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Draft Environmental Impact Statement on ORV Use at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Released


Cape Hatteras National Seashore has released a hefty draft environmental impact statement that addressed ORV management on the seashore.

Improved access for vehicles and pedestrians, better parking, and vehicle capacity limits are among the items contained in the draft off-road-vehicle management plan released Friday by Cape Hatteras National Seashore officials.

The voluminous draft environmental impact statement, spanning more than 800 pages, seeks to find a suitable middle ground between the access ORVers want and protection for threatened or endangered shorebirds and sea turtles sought by environmental and conservation groups. It will be open for public review for 60 days before a final decision is made on an official ORV management plan for the seashore.

The spit of sand that buffers the North Carolina coast from the worst the Atlantic Ocean can toss at it carries an array of contentious issues that seemingly have no easy answers. Foremost among the issues at the national seashore is the use of off-road vehicles to negotiate beaches that are either far from parking lots or which are just far enough from those lots to make it difficult to carry all your gear for a weekend fishing trip.

Cape Hatteras, authorized as America's first national seashore in 1937 but not actually established until 1953, is a beach lover's jewel. The heart of North Carolina's Outer Banks, the cape offers some of the best beaches in the country, is renowned for its surf fishing, has some of the East Coast's best waves for surfing, and has a decided tinge of wildness that is a welcome respite from the Mid-Atlantic's metropolitan areas.

But the seashore's lack of an official ORV management plan led conservation groups a few years back to sue the National Park Service to protect bird and turtle nesting from ORV traffic.

That lack of a formal management plan has "led over time to inconsistent management of ORV use, user conflicts, and safety concerns," as the DEIS notes, and nearly prompted a federal judge to ban ORV traffic entirely. He acquiesced when a management team representing both the Park Service and the opposing groups agreed to work toward a long-term plan while temporary rules were instituted to protect shorebird and sea turtle nesting sites by seasonally and intermittently restricting beach driving access to popular fishing areas.

Environmentalists defended the strict controls on beach driving, arguing that protecting wildlife resources should trump recreationists’ demands for convenient ORV access to the beach. Beach driving fishermen have strongly protested the strict rules. They argue that the federal government has greatly exaggerated the threat posed to wildlife by ORV driving on the beach, and that the current rules make it unreasonably difficult to get to traditionally popular fishing areas. Area businesses detest the restrictions too, citing reduced spending by ORV users.

With that as a backdrop, seashore officials have produced a DEIS that looks at five options, two of which essentially are "no action" proposals. Among the provisions of the seashore's preferred alternative are:

* A permit system for ORV access, although no permit limit would be instituted;

* Annual and short-term permits would be available;

* There would be a "carrying-capacity requirement (peak use limit) for all areas based on a physical space requirement of one vehicle per 20 linear feet for Bodie Island, Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Island Districts, except that 400 vehicles would be allowed within a 1-mile area centered on Cape Point";

* There would be a variety of access points for "both ORV and pedestrian users, including access to the spits and points, but often with controls or restrictions in place to limit impacts on sensitive resources. This means that some areas may be kept open to ORV users for longer periods of time by reopening some ORV corridors at the spits and points sooner
after shorebird breeding activity is completed" than would be allowed in other alternatives, "or by improving interdunal road and ORV ramp access";

* Increasing parking at pedestrian-access points leading to vehicle-free areas of the seashore, and;

* Seasonal and year-round ORV routes would be designated, although they still could be impacted by temporary closures "when protected-species breeding behavior warrants and/or if new habitat is created."

It's worth noting that while the number of sea turtle nests observed on Cape Hatteras in 2009 slightly declined from 2008, the 104 verified nests were far above the 43 counted just five years ago. Those 2009 nests also produced roughly 5,000 turtle hatchlings, according to the seashore's annual sea turtle report.


THis isnt just about ORV's access as the article or even the DEIS suggests. This is about the possibilty that NO-ONE, not even bird watchers, nature lovers, etc will be allowed in the park. Then all NPS is doing is spending our tax dollars protecting birds and turtles from predators. In the process killing or "removing" the predators from the park.

