Peer Review Supports Park Service Science on Drakes Estero

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Peer Review Supports Park Service Science on Drakes Estero

Independent Analysis Strengthens Case for Wilderness over Commercial Use

Washington, DC — A report released today by the U.S. Department of Interior supports the scientific findings of a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that wilderness is the environmentally preferable alternative for Drakes Estero, the west coast’s only marine wilderness area. An independent consulting firm facilitated the panel of five independent experts from across the nation, to obtain suggestions on how the draft EIS can be improved from a scientific perspective regarding impacts of a commercial oyster operation.

“These objective findings, along with dozens of other peer reviewed studies, substantiate Park Service science that shows extending the lease for the Drakes Bay oyster operation within this national park wilderness area will damage fragile coastal habitat and wildlife,” said Amy Trainer, executive director of Environmental Action Committee of West Marin. “This analysis proves once and for all that the Park Service is conducting a fair public process.”

The 92-page report examines the scientific and technical information and scholarly analysis presented in the draft EIS, to assess whether appropriate scientific information was used; reasonable conclusions were drawn from the information; significant information was omitted from consideration; and if NPS interpretation of the information is reasonable.

In summary, the report states –

“Overall, the reviewers found the analyses to be appropriate, and that there is no fundamental flaw with the larger scientific underpinning of the DEIS. The identified scientific misinterpretations, or lack of citation of appropriate literature are for the most part minor, and can be rectified if the NPS so wishes. This may also include making some additional adjustments to interpretation, and explicit acknowledgement of the lack of information on some key issues.”

The reviewers noted in particular the lack of available archeological data documenting the absence of oysters in Drakes Estero’s ecological baseline and the lack of economic data (from the Oyster Company) that undermined the value of the economic analysis.   According to a Department of Interior statement, today’s report will inform the National Park Service’s final Environmental Impact Statement, along with the public comments received on the draft EIS and other relevant scientific and technical information.

“This new report is the sixth review that has validated Park Service handling of the shellfish enterprise operating in one of the most ecologically sensitive stretches of a national seashore,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Now there should be no further question that Secretary Salazar has sufficient scientific support to move forward with the environmentally preferred alternative as well as eliminate the need for further studies that burden taxpayers with unnecessary costs.”

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