West Coast's Only Marine Wilderness Needs Your Support
In 1976, in recognition of its environmental significance, Congress committed that Drakes Estero within the Point Reyes National Seashore would have full wilderness protection in 2012, when an existing commercial oyster farm use permit expires. Drakes Estero shelters twenty percent of the mainland breeding population of harbor seals in California, and its wetlands, mudflats and eelgrass beds are home to numerous shorebirds, waterfowl, native fish and endangered species. Drakes Bay Oyster Company purchased the remaining 7 years on a 40-year non-renewable permit in 2005.
Since then, they have lobbied aggressively to overturn the wilderness designation, with backing from interests which would like to commercialize our national parks.
The National Park Service recently released a draft Environmental Impact Statement with the best available science on the oyster operation impacts.
It is clear allowing the private, commercial oyster operation to exploit Drakes Estero for ten more years would have numerous adverse impacts on eelgrass habitat, native fish, harbor seals, resident and migratory birds, endangered species, wilderness values and the National Park experience. The commercial oyster operations involve 3700 disruptive and noisy motorboat trips per year through harbor seal and eelgrass habitat, promote the spread of invasive species and litter remote beaches with thousands of pieces of plastic trash.
There are more appropriate places to grow oysters. It is time to return Drakes Estero to all Americans as marine wilderness, as Congress intended.
Please submit comments in support of the environmentally preferred No Action alternative (Alternative A), which would allow the oyster permit to expire in 2012. This is the only alternative compatible with federal wilderness law and National Park Service policies on natural resource conservation and restoration.
Submit your comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?documentID=43390. We've provided a sample comment letter below.
I support the wilderness designation for Drakes Estero within the Point Reyes National Seashore. I urge the National Park Service and Department of the Interior to uphold the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act and select alternative A, which protects this important marine wilderness and is the environmentally preferred alternative.
Drakes Estero is a unique and ecologically significant wildlife area. It is an important stop on the flyway for migrating birds, a refuge and birthplace for harbor seals and a critical native fish nursery. Congress and the public have long intended that Drakes Estero be given the highest federal level of protection as a wilderness area when the commercial oyster lease expires in 2012.
This can only be accomplished by selecting Alternative "A" and ending commercial use of this sensitive wildlife refuge. Alternative A is the most consistent with National Park Service laws and policies. The Park Service's environmental review shows that alternative "A" best protects wildlife and the National Park experience.
Our national parks are for the people and wildlife protection, and wilderness areas with our parks should not prioritize commercial exploitation. The American public deserves to have this unique marine wilderness protected in a natural state for future generations to enjoy.
Drakes Estero is the only marine wilderness on the West Coast, and is irreplaceable, while oysters can be grown elsewhere.
As someone who enjoys our spectacular national parks, I urge you to not undermine protections at Drakes Estero and succumb to special interests seeking to commercialize these special places.