Chef Alice Waters, Sonoma County Farm Bureau back Drakes Bay Oyster Co.

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Famed Berkeley chef Alice Waters and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau filed a federal court brief Thursday supporting Drakes Bay Oyster Company's battle to stay in business in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Their 29-page "friend of the court" brief opposed the National Park Service's order to shut the oyster farm on Drakes Estero, asserting the move is "inconsistent with the best thinking of the modern environmental movement."

The park service and "other traditional conservationists" seeking the closure are "stuck in an archaic and discredited preservationist paradigm," the brief said.

Eight other parties, including Hayes Street Grill in San Francisco, Marin County Agriculture Commissioner Stacy Carlsen, the California Farm Bureau Federation and Marin County Farm Bureau, joined in the brief.

The shutdown order came last fall in the wake of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision not to renew a permit for the oyster company, which harvests 8 million oysters a year from the estero's federally protected waters.

Farm operator Kevin Lunny, with free legal services from a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, is fighting the order, alleging that Salazar's decision was "arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion."

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the oyster farm's case the week of May 13.

Waters, a pioneer of the organic food movement, developed a community of local ranchers, "such as the Lunnys, whose dedication to sustainable aquaculture and agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients," the brief said.

Lex McCorvey, Sonoma County Farm Bureau executive director, could not be reached for immediate comment Thursday.

Posted on the bureau's website is an undated letter from its president, grape grower Tito Sasaki, urging President Barack Obama to rescind Salazar's decision.

"This nation, blessed with the natural, economic and human resources, must lead the world by showing how to integrate environmental, agricultural, social and economic objectives – just as Drakes Bay Oyster Company has been doing, albeit on a very modest scale," the letter said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or

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