December 5, 2013

If you like your oyster farm, you can keep it

By Anthony L. Francois Senior Attorney

Until the Secretary of the Interior decides that your coastal business is worth more to the public dead than alive.

Frequent Liberty Blog readers are familiar with our coverage of Drake’s Bay Oyster Company, in its legal battle to renew the permits it needs to remain in business on Drakes Estero within Point Reyes National Seashore.  For the last several months, that battle has been waged at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, where the oyster farm has asked the full court to rehear their case.  PLF, on behalf of itself, the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, and the California Cattlemen’s Association, filed an amicus brief in support of rehearing, arguing that the non-renewal of the oyster farm’s permit could easily be visited on many other federally permitted ranches and other businesses, if the court’s prior decisions are allowed to stand.

This week, the Secretary of the Interior weighed in on whether the full court should rehear the case.  It should not surprise anyone that the Secretary asserts there is no there there.  But the federal government shows amazing chutzpah in explaining the decision to evict Drakes Bay Oyster Company from its business, and its employees from their jobs and (for many of them) homes:

The Secretary’s decision was based not primarily on the environmental effects of oyster cultivation – whether they may be beneficial or harmful – but on whether DBOC’s private operations are a better use for Drakes Estero than wilderness use.

So there you have it.  The federal government continues to argue that it may terminate or decline to renew an existing permit for an existing commercial activity, for any reason or no reason, on the sole basis that the agency would rather have nothing going on than something going on in a potential wilderness area.  But the worst part may be how the Secretary views the plight of Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s employees:

The Secretary has authorized the Park Service to offer federal assistance to affected employees to reduce this burden.  Their interest, while real, does not outweigh the potential value of a wild Drakes Estero to more than two million annual visitors to Point Reyes.

Translation – in the federal government’s view, you do not belong on the coast unless their bureaucrats find you worthy.  And, they may change their mind about your worthiness pretty much whenever.

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