A family oyster business recently shut down by the Obama administration???s demand that the public land on which it operates revert to a wilderness area is suing the federal government for what they say is an illegal taking of the property.
???Our family business is not going to sit back and let the government steamroll our community, which has been incredibly supportive of us,??? Drakes Bay Oyster Company said in a statement.
Lawyers for the company, which is situated in Drakes Estero, a tidal inlet off Drakes Bay, will ask a judge in the Northern District of California???s District Court for an injunction on Friday to block the eviction while the lawsuit progresses.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week ordered that the century-old oyster farm company be evicted from the Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California so that the park can be returned to its wilderness state.
The rationale behind the decision and support from environmental groups was that the oyster collecting activities disturbed harbor seal pupping and damaged native plants. Salazar says that commercial activities are not compatible with wilderness designations.
???I???ve taken this matter very seriously,??? Salazar said in announcing his decision. ???The Estero is one of our nation???s crown jewels, and today we are fulfilling the vision to protect this special place for generations to come.???
The lawsuit claims that the federal government did not perform required environmental studies before making the determination, and that the decision will cost the company millions of dollars.
The lawsuit also says federal government officials relied on scientifically flawed and false information as part of the decision-making process and that some of the misleading information came from National Park Service employees.
???We are not walking away, instead we are fighting for our community, our employees, and our family against a federal government that seems to value lies over the truth and special interests over the welfare of a community,??? the company said.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), chairman of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on national parks, forests and public lands, said the process used by federal officials to make the determination was ???completely unacceptable.???
???I am extremely troubled by just about every aspect of this situation. There was clearly an effort on behalf of the Department of Interior (DOI) to manipulate data in order to derive a certain outcome,??? Bishop said.
???It not only calls into question the integrity of the environmental review process but that of the DOI as a whole. When all components of this process are examined, you see that Secretary Salazar???s misguided decisions are arbitrary and based on a whim. Jobs and livelihoods are being destroyed solely because the Department of Interior knowingly created a fraudulent scientific review to justify a predetermined, ideological course of action,??? Bishop said.
Critics of the closure also include Republican Rep. Darrell Issa and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who also says the findings for closing the oyster business was exaggerated.
The National Park Service purchased the land in 1972 that housed the oyster operation and offered the family a 40-year lease to continue operations across 1,000 acres. The company was seeking to have their lease extended.