Vandalism Leads to Closure of Ramp at Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The unauthorized removal of vehicle blockades at Cape Hatteras National Seashore has prompted officials there to shut down a public access ramp near Buxton, North Carolina.

This marks the second time this year that vandalism has forced the National Park Service to restrict access to the seashore in an effort to protect nesting piping plovers, a threatened species.

Ramp 45 had been closed to off-road vehicle access since May 21 due to the hatching of plover chicks in the area, although pedestrian access was being allowed.

According to seashore officials, sometime early Monday morning someone entered the area on foot "after tossing the vehicle barricades into the brush along the side of the sand route on the back side of the Cape Point Campground. The 202-campsite campground was full for the Memorial Day holiday weekend."

"Upon further investigation another vehicle barricade was found to be missing from the Inter-dunal Road and symbolic resource protection closure fencing was destroyed along the Ramp 45 route," the officials added. "Approximately 34 signs and sign posts were broken or pulled out. The remains of two beach fires were found near the shoreline. The two fires had been covered with sand but were still hot and smoldering. Evidence of the remains of sign posts and the vehicle barricade were found in the fire pits. There were numerous foot tracks found around the fire pits but no vehicle tire tracks were found in the area."

Access to the seashore has been particularly contentious ever since the Park Service was sued by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society for failing to have a formal ORV management plan. While seashore officials are trying to finalize such a plan now, they have been managing ORV access to the beaches under a court-ordered consent decree. That decree mandates "that if a confirmed deliberate act that disturbs or harasses wildlife or vandalizes fencing, nests, or plants occurs, the National Park Service (NPS) shall automatically expand the buffers."

As a result of that mandate, the Park Service had not alternative but to close Ramp 45.

"The expansion will remain in effect until shorebirds have finished using the respective areas for breeding activities," the agency said.

Comments

So the people get mad about the closures and retaliate by doing something that will expand the closure. Is it me or does their thinking not make sense?

RangerLady,

It depends on what the motivation is behind these acts. It makes abolutely no sense, unless closing more beach is what you're actually after. Ponder on that one...

Most folks who want the beaches open would never commit such an act, since the outcome is all too well known.

It has been speculated that the perp's are one or more of the following:

-Drunk

-Sporadic Tourists W/O knowledge of the consequences of their actions on others

-Eco-terrorists furthering an agenda

-Local teenagers with too much time/too little supervision

My questions and concerns surrounding this issue are these:

Why has there never, ever been one single perp caught and tried for these acts?

With the all 202 sites full in the campground, wouldn't it have been prudent for the NPS to conduct some night patrols in the area, especially on Memorial Day weekend? Beach fires would have been so very easy to spot if said were patrols in place, leading to possible arrests/convictions.

While vandalism like this should never occur in the first place, the NPS could be a bit more proactive in averting such, and additional patrols on the busiest of weekends would be a good place to start. The ORV user group is already cleaning the beaches, policing them is beyond our capabilities.

Something really stinks about this, but I doubt we'll ever get to the bottom of it.

Very good points dapster. I always forget that us tree-huggers can be a little naughty too (I must be biased)

Thanks for not asking me to tweak my tinfoil hat in relation to my conspiracy theory!

Not at all saying it isn't an overzealous ORV proponent either. Since there has yet to be a person(s) charged, it's all speculation at this point.

in defense of the NPS, it's also a nearly impossible area to police, due to the geography and mileage involved. But a high-use area like the beach near the Lighthouse Campground should be first tier for monitoring, IMO.

I sincerely hope the offenders are eventually caught, and dealt with publicly and severely. Perhaps then these acts will cease. Until that time, all user groups will suffer for the actions of these miscreants.

In the days before the CD-Ordered night-driving ban, these perp's might have been seen by fisherfolk, but...

dapster--

NPS doesn't have infinite personnel nor resources. Patrols might be very effective in preventing vandalism, and somewhat effective in apprehending vandals. But from what I see, CAHA has 19 total rangers, including 8 protection rangers and 4 law enforcement rangers, to cover everything from Wright Brothers to Ocracoke 24/7 (add in a couple of FWS folks at Pea Island). While resource protection is important, public safety issues are at least as important (even to us tree huggers). Figure traffic on the paved roads plus high-density beach areas and maybe one patrol down the entire beach during the day, plus at least 3 rangers at the 4 campgrounds at night (1 covering incidents at both Frisco & Cape Point), and there aren't rangers left to patrol closed & sensitive areas. Maybe natural resource and other folk could be eyes & ears patrols for the closures (as could ORV users), but they can't arrest or even detain anyone, and they tend to be called on to bolster interpretation & visitor services during peak visitation.

