Washington, DC — An official investigation has dispelled charges that the National Park Service was trying to drive a controversial commercial oyster operation at the Point Reyes National Seashore out of business, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). A new report by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General concluded that Park Service employees engaged in no “disparate treatment” of the enterprise located in Drakes Estero, one of the most sensitive stretches of the national seashore.
The investigation was prompted by a wide-ranging complaint filed by the oyster company (Drake’s Bay Oyster Company) operating within the park. After a year-long investigation, the Inspector General concluded that –
- There was “no indication” to support the main allegation by the oyster company that Park Service personnel were attempting to prematurely remove the company from the park;
- The oyster company operated illegally within the park for more than two years, until it finally agreed to sign a permit that will lapse in 2012 and cannot legally be extended; and
- Park Service scientists did not falsify scientific data, as the oyster company charged. Any inaccuracies in Park Service reports were corrected but since the reports carried no regulatory weight, the significance of any discrepancies was negligible.
“This report demonstrates that the Park Service employees acted professionally and in keeping with their obligations to protect and preserve the park’s natural resources,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization defends federal, state and local resource professionals who are targeted for retaliation in connection with trying to defend the environment. “We hope this report will end the long campaign against the dedicated staff at the Seashore. These public servants should be able to enforce the permit rules for all entities operating within the park without fear of being unjustly vilified.”
The larger question of the environmental impacts of large scale oyster and other shellfish operations was not addressed by the Inspector General and remains unresolved. The law requires the Park Service to manage Drakes Estero as wilderness. Thus, after the 2012 permit expires, all mariculture operations must cease.
“This investigation is part of a concerted effort by this company and its lobbyists to build a case for amending the Wilderness Act in order to exempt this particular enterprise,” Ruch added. “The Point Reyes National Seashore employees are charged with ensuring that the unique ecosystem of Drakes Estero is properly protected through its Congressional designation as wilderness. They should be allowed to do their jobs”