Tag Archives: DBOC

Thank you to the Lunny Family

We offer our personal standing ovation to the Lunny Family for showing

us all what it looks like to care deeply about nourishing human beings, protecting

shared land resources and honoring a food producing tradition on Point Reyes

that has been serving the community for 100 years.  We thank you heartily

for showing us how to uphold the highest standards of ethics and practices and inner

direction when the very opposite was being unleashed on you.  We are deeply grateful

for your modeling of tenacity, patience, maintaining hope beyond all reason and then,

moving on in a related vein when the choices diminish.  Our sincere thanks to all Lunnys.

Kate Munger and Jim Fox


Shout Out For The Lunny’s

The fat lady is finally singing for the Lunnys and her tune sounds like a dirge. But whatever side you were on, the oyster farm is now part of the rich history of our small community.

I will always remember watching Kevin Lunny at so many, many meetings conduct himself with courage, grace, intelligence and most of all honesty! In this he never wavered. And in all of my conversations with ANY of the Lunnys, there has never been one vitriolic word against anyone in the National Park Service. Always only facts were stated.
Everyone has the right to fight for what he believes is the best good. I have watched the Lunnys fight a David vs. Goliath battle for Drakes Bay Oyster Company. This commitment has taken tremendous courage, time, money and probably good health with all the hard work he put in to saving DBOC.
I think the Lunny’s have fought a good battle and have acquiesced with grace and sincerity.
In my opinion, they have shown us the Best of the Best of the America’s spirit.
I salute them, each and every one of them (Joe, Sr., Joan, Nancy, Kevin, Patrick, Sean, Bridgit, Ginny, Jorge and Lorreta Murphy, too ) and I wish them all the best luck in the world on their new adventure.
Laura Marcoux

