President's message: Why the Drakes Bay Oyster case matters
Issue Date: March 20, 2013<http://www.agalert.com/archive/?id=4011>
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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