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Groups Sue Cape Hatteras National Seashore Over ORV Traffic

Southern Environmental Law Center photo.

During busy summer days more than 2,000 vehicles a day can be found cruising the beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center. Southern Environmental Law Center photo.

Back in July I predicted that the managers of Cape Hatteras National Seashore would be sued for allowing off-road vehicles to navigate the seashore without a valid ORV management plan in place.

Well, that lawsuit has arrived in court.

Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society have joined forces to bring the lawsuit, arguing that the seashore is not adequately protecting the nests of sea turtles and shorebirds. The lawsuit contends the National 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.

The National Park Service’s Interim Plan and the ORV use it allows are substantially harming – and will continue to harm – important populations of endangered and threatened sea turtle species, threatened, special concern, or significantly rare bird species, and a threatened plant species, as well as other natural resources, serenity, and other recreational uses of the Seashore generally, reads one of the claims.

"No one wants to deny the rights of fishermen and families to enjoy beaches along the National Seashore, but our beaches are turning into highways," said Derb Carter, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center that brought the lawsuit. "In the meantime, the Park Service has stood idly by, shirking its responsibility" to institute rules.

What's disturbing about this turn of events is that Interior officials were well aware this past summer that they were treading on dangerous legal ground by continuing to allow ORVs to cruise along the seashore even though Cape Hatteras did not have a management plan in place. Even Mike Murray, the seashore's superintendent, realized the ORV use was illegal.

"It's a clear statement that there's no authority to allow off-road vehicle driving on the beach," Mr. Murray said after a federal judge noted, in a case of reckless driving on the seashore, that the seashore didn't have regulations in place to govern ORV travel. "Under federal regulations and executive orders, the Park Service needs to develop an ORV management plan and regulations."

It would seem that the Park Service and Interior Department prefer to spend tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, on legal costs while jeopardizing nesting sea birds and turtles rather than offending a special interest group.


It's disturbing to see a beautiful beach get ruined by ORV's. Fumes and oil spills endanger that environment and the wildlife that have the right to be there. There are plenty other places for ORV's to run rampant, such as woodland trails made specifically for that interest group. This is an abuse of nature. Besides, wildlife was there long before ORV's were invented. Hasn't enough of the environment been taken away already by housing for the population explosion. Long overdue to do something about this.

The sand soaks up what little oil leaks from vehicles. Remember, we are part of the ecosystem, not apart from it, envirowhackers. Humans were there before any wildlife.

We need to get rid of a lot of there worthless, overbearing enviro rules like the "Organic Act" and NEPA...let the taxpayer decide these issues...put it up for a vote.

You are totally nuts!

Get your fat butts out of your toy ORV's and wake up and smell the coffee. This fragile beach area is not a babies play pen to screw around in and make huge doughnuts and ruts all day in your oil dripping OVR's. If your such a gas guzzeling hot rod Harry, with no concern for the enivornment in which your destroying, may I suggest such area's as Crawford Texas. They just love big trucks that mutilate the land, and desecrate the ecosystem, and destroy the wildlife. Hey Theresa, the "Organic Act" was written to protect us from idiots (like a few that I know who are running and ruining this country) from making this country looking like trashed out dust bowl...and it's coming sister! Most Americans want a clean decent environment that can co-exist with wildlife and nature. I know there's a few callous Americans out there that still believe in thee old western philosophy: rape and pillage is good, suck it for all it's worth and greed is good... with the me-me-me attitude! Beaches are for public enjoyment that can co-exist with nature, and not to be used as gasoline alley for oil leaking OVR' seen on this blog.

I agree with ya Theresa, they are particularly onerous for small business owners and the building industry. There are many groups working to overturn them (or at least skirt 'em), as they do nothing for the environment, only fatten the wallets of attorneys and politicians.

My, my anonymous ("Get your fat butts")...such anger!
Calm down and go watch a Disney movie or somethin'!
LOL...doom and gloom, thats all you enviros spout.

Roger my man, it's not anger, but fire in the belly for what is right and just. Ripping up the public beachs for self amusement with oil dripping ORV's makes any rational human being subject to anger.

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