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Battle Mounts Over Off-Road Vehicles at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

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.

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

On April 3 a federal judge will consider a request 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.

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.

On Saturday, in a protest against the conservation groups, an estimated 200 ORV supporters showed up in a gale at Cape Point on the seashore to attend a rally.

In Sunday's editions of the Charlotte Observer, meanwhile, outdoors writer Tim Higgins satirized the situation by looking into the future to listen to a conversation between a young boy and his grandfather over why they no longer fish at Cape Point.

What's unfortunate is that the Park Service might have avoided this situation by acting sooner on developing a management plan for ORVs.


wow controversial subject. I just visited your beautiful island of hattaras and love it. I never seen so many birds in one place (pea island). the beach was uncrowded, I spent alot of time at emerald isle and atlantic beach, always crowded no matter when you go, I enjoyed the nature trails and I got a little jealous when taking the ferry to ocracoke from hattaras when I saw the vehicles on a remote area fishing. I saw so many birds while on that ferry I was tempted to just keep riding it back and forth. I saw those orv instead of being mad I was jealous. I wanted to enjoy walking on the water of pamlico, (it really did look like some guy was walking on water, probably just shallow sand dune there)
the birds galore, so many gulls, cormorants and did I see a couple of anhingas? while driving up and down the island, I did notice alot of areas of just sand dunes and native grasses, it looked like from what I could tell to be plenty of places for the beautiful winged crittors and swimming ones too. no where to park a regular car on the side of road so as to walk over the dunes to get to the water, I wanted so much to access the sound but alas only a couple of access points day use areas. next year we will have suvs to at least being able to drive through the water that accumulated on the road after a storm. I wanted to hike some more of the trails at cape hattaras light house but the storm made the road impassable, I had a very low car.
I doubt that orv are really that harmful, no more than say driving to the parks around here, or people hiking the trails or riding their bikes on the trails of ohio. it is the bad people who should be banned those who damage or are trashy, inconsiderant, not the good people. my guess, and only a guess is the enviromentalists really have a hidden agenda, animal saving is only a pretext, a front if you will to incite emotional response rather than logic. such people are called demagogs, stir up emotions rather than stir up the thinking faculties.
I am thinking, not sure tho, is that some big shot at the united nations or some weatlhy people bought up the island (as investments and buying gov debt) in secret but can't come clean or the people would know what is what and have tons of legal recourse to stop such a fraudenlent sale, and are using enviromental concerns, believe me if they can't use that they will use something else, to literally destroy the economy of the island forcing people out so the big shots can move in. they did this to some island off of south america and it was to protect wildlife, guess what, they built a resort there for rich people after stealing the land from the natives.
so people before you all go off half cocked do some thinking, some research, ask yourself what the real agenda is. there is no reason to hate people who you think are doing damage when in fact you have no evidence to that. after sand is sand it moves around, doesn't grow anything, believe me I visited the outer banks many times (hattaras only once tho) and animals prefer the inland areas for any breeding, the only creatures in the sand were those neat little crabs and plovers and sand pipers eating something in the sand and running from the waves. really cute little guys. the gulls were to busy watching the fishermen waiting for them to catch something or get a bite to eat.
the animals did not seem to mind me there, I guess we are part of the earth too, not some aliens from outer space, they would almost run into my lap as I sat there, the crabs were at my feet, they didnt seem to mind me either. the gulls around the ferry were close enough for me to touch, they didn't mind me there either.

I would love to see the source for your claim about the foxes not being indigenous. I don't think it matters? I do not think it is right that they have been exterminated from Hatteras Island. Plovers are not indigenous, either.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area was established for recreational use. It is not a Park and it will never be the wildlife sanctuary you want it to be. Read the facts. do not take the opinion of me or anyone else. I love that beach and driving on it with my family is what I plan to do for many many more years to come. Even if I have to buy my own judge like the competition did.

[Ed: This comment was edited.]

I don't think people realize that you CAN NOT access most beaches without a ORV. The picture above showing bumper to bumper vehicles also was done on a holiday and not pictured is the roped off area south of Cape Point for birds. That's why all the cars are so congested! Just feels like lies. I've been going to OBX for years and I see more people caring for the enviroment than destroying the dunes and beaches. Was there last week and merchants are reporting 40-50% decrease in business. Was also told property values are down 30%. Where is a happy medium?

I have gone to the island for the last 13 years(sometimes twice a year)and the thing that alters the ecology is the big amount of people and new developments (a lot in comparison with 13 years ago). I remember the old Chicomacomico station. There wasn't anything there, but look now. The development of new houses brings trash, sewage and obviously the appropriation of a piece of beach!!! And someone is complaining about 2 miles used by 4x4's (the island has almost 40 miles)!! I asked HOW MANY MILES OF THE PERIMETER OF THE ISLAND ARE OCCUPIED by BACKYARD HOUSES. Please, whoever is behind this needs to put more brains before bubble nonsense solutions. I am in favor of saving the little birds and let the people fish in peace. In general fishermen are not destructive human beings. Moreover, they are lot more sensible than many other human beings. Hoping the best for the endangered species birds and humans.

After your comments it is obvious you have not been to the beaches your are so strongly trying to protect. I have been going to the Outer Banks for over 40 years. Do you drive a car? do you fly commercially? I am sure you do and by doing so you do more to ruin the environment that the vehicles on the beach.
The Outer Banks has been one the most beautiful beachs for 100's of years and in the time I have been enjoying it I have seen no significant change. It is allways beautiful and the wildlife is amazing. I have seen whales to turtles to every sea bird I can think of.
Your whining and complaining is sad and ignorant. No one mentions the 100's of othere potential reasons why the wildlife may be decreasing. Wall to wall with gas and oil dripping? Do better homework next time!

What a comment to post. that fox looked pretty calm to be a sick one. i grew up hunting and a fox will sit and study you before fleeing. looked pretty innocent to me. but remind you of the massive round up of animals if you haven't read the 2007 piping plover report the NPS put out. Where did they take the animals too? Wildlife Services all over NC hasn't replied back to that comment but i bet PETA would.

I must have to sit u straight on our beaches. The picture u are speaking of looks to be Oregon Inlet "hot spot" it is. Not all of the beaches look this way. Trust me, i go surf fishing to get away from the lil town i live in to be in seclusion at the beach and to enjoy the beauty around me. There are many days in the summer and remind u on the weekends at that when the next vehicle is a mile away from me! Not so bad looking to me. So next time do ur homework, better yet Go to our "damn beaches and see for yourself and get educated on it"

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