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End of lease puts family business on brink of closure

In Michigan, we've seen small businesses close for one reason or another and although sad, most people never think twice about the reasons for which they closed. Maybe it was because of financial troubles or maybe it was because of location, but most people usually don't think it was because the business was on federal land and was in violation of doing harm to a designated wilderness.

Though thousands of miles away from the residents of Michigan, this is a very real problem for one family-owned business in California which has found itself at the center of a very large controversy this month. But, as the family explains, the problems the family is currently enduring started for them in 1972, when the land their business was on became a national park.

In 1940, the current owner's grandparents moved to Point Reyes and started a cattle ranch business. But then, in 1972, Congress mandated that parts of that area be designated as wilderness. Unfortunately, the family's new found oyster business was located within one of these designated areas and was in jeopardy of being shut down.

Instead of closing the business, the family sold the land to the federal government and signed a lease which allowed them to continue farming the land for 40 years. The current owners, who purchased the oyster farm in 2004, knew that if they wanted to stay in operation for more than eight years-the lease was scheduled to end in 2012-they would need to lobby the government for more time. But despite their best efforts, in November 2012 the secretary of the interior decided against extending the oyster farm's lease and gave them 90 days to shut down.

Now the business owners are fighting back in the form of a lawsuit. So far, their appeal against the federal government has won them a reprieve to continue operation until mid-May but after that, the future of the business is uncertain. Some supporters have already started fighting for the oyster farm's cause; but with the main supporter having now tied the farm to a new energy bill that promotes the Keystone XL pipeline and oil drilling efforts in national parks, the family isn't sure they want anyone to champion their cause anymore.

Source: The New York Times, "Oyster Farm Caught Up in Pipeline Politics," Norimitsu Onishi, April 9, 2013

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