{Empty title} | The Nation

This article is not accurate, contrived to use a series suppositions to meet her personal objectives. Moreover, Tess Elliott is overly shrill trying to convince your readers that there is some sort of conspiracy afoot at Point Reyes National Seashore led by National Park Service director-nominee, Jon Jarvis. Elliott, and several others who have commented, present this issue as a "science integrity" issue accusing the National Park Service, and Jon Jarvis specifically, of lacking integrity and lying about the motivations behind the National Park Service decision not to extend the Drakes Bay Oyster Company's lease past 2012. Elliott skirts the key point of this debate, which is more properly framed as one of law and policy, rather than of good or bad science.

Unfortunately, Elliott also chooses to wrap her concerns in the cloak of conspiracy and the character assassination of Jon Jarvis. I retired from the NPS in 2003 as the regional director of the Alaska Region, and before that as superintendent of Grand Canyon National Park, and I have known and worked with Jon Jarvis for many years. He is a respected public servant who has dedicated his life to our National Park System and has consistently demonstrated leadership and innovation over a long and varied career. Secretary Salazar, NPS employees and the citizens of this nation can be proud of his nomination to be director of the National Park Service, because his record has demonstrated a core set of principled beliefs that seek to uphold the laws and traditions of our National Park System that require him under law to "conserve the scenery and natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for their enjoyment of the same...that will leave them unimpaired for future generations." Further, while working with local communities and constituencies to understand and represent their interests, he also understands that our National Park System belongs to all citizens of this nation, including those not yet born, and his decisions must be first based on law and the broad national interest.

Elliott, in her efforts to defend one commercial special interest, instigates the very thing all Americans are tired of: the demonizing of a person she disagrees with. Jarvis is an inspired choice to be nominated for director because he embodies the very ideals all Americans hope the stewards of their national parks will hold dear on their behalf, not succumbing to the steady and shrill chatter to favor special interests or to find elaborate ways to skirt the clear intent of law in caring for our national heritage.

Jarvis's first touchstone must be the body of law for both the entire National Park System and Point Reyes National Seashore that specifically establish the parameters of his consideration. There was no doubt that continuing oyster farming in a unit of the National Park System slated and designed for ultimate wilderness protection would stir controversy. In 1976, Congress spoke on behalf of all Americans to designate the Drakes Bay in Point Reyes as wilderness once the permit of the non-conforming use commercial oyster farm expired in 2012. It was reasonable of Congress to allow a non-conforming use to continue for a period of time, but also to set a deadline for that use to expire. Congress considered the rights of the commercial user relative to the broader public interest and made its decision. In 2005 a new owner of that commercial oyster farm acquired the permit with full understanding of the intent of Congress and the limitations set by Congress and now cries "foul" while undertaking a political strategy to amend Congress's intent. That certainly is his right, but to turn this issue into a public character assassination of Jarvis, who is obligated under law not to renew this permit and to conform to the clear intent of Congress to create a wilderness area, is an injustice not only to Jarvis but the rule of law that governs our National Park System.

Elliott has sought to portray this issue as one of failed scientific integrity where scientific results are portrayed as dishonest or deliberately constructed. Let us acknowledge that science is also not perfect, and not all scientists are right, nor do they agree with one another all the time. Scientists can, and frequently do, "go off the rails in the belief that the end justifies the means," as we have seen for over a decade of scientific debate with different facts and conclusions over the global warming issue. Science is not the end-all, nor should it be. That is why science must also be tempered by reasoned judgment coupled with the rule of law. The oyster farm case is an eloquent example of that. Congress deemed this area worthy of wilderness protection for the broad national interest and designated it as such, regardless of the scientific inquiry or scientific disputes that might later emerge. Clouding this issue as something more intentionally misconstrues the intent of Congress, and the legal responsibilities of Mr. Jarvis to carry out the law. Elliott portrays this issue as exclusively a scientific one. In reality, she defends a narrow commercial interest, using science as a subterfuge and conveniently forgets that the issue is truly a legal one.

Jarvis's decision is precisely the kind of principled decision-making that is required by leaders in our National Park System--something sadly lost over the last decade or so. For all too long, special interests have spread their root systems at the expense of the broad national interest. Now there is special-interest legislation also proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein that would award a lucrative, no-bid permit to this privately owned business to continue its operations. This, too, is a travesty, in my opinion, because it clearly negates the broad public interest in our National Park System in favor of a special commercial interest. However, this is the way our democratic processes sometimes work, and if Senator Feinstein prevails, Mr. Jarvis will be obligated to follow those requirements, just as he must now conform to the 1976 legislation.

It is because of his actions the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees (CNPSR) supports Mr. Jarvis--not in spite of them. He is a seasoned leader, with a significant segment of his career spent in the field of science, with a portfolio as well-rounded for the job of NPS director as any of his predecessors, and greater than most.