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Oyster farmer sues feds over eviction

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm •  Published: December 4, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The owner of a popular Northern California oyster farm that was recently evicted from a national park said on Tuesday he is filing a lawsuit challenging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to make the area a designated wilderness.

The lawsuit filed by Kevin Lunny, owner of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. along Point Reyes National Seashore, claims Salazar and others failed to comply with national environmental law, violated his constitutional rights and are illegally taking millions of dollars of his property.

"We are fighting for our community, our employees and family against a federal bureaucracy," Lunny said during a conference call with reporters.

For decades oystermen have grown the delicacies in what is now federal land. But in 1972, the federal government gave the oyster operation, then owned by someone else, a lease that expired in 40 years.

In 1976 Congress designated the waters of Drakes Estero — where the farm is located — as a potential wilderness area. Salazar's decision returned the area officially to wilderness.

When Lunny bought the farm in 2004 he knew the lease was set to expire, but believed he could get it extended.

After a contentious yearslong battle over whether or not the oyster farm's operation disturbed wildlife and native plants, Salazar cited the 1976 Congressional mandate and deal made decades ago to return the area to nature and the public.

A key issue in Lunny's lawsuit is whether the National Park Service and Salazar were required to undertake extensive environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

The lawsuit contends that environmental review was required, and that the federal government failed to perform the review adequately.

Proponents of the eviction said the law gives the Interior Secretary the power to make the decision without environmental review. They said review in this instance was done out of an abundance of caution, not because it was required.

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