While normally managers can shift schedules and personnel to get more LE rangers working holiday weekends and sometimes even borrow folks from nearby units (I think I recall calls last summer for short-term details of LE rangers to CAHA for summer holiday weekends and the consent decree), things aren't normal right now. A substantial fraction of NPS natural resource and support folks are rotating through 2-4 week details to help with the gulf spill, even though NPS units haven't been hit hard yet.

I would bet that neither tree-huggers nor ORV activists did it, but rather some combination of drunk plus teens or out of area visitors. "Eco-terrorists" wouldn't have been a large group leaving numerous footprints around the beach fires, but a small group getting in and getting out. _Most_ ORV folks and folks who want the beaches open wouldn't do it even if the consequence wasn't enlarged closures, just like most ORV folks and hikers in the desert don't deliberately trash archeological sites. I would hope that anyone who regularly visits the beach wouldn't leave hot coals hidden under a thin layer of sand where folks can walk or drive over them (especially at night); that's a huge no-no on the west coast. And drunken belligerent "ORV terrorists" would likely have left vehicle tracks, not footprints.

doh--

Dapster is quicker on the reply than I am. My post was in response to his first post, not his followup.

Actually what stinks is the misinformation that the ORV side perpetuates. Walk into a local business and you will get a barrage of how the Park and environmentalist are in the process of closing all the beaches to everyone forever in the Park. Some of the ORV contingent helps fuels this kind of reaction (resource violation) with their inflammatory rhetoric.

There is a local element here would violate closures with the purpose of triggering more closures, their logic being if they can’t get to where they want to get to any additional people who can’t get to the beach will gain them more support.

In short this violation was most likely done with the assistance of an ORV with the express purpose of violating the closure. It is amazing the NPS could not catch them. As bold as it was they perpetrators must have know exactly where Park Rangers were and were not.

I don’t agree with the policy of expanding the closures because of vandalism, this unfairly punishes law-abiding citizens for the bad actions of vandals. It is not the way to gain support.

Credit goes to Dap for only assigning eco-terrorist as the number three culprit on his list.

To bad the ORVers can’t clean up the 1-foot deep ruts they continually create on the beach, I appreciate that many of them pick up litter.

Anon,

Some good points! Allow me to expand:

"Actually what stinks is the misinformation that the ORV side perpetuates. Walk into a local business and you will get a barrage of how the Park and environmentalist are in the process of closing all the beaches to everyone forever in the Park. Some of the ORV contingent helps fuels this kind of reaction (resource violation) with their inflammatory rhetoric."

-There is misinformation and hyperbole in use by BOTH sides, as you well know. Actually the SELC Cartel gets way more press than the pro-ACCESS groups, so I would call it lopsided toward them. To wit:
http://audubonmagazine.org/features0701/incite.html

"There is a local element here would violate closures with the purpose of triggering more closures, their logic being if they can’t get to where they want to get to any additional people who can’t get to the beach will gain them more support."

-I have heard/read as much threatened myself, but until someone is actually caught in the act, it's all speculation. Could be ORV users, could be Santa Claus.

"In short this violation was most likely done with the assistance of an ORV with the express purpose of violating the closure. It is amazing the NPS could not catch them. As bold as it was they perpetrators must have know exactly where Park Rangers were and were not."

-Your last sentence says it all....

"I don’t agree with the policy of expanding the closures because of vandalism, this unfairly punishes law-abiding citizens for the bad actions of vandals. It is not the way to gain support."

-Agreed in full.

"Credit goes to Dap for only assigning eco-terrorist as the number three culprit on his list."

-By design, but not necessarily in any order beyond not being first on said list.

"To bad the ORVers can’t clean up the 1-foot deep ruts they continually create on the beach, I appreciate that many of them pick up litter."

An overnight blow takes care of that, as do the daily tide cycles. Check out the DEIS on the subject and you will find the impacts of said ruts to be "Long term Negligable" across the board.

Thank you most sincerely for your appreciation concerning the trash removal, as most ORV users I know take only pictures, and leave only tire ruts.

