Busting the Park Service Coverup

From the Russian River Times November 2011

In an all too rare case of bipartisan agreement, letters to Department of Interior Secretary Salazar from Senator Feinstein and House Committee Chairman Darrell Issa both state very similar concerns about the integrity of National Park Service science. The latest turn in the Point Reyes oyster farm debates brings it under the review of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, headed by Congressman Issa. (R-Ca)

In his 20 October 2011 letter to Salazar, Issa states, ” …In light of the damaging draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released by NPS on Sept 23, 2011, it is imperative that a thorough, objective review of whether NPS’s conclusions are based on flawed science occur immediately…“.  He goes on to address the Frost report onconcealment of data concerning Kevin Lunny and Drakes Bay Oyster Farm and notices the interviews of seven Department of Interior and NPS officials, including Frost from the DOI Solicitors Office, NPS Director Jarvis and Point Reyes Superintendent Muldoon.

NPS "Hidden Camera" photograph of kayak approaching seals at the edge of the channel. This boat was identified as an oyster farm boat in data presented to National Academy of Sciences panel. Note date/time stamps.

While the Oversight Committee has identified the cover-up of the hidden camera photos, and the concealment of information that exonerated DBOC from claims of seal disturbance, the cover-up dates from Lunny’s 2006-2007 meetings with West Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey when he asked for help as he was having trouble getting Neubacher to sign off on necessary permits for work required by the California Coastal Commission (2008 Inspector General’s report, P34)  At an April 2007 meeting Kinsey reported that Neubacher stated that he was not going to deal with DBOC and the permit issue any more because of civil and criminal violations of environmental law, and turned down a suggestion to convene a scientific panel to evaluate DBOC’s impact on the Estero.

Kayak flushes seals into water two minutes later.

NPS never filed any charges, notified DBOC of any violations or produced any data indicating any violation of criminal or civil environmental law that would substantiate Neubacher’s charges. The cover-up then continued with the Marin County Board of Supervisors meeting on May 8, 2007, which Kinsey asked Neubacher to attend.  At that meeting, (webcast), Neubacher and NPS scientists made incendiary claims that have since proved to be false, concerning massive loss of seal pups and a national environmental crisis.  None of Neubacher’s charges has been substantiated by any NPS data or documents.

However, a few days prior to the meeting, Neubacher and his staff initiated the hidden camera program, which they would keep concealed for nearly 4 years.  Deliberately withholding the existence of this program from the Inspector General and the National Academy of Science investigators is a significant focus of the Committee’s hearings on scientific misconduct. The Marin Supervisor’s meeting, despite the NPS accusations and objections, lead to a unanimous vote to ask Senator Feinstein to intervene which, in turn, lead to a 21 July 2007 meeting at Olema with Feinstein, NPS chief Mary Bomar, Western Regional Director Jarvis, Superintendent Neubacher and other NPS officials, along with Supervisor Kinsey, Kevin Lunny, Tom Moore of California Fish and Game, and Dr. Corey Goodman, a scientist of national reputation whom Supervisor Kinsey had asked to review Neubacher’s scientific claims and report to the Board of Supervisors.

At this point, the scope of the NPS cover-up expands rapidly.  As a result of the Olema meeting, Fenstein and Bomar reached an agreement that Goodman and Jarvis and Moore would work with the National Academy of Sciences to prepare a statement of work to evaluate the validity and ethics of the existing NPS science, as embodied in the Parks ‘Sheltered Wilderness’ report, and Goodman’s report to the Marin Board of Supervisors. The NPS document had been removed from their Point Reyes website at Feinstein’s request, because of errors.

At the very moment that Bomar and Feinstein were negotiating the review of the existing science, with Neubacher and Jarvis present, the hidden camera program was well underway.  NPS scientists were about to start work on new studies in an apparent attempt to find negative information about DBOC to obscure the fact that Neubacher, at the time he made his allegations of criminal and civil violations by Lunny and the claims of massive loss of seal pups and a national environmental crisis, had absolutely no data to support them or to scientifically justify closure of the oyster farm.

Despite Bomar’s belief that Jarvis was proceeding as directed, he was in fact negotiating directly with the National Academy to do a study, not of the validity and ethics of the existing NPS science, but of alleged harm caused by DBOC.  At the same time, Jarvis was delaying delivery of information to Goodman and essentially cutting Goodman and Moore out of the National Academy scoping process despite the fact that Goodman was an elected member of the NAS. Bomar’s understanding is clearly documented in a Nov 13 letter from NPS Director Bomar to Kevin Lunny in which she states, “…I assure you that I am committed to the National Park Service following through as was agreed to in Olema. As my letter to Senator Feinstein indicates, we are not seeking new scientific review, but rather, an independent review of what has already been done….I am copying Regional Director Jarvis as I have assigned him responsibility for managing this issue….”

The trajectory of the cover-up leads finally to the Frost report, but there is another important point in the process demonstrating the lack of NPS integrity concerning the entire planning process.  As part of the process, NPS policy requires that socio-economic impacts be studied as an integral part of park planning, which it did in 2008.  In a contemporaneous interview, Dr. George Goldman, a Berkeley professor and expert in planning pointed out that they had misused the software, failed to study alternates and badly misrepresented the scope of agriculture in the park.  He stated that the report “bears little resemblance to actual socioeconomic impacts and seemed designed to make Park policies look good.” (See “Statistics, Damnable Statistics and Lies” Pt. Reyes Light/Nov 2008) The report only devotes three pages to agriculture.  The oyster farm? Notwithstanding that it is the largest local employer next to the Park Service itself, a major factor in California mariculture and the State’s last oyster cannery,  it is simply not mentioned in the report. The inescapable conclusion is that Neubacher had already decided to get rid of it.

If the agreement with Bomar and Feinstein had been honored, the issue of NPS scientific integrity in Point Reyes would have been resolved years ago. Instead, Jarvis has, until now, managed to avoid any truly independent investigation of scientific integrity, especially one that might have prevented his rise to Director of the National Park Service.

In the interim, millions of dollars of taxpayer money has been and continues to be spent on investigations from which Jarvis and the NPS conspired to conceal exculpatory information and now on the hopelessly flawed and biased Environmental Impact Statement which triggered Chairman Issa’s letter to Secretary Salazar

Scientific integrity is not just a bipartisan issue, but an ethical one that is as vital to the nation as it is to our coastal communities and the sustainability of their futures.

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About russianrivertimes

Northern California's Alternative Uncensored Newspaper
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One Response to Busting the Park Service Coverup

  1. Pingback: An Open Letter to the Members of the New National Academy of Science Panel on NPS Science at Drakes Estero | russianrivertimes

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