What is largly mis-understood is that the people who access and use these areas for recreational purposes, are just as caring about protecting the resources and the park as the special interest groups. I have done and seen people who use the area pick up trash, guide others around protection areas, help enforce the protection areas, report hurt animals, etc many many times. It seems to me that they are helping more than hindering.

Dapster knows the single case of an alleged fatality of an oystercatcher chick by turtle patrol ATV is disputed by local NPS. He also knows the buffer distances he posted are not the recommended buffer distances, but the minimum buffers allowed IF, the state or FWS signs off on a special pleading.


When the park was established it was known as Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area, established by Congress to be a recreational area for people. To meet the demand of beach users, and to be enjoyed by everyone.
Many people use the park, surfers, kite boarders, shell hunters and fishermen. Some of the user groups use ORV's to access areas of the park that can not otherwise be accessed. The people that use the park are also the people that love the park, that love the freedom, that love the wildlife, that love the seashore.
Those same user groups are also the ones that clean the beaches, patrol for law breakers and help protect the wildlife. The park service asks for help, asks for volunteers for "turtle Patrol" for educating visitors, and for special programs for the visitors. Most of those volunteers are ORV users.
I live here and I own my own business. Me, and many other business owners have been gravely hurt by the beach closers. Many businesses have had to close.
Now my livelihood is in jeopardy, my ability to put food on the table for my children is being threatened by people that have never even visited the island. They sit in there law offices, hundreds of miles away and and think they know what is best for this beautiful, special place.
The group that have sued for beach closers, Defenders of Wild life, Southern Environmental Law Center, and the rest really have no interest is actually saving wildlife, they care nothing for the actual animals here on the island. They are in it for a land grab, they want to be in control of as mush public land and they can get. It is not just happening here, it is happening all over the country. If they have their way, everyone would live in cities and no one would be able to access any areas except their own chosen few.
Congress set lands aside all across this great land, some for wildlife preservation, and some for recreational uses.
Just as you should not change a wild life preserve into a recreational area, a recreational area should not be able to be changes into a wild life preserve.
The Off Road Vehicle users help protect and preserve this Island, they are the islands best hope for preservation, let keep it that way.

So-called "environmentalists", in their overzealousness to protect the piping plover, have stood silently by and watched the National Park Service slaughter or trap over 300 mammals in 2008 (feral cats, raccoons, mink, opossum, muskrat, otter, gray fox, red fox, nutria) and 464 of the same plus coyotes in 2009. With the exception of nutria, all are native species. All this bloodshed resulted in 7 fledged piping plovers in 2008 and 6 fledged piping plovers in 2009.

Nobody but the lawyers is benefiting from these lawsuits. When the (environmentalists) win, all American taxpayers pay their legal fees. At a time when our country is in such grave financial condition, I call the lawsuits a flim flam.

Another point is that it's not just us old redneck fishermen and women who drive SUV's on the beach. Family groups, shellers, surfers, swimmers, picnickers, walkers, birdwatchers, sunbathers, etc. also take their SUV's on the beach. More parking lots are not the solution. NOBODY wants more impervious surfaces anywhere on Hatteras Island. If you've never been to Cape Hatteras, you have no idea how remote some spots are. Walking is simply not an option. And if the beach is closed, it's often closed to pedestrians too.

A knowledgeable group here. It is Bodie Island not Body Island. They can only put Pedestrian Access areas where there are parking lots. Since much of the island is only a few hundred yards wide there are not many locations for this. I fail to see how the NPS has ignored the Safety of Visitors and Wildlife? There are more mile of beach closed in the NPS prefered alternative that are currently closed and they cannot show there were any negative impacts from the previous rules. As someone else mentioned Sea Turtles number in the park have fluctuated consistently with the rest of NC. The turtle rules which close wide swaths of beach for 104 nests in 68 Miles of beach are more restrictive than the rules in Florida where there are thousands of nests.

The users of the park just want to be able to share the park. It is a Recreation Area not a Wildlife Refuge. If you want a refuge go to Pea Island or Alligator River.

