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Official: Beach-driving consent decree is not working

Posted November 11, 2009
Updated November 12, 2009

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— Dare County Commissioner Warren Judge said a court order to protect nesting birds along the coast has gone too far.

“We've got these huge hands of the Department of Interior bullied by environmental special interest groups choking the life out of us,” Judge said.

The decree is the result of a lawsuit, filed by the Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife in October 2007, claiming that the National Park Service's interim management plan did not adequately protect nesting piping plovers and sea turtles. Dare County agreed to the order rather than risk the court closing the beach to vehicles altogether.

“It was a choice between being shot in the head or shot in the foot,” Judge said.

Business owners complain about beach-driving rules

The National Park Service said the number of people visiting the National Seashore is up, but local business owner Ollie Jarvis said when the beaches are closed to fishermen, his business drops.

“This summertime we were 30 to 40 percent off. It’s due to the beach closings,” Jarvis said.

Some businesses couldn't survive, leaving unemployment high in the area.

“I know there are individuals and businesses out there that have been affected and I'm sorry for that,” said Chris Canfield, director of Audubon North Carolina.

Canfield said statistics show the consent decree is working.

In 2007, four piping plover chicks and 10 oyster catcher chicks grew to adulthood on the National Seashore. In 2009, those numbers grew to six and 13.

Canfield said black skimmers have also nested on the beach for the first time in three years.

“We have more than doubled the number of beach nest birds that have come together on the beach, record numbers of sea turtles,” Canfield said.

Man was first to get beach-driving violation Web only: Man was among first to get beach-driving violation

But business owners said they're paying a steep price.

“It has killed all of us,” Jarvis said. “Businesses are closing everyday and we just need some help.”

The Audubon Society said the animals also need help.
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“The fact is, they've never had more than a hundred turtles nesting at the coast before the consent decree, now we've got (them) two years in a row,” Canfield said.

The consent decree is in effect for at least one more season.

The National Park Service is planning to unveil its permanent plan to replace the consent decree soon. After public comment and review periods, the final plan should take effect in spring 2011.

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  • crotalus Nov 13, 2009

    Topsy asks:
    "Croat if the one chick wasn't killed by the ATV then the count is 0--no need for the Consent Decree."

    Who said the alledged death from the ATV had anything to do with the suit, or the consent decree? I think the incident with the two chicks at Hatteras Inlet, where the beach was left open in front of newly hatched chicks, is probably closer to the target.

  • crotalus Nov 13, 2009

    If one was to search topsy's (AKA Jim and Ginny) pre-consent decree posting history on obxconnection.com, or forum/redrummtackle.com, fishmojo.com one would quickly be dissuaded from the illusion she is trying to create.

    She fought against the interim plan tooth and nail, mostly using appeals to emotion and the Almighty Dollar.

    It's an attempt to portray herself as reasonable and accepting of the NEPA process, so she can criticize the plaintiffs in the suit against the park for not accepting it. She didn't accept it two years ago and there's no reason to believe, based on her actions and anything she's said, that she'll accept it when the final rule goes into effect.

    And, don't get me wrong. I do not agree with all of the measures of the consent decree, or everything that led to it. The Interim Plan, with some caveats, was just fine.

  • topsynturvy Nov 13, 2009

    Croat if the one chick wasn't killed by the ATV then the count is 0--no need for the Consent Decree.

    Croat has tried to misrepresent my position elsewhere and I won't debate him here. To set the record straight. My position has always been that the Interim Plan while not my preferred alternative, did represent a compromise that I could live with and that officials at every level of USFWS & NPS said would provide the required protection. What we have now, after the DOI allowed SELC, et al to bully them, greatly exceeds buffer sizes and triggers used at any seashore.

    Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands are the last of the barrier islands that are easily accessible to all (good health, bad health, wealthy, those with limited resources, etc.). Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands are one of the few barrier islands with human populations. The rest of the barrier islands are either wildlife refuges or offer only limited recreation. I think this is enough balance.

