Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is allowing the lease of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company to expire. This will eliminate an oyster farm from the Point Reyes National Seashore and supposedly create a pristine marine wilderness. The Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Parks Conservation Association, and California Senator Barbara Boxer applauded Salazar’s decision. The environmental benefits, however, took a back seat to different dynamics.
California Senator Dianne Feinstein said she was disappointed with the decision and charged that a flawed review process had advanced “false and misleading science.” Secretary Salazar told reporters that the scientific evidence and environmental impact statement had been helpful but were not central to his decision, which will eliminate the jobs of 30 workers, just in time for the holidays. Those workers have good cause to be puzzled, and even angry.
As one critic of the decision pointed out, oyster farming “does not inhibit wildlife or the public from accessing waters in which the beds sit. . . aquatic life is abundant and undisturbed.” But the decision by the federal Secretary of the Interior allows 15 beef and dairy ranches to continue operating within the Point Reyes Seashore, which accounts for more than 80 miles of California coastline. So the cattle ranchers will be able to fence off public land from the public and wildlife alike. Cattle are also under fire from global warming alarmists for their methane emissions.
Secretary Salazar’s decision makes no sense on environmental grounds. It was more likely the exercise of power for power’s sake, a practice now typical of the federal government. This appointed federal official surely had in mind the powerful lobby that wants to turn back the clock and exclude human activity from public lands and waters. Legacy and aggrandizement are also in play. The “marine wilderness” will be Salazar’s personal monument.
In similar style, Senator Feinstein wrote legislation making national monuments of nearly one million acres of southern California desert. As Frank Zappa said, those people up in Washington are looking out for number one.