Partly cloudy

Appeals court takes up Marin oyster farm case Tuesday

Drakes Bay Oyster Co.'s fight for survival, which has divided West Marin County neighbors and gained national attention, resumes Tuesday at a federal courthouse in San Francisco.

Three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear 40 minutes of arguments from attorneys for oyster farm operator Kevin Lunny and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who ordered the farm's closure in November.

Lunny's legal challenge, alleging that Salazar's decision was "arbitrary and capricious," has attracted support from Republicans in Congress and gained the free services of three private law firms and a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit group with connections to the arch-conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

Supporters contend it's a case of the federal government riding roughshod over a small, family-owned farm, while critics say it has become a pawn of the movement to open public lands to commercial enterprise.

In court, the oyster farm case involves labyrinthine questions of law, public policy and allegations of scientific misconduct by the National Park Service in evaluating the impact of harvesting 8 million oysters a year from Drakes Estero, a federally protected estuary in the Point Reyes National Seashore.

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