by DBOC. Saying something is “sustainable” does not make it so.

The author bought into a faulty legal analysis promulgated by DBOC. The Department of Interior solicitor has stated that the oyster company must close down in 2012 based on existing laws.

Senator Feinstein’s rider to the Interior Appropriations bill allows DBOC to remain until 2022, not 2015.

The statement that Jon Jarvis and Don Neubacher want to phase out ranching around Drake’s Bay is an outrageous lie, and slanders them and the Park Service. They have gone out of their way to encourage ranching, including allowing Kevin Lunny to grow crops never grown in the area before, extending the ranching leases for 10 years at a time, and showing the area as continuing in ranching in draft General Management Plan documents.

The statement that there has been no negotiation with DBOC by the Park Service is completely false. Several times the Park Service has tried to negotiate with DBOC, but DBOC has refused to cooperate, most recently when there was an attempt to purchase the oyster lease for fair market value.

The article is an unfair attack on the integrity of Jon Jarvis, who has served as Superintendent of two national parks, and has gone out of his way to try to deal fairly with the DBOC. It is ridiculous to think, however, that he could negotiate a lease extension with DBOC, when his own solicitor says such an extension would be illegal.

Every conservation group that has taken a position on the issue endorses ending the commercial oyster operation at Point Reyes National Seashore in 2012. Drake’s Bay will become the only wilderness estuary on the West Coast. That does not mean closing down traditional ranching and dairy operations at the Seashore: these will continue.

Senator Feinstein’s rider to the appropriations bill would give DBOC a ten year lease extension, worth millions of dollars. It would also make DBOC immune from further Park Service environmental protection, health and safety, and all other regulations. It would not prohibit DBOC from selling its leasehold interests, reaping a huge unearned profit. The rider avoids public hearings, and end-runs the jurisdiction of the House and Senate authorizing committees.

I hope HCN will find someone less biased to write a fair and accurate article about this interesting controversy. Your readers certainly deserve better than what they have been given so far.

Gerald Meral
Gary Nabhan responds to Jerry Meral and Gordon Bennett, Aug. 14
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:34 PM
Gordon and Jerry,

Its great to be part of a lively give and take; hopefully we'll all be more precise and collaborative in the future! You guys definitely see that this is a big issue, not just a local one to be decided by a superintendent alone, so that's terrific foresight on your part. Lets be respectful and charitable and have fun debating, hopefully to reach reconciliation of this critical issue.

I'm wondering though, if you can admit one thing: I'M NOT ALONE IN RAISING THESE CONCERNS. OVER 100 ARTICLES SINCE APRIL 2009 HAVE EXPRESSED CONCERNS ABOUT JARVIS AND NEUBACHER'S HANDLING OF THE POINT REYES DEBATE. WHY? BECAUSE NAS FOUND NO COMPELLING EVIDENCE OF DAMAGE TO RESOURCES, SO THE LUNNYS ARE NOW INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY BY SCIENTISTS FAR BETTER AT DATA ANALYSIS THAN YOU OR ME. FOLKS WANT WILDERNESS, BUT NOT IN A WAY THAT PITS IT AGAINST OTHER VALUES
THAT THE PARK SERVICE IS ALSO MANDATED TO PROTECT.

Lets get to the basics on oysters. Oly oysters naturally range from Canada to San Francisco Bay, and were eaten historically in your area (and in the present seashore) by the tribes like Coastal Miwok AND IMMIGRANTS who lived in Point Reyes vicinity. They are now in decline at Tomales Bay (see the August 14 SF Chronicle issue about its biotic issues) but are DEFINITELY in Point Reyes Natl Seashore. The middens Ive seen are of many species not just clams. Oyster shells are cracked by users, break apart easier and deteriorate quicker than the clam
shells in many archaeological middens... So absence from a midden sample does not mean absence from Drakes Bay. It is supposed that Puget Sound oysters were once stored in Point Reyes area estuaries and PERHAPS may have escaped but don't predate Oly natural populations there.

