After a very long and protracted fight that attracted support by everyone from Alice Waters to the Koch Brothers, Drakes Bay Oyster Co. up in Point Reyes may be facing imminent closure after the Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal. The justices gave no explanation for their decision, which leaves in place the ruling by the 9th Circuit in September siding with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, allowing the oyster company's 40-year lease at Drakes Estero to expire, and forcing the land to revert back to protected federal wilderness.
The battle over Drakes Bay has been a complicated one, pitting environmentalists against the food community in an awkward tug-of-war over a single local company that has provided oysters to the Bay Area for decades. With 30 employees and 1,000 acres, Drakes Bay is a large—though not huge—oyster farming operation, but it is one that sells their product entirely locally, and they claim that they represent 40% of California's shellfish production. (This earlier opinion piece from the East Bay Express says that 70% of California's oysters are actually produced in Humboldt Bay, and Hog Island Oyster Co. in Tomales Bay seems like a larger operation than Drakes, but believe what you will.)
Drakes Bay Oyster Company has been farming oysters in the waters at Drakes Estero since 1965, but the original owners signed an agreement with the federal government in 1972 for a 40-year lease, which under a 1976 congressional wilderness designation was not allowed to be renewed because Drakes Estero is part of the protected national seashore. Drakes Bay's current owners, the Lunnys, were then given a warning in 2005 by the Department of the Interior that oyster farming operations would have to cease in 2012, and the company has not had a license for their operation since 2007.
Nonetheless a bevy of Bay Area chefs and restaurateurs, as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein, rallied behind the cause of saving Drakes Bay in the name of saving a local food source, and arguing that Drakes Bay's oyster farming practices were perfectly sustainable. And then everyone found out that a conservative outfit funded by the Koch Brothers, the Pacific Legal Foundation, had joined the fight, likely because the case had broader implications for other fights over federal land, like the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. (In May they fell short of a $25,000 fundraising goal on IndieGogo, so it's unclear how well funded their fight has actually been.)
Still, the Lunnys have fought on, but in late 2013, the 9th Circuit ruled to deny their petition for a preliminary injunction against the federal government to prevent the closure, a decision that the Supreme Court decided to leave in place today.
It's unclear when they may now actually close, given that it does not seem like they have any further legal recourse.