****************************************************

Tomp,

Good points all! I fully realize that CHNSRA staff is severely limited, and as I stated before the simple geographic constraints of policing such a long shorefront is indeed daunting, if not downright impossible.

There USED to be nightly passes by NPS at the campgrounds, but with the increased size and scope of the resource protection, perhaps they are spread too thin to do so regularly any more.

As before, no one can say for sure who is behind these acts until someone is caught, but it is good to analyze all possibilities when trying to put a "Profile" on these perps.

May they all rot in jail if caught by the NPS. God help them if they are caught by law-abiding beach users.

Dapster,

Re the Audubon story you cited, if I recall correctly, the ORV side long has maintained that an ORV has never run over a plover. What do you make out of the photo showing a tire track across a bird?

"An overnight blow takes care of that, as do the daily tide cycles. Check out the DEIS on the subject and you will find the impacts of said ruts to be "Long term Negligible" across the board."

Just because the DEIS says it is so doesn't make it so, I'm sure there was much in that doc that you challenged the Park's analysis on also.

Daily tide cycles do not occur above the high tide line where the ruts are. In fact if the management of the beach is set up so that ORV trail is designated year round on a section of beach a visitor seeking to view that beach in a natural state would be unlikely to experience that beach that way.

In a way you are right about the eco-terrorist the difference being is that the eco-terrorist in this instance are probably radical right wing elements of the pro ORV/fishing community, not environmental extremist. There has been little if any of the kind eco-terrorism you’re alluding to on the Outer Banks.

Kurt,

The photo caption reads:

"The National Park Service does not know how many chicks, like this least tern, are killed by vehicles at Cape Hatteras. What is known is that in 2004 two chicks were killed after the park service removed fencing from around their nest sites.

Photo by Walker Golder "

Word is this was a CALO photo, and through some wordsmithing it is implied said bird, (LETE, not PIPL), was killed at CHNSRA. "Are", and not "Were", is operative, along with "Does not know".

The NPS does not know how many Yeti were lost to vehicles either. Exactly where was said fencing removed, and what killed these chicks? Vehicles are once again implied as the culprit.

Show me a documented CAHA PIPL ORV strike and I'll eat me salty hat....

************************

Anon,

Let the record show that you were the first to descend into partisan politics, not to mention that you lost me at the tide-erases-ruts-thing.

Dapster

"Show me a documented CAHA PIPL ORV strike and I'll eat me salty hat...."

You know that is just about impossible.

If you never saw lightning hit a tree and destroy it you could consider it was done or not done by anything you choose. Just because no one has the type of science or evidence to pass your muster doesn’t mean that beach driving has not killed chicks (various species) in CHNSRA. It is a highly likely scenario that plover chicks have been run over by ORVs. No one is going to do a controlled study monitoring chicks on a beach to test the mortality of ORV chick interaction. Common sense should dictate the obvious in this situation.

This is a national park that was specifically set up to protect and preserve resources and then provide recreational opportunities.

Southern Shores 1

Hello, SS1!

How’ve you been? Busy of late, I’ll wager….

"If you never saw lightning hit a tree and destroy it you could consider it was done or not done by anything you choose."

Incorrect. Evidence would show that lightning was the culprit, if it indeed was, since as far as I know there are no other random electrical releases that would destroy trees. Sorry, but that’s a totally inept analogy.

“Just because no one has the type of science or evidence to pass your muster doesn’t mean that beach driving has not killed chicks (various species) in CHNSRA.”

My muster is pretty easy to pass, just show me harm in fact, and not in speculation, as law in general requires. To accept your line of thinking, we must also acknowledge that the NPS also doesn’t know how many Unicorns, Leprechauns, Moonbeams, or Cosmonauts have been killed by ORV’s either.

“It is a highly likely scenario that plover chicks have been run over by ORVs. No one is going to do a controlled study monitoring chicks on a beach to test the mortality of ORV chick interaction.”

I won’t disagree with your first sentence, but there is no proof, and “highly likely” is mere speculation, not fact. In general, law requires at minimum a corpse to prosecute a killing, and this scenario should be no different. No body, no count-ee. Predation and overwash are the biggest killers of shorebirds, not people, according to everything I’ve read, including the DEIS. (To the tune of ~60% and 30% for AMOY, respectively, humans ~3%. See .PDF page 14 of 58 in the attached study below for reference).