Point Reyes Station

A day in court: personal reflections and DBOC legal proceedings

By Marc Matheson
On Tuesday, September 9, I attended my first court hearing on the Drakes Bay Oyster Company issue. What follows is a hybrid essay of fact and personal perspective.
I have, until recently avoided the conflict of this ongoing community conversation. My concern, rather, has been the effect that the often times bitter and angry debate has had on our neighborhood and our friendships. This article provides both a first-hand report from this week’s ruling as well as my subjective opinion.
It was an interesting excursion into downtown Oakland on a busy weekday. I passed through the security checkpoint of the Federal Building, named for former African American mayor Ronald Dellums.
Upstairs, outside Courtroom 1, gathered several dozen Anglo men in suits, many of them lawyers; a handful of ladies, many also in suits and among them several women of color; a few familiar faces from Point Reyes National Seashore, in civilian clothes; and a passel of sundry West Mariners, whose faces I know and whose hands I shook in greeting regardless of their affiliation on this debate.
Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers, the judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California who ruled on Tuesday and had ruled on this case in early 2013, was born Maria Yvonne Gonzalez in 1965 in Houston, Texas. She was appointed to her current post by President Obama, and had earlier been a judge of Alameda County Superior Court, appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
She is the first Latina to serve on that court.
The case before Her Honor was a request for a preliminary injunction filed by a group of businesses, individuals and advocates to set aside the Interior Department’s decision to let the special use permit expire on its own terms for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company that operated in Drakes Estero wilderness.
The suit had been filed in mid-July by Tomales Bay Oyster Company; Saltwater Oyster Depot, in Inverness; Osteria Stellina and Café Reyes, in Point Reyes Station; Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco; the Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture; and individuals Margaret Grade, Loretta Murphy, Jeffrey Creque and Patricia Unterman.
Judge Gonzalez-Rogers began the hearing with some clear and unambiguous language: “What you are asking is extraordinary and rarely given. I am concerned, as this looks like a repeat of the February 2013 case over which I presided and which ultimately proceeded to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
(For anyone unaware of this ongoing fight, Drakes Bay Oyster Company had sued the Interior Department in December 2012, after former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to let the 40-year lease expire on its own terms. The effect has been that the temporary emergency injunction put in place by the 9th Circuit in February 2013 was lifted and the Department of the Interior set in motion a timeline for the company to remove its oyster operation from Drakes Estero).
On June 30th of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for review filed by the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, affirming the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s denial of the Company’s preliminary injunction lawsuit.)
“All of these issues were vetted years ago,” Judge Gonzalez-Rogers continued. Your lawsuit, “strains credulity. There is no indication that it has any reality. I have wondered whether Rule 11 sanctions aren’t appropriate given the complete lack of merit of your claims,” said the judge.
(Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern civil lawsuits in United States federal court provides for fines or punishment against attorneys and clients who file lawsuits based on frivolous arguments and that lack of factual investigation.)
For those legal beagles who relish precise language, Judge Gonzalez-Rogers unpacked her decision by emphasizing that a preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary” remedy, repeating that word several times, and which could only be granted if the plaintiffs satisfied each and every one of four required tests:  (1) that they had a strong likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their claims (i.e., that they could convince the court that federal government had violated some law); (2) that they would suffer “irreparable harm” if the injunction were not granted; (3) that balancing the harms to plaintiffs from denying an injunction against the harms to the National Park Service’s interests of granting the injunction favored granting the injunction; and (4) that an injunction would be in the public interest.
On the issue of whether the plaintiffs had standing to bring claims seeking relief for DBOC, which was not a participant in July’s lawsuit, Her Honor invited attorney Stuart Gross to explain why they had standing…but she frequently interrupted him, saying that he was wrong, he wasn’t convincing her, and so forth.  He made arguments about the Coastal Zone Management Act and then the National Aquaculture Act, but no headway with the judge.
Judge Gonzalez-Rogers made clear that in denying the motion for an injunction, she found that the plaintiffs had not met a single one of the four tests for an injunction, noting with regard to the balance of harms and the public interest that she’d already ruled on those in denying DBOC the injunction it sought in early 2013.
“Your proposition is nonsensical. It makes no sense. A permit has lapsed. It has lapsed. The only relief is to issue a permit,” the judge said.
“Your motion is denied. Not only do I have doubts about the sustainability of this cause of action, but the law is clear that a reduction in the supply of a product can’t constitute irreparable harm because a monetary remedy is possible; as this court has indicated in other rulings, there is no fundamental difference here with the issues raised [in February 2013;] this motion is incredibly untimely. It is not as if parties who brought this action didn’t know it was happening; these issues have been debated in public and in the courts for years. I don’t know if you’re corresponding with Drakes Bay Oyster Co. or what is your strategy for bringing this kind of action so late in game, and I understand your claim that it only became an issue after the Supreme Court ruled, but I find that to be unpersuasive. The motion for a preliminary injunction is denied.”
The judge then said that she assumed the federal government would be bringing a motion to dismiss (i.e., to toss the case out for failure to state any viable legal claims and because the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring these claims).  The government attorney replied that that was their intention.
Two amicus “friend of the court” briefs were filed in this case, but the court accepted only one; the other was rejected by the court. The amicus brief submitted by the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin and other environmental organizations was filed by attorneys at Earth Justice and was accepted by the court. The brief argued that the “Plaintiffs now, at the eleventh hour, rehash the same arguments this Court and the Ninth Circuit found unavailing in Drakes Bay, while utterly ignoring the environmental harms that are resulting from continued operation of the oyster farm and the public interests in favor of securing wilderness protection for Drakes Estero. Further, the speculative economic harms they assert are not harms cognizable for the purposes of granting an injunction.”
EAC’s amicus brief included two new court declarations explaining the harm to Drakes Estero from continued operations as evidenced by the underwater video footage taken by Richard James (available online at the You Tube channel, Coastodian.)
The amicus brief filed by Judy Teichman on behalf of Phyllis Faber, Robin Carpenter, Laura Watt and others was rejected by the court and not considered credible. The attorneys for the federal government opposed the amicus brief because it made “the same arguments as Plaintiffs and used similar authorities to support their identical interests,” did not “provide unique information or perspective to the Court,” and because the amicus applicants [Faber, Carpenter] “are “friends of the plaintiffs” and not “friends of the court,”” resulting in “a highly partisan attempt to influence the Court to find in favor or Plaintiffs by repeating the same arguments advanced in Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction.”
The judge apparently agreed with the federal attorneys reasoning since she rejected the Teichman brief.
And here’s where my personal perspective and concern for community goodwill come in. While nothing in this long legal battle and community controversy might have been predicted, one hopes that this latest chapter will close the book, finally, on the divisiveness and heated, personal acrimony that has strained West Marin residents – and others – and poisoned the common well of amity and collegiality.
The special permit issued to Drakes Bay Oyster Co. to operate within Point Reyes National Seashore expired almost two years ago. The federal court and Supreme Court have upheld that expiration. It’s truly time to let go of this fight, heal the community wounds, and heal our marine wilderness at Drakes Estero.


