Video: Feds shut down 100-year-old oyster company, destroy some lives and dreams

posted at 9:21 pm on November 29, 2012 by Mary Katharine Ham

Hey, no bigs. It’s just a 100-year-old company and California’s only surviving cannery, a sustainable, family-owned operation employing 30 people. The Drakes Bay Oyster Company has been in a seven-year fight with the federal government and environmental groups over whether it’s 40-year lease would be renewed this week. The Lunny family, which owns the oyster farm, was among a group of families that sold their ranch lands to the National Parks Service in the 1970s to protect them from developers, with the understanding they would get 40-year-leases renewed in perpetuity. After buying and operating the oyster farm without incident— they were even featured as outstanding environmental stewards by the National Parks Service— the Lunnys learned in 2005 they were accused of bringing environmental damage to an area the NPS and environmentalists were anxious to designate as the nation’s first federally recognized marine wilderness.

Sec. of the Interior Ken Salazar decided todaythe farm’s lease will not be renewed, despite some support for it from from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and serious questions raised by scientists about the research used to impugn the Lunnys.

“After careful consideration of the applicable law and policy, I have directed the National Park Service to allow the permit for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company to expire at the end of its current term and to return the Drakes Estero to the state of wilderness that Congress designated for it in 1976,” Salazar said in a statement. “I believe it is the right decision for Point Reyes National Seashore and for future generations who will enjoy this treasured landscape.”

Please take 20 minutes to watch this video, a mini-documentary on how the federal government can bully a conscientious, small business into non-existence. It will make you sick to your stomach, especially as Corey Goodman, a member of the National Academy of Science and the California Council on Science and Technology, outlines the lengths to which the feds went to make it look as though Drakes Bay Oyster Co. was a polluter.

OysterZone.org has more information on the history of this fight. And, of course, a quick Google search reveals the federal government gives out subsidies for starting oyster farms on the East Coast while it’s shutting them down on the West. I’m gonna stop now because I’ve gotten this far without cursing.

My thoughts and prayers are with the owners of Drakes Bay and its employees and their families today.


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Look, the main issue here isn’t that they are losing their lease. It’s the fact the Feds falsified data to do it! Then.. when they got caught… they doubled down, falsified more data and then threatened the family with criminal prosecution! Don’t you get that? How can you focus on what you consider the stupidity of their parents while ignoring the tyranny of the Park Service?! So what if the government owns the land? That’s not the issue! The government owning the land does not allow them to falsify data and persecute innocent Americans with jail for daring to question their earlier falsified data!

JellyToast on November 30, 2012 at 2:46 PM

The reports and studies by either side are entirely irrelevant to the central point: the Lunny’s don’t own the land, and the owner of the property has decided not to renew their lease. It doesn’t matter what the reason for not renewing it is; it is the right of the property owner to do so.

That the government owns the land is the issue. Look, I”m an anarcho-capitalist; you’re not going to find me arguing for the government on practically anything, and you’re going to find me supporting and defending liberty and rights (unlike the majority of blog posts and commenters here), but a tenant does not have a right to use another’s property.

If the government didn’t want to renew their lease… they could’ve just said they didn’t want to.

And if the Lunny’s wanted to “protect” their property from developers, they could have held on to the land instead of selling it to the government and using the force of government to restrict competition and intervene in the marketplace.

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Government should not be an entity …

J.E. Dyer on November 30, 2012 at 3:03 PM

You should have put a period after entity.

Government should not own land at all.

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 3:11 PM

The new world.
Even if they had renewal covenants in their lease contracts, Obama’s minions don’t respect contract laws.

seven on November 30, 2012 at 3:16 PM

It doesn’t matter what the reason for not renewing it is; it is the right of the property owner to do so.

They don’t have the right to use tax payer money to lie and persecute. It is not their reason that matters but their methods.

But I’m done on this. There’s no point in going on.

JellyToast on November 30, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Oh so sorry Oyster people, did you vote for Obama? Oh, so sorry.

steveracer on November 30, 2012 at 3:56 PM

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Owning the land has nothing to do with it. These enviornmental extremist would go after the oyster company if the Lunny’s owned the land outright.

“We are taking the final step to recognize this pristine area as wilderness,” Salazar said. “The estero is one of our nation’s crown jewels, and today we are fulfilling the vision to protect this special place for generations to come.”

