President's message: Why the Drakes Bay Oyster case matters

President's message: Why the Drakes Bay Oyster case matters

Issue Date: March 20, 2013<>
Paul Wenger. President, CFBF

Last week, the California Farm Bureau Federation, the Marin County Farm Bureau and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau joined in a petition to a federal appeals court, urging the court to give the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. a new hearing-and a new chance to continue its sustainable aquaculture operation.

The company and its owners, Kevin and Nancy Lunny, carry on a decades-long tradition of mariculture in Drakes Estero. The oyster farming operation has been there since the 1930s-so long that few people remember the estero before the farm existed. It was there long before the Point Reyes National Seashore was established in 1960.

Despite a record as excellent stewards of the land and of the estero, the Lunnys and their farm face eviction.

The National Park Service determined that the oyster farm had to go and pulled out all the stops in its efforts to evict the farm, even though its presence adds to the overall character of the area. The Lunnys, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Farm Bureau and other advocates have pointed out a long history of shoddy, slanted pseudo-science used by the Park Service in an effort to justify removing the oyster farm.

Despite protests from the West Marin community, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided last November that the farm would have to leave when its lease expired. Only a last-minute stay from a federal court last month allowed the Lunnys to remain in business, while the court considers their appeal.

If you've been following the case like I have, you know that Drakes Bay Oyster Co. is a prime example of the local, sustainable agriculture that many Bay Area residents prize. If you haven't been following the case, you might be surprised by the range of individuals, groups and organizations that joined together in the petition last week on behalf of the Lunnys.

Along with CFBF and the two county Farm Bureaus, the petitioners included famed Berkeley chef Alice Waters; the Hayes Street Grill, a fish restaurant in San Francisco; the Tomales Bay Oyster Co.; the Marin County agricultural commissioner; Food Democracy Now; Marin Organic; and the Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture.

These folks may all come at this issue from different angles, but we end up at the same place: What's happening to the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. is wrong.

The petition was written by Judith Teichman, a San Francisco attorney who assembled the coalition favoring the farm's continued operation. It notes that closing down Drakes Estero as a source of fresh, sustainably raised shellfish would wreak havoc with the world-famous local, sustainable food and agriculture of the Bay Area. It would also disrupt shellfish cultivation on Tomales Bay. It would put 31 people out of work, some of whom have worked for the oyster farm for 30 years.

Closing the oyster company would also be a serious setback for modern environmental thinking, the petition says. Leading voices in the environmental movement have called for 21st century conservationists to embrace a more people-friendly ethic that supports working landscapes-just the sort of operation that Drakes Bay Oyster Co. represents.

Old-fashioned environmental activists want to force people off the land, to return it to some sort of pre-human condition. That thinking leads to confrontation instead of collaboration, and to situations where progressive, thoughtful farmers and ranchers like the Lunnys get pushed aside because of someone's interpretation of the purity of nature.

For Farm Bureau, the case has implications beyond Drakes Estero.

Half of the land in California is owned by the federal or state government. Rural communities, where many Farm Bureau members live and work, depend on multiple use of these lands. National parks and wilderness areas operate under land-management rules that allow for human presence and use, even when the primary mandate is for preservation and environmental protection.

To ban an operation such as Drakes Bay Oyster Co. on the ideological belief that it should not exist in a national park or wilderness area-despite evidence that the farm provides important economic, cultural and social benefits-sets an awful precedent for everyone who believes that humans and nature can and must co-exist sustainably.

That's why Farm Bureau supports the Lunnys and Drakes Bay Oyster Co. If the bureaucrats and the kick-the-humans-out branch of environmentalism can run the Lunnys out, you can bet they'll keep trying to throttle more wise uses of taxpayer-owned lands.

That narrow, preservationist vision never worked and doesn't now. The appeals court will hear the oyster farm's case in May, and we hope it will restore common sense to the management of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.


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This article makes a good case for siding with the oyster farm operators, if just to avoid a precedent of shutting down private operations on government land elsewhere:

For Farm Bureau, the case has implications beyond Drakes Estero.