A call for listening and objective journalism


Hours before America’s invasion of Iraq, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, on “Larry King Live”, was being goaded into denouncing either or both Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush. His Holiness suggested that rather than demonizing others, we might distinguish between their speech and behavior, and their humanity. Rejecting the human being, explained His Holiness, prevents learning; keeping an open mind protects curiosity and progress.

I offer this anecdote as a practice that your publication might employ in reporting the divisiveness that has arisen regarding an oyster farm operating within a marine wilderness area.

I was, until recently, neutral on this issue, an argument that would be resolved in courts of law. My concern has instead been the heated emotions and diminished comity that has surfaced through frequent vitriolic personal attacks.

This atmosphere of disagreeableness rather than disagreement has, in my view, been fomented by the lack of objective journalism on the part of both local newspapers. The public lynching in print of our neighbors and of organizations whose work make possible our extraordinary landscape has in turn given license to outrageous expressions of hate.

As with any relationship there cannot be progress until all parties stop talking and listen, without considering how to respond, but simply listen, really listen. Might I suggest that in future, when your newspaper feels a need to opine or to publish yet another article on the oyster farm versus marine wilderness issue, that you post side-by-side a divergent opinion or article authored by someone with a differing perspective?

Marc Matheson

Editor’s note: We enthusiastically support divergent opinions. We publish letters and opinion pieces as they are submitted. Everyone is welcome to write letters to the editor. Everyone is free to respond to those letters. We don’t instruct people what to write.

Big government- it’s not just the Lunnys!


It is encouraging to see in the Citizen the visceral reaction to the DBOC closure, and the “go take a flying leap” attitude towards the dish it out but can’t take it crowd that sided with the forces of bureaucratic tyranny and fraud dedicated to running the Lunnys and the DBOC out of business.

The most insightful comment came from Axel Nelson, who quoted his brother Lars-Erik as writing “The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is Bullshit”.

If the enemy really is bullshit, Axel Nelson might want to take his brothers words to heart, and revisit his negative assessment of SF Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll’s recent comparison of Kevin Lunny to the “ultra-right wing nutcase, Cliven Bundy”.

Carroll was actually on to something, but not in the way that most might imagine.

Any fair review of the heavy handed tactics of the government and its enablers regarding Cliven Bundy will show that Bundy, like Lunny was the victim of a wildly disproportionate response to a minor land use dispute.

Bundy was also the victim of a far more extensive media driven character assassination campaign than that brought against the Lunnys by environmentally extreme propaganda organizations.

What has happened to Cliven Bundy and the Lunnys are far from unique events.

Such heavy handed tactics have become the norm rather than the exception from a government entity that believes the people are there to serve it, rather than the other way around.

As another example of heavy-handed government tactics, lets consider when during last years government shutdown, the shock troops of Jon Jarvis’ National Park Service were deployed to close the nation’s most popular public recreation areas before any other truly wasteful, redundant or ineffective bureaucratic agency was affected.

And if that isn’t enough, there’s the recent revelations of the weaponization of the Internal Revenue Service against potential opponents of the permanent bureaucracy.

