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Opinion

By Charles Schultz

The unfulfilled promise of West Marin

         Let me tell you whom I found in Marshall when I arrived four years ago: retirees – professors mostly, some civil servants – general contractors, the representatives of the counter-culture who managed to buy homes before 1980, heirs to ranches, heirs to industrial fortunes and the Bay Area nouveau riche, recluses, more than a few recovering addicts, artists, and children who had grown up in West Marin and were lucky to buy a house early enough, or those assembled of the previous categories and conditions who joined the precarious rotating cast of renters like myself. And there were empty vacation homes and in between weekend rentals everywhere. 

         West Marin is a place where two forms of hereditary wealth dominate: ranchers who inherit the land (and of course, in every generation, many winnow out extra siblings in a kind of primogeniture).  I once talked to a rancher on the Central Coast and told him that every ranch family I encounter feuds over their inheritance. He said he was aware of such problems, but had found an equitable solution among his children, that I now forget.  Of course, he later went on to tell me that he owned 12,000 acres.  I guess you can find a fair way to divide twenty square miles.

         Our other local type of inheritor is our beloved trust-funder, or as I once heard said of a young group in Bolinas, “Trustifarian”.  These are usually descendants of captains of industry, almost invariably of the most rapacious kind: oil, timber, shipbuilding, smelting, etc.  They have good need of our primary local fantasy, that of ecological harmony, because their wealth is the rotten fruit of environmental ruin.        

         Social mobility, supposedly our highest social virtue in America, is dead in West Marin. Not because of de-industrialization, both necessary for our planet and the source of the majority of Americans’ immediate misfortune, but because the wealth created by industrialization is now held in the hands of a tiny group of individuals who own land here. 

         In the late nineteenth century, especially in parts of West Marin, there are numerous examples of first generation immigrants buying or squatting ranches that remain family owned till this day.  Even in the first half of the 20th century, there are examples of the landless arriving. Two Jewish families, the Jews having been historically persecuted and denied the right to own their own farm land in Europe, acquired the ranch behind my house some seventy or eighty years ago.  One of those families owns it till this day, and prospers. Only in America! 

         Now, I will never own a home or land in West Marin.  The price of land and houses is now enmeshed in global financial markets, the electronic world of virtual wealth possessed by the masters of the virtual. The person who today owns the house three doors down from me is on the board of directors of Google, but they are never home – a virtual neighbor.

         One couple I see once every twelve months, and I say to them, “You’re here for your annual check-up.” Out of my window in the opposite direction, I can see ten houses from Blue Bay down to Cypress Grove, none of them occupied by their owners.  The rental value of these properties is so lucrative that their owners have great incentive not to live there – having primary residences elsewhere, no doubt helps in their decision making.

         I call the people of West Marin misanthropes; I include myself.  But I found there are good misanthropes and bad misanthropes.  The former, those who view our civilization clearly, and in an act of self-preservation seek refuge, maintain our anger, so despised an emotion, at the destruction of our society. Why? Because fundamentally we see ourselves as citizens, as children of the Enlightenment, meaning that we do not merely suffer the fallout of industrialization and globalization as victims, but by our nature have a responsibility for that destruction. And, in as much as our lives have any meaning at all, must make an answer to it.  

         Then there are those who are motivated by pure aesthetic experience, sometimes called happiness, seeking a prelapsarian dream, this symbol of nature called West Marin – a frightening group, generally lacking ethical content, having empathy for an imagined Nature, and disdain for the reality of human suffering, if and when they come in contact with it.  Here are the decadent frauds, rich third-rate artists and groovies, the fun squad, the spiritual escapists.  In Buddhism, I’m told, the world doesn’t change: you change.

         It reminds me of a documentary I saw in which our old friend Werner Erhard laughingly describes his philosophy as “Socialism in one person… …which is Capitalism. I think it’s funny!” When Oscar Wilde visited the Bay Area in the 1880s he went to the Bohemian Club and commented, “I never saw so many well-dressed, well-fed, business-looking Bohemians in my life.”  Indeed in West Marin, I have never seen so many well-dressed, well-fed, business-looking Buddhists in my life.