“This isn’t about an oyster company, for us,” said Neal Desai, the associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association. “This is about taking care of our national parks for future generations and honoring a decades-old agreement to protect our heritage and create a marine wilderness. Letting the lease expire, removing all the motorboats and removing all the non-native oysters is good for the environment.”

“A heartfelt salute to Secretary Salazar for his wisdom and statesmanship in choosing long-term public good over short-term private interests,” said Sylvia Earle, a local environmentalist and the former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Protecting Drakes Estero, America’s only West Coast marine wilderness park, will restore health and hope for the ocean and for the interests of all of the people of this country.”

The fact that the government owned the land just made it easier.

plutorocks on November 30, 2012 at 4:03 PM

As a CA resident and Drakes Bay Oyster Farm supporter, I have emailed Dianne Feinstein, one of our Senators who also supported the farm, to ask whether Congress can do anything to override this terrible decision. It’s bad enough that the Feds think they can control everything, but when they use junk science and bad faith to do it, it really stinks.

FogDog on November 30, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Owning the land has nothing to do with it.

plutorocks on November 30, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Ownership has everything to do with it.

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 1:17 PM A
Dante on November 30, 2012 at 1:17 PM B (some seconds later … )

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 3:08 PM

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 4:35 PM

.
You totally remind me of Ebenezer Scrooge.

listens2glenn on November 30, 2012 at 5:06 PM

. . . . . if the Lunny’s wanted to “protect” their property from developers, they could have held on to the land instead of selling it to the government and using the force of government to restrict competition and intervene in the marketplace.

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 3:08 PM

.
In California back then, developers were “strong-arming” land owners by way of corrupt “local” (state/county) politicians.

HOLY CRAP ! … It was kinda’ like today.

listens2glenn on November 30, 2012 at 5:16 PM

Congress must make every decision.

J.E. Dyer on November 30, 2012 at 3:03 PM

http://hotair.com/archives/2012/11/30/pelosi-of-course-i-support-giving-obama-unilateral-control-to-hike-the-debt-ceiling/

:(

Axe on November 30, 2012 at 5:27 PM

Screw them . . . . .
. . . . . I won’t shed a tear for these idiots.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on November 29, 2012 at 9:31 PM

.
Screw you.

Mary Katharine Ham on November 29, 2012 at 9:40 PM
.

Wow! And I thought you were pretty.

Bulletchaser on November 30, 2012 at 12:15 AM

.
They’re not mutually exclusive.

Mary Katharine Ham on November 30, 2012 at 12:44 PM

.
.
Don’t ever stop being yourself. . : )

listens2glenn on November 30, 2012 at 5:28 PM

Owning the land has nothing to do with it.

plutorocks on November 30, 2012 at 4:03 PM

Ownership has everything to do with it.

Dante on November 30, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Can’t see the forest for all the trees.

You are stuck on one detail that doesn’t have anything to do with the agenda.

plutorocks on November 30, 2012 at 5:28 PM

Never, ever, ever, trust the government to renew something “in perpetuity”.

AZfederalist on November 29, 2012 at 9:24 PM

Except tax increases.

labrat on November 30, 2012 at 5:52 PM

You are stuck on one detail that doesn’t have anything to do with the agenda.

plutorocks on November 30, 2012 at 5:28 PM

Dante is an anarchist. In case anyone doesn’t know or get that. And he’ll never stop arguing for removal of the structure, in one way or another. So MK puts this post up as an example of government corruption, which should, I agree, piss off every conservative on earth; but for Dante, it’s an example of the corruption that is government.

There’s no “winning” the argument with Dante without capitulating to Dante’s overall terms, because he’ll never capitulate to anyone else’s.

Just FYI. For the worn-out or flummoxed.

Axe on November 30, 2012 at 6:00 PM

I just want to thank many of the other commenters for posting more details about this case that MKH didn’t post. Gives a much deeper and less hysterical view of the situation.

Dongemaharu on November 30, 2012 at 6:22 PM

When the Lunny family purchased the company in 2005, it inherited a “reservation of use” (ROU) with the National Park Service. The ROU specifies that the farm and cannery can only operate until the end of 2012—and then it’s out of business.