This comes on top of revelations that the National Security Agency carefully monitors virtually all electronic communications for any signs of dissent.

So in light of these events, and what has just transpired locally, maybe these ultra right wing nut cases aren’t so nutty after all?

At the same time, what has been revealed is something which should make more than a few locals uncomfortable.

Virtually none of the incidents mentioned above have sparked the kind of local outrage generated by the government’s treatment of the Lunnys.

How hypocritical is it to stand silent when government force is directed against law abiding citizens who might not march in lockstep with one’s political views, and then vilify those who sided with the government against the Lunnys?

Its time to take the lessons learned locally and apply them more broadly to the activities of a government leviathan and that is clearly out of control, and the authoritarians more than happy to bring its power to bear against any who dare to question their authority, no matter what political views they hold.

Ever the optimist, I remain steadfast in my belief that there is far more uniting than dividing us.

The greatest fear that the ruling class has is that a significant portion of the general population will find common cause against autocratic big government, and actually vote and work to dismantle it rather than return to power the self- serving elected and appointed officials that continue to feed the beast.

Remember, “The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is Bullshit”.

Paul Lesniak
Stinson Beach


Response to Paul Rampel’s comment:


You may want to re read my letter.


I made no mention of the liberal community of West Marin being silent on DBOC issues.


I was pointing out the selective outrage on display while unaccountable and corrupt government force is being routinely deployed all over the country by an agenda driven and punitive government class.


It is that very agenda driven corruption that had the NPS get the ball rolling in their crusade against the DBOC and the Lunnys.


Any legal decisions that followed in the wake of that demonstrably corrupt and tainted process are also corrupt and tainted by their very nature.


It is banana republic governance at its finest, and you, like far too many around here, seem to have no problem with it because your guys are the ones in the generalissimo’s uniform and sunglasses.


You ask, “Why make common cause with fools and racists?”


Because they are your law abiding fellow citizens having their lives, liberty and property taken away by unaccountable and agenda driven government force.


Defending the rights of those with whom you might disagree is the very essence of freedom and liberty.


Try wrapping your head around helping them instead of joining in, because, like the Lunnys, the next guy in the breach could be you.


Also, perhaps you can explain exactly what makes your productive, law abiding fellow citizen Cliven Bundy a fool and a racist.


Is it the fact that Bundy is a cowboy hat wearing, drawling, cattle ranching cracker who has spoken an inconvenient truth about the ghettoized, urban, black underclass?

Before West Marin was taken over by politically correct retired lawyers, university professors, and a few entitled and envious hipster doofuses, you’d run into guys like Bundy every day in Point Reyes Station.


When ANY mention of the social pathologies plaguing the black underclass is deemed as racist, then the word loses all meaning.


Accusations of racism are usually deployed as a weapon by those with nothing intelligent to say on the subject and little to no first hand experience in dealing with the grim reality of that segment of the population.


Speaking of making common cause with fools, I’ve been waiting for the boiling seas of climate change to wipe out my little slice of paradise since the first Earth Day.


But since I haven’t seen more than the usual number of ‘for sale’ signs along Sea Drift or Tomales Bay lately, and sales of coastal real estate continue to soar to new records, I’m guessing that those who might really have something to lose take such big-Government funded bullshit as seriously as it deserves.


Paul Lesniak



Criminal activity and human concerns



Let me begin with comments made in “letters “(Citizen 8/7) accusing some of “championing the holding of a grudge” regarding
the Drake’s Bay Oyster Co. Stating facts is not “holding a grudge”,
It is stating facts. The suggestion that DBOC supporters are responsible
for creating friction ignores the constant drumbeat attacks on the Lunnys personally and the DBOC in general, to say nothing of the trespassing , defacement and theft of the “Save our Oyster Co” support signs perpetrated by enemies of the DBOC .

To state that this is criminal activity by cowards punishable by law is not “holding a grudge.” I won’t erode my soul by hating anyone-but I will reserve the right to take issue with behavior and other positions.

