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Judge Upholds Removal Of Calif. Oyster Farm

By JASON DEAREN

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) â¿¿ A federal judge on Monday denied a Northern California oyster farm's request to have its removal from Point Reyes National Seashore overturned, and ruled against allowing it to continue doing business in the park while its lawsuit is being heard in court.

The judge denied owner Kevin Lunny's request to void Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's refusal to renew the historic oyster farm's lease for another 10 years.

The rulings dealt a blow to the popular Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s last-ditch effort to remain in business beyond its March 15 eviction date.

Point Reyes National Seashore was added to the national parks system by Congress in 1962, and protects more than 80 miles of California coastline. It is managed by the National Park Service, which is part of the Interior Department.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers wrote in her decision that she did not believe she had authority to overturn Salazar, and that even if she did, "plaintiffs have not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of the claims."

Salazar, in denying Lunny's request to extend the lease, said the land should be returned to wilderness status as Congress decided in the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act. He ordered Lunny to remove all of the farm's property from the pristine waters of the Drakes Estero.

Environmentalists and park officials said the oyster farm's motor boats and equipment threaten nearby harbor seals and polluted the otherwise clean waters.

The farm found powerful allies in Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the National Academy of Sciences, which charged that the National Park Service was trying to get rid of the oyster farm by exaggerating its negative impacts on the environment.

Amber Abbasi, an attorney for Cause of Action, the legal group that brought the suit on behalf of the farm, released a statement expressing disappointment in the judge's decision.

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