Washington, DC — An official investigation has found no basis for charges of scientific misconduct by National Park Service scientists evaluating the environmental effects of a controversial commercial oyster operation at the Point Reyes National Seashore, according to a report today by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of the Solicitor. This new report is now the fourth review that has validated Park Service handling of the shellfish enterprise located in Drakes Estero, one of the most sensitive stretches of the national seashore, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The Drake’s Bay Oyster Company is supposed to relocate its operations by 2012 because it is located in Drake’s Estero, which has been designated by law as potential wilderness, requiring a phase-out of all commercial operations. The company and its allies of have waged an all-out campaign to prevent the relocation of the business, including legislation authorizing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to waive requirements of the Wilderness Act by extending a new lease to the business.
In its new report, the Interior Solicitor found that the six National Park Service (NPS) employees named in a complaint who were involved with monitoring the environmental effects of the shellfish enterprise --
- Committed no scientific misconduct or violation of rule or law;
- Did not conceal information or evidence any intent to deceive; and
- Were not even guilty of a “lack of candor”.
The only thing the report did find was that “NPS, as an organization and through its employees, made mistakes which may have contributed to an erosion of public confidence.” The Solicitor’s report follows two previous investigations by the Office of Inspector General and one by the National Academies of Science, all of which found no misconduct by the Park Service in regard to the shellfish company.
“The real story at Point Reyes is that Park Service scientists are being harassed by ceaseless probing for trying to do their jobs. Thank goodness, this latest political assassination attempt failed, as well,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch whose organization defends federal, state and local resource professionals targeted for retaliation for defending environmental resources and values. “This new report is just the latest in a transparent campaign of political water torture to pressure concessions to benefit a commercial concern at the expense of wildlife and wilderness.”
Significantly, the “informant” who triggered this investigation sought to have the scientists at Point Reyes disqualified from participating in the current review of a lease renewal for the mariculture operation. In addition, contrary to Interior Department promises to use scientists to review scientific misconduct charges, in this instance the task was given to lawyers in the Office of the Solicitor.
“Interior still is not living up to its own rules about how to review charges of scientific misconduct,” Ruch added. “Despite these exculpatory findings, the prospects of even more investigations have thoroughly politicized efforts to gauge environmental impacts of large scale oyster and other shellfish operations on marine life.”