Something Smells Fishy

rukiddingme on November 30, 2012 at 7:12 PM

Something Smells Fishy

rukiddingme on November 30, 2012 at 7:12 PM

More than that. :)

He continues, “The next day, Don calls me back and says, ‘Was I dreaming? Did you ask about buying Johnson’s?’ Then he says he thinks having us buy it is a great idea. He says there are some permit issues but they can help us with those.”
There were three different permits that had to be obtained. According to Lunny, the first two were simple and caused no problems; the last contained a new clause that contradicted language in the ROU and specifically stated the Lunnys agreed to be out by 2012. “I asked Don, ‘Why would we sign that? The ROU agreement already states the deadline, but why would we want to tie our hands like that?’” Lunny asks. “This wasn’t what Don wanted to hear, and that was where the tension began.”
The debate heats up

Dressed in jeans and a short-sleeve print shirt, Lunny looks like a gentleman farmer. His face is shaded with sandpaper-like stubble, and his left eye is set in a perpetual squint. We’re seated at a folding table adjacent to a gent playing banjo and serenading shoppers with an old Steve Martin song, besieging listeners to put a live chicken in their underwear.

Lunny raises his voice. “We had a business plan so we could break even; make a little money if we left in 2012. But we also found out it was possible for the Park Service to extend the deadline.”
Lunny is referring to a continuation clause within the ROU that states: “Upon expiration of the reserved term, a special use permit may be issued for the continued occupancy of the property for the herein described purposes, provided however, that such permit will run concurrently with and will terminate upon the expiration of state water bottom allotments assigned to the Vendor.” (According to Lunny, the California Department of Fish and Game shellfish lease—aka the state water bottom allotment—expires in 2029.)

In the meantime, the Lunnys invested $300,000 in capital improvements and, soon, the oyster farm was humming along. The family had no problems selling its shellfish and business was good, which meant it was due for some bad news. The last permit required by the NPS was slow in coming. By 2007, it still wasn’t in place, and relations between the Lunnys and the Park Service deteriorated.

Lunny decided to ask Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey for help. Kinsey met with Neubacher and, after their conversation, asked Neubacher to appear before the full Board of Supervisors to explain alleged environmental problems posed by the farm’s operation, including NPS claims that it disrupts native seal populations and that the boats damage native eelgrass beds. During the meeting, Neubacher gave the Supes some inaccurate information based on questionable science.

“They started a campaign to discredit the farm,” charges Lunny. The issue came to a head when the Lunny family wrote the United States Department of the Interior alleging National Park Service officials of “scientific misconduct and disparate treatment,” according to an official report from the Office of the Inspector General, the investigative arm of the NPS.

Axe on November 30, 2012 at 7:24 PM

Chief of Interpretation and Resource Education John Dell’Osso has been with the NPS for 25 years, so he’s seen a few things. He’s watched the situation with Drakes Bay Oysters develop, and he’s the first person to say the episode hasn’t been the agency’s finest hour. “Our job is to protect our resources and follow the law. We don’t typically get involved in defending ourselves,” says Dell’Osso. “But he [Lunny] put us on the defensive by going after our scientists. And this had a snowball effect over the last two years.”

Dell’Osso continues, “Kevin did a good job cleaning up the oyster farm, and we were happy he bought the place. But there’s an agreement he’s known about and we can’t change it. There is no mechanism for us to continue it.”

In the end, given hindsight of 20-20, taking on the Feds may have been a bad business decision for Lunny. “The Park Service added new permit provisions that would cripple the business and began to make allegations of serious environmental harm caused by the oyster farm. We had to find out what could be done and we had to hire consultants and lawyers,” he says a little wistfully.

It’s hard to tell a rancher to back off since, by nature, they seem drawn to doing things the hard way. But Lunny and his brothers have invested more than $1 million into the oyster operation, and if it closes in 2012 as scheduled, there’s going to be a tsunami of red ink to clean up.

http://www.northbaybiz.com/General_Articles/General_Articles/Something_Smells_Fishy.php

Axe on November 30, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Never, ever, ever, trust the government to renew something “in perpetuity”.

AZfederalist on November 29, 2012 at 9:24 PM

.
Except tax increases.

labrat on November 30, 2012 at 5:52 PM

.
“Rim-shot.”

listens2glenn on November 30, 2012 at 7:27 PM

Axe on November 30, 2012 at 5:27 PM

But Axe! But Axe! Pelosi can’t do jack. She’s in the minority. She can talk a moronic game, but she can’t get anything done.

Congress stymies itself most of the time. That’s awesome. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. The way government should be.

