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Cape Hatteras National Seashore Settlement Spawns Vandalism


Is Cape Hatteras National Seashore going to the birds? Some think so in the wake of a court settlement intended to protect nesting turtles and sea birds from off-road vehicles. NPS photo.

A settlement intended to resolve conflicts between off-road vehicle users and breeding birds and sea turtles at Cape Hatteras National Seashore seems to be having the opposite effect. Vandals have torn down signs designating buffers around nest sites and business owners say the settlement will devastate them.

Last week Sport Fishing magazine week denounced the settlement over a lawsuit brought by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, saying the American Sportfishing Association "is deeply disappointed that the Department of Interior failed to defend the species management plan that underwent significant public comment and was finalized just last year. The local economy, which depends on access to prime fishing spots for surf fishing, will suffer unreasonable losses as a result of this settlement."

Late last week park rangers discovered a dozen "Area Closed" signs erected to create a buffer around nesting grounds had been broken off at ground level. That vandalism spurred seashore officials to extend the buffer zone, as under the consent decree "the act of vandalism required park officials to expand the closure area by 50 meters to the west," according to a story posted at

"I urge everyone to consider that future acts of intentional vandalism to resource-protection areas will result in greater expansion of the buffers," Cape Hatteras Superintendent Mike Murray said. "These expansions are not discretionary under the consent decree."

At the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club, Executive Director Libby Zentmyer told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that, "Right now, they can't close much more than they have. I didn't think it would be like this."

Carol Dillon, owner of the Outer Banks Motel in Buxton, told the newspaper that she's already lost a small handful of reservations because of the closures. "We're all going bankrupt," she said.

While Superintendent Murray says the restrictions will be lifted later this summer when the breeding seasons are over, it doesn't sound as if that can happen soon enough for many groups that either fish along Cape Hatteras or make their living catering to those who do.


Vandalism is the dumbest way to make your point - no matter if you're an ultra-liberal environmentalist blowing up logging camps and living in trees in Berkley, or someone who just wants to fish. There are better ways of doing things and I hope NPS nabs the perps and puts them in jail.

Better yet, they should bury them up to their necks on the beach and hope the birds nest in their hair.
OK, seriously though, I can't believe these people (bar, motel, resort owners, fishermen) are protesting the protection of wildlife and natural resources, that make Cape Hatteras and the beaches a destination for tourists. Tourists which locals have been financially benefitting from for decades, but when they have to sacrifice something, they throw nature under the bus. Hypocrites, I will NEVER spend a penny on the local businesses because of this, and will spread the word about the ignorance of Cape Hatteras locals so that my friends won't either.

To "Me",

I do agree with you that the vandals should be dealt with severely, just not quite in the vigilante-style that you suggest. There our agreement ends.

Please, DO get your facts straight before you take up this issue. The Consent Decree in place also prohibits PEDESTRIAN access to many of these areas as well. Even the people who would like to get a look at these birds CANNOT, unless you are an employee of the NPS. Better get a really powerful zoom lens if you want a picture of a Plover!

The local business owners are protesting losing the RIGHT TO OPEN ACCESS to the beaches, NOT resource protection. Resource protection has been in place for many years now, and is nothing new to locals/those who frequent these areas. What IS new is the radical approach to the issue. Good faith negotiations amongst all opposing special interest groups were abandoned by the environmentalists in favor of court injunctions, without public comment. These are NATIONAL and PUBLIC lands that belong to the citizens of this country, and we have a place at the bargaining table also.

This is what angers most people, especially locals who depend greatly on the surf fishing public’s dollars for their income. These folks are FAR from “throwing nature under the bus”, as you so wrongly suggest. The most highly prized surf-fishing area on the East Coast is now effectively closed to all humans, and it is having an economic impact! Have you no empathy, even in this economy? Put yourself in their shoes for a bit.

The NPS is also “relocating” predator species from the area in the name of the birds. Foxes, raccoons, opossum, minks, otters, nutria, etc. are either being trapped or SHOT to drive down predation. Now just who is “throwing what under where”, here? When we as humans believe we have the right to play God and decide what creatures deserve to live AND where, we have truly failed as a species. Natural selection is being compromised!

Have you ever actually been to Hatteras Island? By your uninformed statements, my guess would be you have not. Take a look at the geography of the islands on “Google Earth”, learn a bit about this rugged and mostly desolate area, and how remote many of the affected beaches truly are. Look at the lack of public parking for beachgoers. Go down there and do your own independent study of the area and relate your findings back to this forum. Oh! Please employ the scientific method in your studies versus knee-jerk reactions to your predisposed notions, just for clarity!

As far as you personally not spending you money down there, keep it. Spouting uninformed rhetoric to your friends to keep them away, so be it. You won’t be missed.


I am so sorry to report that the NPS have eliminated foxes from Hatteras Island. They "think" there may be one left. How sad is this? Foxes are indigenous to Hatteras Island.

I do not see how the salvation of one species should be at the expense of another. Plover are not on the endangerd species list.

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