Those who oppose DBOC appear to completely ignore the human concerns implicit in the loss of home and jobs of 25 families. The detractors have left that as a mess for someone else to clean up. While the families will have
support for a while, sooner or later. with the lack of affordable housing
the kids will have to be removed from an already challenged school
district and the community will suffer.

The impact on the community is constantly ignored in favor of saving a piece of “the wilderness.” What is the establishment’s definition of “the wilderness” anyway?

There is a tunnel vision to what I read from DBOC detractors and
absolutely no sense of local community impact. Humans are not factored into any vision from this quarter.

Oh, by the way, if the displaced workers have to drive all over creation for housing and employment creating auto emissions, is that more environmentally sound than their previous situation?

Finally, if you lay up your treasures with the system, you’ve given away your power to it. .Since park scientists have been exposed as lying, why do you side with them?

What if you change your mind? Our local conversation means nothing to the Feds- this is a dichotomy where Washington DC is in this community but not necessarily of it. Thank you

Charlie Morgan


In defense of the Federal Government


I have enjoyed the beauties and ambiance of West Marin for over three decades.  Thanks to forward looking citizens back in the fifties who formed the association which encouraged the landowners of that era not to sell out to the developers for quick profits, but to preserve the uniqueness of this wonderful area by keeping it agricultural.

The Federal Government created the Point Reyes National Seashore and later expanded it by purchasing 1,100 acres in Drakes Estero from oyster company owner, Charlie Johnson.  If I am correct, the price for the parcel back in 1972 was $72,900.  Imagine the cost of those 1,100 acres in current dollars.


It is quite disingenuous to listen to the people who think raising oysters is really an important enterprise rant and complain that the Department of Interior wants to restore the property to wilderness status.  Is that not the sole reason that it was purchased by the Federal Government in the first place?   The oyster operation was allowed to continue unabated for forty years.  That was quite generous, but the pro oyster crowd, seem to believe that continued use of this space is their God given right.  It is not, and I believe that most people familiar with the months of debate know that it is not.


Why all the crying, why all the recriminations by the Lunnys and their supporters that it is somehow unfair that the property will no longer be available to DBOC for oyster cultivation.  In all of my visits to your area, I have never had a single oyster, and never will.    From my perspective, oysters are for the consumer a big rip off.   They do not even count as food.


I hope that now the so-called debate is over and the DBOC is being vacated that the news now turns to other things.

I love your area, and there is much more about it to praise than oysters.

By Robert E. Durkee, Belmont


Robert  E. Durkee,  Belmont


Apologies needed before healing can begin




Several people have asked if I want to be part of a post-oyster-conflict “community healing process.” It’s a lovely idea, and I will give it serious thought. But before I join the process I think I’ll wait for some personal apologies from people who have publicly described me as a “fraud” a “traitor” and a “turncoat”, some of them former friends, and all because I raised serious early questions about the now-obvious, proven and acknowledged abuse of science, or simply do not share their definition of “wilderness.” But even more so I would like to hear public apologies from those who believed the best way to accomplish closure of the oyster farm was to demonize the farmers. The Lunny’s may have made a business blunder by taking over a lease they sincerely believed would be renewed, but they are not “scofflaws” “greedy millionaires” “dishonest people” or “agents of the Koch brothers,” all descriptions I have read and heard used about them in the public domain. There were a lot of lies and insults hurled around the community during this conflict. The personal ad hominem ones are the ones that make healing the most difficult.