Also, there have been “controlled studies” done a-plenty on CALO concerning AMOY chick mortality WRT all types of human interaction. Read into the myriad of DEIS references for AMOY, and you’ll see what I mean.

Why, here’s one:

http://www.shilohandshevaun.com/2007_NC_AMOY_Report.pdf

Below is one of my favorite quotes from this study, where supposition and opinion is spun such that it reads as fact:

“Mortality from vehicles was first documented in 1995, when three chicks on Cape Hatteras were found crushed in vehicle tracks. From 1995 to 2007, 18 chicks were found killed by vehicles (9 on Cape Hatteras and 9 on Cape Lookout. This number is only a fraction of the total number of chicks killed by vehicles during this time, as dead chicks were located by chance in most cases and many chicks died and were never found.”

Had he said “This number is LIKELY only a fraction…”, I wouldn’t bat an eye. However, said chicks could have been killed by most anything, and lack of evidence either way does not automatically imply that ORV’s are to blame. Statistically, it was most likely predation, as human-caused deaths reside below the 5th percentile, according to this same study.

Birders and eco-tourists are also not without blame when it comes to shorebird mortality. Here’s an excerpt from a study done in Fla.: (Again referencing AMOY)

“Ecotourists are a larger problem. There are several local kayak outfitters that commonly guide trips around the Alafia Bank and have not cooperated in staying sufficiently offshore of the beach during the nesting season. Several wildlife photographers are also resistant to staying suggested distances from the oystercatcher beach territories, particularly at the Alafia Bank. The Florida Aquarium boat “Bay Spirit” has a route that encircles the Alafia Bank, enters into the cove on the south side of Sunken Island, then runs between Fantasy Island and 2D. The boat occasionally throws a wake onshore to the Alafia Bank and 2D where there are several oystercatcher territories on the beach.

Wildlife photographers have been documented to drive parent oystercatchers off nests, causing predation of eggs or young. In 2006, one wildlife photographer photographed another pair of photographers landing on the Alafia Bank and pushing an adult off the nest, allowing a fish crow to swoop in and steal an egg while the adult was off the nest.”

(Hodgson, et al 2008)

“Common sense should dictate the obvious in this situation.”

Common sense left CHNSRA about the same time that the SELC Cartel sued the NPS part way through Reg-Neg, contrary to their previous promises not to do such.

“This is a national park that was specifically set up to protect and preserve resources and then provide recreational opportunities.”

Depends on how you interpret Sec. 4 of the enabling legislation. Said interpretation by the lawyers in the lawsuit-yet-to-come will have the final say on this, not you or I. My belief is that it is a dual mandate on face value, but key wording within may actually dictate that recreation is to come first.

Here, read it and decide for yourself:

SEC. 4. “Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed, the said area shall be permanently reserved as a primitive wilderness and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area:”

Not short on either contradictory or ambiguous language, note the use of the word “reserved”, not “Pre-served”. This paragraph, among others, will be the keys to unlocking the true intended use of this park.

Points to ponder for sure, and I sincerely hope you choose to do so.

Southern Shores 1 says: "This is a national park that was specifically set up to protect and preserve resources and then provide recreational opportunities."

Are you kidding?

I’m not really sure who it was that first sent me a copy of the “enabling legislation” that in the process of creating Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area, provided the Park Service with a framework with which to manage the Seashore.

What I do know is that before I read it the first time those many years ago, I was told that it was a “dual mandate” that gave NPS two missions to accomplish. One, the creation of a recreational area, and two, preserve the remaining area as primitive wilderness, which still comprises the vast majority of the Seashore as a whole.

It is upon the “dual mandate” premise that NPS has managed the area and many a debate has been centered. Often during that debate, whether coming from the NPS, environmental groups or certain individuals who argue this issue on various websites, we hear that the legislation is vague in that it doesn’t delineate where the recreational area is supposed to be as opposed to the primitive wilderness area. Presumably, it is that argument, that the law is vague, which led Sandy Hamilton, a Colorado based NPS employee, to proclaim during the negotiated rulemaking process that “as long as we leave a small area open for recreational access, we have fulfilled the recreational mission… ‘

Early morning last Thursday I was busy with my chores when suddenly I was struck by thought so powerful that it did what my coffee had yet been able to do; it woke me right up. Forgetting the chores, I pondered for a while then sat down here to look again at what the Congress wrote and passed.

The “enabling legislation” is not a “dual mandate”.