The irony about all this is the Lunnys have been blocked by NPS FROM GETTING PERMITS TO RAISE PURPLE-FRINGED SCALLOPS AND OLY OYSTERS, two
naturally-occurring species in the region that need help. They have also donated oyster shells of the current oysters to plover recovery projects outside the park, but have not been encouraged inside the park to offer the same materials to increase endangered plover survival. So please don't do a one-sided dismissal of them as ANTI-NATIVE.

Now back to basics: You guys accused me of being one-sided. I like the Lunnys, I like Jarvis, I JUST WANT RECONCILIATION. I SUPPORT WILDERNESS, I LIKE FOOD PRODUCERS WHO GET SUSTAINABILITY PRAISE FROM INDEPENDENT SOURCES *(WHICH THE LUNNYS HAVE RECEIVED, EVEN FROM OTHER NPS STAFF), I SUPPORT PROTECTION OF CULTURAL LANDSCAPES. I'm for good science. I'm for neighbors working things out...

What are you guys FOR? Wilderness won by confrontation? More fighting?
Park employees that incorrectly present scientific data and claim the means justify the ends? PARK LEADERS WHO REFUSE TO USE THE CONFLICT RESOLUTION PROCESSES ENCOURAGED IN THEIR OWN POLICY MANUALS?

How bout trying to work for reconciliation in your own community. By all accounts, even that of NPS staff, this issue has made ugly divides that need to be healed. Wanna work toward that goal with me? if so, I'm ready to help.
HCN responds to collective accusations of factual error
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:39 PM
Editor’s Note: Several letters responding to Gary Nabhan's opinion piece on Jon Jarvis's appointment as chief of the National Park Service in the Aug. 3 issue claimed that the piece was riddled with factual errors. We followed up on these claims and found that while many were simply differences in opinion or interpretation, two of Nabhan’s points did beg clarification (these have been fixed in the Web version of the piece, above):

1. Nabhan wrote: "The Drakes Bay Oyster Company has been in operation here since 1932." That’s not quite right. Commercial oyster farming has taken place at Drakes Bay since 1932, but the current operators -- Kevin and Nancy Lunny – purchased the operation from the Johnson Oyster Co. in 2005.

2. Nabhan wrote: "... Jarvis and current superintendent Don Neubacher have decided to phase out … ranching around Drakes Bay." In fact, Neubacher and Jarvis have never publicly expressed a decision to phase out ranching. Nabhan based his statement on verbiage in a National Park Service report; and a 2005 PhD dissertation by Vernita Lea Ediger on rancher/NPS conflicts at Point Reyes.
Response to article from Peter Douglas, Aug. 13
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:09 PM
I realize the Nabhan piece was opinion, but it’s opinion wrapped in the mantle of purporting to report factual events and because it was so biased and patently misleading I felt it was grossly unfair to Jarvis and the two other principle NPS employees involved.
 
The NPS had no authority to extend the permit and therefore there was nothing to negotiate with the Oyster Company. The piece makes it sound like they had some discretion to talk with Lunny about renewal or extending the use beyond 2012 when they did not.
 
As to the NAS report – I know he didn’t say the NAS concluded there was intentional wrongdoing, but if I, as an outsider read this the way he nuanced it the unmistaken conclusion one would reach is that the NAS found wrongdoing (which they did not). In the same sentence he says the NAS concluded the mistaken science “was being used to justify the eviction of “ the Oyster Company. The NPS never even implied it was seeking “eviction.” Eviction was not in on the table though it could have been. They just wanted Lunny to get a permit from the NPS (this is different from his entitlement to operate until 2012), He refused to get that permit so when the Coastal Commission issued a “cease and desist” order against Lunny for violations of the California Coastal Act (they were doing development without State coastal permits) the Commission had to include a requirement that he get his NPS permit - which he then did.
 
As one who was directly involved in this whole pathetic affair and one who has worked with these NPS public employees for more than 20 years (their integrity is, in my opinion, beyond reproach – though they did make mistakes) I was profoundly disappointed and chagrined by what I saw and still see as a despicable campaign of personal destruction to discredit the NPS as part of a strategy to build a case to extend this commercial oyster operation beyond 2012. Now that mission has morphed into one intended to block Jarvis’ confirmation.
Response to criticism of Nabhan's article, from Jeffrey A. Creque, Aug. 17
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:17 PM
Gary Nabhan is anything but misinformed as to the legal and policy issues surrounding the Drakes Bay oyster farm at Point Reyes. The oyster farm’s permit is renewable, and it was reasonably assumed that it would be renewed by a National Seashore that includes the oyster farm in its General Management Plan.