Mark Dowie


Who are the tunicates? (aka Marine Vomit)


Who are the tunicates?
Tunicates are common, but we scarcely know them. Tunicates are very much like us. We and tunicates belong t0 the same phylum, the phylum Chordata. All tunicates are marine and lack backbones. Hence, they are invertebrates. But Tunicates are close kin of ours, and we are vertebrates.
Who are the Chordata?
Chordates are animals with their nervous systems positioned along their backs. Most invertebrates have their central nervous systems composed of cords of nervous tissue positioned underneath their intestinal tracts along their ventral or belly surfaces. Around the nerve cord most Chordates have hard vertebrae of bone or cartilage. Vertebrae are the skeletons that protect the central nervous systems and support the bodies of fishes, sharks, amphibians, birds and mammals. But during early development all Chordate embryos have a primitive supporting rod, the notochord. The notochord is found below the developing central nervous system.
(Fig 1)
The notochord of chordates is a bar of soft mesoderm, a tissue that in us forms muscles of the developing body. The notochord of a tunicate larva that extends from head to tail forms the center around which the muscles and body of the larva develop. In adult tunicates the notochord and nervous system change shape, and their anatomical relationships change.
Evolution of Chordates.
Tunicates arose in the early Cambrian. The tunicate notochord allowed early comparative anatomists to construct evolutionary trees lumping tunicates with the vertebrates. These anatomical trees that relate animals to each other by anatomical similarities and differences gave us probable sequences of evolution. Many of these early anatomical evolutionary “trees” have been confirmed genetically after we learned to analyze gene sequences and compare one group’s sequences with those of different groups thereby allowing us to put together like with like. Gene sequencing also allows knowing how distant or close relationships are.
Tunicates are peculiar
Tunicates are an interesting but often ignored group of widely distributed marine animals commonly known as sea squirts or ascidians. After a free-swimming larval stage as a tadpole shaped larva, many tunicates settle down and attach themselves to wharf pilings, rocks and other hard substrates where they change into their adult forms.
Typical Tunicate Body
Fig 2
The adult of a typical tunicate is about an inch long, round or oval in shape, with two openings or siphons. At the free end of the tunicate, a stream of water enters the cavity of the pharynx through an incurrent siphon, swirls around the cavity inside the body, and then leaves through a smaller excurrent siphon. The body of a tunicate is covered by a skin or mantle that secretes a tough tunic of tunicin, a material that contains the same elements of cellulose that form walls of plant cells.
The largest part of the cavity inside a tunicate is the pharynx. A group of nerve cells, called a ganglion, nestles between the two siphons. This is the dorsal central nervous system of the animal. Around the ganglion is an adneural gland that some anatomists think resembles the pituitary gland of vertebrates.
Mucus escalator
A groove with a line of cilia called the endostyle extends along the mid ventral line of the pharynx to the esophagus. Food particles, such as bacteria and algae, enter with the water coming into the pharynx through the incurrent siphon that brings in oxygen, catching on a coat of mucus moved by the beating cilia of the endostyle. The mucus and particles pass down into the esophagus. Tunicates are ciliary-mucus-particle feeders. They survive on suspended particles and detritus carried into them by moving water.
Lives of tunicates.
Some adult tunicates live solitary lives stuck down to rocks, docks, boat hulls and breakwaters. Tunicates come in many colors and may resemble seeds, grapes, fruits or even bottles. One common type, Acidians, forms the budding squishy colonies of zooids that are mat-like and that ooze and squirt and feel rubbery under foot (sea-squirts). Others tunicates float in the open ocean, such as the salps and the doliolids. One of the largest tunicates is a stalked sea tulip, Pyura pachydermatina, that grows up to three feet tall.
Invasive species
Over the past several decades, tunicates (mostly of the genera Didemnum and Styeia) have invaded costal waters of many countries. The carpet tunicate, Didemnum vexillum, now called by some marine vomit, has taken over a six and half square mile area of the seabed on the Georges Bank off our North East Coast. This tunicate covers stones and vegetation, mollusks and other stationary objects with a dense mat. Related tunicates thrive in Puget Sound and the Hood canal in the Pacific Northwest and in many other places including California.
How Invasion Works
Invasive tunicates and other “foreign” invertebrates usually arrive at a new location as fouling organisms on the hulls of ships, or they may arrive as larvae in ballast water or when bilges are pumped. Tunicates may also enter on the shells of mollusks imported for cultivation. Current research suggests that many tunicates believed to be indigenous to Europe and the Americas are in fact invaders from other places (Asia). Some of these invasions may have occurred centuries, or even millennia ago with the advent of worldwide shipping.
When a species enters a new niche, the niche is already dominated and controlled by the interrelated lives in a web of native organisms, so the number of available attachment sites or living spaces for a few new arrivals is always small. Once an invader establishes a foothold, it first ekes out a living in very low numbers, quietly surviving at densities so low they go unnoticed. We appreciate new arrivals as being invaders only when their numbers get out of hand or when something they do displaces natives or changes what our casual observations perceive as differences from we think was an earlier normal. A sudden high abundance of invaders in an intact niche is usually an exception, so the question now becomes: how have conditions in the niche changed, and what caused the changes that allowed penetration? Unfortunately when many factors change simultaneously in any system, such as temperature, weather, salinity, turbidity, pollutants, figuring out what are causes and what are effects are usually impossible to ascertain.





