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 wral.com.
"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.