The problem of big government is accelerated most effectively by executive agencies. If you want to locate the basic systemic sources of our government problems today, that is one of the two biggest. The other is the corrupted view of the role of the Supreme Court, in the dynamic of the people and their representatives interacting with the Constitution.

Eliminate the agencies, make Congress decide everything, and you won’t get very many decisions. Hallelujah!

J.E. Dyer on December 1, 2012 at 12:29 AM

And when they burn their fingers, do you stand by and laugh, let the burn get infected and continue to mock them when the doctor eventually amputates their hand?

I think these people have learned a life’s lesson. I guess you are finished learning all of yours.

JellyToast on November 30, 2012 at 10:12 AM

Nobody is laughing, and nobody is, as another person posted, mocking. In fact, it’s rather grim.

You warn people, and they don’t listen. They insist on voting for leftists (and feel righteous about it), then, predictably, get hurt. It’s a perfectly understandable lack of sympathy, plus hoping now they might get a clue.

Not mocking, and not laughing at. And I defy anyone to find any laughing or mocking (up to the point I’ve read thus far, which is up to your post).

Alana on December 1, 2012 at 12:54 AM

You warn people, and they don’t listen. They insist on voting for leftists (and feel righteous about it), then, predictably, get hurt. It’s a perfectly understandable lack of sympathy, plus hoping now they might get a clue.

Thank you for posting what I could not articulate clearly.

gdonovan on December 1, 2012 at 7:35 AM

It doesn’t matter if you own your land or not. The Feds come after you if your land is in a place that someone deems sensitive in any way.
If your land is part of anything that could be construed as pretty or nice, or perhaps you have an endangered snail crawl & $hit it’s way across your property once, the Feds will take interest if it’s called to their attention.
I’ve known fellow ranchers to strike up cooperative relationships on purpose with federal agencies, somehow hoping this will endear them to the Feds when the piper comes for payment.
I’ve read extensively about these conservation easements and such.
Nature Conservancy agreements etc.
I find it all dangerous.
And with respect to owning your land, you rent your land from the state.
Bcs if you pay don’t pay your land taxes, they will confiscate your property from you.
So none of us own our land at all. It is like we are in Khasakstan (sp?) now. There, the people do not own their land. They basically, from what I am to understand, lease it from the govt.
We are no different here.
As ranchers, most of us in this profession are good stewards of the land. I will go so far to say that the worst stewards of the land I have seen are farmers.
At least around here. There are a lot of good farmers, don’t mistake me.
But the Federal crop insurance programs & farm payment scams of all stripes have encourage the abuse of the land in a lot of ways.
Our pasture land has a lot of native prairie. It is great for raising cattle.
I know a lot of farmers that are plowing under what little remaining prairie is left in order to establish a crop history so that they can enroll it in crop insurance plans in the future.
Environmentalists aren’t going after these people. They also don’t seem to care about the absent landowners who let their cattle starve to death.
This is the fight we fight all the time.
I can see the feds coming after those of us who live on the Cannonball river. But so far, it’s not pretty enough to come after us yet for.

Badger40 on December 1, 2012 at 7:52 AM

And with respect to owning your land, you rent your land from the state.
Bcs if you pay don’t pay your land taxes, they will confiscate your property from you.

That was a bitter pill to accept after paying off my house but true.

Don’t pay your rent (taxes) and they will take the land you spent decades working to obtain.

Doesn’t seem right does it?

gdonovan on December 1, 2012 at 8:48 AM

Axe on November 30, 2012 at 5:27 PM

.
. . . . . Congress stymies itself most of the time. That’s awesome. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. The way government should be.

The problem of big government is accelerated most effectively by executive agencies . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . Eliminate the agencies, make Congress decide everything, and you won’t get very many decisions. Hallelujah!

J.E. Dyer on December 1, 2012 at 12:29 AM

.
DITTOS ! … : )
.

“The more Government does for us, the exponentially more they do TO us.”

listens2glenn on December 1, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Obviously the Lunnys didn’t learn anything from Native American Treaties signed by the U. S. government in the past. It matters not as long as the current bunch of creatin’s satisfy their supporters of whatever ilk.

georgeofthedesert on December 1, 2012 at 4:37 PM

Remember Michelle Malkin’s video of the family in Venezuela being evicted from their farm?

Joan of Argghh on December 2, 2012 at 8:10 AM

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