Half of the land in California is owned by the federal or state government. Rural communities, where many Farm Bureau members live and work, depend on multiple use of these lands. National parks and wilderness areas operate under land-management rules that allow for human presence and use, even when the primary mandate is for preservation and environmental protection.

  I still feel though that allowing one family or company to enjoy an exclusive right to operate on a particular government-owned site without others being able to compete for that privilege is far from the preferred libertarian approach, and that we should make this clear.

  Thanks for posting, Mike.

Love & Liberty,
                               ((( starchild )))

Thanks Starchild, for bringing some facts into this discussion. Good assessment of a legitimate reason for siding with the oyster folks. Good point abut more and more land being owned by the federal or state governments. And how did that happen? The original private owners, such as Johnson's Oyster Farm, not finding ways to make their business profitable, jumping to the opportunity of accepting a sale and lease back option from the government...And then, such as the successor of Johnson, acting like the government is trying to nationalize their businesses. I vote against LPSF getting officially involved Mr. Lunny's attempt to bypass a legitimate lease contract he signed. However, I would like to encourage libertarians to promoted awareness of the steady number of businesses freely and readily selling their property to the government, such as the Johnson's did.


This is not about a so-called bypass of a lease agreement. It is about a stunningly corrupt decision on the part of the feds not to renew the lease and to put further enterprise in public hands. It is not being offered to any other business and it demolishes missions in industrial capital, never to return a cent to anybody.

So this begs a couple of questions:

1) "Which side of this contest would my Libertarian Party representative take, on this issue, if he were elected?"
2) "Why would I support a party that would side with collectivist solutions over private enterprise?"

Why not about a lease agreement freely signed? Why "corrupt"? Oyster Bay is free to purchase and own its property and promote industrial capita, no? If I were elected I would abide by my belief in abiding by freely signed contracts and property rights, event if the owner where someone I did not particularly like. Last question, because I understood the issue.


There is no contract between us and the federal government to terminate the oyster operation at Drakes Bay.
There is no lease agreement, it expired. Everything about "freely signed" or "lease agreement" or "bought out" "or "lease-back" is irrelevant and all in the past.

This is about the use and disposition of public property. We the public have a choice to make: One that expands government enterprise or one that expands private enterprise. This does not even examine the astronomically different economic balance sheets or efficient use of capital and resources.

Meanwhile the government has been negligent to its responsibility to specifications, in a manner so corrupt, it has earned the condemnation of Senator Feinstein. And this is in violation of the contract we do have with the federal government, to carry out the law in the terms of its specifications, not in the terms of special interests.

And this still doesn't even touch what a more libertarian landscape would look like instead of what we have today, not to mention, what it would take to make the changes.

And so why would I choose the LP to advance collectivist solutions, (because I understood the issue), when I can get results from the Democrats or Republicans? Or if I didn't care about results, I could choose Greens, Communists, etc? Would I choose the LP because it has better collectivist solutions, couched in a better message??


Each of us are free too choose. I choose logic and respect for agreements. Yes, indeed, the Oyster Bay lease has expired, and they have no further right to be on property that does not belong to them. Period.

The sad part of this hoopla, is that as we are jumping up and down about "Saving Oyster Bay", we are missing the tragedy of all the ranchers and other entrepreneurs who couldn't make it in the region, and just sold out to the Feds. Ah, but that tragedy is not part of Oyster Bay's advertising campaign, so let's not talk about it.


This has nothing to do with the farm's right to be there. The agreements have expired. It has everything to do with the conduct of the government and the agreements it has with us, in the conduct of the law. There is NO agreement that Drakes Bay must be wilderness. None! There is no logic or agreement to expel the oyster farm. It's just the opposite. There are use-specifications that require the government to commit the resource otherwise and the government has lied(imagine that) about the science involved in the specs.

Fortunately, the farm, with the help of Cause of Action, and a lot of other sensible people, are using its legal rights to challenge a corrupt misuse of government power on their and our behalf.

And why would you throw us people of Marin under the bus, after the tragedy of others? Don't like money? Don't like private enterprise? Don't like oysters? Don't like business?

The legal and technical aspects favor the continuation of the operation and it will probably prevail over the political corruption, accordingly. But our silence and inaction would speak volumes as to our intentions and objectives.

Well, good luck to the "Marin People."