         Adam Smith, yes he of the Wealth of Nations fame, John Stuart Mill and John Maynard Keynes all saw the way toward a progressive society and economy would be to tax property rents highly.  This would prevent a feudal economy from developing by limiting the value of renting property.  Today we have the opposite, rental income is taxed at an extremely low rate, and property is seen as an excellent avenue for investment. 

         West Marin has no incorporated communities, no means of bringing about such a system of taxation, which the majority of owners would actively resist anyhow.  There are community service districts, and Community Choice Aggregation, that could be used toward progressive aims, by using existing revenue streams to develop new infrastructure and socialize wealth.  I for the moment am working to make that happen here. 

         I have a reflexive sympathy for the young people like myself who have come to West Marin, but I hold out little hope for us.  Some may find benefactors, the fickle affections of the rich, others will marry land and money, a similar though more ancient tradition, but the majority will stay for a while and then look east, into the interior whence we came.  The time of Robinson Jeffers, of escaping history in a forever expanding west, is over (I’m told his poem “The Coast Road” is displayed on the wall of a restaurant popular with tourists in Big Sur).

          My hope is that we may return inspired by the real beauty and people of West Marin and begin a manifest destiny of the Enlightenment – self-governance in the pursuit of the responsible collective management of essential resources, a socialization of wealth out of which citizens may finally enjoy the freedom of their creativity – the tremendous therapeutic promise not of our superfluous liberty, but of community. 

         I am afraid West Marin will continue to molder, the final retreat of elites in a dying empire, a barn danse macabre of idleness, appetites, and sentimentality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 TBLA Book sale on the Commons. GREEN REVIVAL starts this week on the Commons!

The West Marin Citizen 

 April 17 , 2014

 Subscribe : Use the button at top of page or email us.  Digital subscriptions anywhere cost the same as mailed hardcopy papers in Marin County. 

 

 Now on newsstands !

 

Shoreline School Superintendent Tom Stubbs

unexpectedly asked to resign.

Housing crisis in West Marin, continued.......

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retirement Party for Nancy Hemmingway

 

            Come celebrate Nancy’s 42 years of service to the Marin County Free Library and the communities of Inverness and Point Reyes. The party will be Saturday, April 26th from 5:30-9:00 at the Dance Palace.

            We’ll provide tamales and salad. You can bring a potluck dish plus fond and funny “Nancy Stories.” And don’t forget your dancing shoes!

            Call the Point Reyes Library for more information: 663-8375.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Home for sale by the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin

 

73 Inverness Way, Inverness

 

3-bedroom, 2-bath, fully remodeled home

Central Inverness – walk to school, library, market

 

Priced in low $300,000’s

 

Restrictions Apply

 

Join us to find out more

Community Meeting, Wednesday April 9, 6:30 - 8:00 pm

Dance Palace Community Center, 503 B Street, Point Reyes Station

Open Houses: April 12, 19, 23

 

Applications distributed at the meeting, and www.clam-ptreyes.org

CLAM, 663-1005

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

The Roneil and EZ Powell Pledge.

 

Five Brooks Ranch in Olema will donate $1.00 from each paying customer for the whole year to the family. It will be paid out on a monthly basis. I am asking other local business owners and individuals to do something similar.  A few of us joining together with this pledge will help make the lives of Alex Porrata and her children a little easier.  This tragic twist of fate could strike any one of us. We have to do more than just express our support. We can cut down expenses a little here and there and the impact on our businesses will not be very noticeable but will make a huge impact for Alex and EZ and Lu.

