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Northern California oysterman wins temporary reprieve for family farm

February 26, 2013 | 11:45 am

Photo: Drakes Bay Oyster Company oyster farmer Jorge Mata carries strings of oysters while walking up a plankway at the oyster farm in the Point Reyes National Seashore in 2009. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Northern California oyster farmer Kevin Lunny won a temporary reprieve in federal court to allow him to keep his controversial business operating at least two more months.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency injunction, saying, in part, “There are serious legal questions and the balance of hardships tips sharply in the appellants’ favor.”

Lunny’s farm in Point Reyes National Seashore was to close Thursday, under terms of an agreement made 40 years ago between the owners and the federal government. Closing the farm would allow the National Park Service to create the first marine wilderness in the Lower 48 states.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar refused last year to grant Lunny’s request to extend the lease. Federal District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers then denied Lunny’s request for an injunction, saying she would not expect the case to succeed on its merits.

Responding to the higher court's decision, Lunny said in a statement, “We are beyond thrilled that our business will now remain open while we continue to fight the decisions from the court and Secretary Salazar that have put our business at risk.”

Lunny’s lease from the federal government expires Thursday and he was to leave by March 15. Closure will now be delayed at least until May 13, when a court hearing is scheduled in San Francisco.

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-- Julie Cart 

Photo: Jorge Mata carries strings of oysters up a plankway at Point Reyes National Seashore in 2009. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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