Parties argue over oyster suit


The Drakes Estero oyster farm engaged in a lawsuit over its continued existence has filed a brief arguing that a cohort of wilderness advocates should not be designated official intervenors in, or parties to, its suit against the National Park Service and Interior Department. 

A district court in February denied the group, which includes the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, such status, but the group has appealed the decision. An intervenor acts as an official party in a case so it can defend interests the primary parties do not wholly represent. 

Drakes Bay Oyster Company lawyers, however, point out that the groups and the federal government are pursuing an identical goal: “They both want the oyster farm booted out as soon as possible.” They also contend that the EAC, in step with the federal government, has argued since the 1970’s that the oyster farm could remain in Point Reyes National Seashore. 

The government and the proposed intervenors, Drakes Bay lawyers continue, also “coordinated their briefing in opposition to DBOC” by filing them on the same day, each including passages that refer to the other. 

In their own motion filed in June, the nonprofit wilderness advocates outlined what they call significant distinctions between themselves and the federal government, citing their “more limited and sharply focused interests” in wilderness protection, as opposed to the government’s “broader public interest in national park management.” They also said they oppose the government’s lack of expediency. 

Although the U.S. District Court for the North District of California denied the request, it allowed the group to participate as amicus curaie. Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers ruled that they were likely to produce the same arguments as the federal government, the only difference being in their tactics and time frames. 

Judge Rogers also wrote that the intervention “is likely to result in duplicative briefing, adding a layer of unwarranted procedural complexity.” 

Although it could be some time before the intervenor appeal is decided, a ruling by the appeals court on whether the oyster farm can operate while litigation continues is expected any day.