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Judge Gives Two Sides Additional Week to Resolve Cape Hatteras National Seashore ORV Issue


Will a federal judge ban ORVs and leave Cape Hatteras National Seashore to the birds?

A federal judge has agreed to give the two sides in the dispute over ORV use at Cape Hatteras National Seashore another week to find a solution. Short of that, he seems ready to ban the activity.

It sounds as if the National Park Service and conservation groups that are locked in the dispute have the framework of a resolution. On Friday U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle agreed to give them until Friday, April 11, to finalize the deal.

For years folks have used off-road vehicles to negotiate some of the farther reaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. And for years the Park Service failed to develop a management plan for those ORVers.

That led last fall to a lawsuit by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society to restrict ORV access to South Ocracoke, Hatteras Spit, North Ocracoke, Cape Point, South Beach and Bodie Island Spit for up to three years because of the presence of piping plovers, which have been considered a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act since January 1986.

The lawsuit contends the Park Service has run afoul of the National Park Organic Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the enabling legislation for the seashore, and the Park Service's own Management Policies by implementing an interim ORV management plan and failing to produce a long-term management plan.

On Friday the judge held a hearing on the matter and seemed to be leaning towards a temporary ban on ORVs until the two sides asked for a bit more time to work out a settlement.


On an earlier posting readers were directed to a information piece provided by the Southern Environmental Law Center explaining the reason for their current litigation.
At that site SELC makes the following science based statement that they have given to the court, the media and general public time and again over the past number of months:
"In addition to fishermen, daily beach goers are using their trucks and SUVs for convenient beach access. In their path are nests of shorebirds like the threatened piping plover and loggerhead turtle whose existence on the Seashore is imperiled by hundreds of vehicles per day. As a result, these species are declining at a rapid pace."
When I go to the "these species are declining" page intended to scientifically support the claim of species loss,
I find a table showing photographs of beautiful birds and three columns of numbers that indicate what I can only describe as a " horrific" decline of birds. The table is designed to be disturbing but to me as a scientist the table highly questionable and misleading. Species populations do not disappear that way. I suspect/hypothesize there is something seriously wrong with this information as presented. And I am more disturbed that, without clear explanation and verification, the data are being accepted at face value by much of environmentally concerned public and government bodies such as the court.
For this data and these claims to be judged valid they need to be explained and to pass the normal test of scientific review.
Give the potential beach access loss to the public resulting from this disturbing data, the Southern Environmental Law Center, who is publishing this information, owes it to the public to answer the following questions:
1. Who is the specific author of this table bird population decline? What is their area of expertise?
2. Show us the raw or original data used to create this table?
3. From what studies were the numbers in this table taken?
4. Were the studies on which the table based peer reviewed or published? By whom?
5. What protocol was used to collect the data?
6. Where and when were the data collected ?
7. What quality control system and statistical analysis process was used in data collection?
8. Show trends: What were the observed population counts for 1996, 1997, 1998,1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006
9. Where is the loggerhead turtle and piping plover data?
Unless these questions can be answered sufficiently, claims of species loss related to ORV traffic based on this table should cease.

DOW and Audubon represented by SELC are making one sided claims without any credible scientific data, I do not think that it's fair that they have posted these figures and the comments by Rylander that are flat out half truths if not just plain lies.

It is truely sad to me that because of the lack of action on the part of the NPS to create a long term solution (as mandated 30 years ago) they left the door open for DOW and Audobon to sue for a complete closure of the points and spits at the beach. Due to their lack of action (thus far, maybe that changes in the negotiations with DOW) my kids will never get to fish "the point" never mind even getting to see it. Well the DOW says that people can just walk to these places as they do not want to ban pedestrians but they forget to tell you that it is 2 miles from the paved road to the point.

The NPS has really proved to behave just like every other big government program and forget about the fact that the National Parks were created fro the use of the people not 10 pairs of birds... Thanks NPS!!!!

I been driving on these beaches since 1974 and they are taking our beach to drive on away little by little.The NPS has more than enough roped off for the birds and turtles on these beaches and in my opinion they have to much roped off and not enough ORV access already.I hope the judge thinks hard about what a blow this will be to the economy in Eastern NC if our driving rights are even (Serverly Restricted)to some of these areas that are the finest fishing places in the US.

"Driving rights"? I must have missed that part of the Constitution in my ConLaw class. Perhaps it's time for an ammendment...

This whole "compromise" is complete bull. No input has been given by those who actually live or make a living on these islands. DoW and Audubon are not looking to "compromise" anything. They are looking to shut the islands off from any and all human activity that can't be walked in. Of course, they fail to recognizee that not only have animals and humans coexisted on these islands for hundreds of years, but they have done so in the last 50 or so that ORV's have been driving up and down the beaches.

The only "change" that will come about is thousands of jobs will be gone and a way of life that has existed for North Carolinians will go away forever.

What you failed to mention was that the DOW and AudubonSociety are poart of the negotiation group that is supposed to be resolving this situation. Too bad that they weren't getting everything that they wanted, since this is what precipitated the lawsuit, but that is what negotiations are for. The National Park system was not set up to be a wildlife preserve, it was origianlly and still is a RECREATIONAL facility for the citizens of this country, who by the way, pay for it to exist.

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