In 1976, Congress passed a law designating Drakes Estero potential wilderness. The controversy surrounding the oyster farm is directly of Jarvis' making. Continuing the State of California's oyster operation in this area is not at all at odds with wilderness protection; as Mr. Wade is well aware, pre-existing non-conforming uses are found in many national wilderness areas.

We agree with Mr. Wade when he states the NPS is a system of “lands and cultural sites that preserve our shared history and protect our future. Perhaps he is unaware that human beings have enjoyed oysters from Drakes Estero for over 6,000 years. The Drakes Bay oyster farm epitomizes both the cultural history and the future of sustainable food production in our region.

What we know from our experience with Mr. Jarvis over this issue is that he cares little about visitor experience (the oyster farm is among the most visited sites in the Point Reyes National Seashore), and has no commitment to scientific integrity when that science does not serve his agenda. If, as Mr. Wade states, Jarvis has proven time and again that he is the consummate community collaborator as a manager of the nation's premier examples of our natural and cultural heritage, it is a shame, and a tragedy, that Jarvis did not bring those skills to bear in this matter of such critical importance to the food security of the people of California.

Bill Wade may know Jon Jarvis to be a dedicated public servant who cares about the future of the national park system, but we know him to be a participant in a classic case of scientific fraud, public deception and abuse of authority. Jarvis' words and deeds in this matter have left us with no choice but to vehemently oppose his nomination to the NPS directorship.

Jeffrey A. Creque, Ph.D., Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture (Marin)
The Sierra Club responds via Gordon Bennett (Aug. 19)
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 24, 2009 03:44 PM
What we got here is a failure to corroborate.

Gary Nabhan supports a controversial lobbying effort by a commercial shellfish company to renew its rights in Drakes Estero, a congressional wilderness at Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS), California. The Wilderness Act acknowledges the company’s rights to 2012 but because of the Estero’s exceptional ecological significance, Congress mandated that it convert to Wilderness after 2012. Former Congressman Richard Pombo, infamous for attempting to sell parklands and dismantle wildlife protections, also looked into the company’s effort to extend its rights after the owners contributed $2000 to his campaign. But when the owners admitted they were fully apprised of the closure date, Pombo’s committee concluded the operating rights should not be renewed. Unfortunately, Mr. Nabhan takes up where Pombo left off, but his article is peppered with factual errors.

Estero, Not Bay; New, Not Historic:

The shellfish company operates in Drakes Estero, the 4-fingered estuary at the heart of the Seashore. But, Mr. Nabhan mistakenly claims the company operates in “the waters of Drakes Bay [which] are not legally in the Seashore.” Mr. Nabhan also suggests the company deserves consideration because of its historic 1932 origin. To the contrary, the company began in 2005. Prior to 2005, the family owning the shellfish company operated a PRNS ranch authorized for 90 cattle, but overgrazed close to 400. The family also ran a paving business from the ranch, storing asphalt equipment and septic debris.

Remove, Not Extend:

Mr. Nabhan recycles comments that Congress intended the shellfish rights to continue past 2012. However, the extensive public testimony contained numerous conflicting comments. Mr. Nabhan fails to note that the final text of 1976 Act mandates “ efforts to steadily continue to remove all obstacles to the eventual conversion of these lands and waters to wilderness.” The Interior Department under both the Bush and Obama administrations concluded that the Act prohibits PRNS from extending the rights. Likewise, the Inspector General concluded, “an extension of DBOC’s particular [rights] would violate a congressional mandate that the oyster operation be removed as soon as the [current rights] expire in order to manage Drakes Estero as wilderness.”