 

Contact Andrew for information on how to set up your pledge: 415-663-1570 or 415-706-4450  andrew@fivebrooks.com

 

 

 

 New Coast Guide available, contact the Citizen for copies. Free

 
 

 

Point Reyes National Seashore Hosts Earth Day Electronics Recycling Collection

On April 22nd at the Bear Valley Visitor Center from 10am – 2pm, Point Reyes National Seashore will host an electronic waste (e-waste) recycling collection, joining thousands of local organizers holding recycling and other events across the country to celebrate Earth Day, the only nationally and globally recognized day dedicated to promoting and celebrating planet Earth and the protection of its resources.

Please note which of the following items will be accepted:

Yes:

All computers and related accessories and peripherals. Televisions/CRT Monitors .            Audio/video equipment. Small printers, scanners, and faxes. Wires, cables, and power cords. Printer toner and inkjet cartridges. Cell phones, PDAs, and telephones . Small kitchen appliances.VHS, cassettes, and 8-track tapes

No:

Dry cell batteries (AA, AAA, D, etc.). Light bulbs of any kind . Large household appliances such as refrigerators and stoves.  Furniture. Commercial copy machines. HAZAROUS WASTE

All e-waste will be taken to Renew Computers in San Rafael, CA for recycling. For more information about e-waste recycling at Point Reyes National Seashore contact Dale Dualan at (415) 464-5286.

John Dell-Osso

 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Guest column

 

Empty homes can provide affordable rentals

By Paul Coopersmith

 

         Paul Elmore’s recent column on the “hollowing out” of West Marin raised a number of salient points, and was an excellent beginning for an ongoing discussion of the housing crisis, here and elsewhere in the Bay Area. On the one hand, it would appear there’s little we can do to slow down, let alone stop, the rapidly changing demographics and escalating housing prices that threaten the integrity of our communities. We can’t prevent people from selling their homes to wealthy outsiders, nor can we prevent those outsiders from buying those houses. That’s one of the major shortcomings, to my mind, of our so-called “free market” economy. When housing “bubbles” occur, it’s the old, the young, and the less-than-well-heeled who end up being squeezed out of the market. And in the case of West Marin, they’re being replaced primarily by people who already have homes, but are looking for a second, third, or fourth house in which to spend the odd week or weekend.

         On the other hand, there may be something we can do to address the lack of affordable rentals. Anyone living in Inverness, Point Reyes, or Inverness Park can attest to the fact that there is a significant percentage of houses that stand empty for all, or most, of the year. Would it not be in everyone’s best interest—-prospective tenants, property owners, local businesspeople, and permanent residents, alike—-to point out to the owners of those empty buildings, or vacation houses, some of the many benefits of full-time rentals? (Full disclosure: my wife and I had to leave our Inverness rental home of twenty years last month, when the owners put the house on the market. We are currently renting elsewhere for the short term, while we continue looking for a permanent home.)

         Among those benefits of renting full-time to well-screened couples, individuals, and families:

-a steady flow of income, regardless of year or season. While it’s tempting for owners of vacation houses to think that renting their places out short-term, at exorbitant prices, via airbnb or VRBO, is the answer to their prayers, for some of those landlords it ends up being a pipe dream. Either there are too many better or similar rentals on the market, and/or their houses sit empty for several months of the year (but still require maintenance, as houses do).

-not having to worry each time a new group of folks you’ve never met before checks into your vacation rental. Were they being honest about how many people were coming to stay in your house? Or about the ages or recreational habits of those people, or whether or not they were bringing any pets with them? As someone who’s been in the travel business for over thirty years, I can assure you that I’ve heard my share of horror stories on this subject.

-assurance that your house will not sit empty all winter, making it less likely to be vandalized or burgled. Also, if a pipe should burst, or the roof should leak, there is someone there to see to it that a repair is made in a timely fashion, thus saving you, the property owner, unnecessary hassle, heartache, and expense.

-In addition, renting full-time can also translate into having someone on-site who can act as a steward of the property, taking care of the garden, fixing a leaky faucet, dealing with infestations, or handling any number of other maintenance chores that otherwise would necessitate calling in a professional, or doing the work yourself. Houses fare best when they are lived in, especially by people who care about them.

