With the latest news about Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s legal counsel, what’s a good Marin liberal to do?

People in Marin have been extremely upset about the decision Ken Salazar (Secy of the Interior) made to shut down Drakes Bay Oyster Co.  The oyster company is a fixture in Point Reyes, and has been sustainably harvesting oysters for decades.  It is insufficiently pure for ObamaWorld, though, so it’s got to go:

On November 29, Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, announced his decision not to renew Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s lease on National Park Service land about 30 miles north of San Francisco. Citing the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act, the National Park Service intends to establish a federally designated wilderness area, the first on the West Coast, on the land where the oyster farm has long operated.

The Lunnys and their 31 full-time employees, many of whom have worked for decades on the oyster farm, will lose their jobs. Fifteen who lived on the premises will also lose their homes. And the company has only three months to vacate.

What’s worse is that there’s a very strong case to be made, not only that Salazar was going for an impossible purity, but that Drakes Bay Oyster Co. is the victim of a government fraud:

In 2007 [Corey] Goodman [professor emeritus at Stanford and Berkeley] received a phone call from Steve Kinsey, a member of the Marin County board of supervisors. Kinsey told him of the Park Service’s allegations of environmental damage from a small oyster farm with an otherwise impeccable reputation, then he asked Goodman to fact-check the government’s claims. Goodman agreed, reviewed the data, and attended a public hearing on Drakes Bay Oyster Co. He had never met the Lunnys, but he was appalled at what he heard from the Park Service officials. Their statements completely conflicted with what Goodman had found.

“I sat and listened to the Park Service that day make the most incredible claims,” he tells National Review Online. “We hadn’t heard exaggeration,” Goodman recalls. “We’d heard things that were simply not true.”

His interest piqued, Goodman embarked on what became a five-year examination of the Interior Department and National Park Service studies of the oyster farm.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Goodman says. “It’s a stunning misuse of science by our federal government. . . . They have spent a huge amount of money trying to find harm when it doesn’t exist. . . . The Park Service was determined to get rid of the oyster farm, and they simply made [the environmental damage] up. . . . These people aren’t following the data. They’re following a predetermined agenda.”

Judging by the posts on my real-me Facebook, my Marin friends are extremely upset about this one.  They’re traditionalists (and Drakes Bay Oyster Co. has been around a long time), and they like their oysters.  Many Marinites consider it a fun family outing to pick up some oysters as part of a trip to Point Reyes.  They therefore believe that the Department of the Interior should back down on this one.

Today, though, the Marin Independent Journal dropped a bombshell that’s going to have these liberal Drakes Bay supporters spinning and confused — it turns out that the Koch brothers have a connection to the Oyster company.  Oh, no!

The head of Cause of Action, the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit representing the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in its lawsuit against the federal government, has had ties to the Koch brothers, wealthy industrialists who have funded ultra-conservative and libertarian policy and advocacy groups, most notably the Tea Party.

Dan Epstein, Cause of Action’s executive director, worked for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation from June 2008 to January 2009, according to Mary Beth Hutchins, a spokeswoman for Cause of Action.

When Epstein left the Koch foundation he took a job for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, headed by California GOP Congressman Darrell Issa. Under Issa’s leadership, the committee has mounted a series of investigations into the Obama administration since the Republicans took control of the House in 2010. Those investigations included the National Park Service’s handling of the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.’s request for a special use permit.

Epstein left that job to head the newly formed Cause of Action in August 2011.

How in the world are the Marin people going to square this circle?  Will it force them to see that the Koch Brothers are not evil industrialists who destroy “the little people” but, instead, are principled constitutionalists who believe that the government should leave the little people alone?  Or will they decide that the Drakes Bay Oyster Company that they lauded so tearfully last week is, in fact, part of the vast right wing conspiracy, and that Salazar is correct to use fraud and coercion to destroy it?

It will be interesting to watch my friends struggle with this one.  No, I take that back.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that, once political issues get intellectually difficult, they just stop thinking about them altogether.  You can practically see these bright, highly educated people sitting there going “Owie.  My brain hurts.”

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  • lee

    On the one hand, I do feel for Drake’s–they got WRONGED by the Feds. But on the other hand, their parents made the bed their children are being forced to lie in.

