My name is Gordon Bennett. For most of my life, I have held a special, personal connection to Drakes Estero, a unique estuary that is the biological heart of Point Reyes National Seashore, which is two hours north but worlds away from San Francisco, California. Drakes Estero is the only marine wilderness on the West Coast, home to protected species of birds, fish and marine mammals. It was intended by the Congressional Wilderness Act to be a sanctuary for the entire American public, but is now under threat of development.
My wife and I used to visit this estuary with friends and kids to enjoy nature and take a break from work. I hope to ensure these kids have the same opportunity to share Drakes Estero with their kids.
The National Park Service had announced that they would not renew the operating lease that allows commercial operations in the park, and that they intended to protect the estuary as wilderness. But then the company that bought the operating lease secretly began a ruthless campaign to extend its lease and its footprint in the park -- completely undermining the Wilderness Act and putting the habitat at risk.
The company that wants control of the estuary has a long history of deceiving the public and harming the environment, including:
· The company’s public relations were crafted by Singer Associates, who did Chevron’s dirty work against Ecuadorian environmentalists. Singer framed the company as the victim of government abuse. In fact, the company owner gambled that he could use his political connections to extend the lease.
· The company has racked up a long list of environmental violations including a $62,500 fine (unpaid) for placing mariculture equipment in a protected seal birthing area, yet claims to be a “sustainable operation.”
· While claiming itself as the “little guy,” the company has nevertheless unleashed a horde of high-priced lawyers to pressure the Park Service with baseless threats that have cost the American taxpayer millions to defend.
· The owner shamelessly promotes professional videos of sobbing family members - trying to con the public into supporting his private profits from these public lands.
I really need your help today. My local fight has national implications - if this new company succeeds in undermining the most important national law protecting our parks, the door will be opened for even larger industries to begin tearing into the public’s protected parks. There are places for these companies to pursue profits, but not in the only Congressionally-designated Marine Wilderness on the West Coast!
My fight also has local implications. My family and many in our community want to be able to experience the Estero as the peaceful refuge intended by Congress. Instead it has become a manufactured maelstrom of money-grasping and mud-slinging.
With your support, the promises made to preserve the estuary over thirty years ago can be realized. Let's work together to save the Wilderness Act!
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I am in favor of full, permanent Wilderness Act protections for Drakes Estero, the biological heart of Point Reyes National Seashore in California.
A new company bought the remaining seven years of shellfish rights in the Estero knowing those private incompatible rights would not be renewed in order for the Estero to become wilderness in 2012.
But the company has since mounted a ruthless campaign to sway your opinion and break the promises made by Congress in the 1976 Point Reyes Wilderness Act.
I urge you to let the commercial oyster lease expire and grant full Wilderness Act protections for the Drakes Estero and preserve the integrity of this estuary, and the integrity of the nation-wide Wilderness Act, for all future generations.