         Then there’s the whole other subject, gone into at some length by Paul Elmore, of what happens to a community when homes that were once inhabited full-time are converted to vacation or vacation-rental houses. Local non-profit organizations such as West Marin Community Services and West Marin Senior Services, find it more and more difficult to

recruit employees and volunteers (especially deleterious in the case of Senior Services, given the disproportionately large numbers of us who are entering, or soon to be entering, our twilight years). Local schools receive less funding, their classrooms emptying as fewer and fewer young families can afford to live here. Local businesses suffer as well, both from having a smaller labor pool, as well as fewer residents to patronize them. Post offices are threatened with closure, and libraries with shorter hours.

         If you love West Marin, own property here that you care about but seldom, if ever use, and believe wholeheartedly that this should remain a vibrant, diverse, self-sustaining community, rather than becoming just another quaint tourist venue or playground for the rich, one of the best things you can do for all concerned is make that housing available: full time, to people who want this special place to be, or remain, their home.

 

Paul Coopersmith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family and community mourn Rebecca Lyons

 

         Rebecca Ruth Lyons, 41, passed away in Olema, California on Saturday, March 8, 2014, surrounded by her family. Rebecca was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1972.  She relocated to Mill Valley, California in 1987, with her mother, Rita, and her sister, Anna, where she attended Tamalpais High School and later College of Marin. She was a preschool teacher for most of her career.  Rebecca was an avid gardener, and especially loved her flowers and her two cats, Serafina and Scout.

         On August 1, 2012, Rebecca was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.  She won the hearts of all her doctors and nurses with her tireless humor and positive attitude in the face of such a devastating diagnosis.  Throughout it all, she smiled and laughed every day.  That was her gift; Rebecca was magnetic.  Our entire community and all who had the good fortune to know her will truly miss her. 

         Rebecca leaves behind her sons Jack Murray, 8, and Ryan Murray, 5, her children with Kevin Murray, as well as Duncan Hutt-Lyons, 14, son of Rebecca Lyons and Mathew Hutt. 

         Rebecca came from a large family and is mourned very deeply by her mother, Rita Lockett, father, Winder Lyons, sisters Leslie, Anna, HariNarayan, and Mariah and brothers Kartapurkh and SatNarayan as well as all of her adoring cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews. 

         A small private family service will be held on March 27.  Family and friends are invited to a memorial gathering on March 29, 3pm to 7 pm at the Inverness Yacht Club, 12850 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Inverness, CA 94937.

         In honor of Rebecca’s passing, and to help defray expenses, donations can be made to the Rebecca Lyons Fund at GoFundMe.com.

 

Rita Lockett

 

 

 

 

 
 

===============================================

Citizen launches new column – Birthday Celebrants wanted

 

If you’ve got a milestone birthday coming up, the Citizen wants to interview you. We define milestone as the following ages: 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, 90, 95, 100, 105, and every year after that as long as you, and we, are still kicking. And if you are a Latina celebrating your quinceanera, you too! 

 

You will be interviewed in a question-and-answer format, your replies published verbatim, free of any spinning by a pesky reporter. Be prepared to reflect philosophically about the

passing years . . . . And of course we’ll want a photo of your smiling – or brooding – face.

 

Step right up and email Larken Bradley at

larken.bradley(at)gmail.com       Or telephone (415) 663-8232 

 

================================================

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Marin Sheriff’s Logs

Curated by David van der Wal

 

 

 

 

Monday March 31

Stinson Beach 12:11am Person called from Indiana to report woman in ‘altered’ state. Deputies checked three properties listed for caller’s friend and were unable to locate her. They then checked with a bartender at Smiley’s, who reported knowing woman in potential danger for 30 years who said she seemed fine. Upon further investigation this call probably came from Kentucky

 

Point Reyes Station 4:28am Woman described a noise that she could not describe. Deputies unable to locate unknown noise.

