Leases, uses and sustainable practices


I enjoyed the variety of mostly thoughtful letters in last week’s Light regarding Drakes Bay Oyster Company and the Point Reyes National Seashore ranch leases.

I wholeheartedly agree with Bob Johnston that the seashore leases should be extended to 20 years. This is long overdue. Mr. Johnston describes John Wick of the Marin Carbon Project as a rancher, and while Mr. Wick and his wife, Peggy Rathmann, do own a ranch in Nicasio, it is seashore rancher and oyster farm owner Kevin Lunny who runs the cattle there.

My point in mentioning this is that Mr. Johnston’s letter implies that the grazing management at the Wick Ranch is more innovative than that of seashore ranchers, stating: “adopting similar innovations would be a step forward in sustainable management of the seashore’s grasslands.”

Mr. Lunny and other seashore ranchers are already practicing sustainable management of the seashore’s grasslands, as evidenced in part by the incredible biodiversity of native plants and animals that live within the pastoral zone.

Mr. Lunny’s ranch supports the last remaining natural population of the federally endangered Sonoma spineflower. Many of the other ranches also support special-status plants and animals, along with myriad other native species.

To assume that management changes are needed for sustainable grassland management diminishes the value of what each of the seashore ranchers are currently doing. It’s certainly not National Park Service personnel or the elk that are preserving the seashore’s grasslands by keeping shrubs from invading or managing the non-native grassland biomass so that native plants can grow there.

But in order for seashore ranchers’ management to be sustainable in the longterm, their businesses must also be sustainable, and lengthening the leases is just one of the things the seashore should do toward that end.

Hear, hear to Murray Suid’s suggestion that dealing directly with people to resolve issues is always the best place to start. It is also often the best place to end. Only cowards deal with issues by taking an indirect approach, refusing to talk face-to-face with those they disagree with or failing to find out the facts.

I second Chet Seligman’s suggestion that a change of leadership in the environmental organizations that have acted so divisively in the oyster farm debate would be a positive step forward. Certainly, there will be serious environmental challenges in the future that will require cooperation to solve. In fact, there are really pressing issues facing us now, such as global climate change and the uncertainty about how we will feed our growing population; it is these issues that people who are really concerned about the environment should be spending their time on.

As to Malcolm Ponder’s statement that he will never again support Jared Huffman, neither will I. Indeed, I regret having cast my vote for him. It’s hard to understand why he welcomed the Lunny’s and their oysters at his campaign fundraisers but can’t be bothered with their survival now.

To Lynn Hamilton’s shock about the signs supporting Drakes Bay Oyster Farm, I have this to say: What she should really be shocked about is the way the National Park Service and fanatical environmental groups have completely twisted the truth about the oyster farm.

If Ms. Hamilton knew the facts about Drakes Bay, rather than repeating clichés about “corporate allies” and “private development and industry interests” that are as stale as the fact that she was mayor of Sebastopol 20 years ago, she’d know that the oyster farm is a family business run by some of the most down-to-earth folks around.

She’d also know that the Lunny’s were aware that Drakes Estero is a designated potential wilderness when they bought the leasehold and that there’s no reason the oyster company cannot continue operating within a potential wilderness or a wilderness, as lawmakers intended it to. Even the Sierra Club recognized in a 1974 letter that oystering and wilderness were compatible.

She’d know that the Reservation of Use that the Lunnys purchased along with the oyster company specifically states that the farm can continue under a Special Use Permit.

She’d know that if the Lunny’s have “friends in high places” it’s because they are kind, honest and sincere people who make friends everywhere they go.

And if she really loves oysters, she should find out the real facts about the oyster farm because if it is shut down, over 40 percent of California’s oyster supply will be gone.

Rather than repeating the highly sensationalized drivel about Drakes Bay Oyster Company being promulgated by extreme environmental groups, I suggest that Lynn follow Murray Suid’s advice and get the facts by speaking directly with the Lunnys.

Making the same untrue and unfounded accusations over and over is not getting any of us closer to a resolution.