|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||July 23, 2008|
|Contact:||Neal Desai, National Parks Conservation Association, 510.368.0845|
National Park Service cleared in U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General Report
Statement by NPCA Senior Program Manager Neal Desai
"The nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) is pleased with the findings of a report issued this week by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior, which maintains the National Park Service operated fairly and appropriately toward the private Drakes Bay Oyster Company now located in a protected wilderness area within Point Reyes National Seashore.
The independent report concludes that the oyster company delayed signing a permit to operate legally and within environmental compliance in the park, and that the oyster company had been operating without a permit since they bought the operation in 2005.
Additionally, the report found that Point Reyes Superintendent Don Neubacher treated the oyster company fairly. In fact, nine local ranchers recently submitted letters to the National Park Service in support of Superintendent Neubacher's conduct, stating their support for his work and treatment of them as tenants of the Seashore.
The report also makes clear that regardless of impacts from the oyster operation on the estero now, the oyster company must be removed when the company's rights to operate expire in 2012 so that Drakes Estero can be managed in accordance with wilderness law. The land sale transaction to the National Park Service allowed oyster operations to continue in Drakes Estero until 2012, at which point Congress required the elimination of all commercial enterprises from the estero and other areas designated as wilderness.
Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore is the only wilderness estuary on the West Coast of the continental United States. The landmark Point Reyes Wilderness Act that designated thousands of acres as wilderness, including Drakes Estero, while preserving agriculture in a separate pastoral zone, was widely supported by the public. Prior to buying Johnson's Oyster Co., the Drakes Bay Oyster Company was notified that they were mandated to close their business in 2012 due to Park Service laws and policies.
NPCA believes that if the oyster company intends to continue its operations beyond 2012, it needs to relocate to an area that doesn't have the same federal protections. Wilderness laws safeguard our most treasured natural areas from commercial exploitation, and NPCA opposes the Drakes Bay Oyster Company's attempts to violate the Wilderness Act."