Six hundred pages to keep people of the beach.millions of dollars spent planning and enforcing and paying legal fees so six threatened birds could hatch and fly away.This kind of waste of tax payer dollars is unbelievable.Recreation area means just that and not a birdie play ground.If the environmental groups want the designated lands and rules then feel free to purchase private land and make any rules you want. Let your members foot the bill and see how they feel about the return they get.Stay out of our Recreation Area and i will stay out of your private reserves.Call my response alternate x as this is the preferred and only plan that I will support!

C'mon, Cro, Show yourself in full daylight! You're amongst "friends" here, no need to hide.

"Dapster knows the single case of an alleged fatality of an oystercatcher chick by turtle patrol ATV is disputed by local NPS. He also knows the buffer distances he posted are not the recommended buffer distances, but the minimum buffers allowed IF, the state or FWS signs off on a special pleading."

Was the Fatality alleged, or the perpetrator?

Either way, my main point is the same and no less true. No documented cases of species being killed by civilian ORV users.

Okay, so the protection ranges from 200m to 1000m, and all that lies between. Riddle me this: What is the reason that CAHA PIPL require 1000m where Great Lakes PIPL, (where they ARE actually "Endangered"), only need 200m?


"The ORV advocacy groups have tried to portray this as an issue of access to the National Park. They give little more than lip service to any other kind of access other than ORV access.
The local Park Mangers have tried to placate the highly organized ORV specialist interest advocates with their preferred plan by allocating a mere 16 miles of year round pedestrian access only (out of 68 miles of ocean beach) on Body Island, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island.
Much of these designated pedestrian access areas are in such highly eroded shoreline that pedestrians can’t access the beach at high tide without walking in the dunes. It appears that one of the criteria for choosing these areas are beaches that are so eroded that you can’t drive an ORV there."


I have to quite seriously ask if you have ever actually been to CHNSRA, as your posts lead me to believe you are only parroting back what you might have read elsewhere, and not like someone who has spent considerable time on these islands.

"Highly Organized ORV Special Interest Advocates"?!?!? Laughable. I'll have you know that this site, being mostly west-coast oriented, is likely to be the farthest that this news has traveled outside of NC neighboroing states. I've tried in vain to get any of the "National" ORV groups involved, and NOT ONE has come on board. This is as grass-roots as it gets, with local county officials and a handful of state-level officials only coming on board last year.

Want to talk about "Well Organized" and mega-heavily funded? Look no farther than those whom we oppose: SELC, DOW, and the NC Audobon Society. IF we possess 100th of the members and $$ involved, I'd be surprised.

"16 miles out of 68" is somewhat misleading, and the "16 miles" in question are entirely ORV-Free, whereas the entire 68 miles is open to pedestrians unless there are safety/resource closures involved. Also, your statement about eroded pedestrian beaches is a work of pure fiction.

Let's look at the big picture:

The entire Altlantic Seaboard from Maine to Florida in comprised of ~2100 miles of tidal coastline.

We're asking to use <50 miles of that total in CHNSRA for ORV use, and all of that is subject ot resource/seasonal/safety closures, so ~50 miles is as good as it ever gets, period.

Pedestrians can have all of the rest of it!


There has been so much back and forth, questioning of science, and frustration in al of this that I thought it might help to isolate the issues without name calling or sarcasim.
1) Cape Hatteras National Seashore recreation Area was meant to be just that - a RECREATION AREA - from the very moment of it's inception.
2) A fairly large part of the Park was set aside as a wild life refuge. It is called Pea Island Wildlife Refuge and should be the only Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras.
3) During the REG-NEG meetings, the pro access groups tried to compromise and work towards a solution. The "environmentalist goup" refused any compromise and stalled the process out so that a decision or agreement could not be made. (There are typed minutes and video recordings to back this up. Don't even think that this can't be proven - it CAN!)
4) NPS had always put measures in place to ensure the safety of the birds and turtles long before the Consent Decree even came about. So far, no environmentalist group has shown where these measure fell short of providing proper protection.
5) It has never been about the birds or turtles. If this whole thing was about wildlife, there would be compromisee and working together to solve the issues. One side tried that, the other did not!
6) Thanks to all of this mess, there are many individuals whose livlihoods have been ruined or are on the verge of being ruined.
CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE RECREATIONAL AREA should be open for recreation. That was the purpose for developing it from day one. It is what it should be now.

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