Archives for March 2013

Bipartisan Amendment to Save Drakes Bay Oyster Co Filed in Senate Budget Proposal

Bipartisan Amendment to Save Drakes Bay Oyster Co Filed in Senate Budget Proposal


WASHINGTON – Today, Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) co-sponsored an amendment to the Senate Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2014, which, if passed, would allow Drakes Bay Oyster Company to remain open at least 10 more years. The amendment would “establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to reinstate the reservation of use and occupancy and special use permits to conduct certain commercial operations.”

Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director commented on the proposal:

“Government accountability is not a partisan issue—neither is saving jobs.  This amendment would save 30 jobs at Drakes Bay Oyster Company and 40 percent of California’s oyster market.  It would also send the message to the Department of Interior that transparency and scientific integrity cannot be casually dismissed for political purposes.”

Cause of Action, Briscoe Ivester & Bazel LLP, Stoel Rives LLP, and SSL Law Firm represent Drakes Bay Oyster Company in their current federal lawsuit against the Department of the Interior, National Park Service and Secretary Ken Salazar.


Cause of Action Statement on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee Nomination of Sally Jewell


Cause of Action on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Nomination of Sally Jewell

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources voted to move the nomination of Sally Jewell for Secretary of the Interior forward to a full Senate vote.

Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director expressed concerns with Mrs. Jewell’s past alliances:

“As a former board member of the National Parks Conservation Association, we have serious concerns about Mrs. Jewell’s plans for the Department of the Interior. We saw Secretary Salazar’s overreach and abuse of power concerning Drakes Bay Oyster Company and we want the Senate to find out what Mrs. Jewell’s plans are for the future of this sustainable farm. The culture of corruption, and disregard for scientific integrity at the Department of the Interior needs to end. Will the Senate hold Mrs. Jewell accountable for her political connections and how they may impact her decisions as Secretary?

For more information on Drakes Bay Oyster Company and their lawsuit against Secretary Salazar, the National Parks Service, and the Department of the interior, click here.

Ag Alert: Why the Drakes Bay Oyster case matters

The following is from the California Farm Bureau Federation:

Why the Drakes Bay Oyster case matters

By Paul Wenger, President, California Farm Bureau Federation

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.


As of May 24, 2013, Cause of Action no longer represents Drakes Bay Oyster Company, the Lunny family, or Dr. Corey Goodman and will be withdrawing as counsel from the litigation.

Mary Beth Hutchins on the Dana Show 3/15/2013

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Senator David Vitter questions DOI Nominee on plans for the direction of the department

Senator David Vitter questions DOI Nominee on plans for the direction of the department

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Amicus Briefs in Drakes Bay Case From Unlikely Allies

Two weeks after the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to keep the Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) open while the court considers its appeal, a group of local food and agriculture supporters have filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the oyster farm.


The brief was submitted by Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse Restaurant, the Marin and Sonoma County Farm Bureaus, California Farm Bureau Federation, Marin Organic, Food Democracy Now, Alliance for Local Sustainable Agriculture, the Hayes Street Grill and Stacy Carlsen, Agriculture Commissioner for the County of Marin.


The group provides examples of local implications if the farm was ordered to close:

  • The shellfish produced in Drakes Estero are important to the local economy and since there are no other options in California to relocate the oyster beds, the supply would be disrupted.
  • Many restaurants and businesses will lose the feature of providing local and sustainable resources.
  • Other California shellfish growers will be required to pay higher fees or receive reduced State services if DBOC was shut down.
  • The local school will lose value on its work to close the achievement gap if the children of the workers living on the oyster farm are evicted.


The brief also addresses the issue of the National Park Service’s use of misrepresented science in the Environment Impact Statement that led to the decision to shut down the farm.


Cause of Action, Stoel Rives, LLP, and Briscoe Ivester & Basel, LLP, filed an opening brief in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on behalf of Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC). The court is scheduled to hear this appeal challenge on May 14.

The amicus brief can be found here.






Washington Post: Watchdog groups check administration’s transparency

Sunshine Week: Watchdog groups check administration’s transparency

By Josh Hicks

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