The owner of the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. announced Monday he will fight the decision by the federal government to shut down his operation.
Kevin Lunny is working with a legal team and with Cause of Action, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan government accountability group.
"Our family business is not going to sit back and let the government steam roll our community, which has been incredibly supportive of us," Lunny said in a written statement issued Monday by Cause of Action. "We are exploring possible responses to the National Park Service and will be taking legal action against them soon."
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Thursday that the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s operating permit would expire at Point Reyes National Seashore, returning Drakes Estero to wilderness. The oyster company will have to remove its personal property from the lands and waters within 90 days.
But Lunny said he doesn't plan to give up.
"We are not walking away, instead we are fighting for our community, our employees, and our family against a federal government that seems to value lies over the truth and special interests over the welfare of a community," he said in the statement.
Cause of Action, which is working with Lunny free of charge, said it is ready to help.
"We aim to hold the National Park Service accountable for their treatment of the Lunny family and the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. as we view their actions as a
disregard for law and precedent that demands accountability," said Dan Epstein, the group's executive director.
The oyster farm had a lease allowing it to grow and harvest oysters in Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
The National Park Service has maintained it signed a 40-year lease with the Johnson's Oyster Co. in 1972 with the understanding that the 2,200-acre estero would become a wilderness area when it expired this year.
But that stance has been contested by Lunny, who took over the lease in 2004, saying there is a provision under a state Department of Fish and Game agreement to extend the lease until 2029.
Neal Desai, associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association Pacific Region, was critical of the threat by Lunny. He noted the California Coastal Commission in October told the oyster operation it "continued to violate the explicit terms and conditions of the previously issued orders" in regard to "unpermitted discharge of marine debris ... (and) new unpermitted development."
"It is astonishing that this company with a history of violations to environmental regulations would fight the historic decision to protect the only marine wilderness on the West Coast," he said. "The company should move on."
Contact Mark Prado via email at email@example.com
©2012 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)
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