National Parks Group Finds Support for Protecting Coastal Wilderness in New Drakes Estero Assessment

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   August 30, 2012
Contact:   Neal Desai, Pacific Regional Associate Director, National Parks Conservation Association: 510. 368.0845
Kati Schmidt, Senior Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association: 415.728.0840


National Parks Group Finds Support for Protecting Coastal Wilderness in New Drakes Estero Assessment

Statement by Neal Desai, Pacific Region Associate Director, National Parks Conservation Association

Background:
Today, the National Research Council (NRC) released a report evaluating the data and scientific conclusions within the National Park Service’s draft environmental assessment that will inform Interior Secretary Salazar on whether to protect Drakes Estero marine wilderness or allow continued commercial use of it. Drakes Estero is the only congressionally designated marine wilderness area on the West Coast and is located within Point Reyes National Seashore, a National Park System (NPS) site. The report is part of the public input process that will help inform the NPS as they finalize a decision this fall.

Click here for a summary of the National Research Council report.

 

“We are pleased with the National Research Council’s (NRC) report, which backs up our belief that the National Park Service generally used the best available data when evaluating the future of Drakes Estero. We continue to stand by the National Park Service’s environmentally preferred option, to sunset the oyster operation’s permit at the end of its term as long intended, and protect the West Coast’s only marine wilderness area.”

“The National Park Service has conducted an extremely exhaustive review process, including this National Research Council review, the Department of the Interior-commissioned independent peer review, and a public comment period where tens of thousands of Americans weighed in. It is now time for the park service to consider the diversity of input and issue a final decision.”
 
“In its review, the NRC correctly recognizes that though scientific uncertainty exists, and in this case as a result of the limited available data, ‘this does not mean that science does not provide actionable information for policy’. Importantly, national park wilderness management policies prioritize protecting resources should scientific uncertainty exist. The report reaffirms that wilderness protection is the best option to safeguard Drakes Estero’s natural resources, including wildlife and plant life such as fragile eelgrass beds, from risks posed by the commercial operation.”

“The National Park Service will need to determine if the suggestions provided by the NRC review, such as ways to reduce and communicate the scientific uncertainty, are consistent with policy guidance for national parks and NEPA standards.”

“In addition to the input received, we ask that the National Park Service evaluate the oyster company’s abysmal compliance record with State and Federal regulations intended to mitigate the negative impact of oyster operations to wildlife. On July 30, 2012, the State of California Coastal Commission issued an enforcement letter to the oyster company, stating how it has admitted to violating harbor seal protection regulations since 2008; contributed to significant marine debris plastic pollution and failed to adequately clean it up since 2005; knowingly conducted unpermitted development since 2005; and failed to pay fines of $61,250 for violating harbor seal protection regulations in 2009.”

“Drakes Estero provides the public with a significant opportunity to conserve a valuable estuary for the benefit and enjoyment of current and future generations. We ask Interior Secretary Salazar to join the tens of thousands of Americans and notable scientists such as E.O. Wilson and Sylvia Earle, and honor this deal to transition land use to a higher and better purpose.”

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