On November 30, 2012, the Point Reyes National Seashore in California will face one of two possibilities:
1) The unique estuary of Drakes Estero will finally be protected as Wilderness, after waiting 36 years; or,
2) A promise made to the American people to protect a critical marine habitat will be broken, following the inequitable renewal of private oyster farm lease.
In 1976 Congress passed the Point Reyes Wilderness Act, which designated over 25,000 acres of land as wilderness, and an additional 8,000 acres as potential wilderness. This potential wilderness area contained a commercial oyster farm. In order to respect the previously-made agreement, Congress recognized the existing 40-year lease for commercial oyster operations in Drakes Estero, and allowed those operations to continue until the lease expired in 2012. Conservation protections afforded by an official wilderness designation cannot be fully implemented until the farm’s lease expires and commercial activity ceases.
In 2005 the lease was bought by the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, who knew of the expiration date when the lease was purchased. Drakes Bay is now petitioning the ...