 

Point Reyes Station 11:00am Owner would like advice regarding person who sits in her shop every day when it is raining. She reports that rain-avoiding transient hurts business and would like advice.

 

Muir Woods Park 3:42pm Woman called to report that her ex-boyfriend had punched his fist through a window in her home. She reported they were not fighting and that they have no history of violence, would not like to file a report but would like him to leave.

 

Tuesday April 1

Inverness 5:22am A woman called the sheriff’s department about various people trespassing on her property. Woman began rambling about other things that were not relevant to the call. Woman cautioned about what type of call should be made to emergency services.

 

Dogtown 10:36am A car was found abandoned off an embankment. Deputies determined that the car belonged to a man that had been reported missing. Missing persons report originally entered by Santa Rosa Police Department.

 

Point Reyes Station 4:51pm Neighbor reports that his neighbors often yell at each other loudly. Neighbors are not doing anything now but they would like advice for when inevitable fighting begins again.

 

Forest Knolls 6:07pm Tenant hit reporting parties’ car two weeks ago and has refused to exchange insurance information since then. Caller is seeking advice on how to resolve the issue.

 

Forest Knolls 11:54pm Neighbor was playing loud rock music. Music was turned off prior to deputy’s arrival and the neighbor soon left house for parts unknown.

 

Wednesday April 2

Tomales 8:21am A report of computer/phone fraud was made.

 

Forest Knolls 9:52am Loud electric guitar reported at neighbor’s house. Neighbor also made report last night. Reporting party does not need deputies to make contact.

 

Woodacre 10:06pm Reporting party helped owner move ex-tenant’s property out of house. Now he is concerned about possible retaliation as ex-tenants belongings are standing out on the curb. Advice given.

 

Thursday April 3

Lagunitas 8:36am Reporting party saw a crashed vehicle and was concerned for occupants. Reporting party stated that driver was slumped over the steering wheel.

 

Bolinas 4:36pm Woman called deputies to report that another woman in Kentucky has been calling repeatedly to request welfare checks. She states that she is fine and that Kentucky woman has been harassing her- calling 911 and her cell phone up to 40 times a day. She states that woman in Kentucky has been calling the La Grange Police department as well. Woman will be at Smiley’s if anyone needs to contact her.

 

Point Reyes Station 11:33pm Caller reported a person sleeping in front of a business/home in a sleeping bag to keep out of the rain. Reporting party states they don’t know the sleeping party’s ethnicity. This probably did not change the deputy’s response to the call, which was to tell wayward traveler not sleep in front of local businesses. Traveler will be taking a bus to San Rafael tomorrow.

 

Friday April 4

Inverness Park 9:31am 80 yr-old friend called sounding terrified. Reporting party stated that his friend allows his caretakers to live with him and that they have been acting strangely. Welfare check conducted on man. Advice given on tenant/landlord dispute.

 

Inverness 2:24pm Woman called to report that she believed her Costco card had been compromised. She doesn’t believe that there was any loss of money.

 

Bolinas 5:11pm A woman in her 50’s was reported yelling, “God will get you!” Reporting party states believes she may be having a “meth meltdown.”

 

Olema 10:16pm Subject arrested and booked on an outstanding San Mateo warrant.

 

Inverness 11:41pm A man who was tired of running called and asked to turn himself in for an outstanding warrant. He said he couldn’t make it down to the jail and that he didn’t have a phone, but would be in front of the store at midnight. Man arrested and booked at Marin County Jail.

 

Saturday April 5

Inverness 9:58am Man lost a paddle that says ‘Werner” on the side. Paddle is 7 feet tall and worth $400 dollars. He is checking out of hotel in one hour and is running out of places to look for it.

 

Lagunitas 10:58am A resident was yelling at Comcast cable installation crew who were running cable from pole to a house above their residence. Public easement law was explained to resident and argument was abated.

 

Point Reyes Station 11:48am Caller reports a stolen car

.