Ranchers letter to Seashore Wednesday July 23, 2014

Below is a letter Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association members hand delivered on Wednesday to National Seashore Superintendent Cicely Muldoon regarding buildings at the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm


Dear Superintendent Muldoon,

The Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association is writing to inquire about the plans of the National Park Service for the buildings located at the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm. We are concerned that the Park Service may intend to demolish the retail sales building after July 31, 2014, and the worker residences at some later date. These buildings can provide significant benefit to the association members. They should not be demolished before their future use can be considered as part of the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan Environmental Assessment process. While that process is pending, the buildings should be used on an interim basis to benefit the ranchers and the public.

After the oyster farm leaves, the retail sales building should be used to provide retail and educational opportunities for the ranchers, and to provide clean bathrooms and running water for the kayakers and other public visitors who visit Drakes Estero and use the running water to clean off themselves and their boats. After the oyster farm workers leave, the worker residences should be used as residences for workers at the Seashore ranches.

The concerns about the oyster farm, which were centered on wilderness policy, are not applicable to these buildings, which are not in wilderness or potential wilderness areas. Even the section of Schooner Bay adjacent to the buildings is not wilderness or potential wilderness. Grazing occurs on and around the building site.

As the association explained in its scoping letter for the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan Environmental Assessment, there is a need to establish new on-farm retail opportunities, including the preparation and sale of local food items. (PRSRA scoping letter, sections 3a,viii). There is also a need for a location at which the public can learn about the history of the ranches. Ample septic system capacity and abundant water delivered by a certified public water system currently exist for the five housing units and the retail building. Adequate parking, public restrooms, walk in refrigeration and health department approval also exist for small scale food processing, storage and sales. It would require extensive permitting and construction to replicate these ranch assets elsewhere in the seashore. Here, only upgrades would be required.

The Seashore also allows other commercial uses at this site, including guided kayak trips. Presumably, the park will continue to allow this use. Currently, the kayakers and other visiting public regularly use the fully equipped public restrooms in the retail building. It seems appropriate to allow both compatible permitted commercial uses to continue on site.

The five housing units can be used for housing workers at the Seashore ranches. As the assocation explained in its scoping letter, there is a need for housing for these workers. (PRSRA scoping letter, section 3a, x). Building new housing for the ranch workers would be difficult, time- consuming, and expensive. Once the current residents have left, the units should be used for ranch workers.

The Seashore has publicly stated its commitment to the continuation of the ranches within the seashore. The assocation has made it clear to the National Park that these uses are vital to the long term viability of the ranches. Allowing these buildings to remain to continue to provide benefit to the ranches as they have in the past, to allow a transition from oyster worker housing to ranch worker housing, to transition from oyster processing to local value added farm product processing and to re-focus the interpretive services at the site to focus on history and sustainability of the working ranches located in working landscapes of Point Reyes National Seashore would help demonstrate the park’s commitment to the viability of the ranches.

Sincerely, Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association

Cc: US Senator Dianne Feinstein, US Senator Barbara Boxer, Congressman Jared Huffman, Assembly Member Marc Levine, Supervisor Steve Kinsey