    Mom and Dad Drake’s Oyster, along with a lot of other West Marin land oweners, way back when in the 60’s, in a bid to thwart the Evil Developers struck a deal with the devil, er, the Federal Government. They’d more or less “deed” the land to the Federal Government to maintain it as open space, in return for which, they would get to lease it for forty years in a renewable lease. The idea was that the renewal would be more or less pro forma. Drake’s had a previous owne under the previous lease. The new owners (Children of some of the people who made a bargain with the Devil, er, the Feds) tried to renew the lease.

    For people who desire to lease from the Gubmint, I just have two words: “Hong” and “Kong.” I guess “Drake’s” and “Oysters” would work just as well.

    I recall a conversation I had a few years back with a Belvedere resident. He was talking about how he was “sneaking” in the installation of some landscape lighting because there was no way Belvedere would ever approve it. I thought I had found kindred spirit–that you CAN develop, build, and modernize, within reason, and still have a lovely place. Nope. I am surprised his head didn’t explode from trying to reconcile what he was doing with what he was saying: Even though he was griping about the landscape lighting, he beleived the Belvedere (and Marin) was right in the incredibly restrictive codes they had.

    Marin-ites want MORE AND MORE AND MORE land set aside as “open space.” Forget the fact that about 60%+ of the county is ALREADY “publically” owned–by the Feds, by the State, by the County, and by the various cities. (GGNRA, Marin Open Space, MMWD, Marin County Parks, Samuel P. Taylor, Mt. Tam, China Camp, Muir Woods, etc…) It’s not enough until every last hooman is run out of the place.

  • Charles Martel

    Well, knowing how the liberal mind works, you can say buh-bye to support for the oyster company. The Koch brothers (say, aren’t they Joooos?) are so irredeemably evil that no quibbles about abandoning Drakes Bay Oyster Company will be necessary.
    (Even I, an uncultured conservative knucklewalker, have loved heading over to Tomales Bay to join fresh oyster and beer in my grateful mouth and declare yet another proof that God, as Ben Franklin once said, wants us to be happy.)
    What concerns me more here is that the Park Service, which used to be one of the cleanest, least corrupt of federal agencies, has become infested with radical environmentalists. Being radicals, they both detest the general public, with its contaminating, despoiling tastes, and are willing to lie in the name of a Higher Good. But, Book, as you point out, we’re going to be smelling a lot of liberal brain farts as our fellow locals attempt to figure out how Gaia’s loving keepers can lie and the Good Ship Government spring a leak.

  • Charles Martel

    Lee, you raise a good point about how Marinites view their land. Back in the 1980s, county supervisor Gary Giacomini engineered a land-use compromise that remains a marvel of simplicity and utility. The agreement, which most Marin citizens and governments bought into was this: Roughly one-third of the county would remain as near wilderness in the form of state parks, the national seashore at Pt. Reyes, Muir Woods National Monument, watershed land and lakes, and dedicated open space preserves.
    Another third would be maintained as agricultural land, mostly dairy, through a zoning device that restricted new houses to one every 60 acres. Very few farmers would be able to find a developer willing to pay a high price for land that might accommodate only a handful of houses. The agricultural zoning restriction pretty much guaranteed—and still does—that the middle third of the county remains relatively untouched.
    That left the eastern corridor along Highway 101. The agreement was that this last third of the county would be where cities could build housing and create infill. With a vast “green lung” to our west, the thinking was that most Marin residents would accept further development in the already built-up area.
    Even so, there remains the “more, more, more!” psychology that you allude to. In my town there was an abandoned 17-acre nursery right at the edge of downtown that took the owners years to be able to sell to a developer. (After endless NIMBY wrangling, the city council approved a project that eventually will accommodate 85 homes, ranging from townhouses and cottages to 3,000-square-foot McMansions.) Yet despite this long-awaited end to the impasse, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into locals as I’ve walked my dog, who, when the conversation gets around to the new development, make knee-jerk protests against it.
    Some people claim we’re losing wilderness. We’re not (see the Giacomini solution above). If you walk one-half mile west, you can find almost-wild land that’s accessible by miles and miles of well-maintained trails. On the other hand, the old nursery for years was a sea of rotting, broken-paned greenhouses that sheltered bums, druggies, rats, teenage partiers and other well-known components of the genuine wilderness experience.  
    But the unspoken objection is that it will bring new people to despoil our small-town paradise. It may even bring =gasp= unwhite people. I gently point out that new people will be enthusiastic supporters of our local businesses, helping them pay enough taxes that maybe some blessed day my town, known region-wide for its potholes and torn up streets, can afford some repaving. I also point out that since the new neighbors will live next door to a Lucky supermarket that is in desperate need of remodeling, their influx might at long last convince the corporate bigwigs to give our town the good supermarket I know it would happily support.
    Once they see that newbies will be a benefit and not a threat, most of the people I chat with relent a little and start to think that maybe it’s OK to allow their better natures to sneak out and enjoy the prospect of having new neighbors. 