Supported, Not Phased Out:

Continued ranching within the 25,000-acre pastoral zone was the bargain that created PRNS out of family ranches, but Drakes Estero was never part of this bargain because it was already public when acquired by PRNS. Designated wilderness surrounds this working landscape, but there are still 3000 more acres grazed than allowed by the PRNS General Management Plan. PRNS ranches operate on 5-10 year grazing permits when the adjacent private contracts run for only one year. PRNS grazing fees are roughly half private fees. Furthermore PRNS has invested more than $3 Million to assist with range management and infrastructure improvements. Yet Mr. Nabhan falsely accuses National Park Service (NPS) Pacific West Director Jon Jarvis of planning to phase out ranching. Mr. Nabhan also falsely accuses Jarvis of failing to negotiate the shellfish permit, but the Inspector General concluded the opposite: “our investigation revealed that [the owner]…had refused to sign a permit despite ongoing negotiations with…the Pacific West Region.”

Harbor Seals, Not Profits:

Drakes Estero is home to 20 percent of California’s breeding harbor seals. But Mr. Nabhan misleadingly claims that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) stated that NPS had no compelling evidence that the shellfish operation impacted seals. Instead, NAS noted that NPS had likely under-estimated impacts because NPS data did not capture impacts on seals during foraging, weekdays or low tide. Furthermore, the NPS buffer between seals and shellfish operations is only 91 meters, whereas the NAS notes, “visits [within 500 m] by oyster farm workers can be expected to lead to short-term disturbance.” The Marine Mammal Commission is also investigating.

National Academy’s False Science, Not NPS:

Mr. Nabhan echoes NAS claims of “enormous mounds of…[Native American] oyster..shells” in order to criticize Director Jarvis’s defense of NPS science. There is a Native American shellmound near the shucking plant, but an archeologist stated, “shells from the oyster farm had been heaped on [the mound]…The surface of the deposit is covered with shells from a species of oyster that I have not seen in other central California shellmounds. Furthermore, oysters are not a major constituent in any other Estero archeological deposit.” The NAS shellmound evidence is fraudulent and native oysters are not part of the Estero’s ecological baseline, as shown by six archeological reports provided to NAS. However, NAS suppressed all this evidence in order to criticize NPS for ignoring the asserted oyster baseline. Following in the footsteps of its infamous Klamath River Salmon vs Potato fiasco, NAS misrepresented, selectively presented, and significantly over-interpreted available scientific information on Drakes Estero. It is NAS conduct that should be investigated.

Rider should be derailed:

Drakes Estero is the only wilderness estuary on the continental West Coast, yet the Feinstein rider to extend commercial shellfish rights past 2012 gives the business veto power over scientific recommendations that protect wildlife. The Feinstein rider contravenes the Wilderness Act as well as NPS competitive bidding rules and will encourage other commercial entities to seek special exceptions elsewhere. The rider should be stopped.

Gordon Bennett,
Sierra Club Spokesman for the Drakes Estero Wilderness
Former GGNRA/PRNS Citizens Advisory Commissioner
Response from Carolyn Longstreth, Aug. 25
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Aug 28, 2009 09:47 AM
Can we set your readers straight on the facts and the law regarding the oyster controversy at the Point Reyes National Seashore? The Park Service is not seeking to evict the oyster business or any of the dairy and cattle ranches. It fully recognizes that the oyster business is entitled to remain in operation until November 2012, when its 40-year right to use and occupy the site expires. By the same token, it expects the operator to honor its commitment to close down in 2012 in accordance with Congressional direction that commercial uses within the Phillip Burton Wilderness be phased out as soon as possible.

However, the proprietors of the oyster farm have launched an ugly and divisive campaign to circumvent the Wilderness Act by any means, including character assassination against Don Neubacher, Jon Jarvis and others. Mr. Nabhan allowed himself to be used in this effort.

It is true that the oyster operation’s Reservation of Use includes a renewal clause but this clause is not operative if the issuance of a new permit would violate federal law or regulations. An extension for the oyster farm would, in fact, violate federal law because, under the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act, the Estero’s waters were designated a “potential wilderness” area—meaning a designated wilderness area that contains a non-conforming use. The oystering operation in the Estero is non-conforming because a separate law, The Wilderness Act of 1972, prohibits commercial enterprises unrelated to wilderness tourism.

