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Drakes Bay Supreme Court bid falls flat

After years of debate and appeals, Drakes Bay Oyster Company is facing eviction after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up its case.

The company is entangled in a legal battle with the National Park Service over the use of land in the Point Reyes National Seashore, designated to become officially protected wilderness after a 40-year special use permit expired in November of 2012.

The small business has spent nearly a century growing and harvesting oysters, producing 40 percent of all oysters harvested in California every year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ken Salazar, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior when the permit expired, decided not to extend it at that time for environmental reasons, writing:

“[This decision] ensures that these precious resources are preserved for the enjoyment of future generations of the American public.”

Since then, owner Kevin Lunny has been unsuccessful in both the district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, before petitioning the U.S. Supreme court to hear his case.

Despite his lack of legal success, Lunny remains determined to somehow keep his company up and running. The Press Democrat noted his reaction at a news conference after the Supreme Court’s decision:

“Today, we’ve been delivered news that’s disappointing, but we’ll get over it. It’s not the end… It’s not over until the last oyster’s shucked.”

Run by a third-generation Point Reyes ranching family, Drakes Bay Oyster Company produces an estimated 8 million oysters per year, a harvest worth approximately $1.5 million. The company employs about 30 people, NPR’s Morning Edition reported this June.

The case has drawn attention from environmental advocates like Amy Trainer, the executive director of the West Marin Environmental Action Committee, who are committed to conserving the Point Reyes wilderness. Trainer told NPR:

“I really fear [renewing the lease] would embolden other leaseholders in our National Park System, our forest service areas and our wilderness areas to fight simply because they don’t like the contract.”

The conflict has created a lasting controversy in quiet Point Reyes. Tom Batey, a Point Reyes retiree, told NPR:

“It’s been going on for years. There are people in town that don’t speak to each other any more. But I’m hoping that as a community there can be some sort of healing.”

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