The Oyster War: The True Story of a Small Farm, Big Politics, and the Future of Wilderness in America

Summer Brennan. Counterpoint, $16.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-61902-527-1
Brennan ably documents and contextualizes decades of history behind the drama surrounding the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s fight with the National Park Service—a battle that garnered national attention and split the local community of Point Reyes, Calif. The aquaculture business had leased a seashore area designated as potential wilderness, and wanted to continue operations beyond the lease’s 2012 expiration date. Unafraid to share her experience as an unwelcome reporter and recently returned native, Brennan presents not a personal memoir but a convoluted investigative report on ill-managed public relations, biased science, escalating politics, business-funded spin, and old-fashioned individual stubbornness. She highlights the huge questions that divided a “largely liberal” community in such a way that “lifelong neighbors stopped speaking”: does environmentalism call us to preserve the land through organic, sustainable, low-impact farming, or through curated, recreational wilderness? Moreover, what does it even mean for a place to be returned to an “ ‘original’ wild state”? Brennan demonstrates an awkward truth through the battle that Drakes Bay’s Kevin Lunny waged against the enforcement of 1970s government land use policy: when evidence becomes overwhelmingly complex, big decisions are often made on the basis of who yells the loudest. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/22/2015
Release date: 08/01/2015
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