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May 13, 2013

 Cause of Action Finds More Evidence in USGS Documents that the Interior Secretary Was Misinformed in His Decision to Deny DBOC Permit 


WASHINGTON – Today Cause of Action (CoA), a government accountability organization, released internal email communications from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) regarding the monitoring of harbor seals at Drakes Estero. Cause of Action obtained these documents via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent in December 2012 concerning the integrity of the National Park Service’s (NPS) protection of marine mammals.

A USGS assessment of harbor seal activity at Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC), which occupies some of the Estero, was used to support an NPS conclusion that a continuation of DBOC’s Special Use Permit would have long-term adverse impacts on harbor seals. DBOC is now engaged in a lawsuit against the Department of Interior following then-Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s decision to not renew the Special Use Permit and, in effect, shutting down of the small, family-run farm. Cause of Action had reason to believe that the information upon which NPS relied was a misrepresentation of science, and that Sec. Salazar may have based his decision about the Special Use Permit on this false information.

The FOIA production from USGS reveals in internal agency emails:

  • Then-Secretary Ken Salazar and the Department of the Interior pressured USGS for the harbor seal monitoring information to inform the Secretary on his decision regarding DBOC.
  • The USGS assessment was considered of very high priority to inform the Secretary’s decision.
  • Two Assistant Secretaries (Castle and Jacobson) were apparently briefed on the USGS assessment to inform the Secretary for his decision whether to renew the permit.

The full production can be viewed here.