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.