  • TimInNC Nov 13, 2009

    Simple answer, topsynturvy. We can solve our own problems. The animals can't. Nearly reguardless of your spiritual persuasion, it is said we were put here on Earth in art to take cre of the rest of creation. "Take care of" does not mean "use it till it is destroyed then move on".

  • crotalus Nov 13, 2009

    Don't be fooled by tospsynturvy,
    The issue was has any wildlife ever been ran over through recreation on the beach. It has, but she's trying to divert attention away from that fact by pretending she accepted the interim plan, when in truth she doesn't accept any full-beach closures. If the interim plan hadn't been altered by the consent decree, her tune would be the same (and was until it was altered).

    The chick that was allegedly ran over by NPS staff on an ATV, is disputed by at least one staff member I spoke with. (A 1oz chick was ran over by a ~500lb ATV and then crawled a foot away out of the tire track?)
    And there's nothing "inexpensive" about getting away to Cape Hatteras - unless you bring everything you need with you and sleep in a park campground. And that does nothing to stimulate the local economy.

  • topsynturvy Nov 13, 2009

    Don't be fooled by Croat. We have discussed the Shilo report ad nausium (http://www.obxconnection.com/outer-banks-message-board/showthread.php?t=3126&highlight=Oyster+Catcher+Chicks).

    Since the Iterim Plan 2007, 1 chick was killed by a Turtle Patrol ATV. That's it.

    In 2006, 2 chicks sucumbed to exposure which may or may not have resulted from vehicular disturbance.

    That is under proactive management of 2003 to 2008, no chicks have been killed by "ORVs engaged in recreational activity."

    So tell me once again, why add to the economic woes of the times and why when people most need a release from day to day problems would we limit an inexpensive method of getting away from it all or as the park puts it to re-create and re-juvinate?

  • Cbiscuit Nov 12, 2009

    To the newly initiated, this CAHA ORV issue must truly seem bizarre. NPS can’t look out for federally protected species because it infringes on people’s rights to drive on the seashore? Yep. That’s about the size of it.

    This has been coming for a long time (30 + years). There has been a revolving door for NPS superintendents. Why? Attempts to enforce federal regs to protect public trust resources result in withering confrontations with the ORVers. Technical staff simply trying to monitor nesting sites are hazed/harassed – for doing their jobs. The Consent Decree simply forces NPS to do something that should have been done long ago- stand up and look after our wildlife!

    No one is advocating abolishment of ORVs. We all rely on them out there. If it had been easy for the Park Service to put an ORV plan in place, it would have been done decades ago. Opposing regulation of this privilege has put the Park Service in a tough spot. Let them do their jobs! Extinct

  • TimInNC Nov 12, 2009

    outside_of_apex, fair enough. Come up with something that actually helps the wildlife survive. Until you do I say you are stuck with the bed you made.

    for the record, I'm a sportman too. Love fishing just like everyone else. So you can't get to the place you want to fish at. Find another place, or another way.

  • Cbiscuit Nov 12, 2009

    "Traditional Use http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-SenPl2DIQ there are pictures at the anglers’ club of model t vehicles outfitted for fishing." -Topsynturvy

    Okay then, traditional use it is. Leave your F250 at home. You may only access the beach in a Model "A' Ford.

  • outside_of_apex Nov 12, 2009

    The consent decree has absolutely hurt businesses directly related to surf fishing. This includes tackle/bait shops, motels/rentals and restaurants. Next time you're on the Seashore (you have been there, right?) try asking the people that work there their opinion on the Consent Decree. You'll get an earful.

    Contrary as it may sound, sportsmen including surf fishermen, respect the environment.

    Before the consent decree went into effect, the Seashore was operating under an Interim Management Plan. A reg/neg procedure was in process to come up with an ORV plan (which CHNS&RA should have done over 30 years ago). This was where all sides of the issue meet and discuss the issues in good faith. During this process the SELC sued the NPS to implement their consent decree. The reg/neg continued but good faith went out the window.

    What we as sportsmen (and women) ask are reasonable closures made by biologists, scientists and park personnel based on the best science available.

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