July 23, 2008

Marin County’s Drakes Bay Oyster Co. Abused By Government Agency, According to U.S. Department of Interior Inspector General Report

A report issued by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of the Interior has concluded that the National Park Service knowingly used false scientific data to bolster its attempt to drive a local oyster company from the Point Reyes National Seashore area.

The investigation conducted by the Inspector General reveals that Park Service officials made false scientific claims, misled other federal authorities and attempted to hide data that called into question the veracity of the Park Service's case. The report details how the Inspector General's Computer Crimes Unit recovered an email apparently deleted by the National Park Service's lead scientist that showed the government agency was knowingly misrepresenting environmental data.

Park Service officials are accused of engaging in a campaign of intimidation and disinformation to damage the operation of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company. Investigators concluded there is no scientific evidence to support Park Service claims that the oyster company was responsible for pollution or damage to the environment.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company was purchased in 2004 by Kevin Lunny along with his brothers, Robert and Joe Jr. The Lunny family owns the Historic G Ranch and has been a fixture of the Point Reyes community for more than 60 years. The Lunnys are committed to organic ranching practices and policies that protect the environment in western Marin County.

The Lunny family says it will now seek "restitution for interference and harm to its business." The family praised Senator Dianne Feinstein for demanding justice in this case of alleged government abuse of a small family business.

"With the Inspector General findings, we at last have vindication of the Lunny family after four years of frustration and government abuse," said Sam Singer, a spokesman for the Drakes Bay Oyster Company. "The Lunnys purchased Drakes Bay Oyster Company with the full intent of restoring a Point Reyes business and contributing to an important local industry. What the National Park Service tried to do here in misleading the Marin County Board of Supervisors and penalizing citizens at the expense of the truth was nothing short of outrageous."

"This report shows that the National Park Service under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Interior fabricated and falsified the science to drive Mr. Lunny and his family out of business," said Mr. Singer. "This report is devastatingly critical and calls into question Interior Secretary's Kempthorne's newly announced ethics policy. We expect wholesale changes in the Department to come from this unfortunate episode."

In April 2007, Park Service officials had threatened to seek civil and criminal charges against the Lunnys, claiming that their oyster beds were harming seals, damaging eelgrass and polluting waterways. "Based on the research conducted by several scientists, the Inspector General concluded that the data used by the Park Service was flawed and unreliable," said Mr. Singer.

"My family and my business have been harmed," said Kevin Lunny. "The Inspector General detailed numerous instances where science was manipulated, facts were distorted, and false accusations were made. All we wanted to do was improve a local oyster company and contribute to the Point Reyes community. We are encouraged by the Inspector General's report but the federal government has farther to go in atoning for what happened here. The Park Service has broken trust and good faith with the ranchers, farmers, and citizens of West Marin."

"In the end, this is about private citizens standing up to abusive treatment by their government," Mr. Lunny said. "We said all along that the Park Service was in the wrong and now we have been proven right. The Lunny family has lived, farmed, and ranched in Point Reyes for more than six decades. We supported the Seashore's creation and enjoyed an outstanding relationship until recently. It is our hope and prayer that the Park Service will work with us to reestablish a positive relationship."

Visit the Office of the Inspector General at www.doioig.gov or contact the office at 202-208-5745.