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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.


A three mile hike might be too much for granpa but the kid will catch a lot more fish there now because there are less people. How about going in by boat gramps?

If one considers that 90% of are beaches in the world today are slowing dying from of lack of conscientious environment care, then I consider Cape Hatteras National Seashore is surely one of them. Now, get those oil dripping gas guzzling ORV's off the beaches. We have enough human crap fouling up the oceans today. Just asked any competent marine biologist.

Obviously you have never been to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area or you would not have made such a ridiculous comment. The comment was tantamount to telling someone to climb the Tetons in winter without wearing a coat........

Mr. Metzgar: Take a hard look at the photo caption for this article. What do you honestly see on the fringes of the beach at Cape Hatteras? That's right, wall-to-wall with gas and oil dripping vehicles of all sorts. Now, don't tell me this beach is pristine clean and free from pollution. Maybe, I haven't been to the Cape and wouldn't want too considering all the vehicles stacked up on the beach...what an ugly sight! However, I do put much credence in the National Audubon Society and The Defenders of Wildlife comments on the destruction and the harming of the ecosystems at Cape Hatteras...and I assure you that there doing the right thing. Besides, how close do you want to be on the damn beach.

First let me say that I used to live in the Outer Banks and I visit Ocracoke every year, several times a year and have for over 10 years. I am a beach person to the core. I am also very protective of the environment, esecially the beach and the ocean, and I protect, defend and will stand up for animals. BUT there has to be a place for people to go as well. Period.

If you have never been to Ocracoke, Pea Island, Portsmouth Island and the like, then you really have no valid comment here. You should visit before offering comments. Ocracoke is about the last special unspoiled place that NC has to offer and it should not be taken away from the wildlife OR the people. We ALL have a right to be there. Yes, some people should be more considerate, I do not disagree with that at all and I do not hesitate to call someone on it if they are not respectful and mindful of the surroundings. There are not many beaches left that humans are allowed to enjoy by vehicle. If they succeed in not allowing us to drive on the beach at Ocracoke I can tell you what will happen. People will have to going to park on the side of the road and trek over the dunes to get to the beach. And, for those of you not familiar with the beaches, you are not allowed to cross over the dunes either because of the environment and animals. So what is going to happen is NO ACCESS TO THE BEACH FOR HUMANS AT ALL. How about that?? Think about it because that is EXACTLY what is going to happen.

Fight for the animals, yes, but fight for humans too.

I have been to Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke. They are beautiful places. And yes, the use of ORV should be stopped. There are many animals that call that area home and may never return if they are scared off by people or vehicles. The land there is constantly changing-staying on the ORV paths is difficult and I'm sure there are the ones who don't care what the signs say, they do as they please. For years there has been issues with keeping the dunes intact and saving plant life. This area should be protected for the future. There are miles and miles of other beaches to go to. There are beach areas in NC that allow only so many people a day or no vehicles at all. Only boats and bicycles. If they want to go to these areas so bad, they'll take the transportation options given to them.

Hey, Snowbird, my husband and I regularly visit Cape Hatteras, particularly Cape Point. Our vehicle, identified by you as an oil dripping gas guzzling ORV, has nevered dropped 1 ounce of oil on the beach. The appeal of Cape Point is being able to drive out, set up for the day and enjoying the beauty of the beach without having tourisits lying next to you such as at Myrtle Beach. Ninety-five percent of the visitors to Cape Hatteras and the Point observe all rules and regulations outlined by the National Park Service. In fact, several OVRer's regularly clean the beach of debris and clean up after themselves upon leaving. It's tree huggers like you that like to ruin it for everyone else. Leave Cape Hatteras alone and allow us to share Cape Point with generations to come.


Sunshine: your quote, "Leave Cape Hatteras alone and allow us to share Cape Point with generations to come". Sunshine, you forgot to mention one thing: the preservation of wildllife for all generations to come...not just for the fun frolicking beach hogs alone. A bit of selfish stand on your behalf!

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