  • Wolf Howling

    What a wonderful story.  One of the things that has allowed the left to metastasize in America is that they have largely been wholly insulated from the real world impacts of their decisions / policies.

    Higher energy prices – no problems when your making 6 to 7 figures and don’t feel the pinch.  

    Redistribution – its a public good, so long as you don’t touch the nest eggs of the people arguing for it, such as Sean Penn, Ed Asner, etc., etc.

    Socialism – it works for college profs with tenure and a guaranteed pay check 

    No need for guns . . . at least when you live in crime free areas or are protected by armed guards.

    The people in Marin best get ready, because those heady days of supporting avant garde change in the U.S. consequence free are coming to a rapid end.  

    The oyster farm is the very tiny tip top of the ice berg.      


  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    Lee…don’t quite understand the original deal made by Drake or its predecessor…if they *owned* the land outright, what was their incentive to deed it to the government? Did they get a tax benefit, or what?

  • MacG

    An unpublished letter submitted to the IJ:

    A lease is a lease.  Many a business need to either find a new location or close when a new lease agreement cannot be reached.  Baskin Robins and Zack’s Coffee Shop come to mind to name a couple.  Their landlords found or hope to find a more profitable lessee. 
    Regarding the Oyster Bay lease, the Government with no other lessee in sight, has found a way to lose money yet again by not extending the option to lease for another ten years.  While it would only delay the inevitable at least the workers would know their fate for sure and they could find employment elsewhere prior to being bounced to the curb of the unemployment office.  Perhaps enough employees would leave early finding other work and the business would die a natural death.  These people will now have their own difficulty paying for their homes and all other things.  The payout of Unemployment Insurance and food stamps are other costs to the Government over and above the loss of lease revenue so we the people lose three ways.  It is no wonder George Carlin paired Government and Efficiency as an oxymoron. 

  • rick9911

    I find it wonderful when liberals run smack dab into the system they demanded and wind up  flat on their back.

  • lee

    mr. martel, i used to work somewhere right along 101. some property nearby had a proposal to develop, and the owners went thru hell and back… and just gave up and sold it. another business wanted to tear down and rebuild but would have been forced to dedicate a sizable chunk of land for open space. so they just remodeled. a rebuild would have meant more jobs, bot temporary for the construction and permanent for the larger facility, plus additional tax revenue… but no, the county and all its little bergs would prefer to cut off their noses to spite there face. i was always worried they would succeed in closing down the quarry out past loch lomond.,

  • lee

    mr. foster, i do not understand it myself. apparently, they were worried that the evil developers would wrangle some sort of eminent domain deal and build a tustin like development out in west marin. better to make a deal with the federal parks and lease back the land instead of, oh, leaving it to your children. 

  • lee

    mr. martel, i have a gazillion stories about the insanity of trying to build or develop anything along the 101 corridor….

  • pst314

    “I sat and listened to the Park Service that day make the most incredible claims,” he tells National Review Online. “We hadn’t heard exaggeration,” Goodman recalls. “We’d heard things that were simply not true.”
    Park Service employees committing fraud is nothing new. Do you remember when those cases where they were caught falsifying wildlife population data, in order to designate areas as vital habitats for endangered species?

  • Charles Martel

    lee, I think you’re right. Even though the 1980s agreement seemed to allow for normal development along Highway 101, it’s obvious from your experience that even in the places where it’s supposedly OK to build things it’s not.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Give them an inch, they will take a mile.

  • Navy Bob

    Great article in the Tuesday Wall Street Journal on this issue (Welcome to the Salazar Wilderness Page A17)  including how the how the Park Service alleged the oyster boats were making to much noise and used a tape of jet-skis in New Jersey that they tried to pass off as made at the oyster facility.   Thankfully the Lunny’s are suing the Park Service, Dept of Interior and Mr. Salazar.


    Marie A: “Let them eat cake”

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Slaves don’t need oysters to eat. Marin Democrat voters should know their damn place. That is what they voted for, after all.