Nabhan distorts the testimony of wilderness proponents when he claims that they supported a permanent status for the oyster business during the 1976 hearings on the Point Reyes Wilderness Act. Although several officials and environmentalists supported the continuation of mariculture in Drake’s Estero as a non-conforming use, this testimony was given only four years after the commencement of the 40-year term of use. In context, it is plain that these advocates thought the oyster farm should be permitted to remain for the remaining 36 years of its term. And so it has. None, however, stated that the oyster farm should stay permanently. Similarly, the Seashore’s 1980 General Management Plan did not address the long-term status of the oystering occupation.

Mr. Nabhan states that the waters of Drake’s Bay do not belong to the Park Service. But the oyster business is located in the adjacent Drake’s Estero, not Drake’s Bay. The Estero was conveyed to the Park Service by the State of California in 1965 and is now part of the Philip Burton Wilderness Area. Finally, if Senator Feinstein thought that a lease extension for the oyster farm was already permitted under law, there would have been no need for her to risk her political capital by adding an earmark to the pending Interior appropriations bill.

It is our hope that this dispute can be resolved fairly and in accordance with both the Wilderness Act and principles of open government. It should not be settled by means of a back-door rider that simply hands public resources over to a well-connected private enterprise for 10 years.

Carolyn Longstreth, Esq., President
Environmental Action Committee of West Marin
Gary Nabhan Oyster Opinion
Belinda
Belinda
Sep 04, 2009 10:53 AM
How was someone like Mr. Nabhan, with so many factual mistakes, allowed to publish this statement intended to persuade on a policy issue? Doesn't HCN have fact checkers? Articles are written all the time in, eg, The New Yorker, but facts are scrutinized before letting something out-and TNY is not per se a policy platform. If someone wants a well-recognized outlet as a platform to state an opinion, the publication ought to demand proof of facts included. That should be a baseline requirement for a policy piece, even couched as an opinion. I ask for it regardless of the position someone is writing about. There is too much of this loose factual use these days in audio-video media. Must it spill over to a respected print publication? Thank you.
Additional comment on Nabhan factual errors
Belinda
Belinda
Sep 04, 2009 11:05 AM
The Nabhan op ed erred in stating the Feinstein rider will extend the lease to 2015, when the date is actually 2022. HCN made a big deal of correcting two factual errors in Nanhan's op ed but not this one. Why should I follow HCN's purported neutrality if it couldn't get this date right? HCN's own errors i correcting errors cries out for data by op ed writers to support the facts upon which they base their opinions- otherwise please eliminate op eds. Thanks, again.
Feinstein rider date
Sarah Gilman
Sarah Gilman
Sep 04, 2009 03:27 PM
Belinda--
With regards to your concern about the date of Feinstein's rider: When this article went to press, it was unclear how long the rider would extend the oyster farm's lease. Hence the language "through at least 2015." Like most publications, we don't typically amend our existing articles to reflect changes that have taken place since the article's original appearance online/in print.
Thanks for reading,
Sarah Gilman
Assistant Editor
Feinstein rider date
Michael Painter
Michael Painter
Sep 05, 2009 06:27 PM
Sen. Feinstein was quoted directly in the Los Angeles Times saying that her lease extension was for 10 years. <http://articles.latimes.com/[…]/me-oyster24> That story appeared June 24, a full month before HCN ran this piece. So there was no need to describe the extension as “through at least 2015,” which tended to minimize the impact by understating the termination date by 7 years.


On another issue, Mr. Nabham used various examples of commercial activities in national parks to support keeping the oyster farm open. On closer inspection, most of them do not seem very applicable. The orchards in Capitol Reef National Park mentioned as commercial, historic uses in a national park, with “Mormon orchard-keepers” tending them. According to Capitol Reef’s website <http://www.nps.gov/care/historyculture/orchardscms.htm> the orchards are owned and maintained by the Park Service, with a crew of two (although it doesn’t say whether they are Mormon or not ;-) . Canyon de Chelly is entirely located on Navajo Tribal Trust Land and is co-managed with the Navajo Nation. And finally, The Nature Conservancy manages the bison at Great Sand Dunes National Park; TNC is a non-profit organization. None of these is a private commercial undertaking like the oyster farm is. Moreover, none takes place in designated wilderness, where most commercial activities are specifically banned by the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Mike Painter
Coordinator
Californians for Western Wilderness
San Francisco