COURSEY: A lesson in political science
Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 12:22 p.m.
There's an interesting sentence at the end of today's Page 1 story about a powerful Republican lawmaker questioning the science behind the controversial decision to close the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. at Point Reyes National Seashore.
That decision wasn't based on science, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. It was “based on matters of law and policy."
So why would Rep. Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican who is chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, demand a document dump from Salazar, saying “serious questions have been raised about the science used by the National Park Service to justify the closure,” while also acknowledging that he knows Salazar's decision “was not based on scientific data”?
Well, because that's the way politics works these days. And believe me, the closure of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. is no longer about oysters, or the terms of the lease, or jobs, or science. It's about politics.
On one side are lawmakers like Hastings and conservative advocacy groups such as Cause of Action, which has contributed $200,000 worth of legal services in support of the oyster farm as part of its overall agenda to curb government regulation. On the other side are lawmakers like Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and liberal advocacy groups such as California Common Cause, who see support for the oyster farm as part of a wider push to promote for-profit exploitation of national parks and wilderness areas.
The stakes are high. When The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals next month hears the oyster farm's appeal of its closure, the crowd of interested observers won't just be thinking about tasty bi-valves.
"Every word (in the decision) will be worth a lot of money," William Robertson, dean of the Empire College School of Law in Santa Rosa, told Staff Writer Guy Kovner last month. He said the case could change the rules for commercial uses on federal lands, and will be "a big deal for the American West as we know it."
That helps explain why a provision renewing the lease of the remote oyster farm turned up last month in a Republican senator's bill that focuses on expanding offshore oil drilling and approving the Keystone XL pipeline. It helps explain why the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee would question the science behind the government's decision not to renew the oyster farm lease, even though he knows the decision wasn't based on science.
It helps remind us that the science of politics doesn't abide by any rules, except this one: Whatever works.
Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County.
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