Forest Knolls 2:47pm Two men were reported driving around on a scooter with no muffler or helmets. Scooter was very loud. Men were reportedly fixing scooter but were warned not to drive scooter until it was fixed, and not without proper headgear.

Sunday April 6

 

Muir Woods Park 4:30pm A fire broke out in basement of a house. Two residents escaped the blaze and the accompanying smoke. Fire crew on scene controlled the danger.

 

Stinson Beach 11:18am Hikers on Matt Davis Trail reported two suspicious males in their 20’s walking along the path- one wearing a camouflage vest and the other wearing a gas mask.

 

Point Reyes Station 1:45pm A woman in her 30’s, apparently jammed her foot in a door, but somehow was able to walk into town and report the incident to deputies. Woman was alert and conscious.

 

 

 

 

News Analysis

Legislative elders weigh in on Drake’s Bay Oyster Company

pete-mccloskey_smweb_ANDREA.jpg

 

Photo and story by Andrea Blum

West Marin Citizen, July 21, 2011


Public statements by three legislative pioneers of California environmental law show that the decision whether to extend the oyster lease in Drakes Estero in Point Reyes National Seashore will be one of public policy. The Department of Interior after reviewing all facts of the debate on law and science will have to decide what is in the public’s best interest.  It will be up to the public, however, to let elected and appointed officials know what they want.

 The latest public statements from the very people who wrote and sponsored the laws creating Point Reyes National Seashore, protecting its wilderness and granting state tide and submerged land rights in Drakes Estero to the federal government may help turn the policy tide to extend the oyster farm lease in the estero for another ten years.  The triumvirate of former legislators have blown into West Marin with what appears to be the law on their side.

John Burton, former congressman and senator, current chair of the California Democratic Party and primary author of the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act said one intention when writing the bill for Point Reyes National Seashore was to keep the oyster farm as part of the wilderness area. “Established private rights of landholders and lease holders will continue to be respected and protected. The existing agricultural and aquacultural uses can continue,” write the authors of the bill. story

Bob Bagley, a former Republican assemblyman who authored the 1965 legislation ceding state tidelands and water bottoms to Point Reyes National Seashore said he retained in the bill the “absolute right to fish” which he says includes oysters. Fishing rights are part of the public trust embedded in the California Constitution.

Bagley, a former Woodacre fireman said when an Inverness resident and oyster farm supporter alerted him last month of the oyster debate he immediately asked the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley to dig into its archive and fish out the papers documenting his bills. Out of that treasure trove came letters from the NPS, the Department of Justice, the Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) and the Johnsons who had owned the oyster farm since the 1930s in agreement that the state retained the fishing rights including the oyster leases and aquaculture in Drakes Estero. The legislative history is chuck full of instances supporting oyster culture.

“AB1024 was significant piece of legislation,” said Bagley of the 1965 bill. “It’s gold. The Feds have no authority. This is the Constitution.”

In a letter from then director of the Department of Fish and Game W.T. Shannon in 1965 to Charlie Johnson, “It appears to us that all state laws and regulations pertaining to shellfish cultivation remain in effect since the conveyance by the legislature reserves fishery rights to the state.”

Other letters from the Sierra Club, the National Park Service and the Department of Fish and Game expressed the same conclusions. In legal terms, it created an administrative construction or an implied interpretation of the statute that remained intact until 2004 when the NPS Field Solicitor informed the PRNS superintendent that the United States owns the tide and submerged lands and therefore has the ultimate say in any future commercial activities of the estero.

His analysis goes on to say, “Only if the non conforming use can be eliminated,” hence the oyster farm and the date of 2012 when the federal use permit expires. After 40 years of one interpretation another began to take form.

In 2006 and 2007, letters from Joseph Milton, senior counsel for the CDFG explain its renewal of a state lease for the oyster farm in Drakes Estero until 2029. He explained that the extension was contingent upon concurrent federal permit requirements-a reservation of use- issued by the PRNS to expire in 2012. “However, invalidation of the [federal] lease due to failure of such a condition does not necessarily mean that the aquaculture operation must cease, nor does it require the state of California to compel such cessation,” wrote Milton in a 2006 letter. “However, the reservation of the right to fish cannot be construed as extending to aquaculture operations,” he said referring to Bagley’s 1965 statute.

