By Peter Henderson
SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - A California oyster farm on
Tuesday sued the federal government, challenging a U.S. Interior
Department decision last week to end its 40-year lease on public
The suit by the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, located on land
an hour north of San Francisco, pits environmentalists eager to
create the first West Coast marine wilderness outside Alaska
against sustainable and local agriculture groups who see the
operation as striking the ideal balance between using and
The family-owned company on Tuesday sued Interior Secretary
Ken Salazar, saying he based his decision to close down the
operation on a faulty environmental impact statement.
"Secretary Salazar's decision was a final agency action in
violation of the National Environmental Policy Act," the
complaint reads in part.
The oyster farm site and surrounding ranches were sold to
the federal government 40 years ago in exchange for long-term
leases. Salazar said he would renew leases to cattle ranchers at
Point Reyes National Seashore, but not the oyster farm.
Salazar told Kevin Lunny and his family the oyster lease on
property in the Point Reyes National Seashore would end on Nov.
30, and he gave the family and employees 90 days to gather their
Interior Department spokesman Blake Androff said by email
the government would review the complaint, and that Salazar made
his decision "after careful consideration of the applicable law
and policy." He declined to comment specifically on the case.
Environmentalist Neal Desai, associate director of the
National Parks Conservation Association, said the family was
trying to steal a national treasure. "This lawsuit is clearly an
attempt to privatize the estero (bay)," he said by email.
Salazar's decision was preceded by a fight about whether the
farm hurt local wildlife and what rules governed his action.
Lawyers for Lunny and his company have derided the government's
scientific efforts, and on Tuesday they argued Salazar ignored
A judge also will have to decide whether Salazar had to
follow federal environmental impact statement procedures when
making this decision. Both sides at various times in the process
have presented varying views on the matter.
The farm is represented by non-profit government watchdog
Cause of Action and law firm Stoel Rives. The suit submitted to
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is
Drakes Bay Oyster Company v. Salazar.
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