Nell Green Nylen, Elisabeth Long, Mary Loum, Heather Welles,
Dan Carlin, Brynn Cook, and Sage Adams*
Introduction and Background
Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) runs a commercial shellfish farming operation in Drakes Estero, a 2,500-acre network of five finger-like bays that extend into the Point Reyes Peninsula, north of San Francisco, California. In 1976, Congress designated more than 25,000 acres of wilderness and 8,003 acres (including the Estero) of potential wilderness within the Point Reyes National Seashore. This marked the first time Congress used the “potential wilderness” designation, creating a new category for areas that would become full wilderness without further legislative action once temporary uses inconsistent with wilderness values ceased. Since that time, Congress has designated more than 250,000 acres of potential wilderness—referred to in this Article as “congressionally designated potential wilderness areas” (CDPWAs)—associated with twenty-nine different wildernesses in thirteen states. DBOC’s aquaculture business remains the sole nonconforming use preventing Drakes Estero from converting to full wilderness. Its authorization to operate is set to expire before the end of 2012.
Part of the onshore operations of Drakes Bay Oyster Company, which farms nonnative shellfish in Drakes Estero, an area Congress has designated as potential wilderness. Photo credit to Nell Green Nylen.