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Locals fight to protect Drakes Bay Oyster Company against feds trying to destroy local economy


Drakes Bay Oyster Company
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(NaturalNews) The federal government is waging an open war on America's rapidly dwindling production economy, as exemplified by the recent shutdown of California's last remaining oyster cannery. Citing environmental protection laws, the feds cut ties with the Drakes Bay Oyster Co., which provides about one-third of California's oysters, following a 40-year lease, a move that local supporters say violates the law.

Back in 1976, Congress designated the area where Drakes Bay has been operating, Point Reyes National Seashore, as a marine wilderness, meaning commercial activity is not allowed to take place there. Since Drakes Bay was already conducting business there under a 40-year lease, the restrictions would not take effect until that lease expired, which occurred back in November 2012.

However, a few years before the lease's expiration, in 2009, lawmakers passed a follow-up bill authorizing the Interior Department to extend Drakes Bay's lease for another 10 years, an initiative that was spearheaded by California Senator Dianne Feinstein to preserve both the local economy and the state's oyster industry. But this renewal was rejected by then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who argued that oyster harvesting could not take place in the wilderness area.

This sparked a legal battle that has continued for nearly two years, as Drakes Bay and the many local businesses that rely on it -- being the bread and butter of the town's economy -- have fought to preserve this precious industry. Signing onto a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Park Service were the Tomales Bay Oyster Co., which buys as many as 15,000 oysters weekly from Drakes Bay, and four local seafood restaurants.

Initial pleas to keep Drakes Bay open were rejected by the courts, leading to an appeal. Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay, petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a proposed injunction, but this appeal was also denied. Now, as of July 31, Drakes Bay's retail business is closed, signaling the loss of a 100-year business that sustained not only the local community but the entire state.

"Today would have been one of the most difficult days of our lives, but you made it brighter," stated Lunny before a crowd of about 250 supporters behind the oyster shack where his business had been located.

California now has no more oyster canneries, thanks to federal tyranny

Under the ruling, Drakes Bay will be allowed to continue harvesting oysters for another 30 days, thanks to an agreement with the National Park Service. But many local restaurants and businesses that support the Drakes Bay effort are still seeking an injunction, which the San Jose Mercury News says will likely be heard on Sept. 9.

When asked if his personal battle with the government is over, Lunny told reporters that he is still consulting with his legal team about potential options. In the meantime, he and his remaining employees -- half of the 30 workers at Drakes Bay have been let go now that the retail component of the business is shuttered -- will continue harvesting and selling oysters via delivery, until the full closing date next month.

"This is the only oyster cannery in California," lamented Phyllis Faber, co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, who is outraged at the Park Service. With the national economy in a continued downward spiral, shutting down a major industry that generates both food and jobs is absolutely outrageous.

"Other states are clamoring to set their estuaries up, but the National Park Service says (to Drakes Bay), 'Get out of there.'"

Sources for this article include:

http://www.mercurynews.com

http://www.farmtoconsumer.org

http://www.sfgate.com
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