Press Release Nov 29, 2012

Wilderness Victory for National Parks

Interior Secretary Salazar Protects West Coast's First Marine Wilderness Area at Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore

San Francisco, CA – Taking a stance favoring wilderness and a historic agreement with taxpayers, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made his long-awaited decision today to preserve Drakes Estero wilderness within Point Reyes National Seashore. Secretary Salazar’s decision solidifies a promise made by Congress to Americans more than 30 years ago, to let a commercial oyster company’s lease expire in the middle of the five bay estuary that is the West Coast’s only marine wilderness area.

“The National Parks Conservation Association praises Secretary Salazar for his tremendous leadership and for championing wilderness preservation, in saving Drakes Estero at Point Reyes National Seashore,” said National Parks Conservation Association President Tom Kiernan. “This legendary place, long planned and paid for, will now be returned to the public for an unprecedented marine wilderness visitor experience unmatched on the west coast.”

“A heartfelt salute to Secretary Salazar for his wisdom and statesmanship in choosing long term public good over short term private interests,” said National Geographic Explorer in Residence Sylvia Earle. “Protecting Drakes Estero, America’s only west coast marine wilderness park, will restore health– and hope – for the ocean and for the interests of all of the people of this country.”

In 1976, Congress passed a law designating Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore as the first marine wilderness area on the west coast. The designation included the caveat that a commercial oyster company planting non-native oysters could continue operating until its lease expired in November, 2012. The agreement to protect Drakes Estero wilderness in 2012 complements the agreement forged years ago to preserve the Seashore’s ranches and dairies in the pastoral landscape of this park.

“After waiting nearly 40 years, the public will finally have the opportunity to experience the true heartbeat of Drakes Estero – one that is uninterrupted by an intrusive oyster operation,” said Neal Desai, Associate Pacific Region Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “On behalf of our tens of thousands of supporters who raised their voices on this effort, we applaud Secretary Salazar’s decision, which also reaffirms the National Park Service’s commitment to ensuring that a vibrant ranching and dairy community continues to thrive in Point Reyes National Seashore.”

Far more than just a beautiful view, Drakes Estero serves as a stopover area for thousands of sensitive and migratory birds; habitat for seals; and accounts for at least 7% of California’s eelgrass habitat, which helps maintain a healthy marine ecosystem. The full wilderness protection of Drakes Estero will enhance opportunities for public access to a uniquely protected marine environment near the major urban hub of nine San Francisco Bay Area counties, home to more than nine million people.

Click here for additional comments by leading scientists and environmental champions.


About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit

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