Pete McCloskey, former Republican congressmen who ran against Nixon, co-authored the Endangered Species Act, co-sponsored John Burton’s 1976 Wilderness Bill and helped acquire $35 million to purchase 20,000 plus acres of land for the creation of the National Seashore is the last of the three elder statesmen to come forward. McCloskey, who the Sierra Club has named an environmental hero, has for the last seven weeks privately interviewed and gathered information from all sides of the oyster story to help make a personal recommendation to the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. He got involved after West Marin ranch owner Nan McEvoy asked him to look into the issue. The two are friends and are both olive growers.

McCloskey’s blitz on the issue covering both science and law helped him form an opinion that the oyster farm can legally stay for reasons of legislative history and for its environmental record-one that shows little impact on the estero. He interviewed the Lunny family, Dr. Corey Goodman, and former State Director of Resources Huey Johnson, California Coastal Commission staff including Dr. John Dixon and executive director Peter Douglas as well as staff from the Marine Mammal Center. He spoke with Sierra Club Deputy Director Bruce Hamilton and exchanged emails with the former Marin Sierra Club representative, Gordon Bennett who refused to meet with him. Neil Desai of the National Parks Conservation Association also declined to meet but exchanged emails. Former Superintendent Don Neubacher did not respond to his request to meet. “I will defer any inquiry to Mr. Neubacher or the scientists until the EIS is completed,” said McCloskey. 

Currently the National Park Service is conducting an environmental review (EIS) evaluating the lease extension of the oyster farm and its related impacts on Drakes Estero. The decision of the lease extension is up to the Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar. Senator Diane Feinstein attached a rider to an appropriations bill that gave the discretionary power to the Secretary. The draft EIS will be released mid-September, NPS officials say. The document will be one of several reports from different agencies released over a four-year period that have analyzed the environmental impacts, the scientific integrity of park staff, the accusations of misconduct as well as the law.

The pristine estero on the shores of the Point Reyes has become a story larger and more complicated than anyone could have imagined. The debate in far-flung West Marin has pitted environmentalist against environmentalist neatly dividing those upholding the ideology of “wilderness” and those supporting the system of local sustainable agriculture. The two ideologies are hallmarks that define West Marin but have found a place of conflict that has caused a vicious and often ugly debate culminating a price tag to the public in the millions.

“I’m pleased that John Burton, Pete McCloskey and Bill Bagley-each of whom played a key role in the transfer and use of this land at the time-are offering their unique understanding of this issue,” said Senator Diane Feinstein on Wednesday. “It is my hope that the National Park Service will extend the lease as soon as possible unless there is compelling evidence to not do so.”

But even with the powerful lawmakers on its side, the oyster farm has no guaranteed future in Point Reyes National Seashore. A key detractor to the views of Bagley, Burton, and McCloskey besides Environmental Action Committee of West Marin and the Sierra Club, both wilderness supporters, is the State Lands Commission and the California Department of Fish and Game who regulate state water bottoms. Their solicitor concluded that Drake’s Estero is owned by the United States.

Curtis Fossum, executive officer of the State Lands Commission said Bagley’s statute handed the land to the United States with unintended consequences. “The confusion is the assumption that the public right to fish or dig clams is coincident with growing oysters,” he said of oyster farming in the estero. “You have to look at the ink on the page. It’s difficult to come to any other conclusion than this land belongs to the United States.” Fossum said he interprets AB1024 to allow the public its right to fish but said, “That doesn’t include the right of the public to go and plant oysters and then sell them.” Fossum, who supports the oyster farm personally, said there are very few examples of the state handing over land to the United States. He did say the law has a caveat under the public trust doctrine. “If the United States fails to use it for public purposes, the state can get it back.”

 




 

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