Within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, NPS outlines its preferred alternative (F) which includes the construction of additional ramps, parking areas, walkovers, inter-dunal roads, and a parking lot at Hatteras Spit, all of which would potentially destroy “wilderness” area and or the “unique flora and fauna now contained within”.

If the primary mission is to preserve these portions of the Seashore as opposed to recreation, how can NPS tear up these areas and develop them for recreational use? It’s because the Congress told them to do exactly that when they stated “which shall be developed for such uses as needed”.

In fact, read like its written, and you’ll see that Congress assumes that the entire Seashore can be developed by NPS for recreational use if it’s needed.

Congress used the term “reserved” when they spoke of primitive wilderness, not “preserved”. Had they said “preserved”, there would in fact be a dual mandate. The use of the word “reserved” tells NPS nothing more than that they are to preserve the flora and fauna until it’s needed for recreational use at which point it is to be developed for such purpose.

That’s not a dual mandate.

In my own experience, I have been in many a neighborhood that was being developed where the developer in question wasn’t allowed to cut out the trees on a given lot until the owner was actually ready to build a house. Consequently, at least for a while, many of the lots remained as they were for an extended period and were only “developed for such uses as needed”.

That’s what the Congress told NPS, and that’s all they told them. Develop the area for recreational use, reserve the rest until you need it and don’t mess with it while it’s in reserve.

That’s why congress never bothered to specify exactly where one area is as opposed to the other. Because they had already said it was all “fair game” for development for recreational use and in fact implored NPS to develop it for that purpose whenever necessary and in that respect is not vague at all.

As you read the legislation, which I will post below, try and read it without the bias of a “dual mandate” and carefully read it as the one long congruent thought it is.

SEC. 4. “Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed, the said area shall be permanently reserved as a primitive wilderness and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area:”

Chew on that for a while…

Tight Lines,
Wheat

Seems perfectly clear to me, " certain portions" for recreational uses. "reserved" (set aside) comes after the comma and is connected to the phrase, "primitive wilderness". And the clincher "no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area."

Again common sense says to me that chicks of all types on the beach have been run over by ORVs in CHNSRA not withstanding your conclusion that because one researcher couldn't identify the direct cause of the mortality of chicks in his study is far from conclusive for all chicks in the Seashore. I think, no matter what evidence was produced, if it impeded your vehicle access you would find fault with it.

Southern Shores 1

SS1,

What it says is "Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses.." This doesn't define which areas but it does utilize the term adaptable. This choice of words indicates that the Congress expects the seashore to evolve over time and the need or demand for recreational use would require the development for such areas that are adaptable for same. The word adaptable means that the area can be changed, adapted, altered, terraformed, etc., if necessary to accommodate recreational need. This is why the Congress says in no uncertain terms that the area shall be developed for such uses as needed which is neither a hint or suggestion...shall be is what it says.

Its the use of the term "reserved as primitive wilderness" that sets this in stone. Reserved is whats said as opposed to preserved. I'll agree that reserved can mean set aside but that still doesn't change the meaning of the word in context within the sentence itself. This because the Congress just finished telling NPS that any area that's especially adaptable shall be developed for recreation. You cant very well do that if you lock down the Seashore under the auspices of preservation. Hence, the term reserve was used so that if the need arose, development of the area for recreational purpose could continue within any area considered especially adaptable for that purpose as instructed by the House, Senate, and the President.

Remember also that all of the legislation following "reserved as primitive wilderness" is in direct reference to the area "in reserve" and pertains only to that. Its only in reserve as long as fails the first test of the legislation. In other words, if its not adaptable, NPS is to leave it alone in perpetuity. If however, the need is there and its adaptable, NPS is to fire up the bulldozer and make it so.

The reality is, if there was a tremendous demand for, say, a golf course at the Seashore, NPS would be required to find an adaptable location that is in "reserve" like Jennette Sedge for example, and build it. And in doing so, they would satisfy the tenants set forth within the enabling legislation.

Wheat

Wheat & Dap
Once again I fear you are wasting a good debate. Its the old situation of two people arguing. One sticks to the facts and the other says what ever he feels, and believes if he says it enough that it will become fact. Usually, no one prevails.
Here is what I think are the points that matter:
I think, from the research I have done, the park was established as a recreational area for the people that were there to do what they had been doing for generations. And, being seen as a good thing, it should be continued with availability insured to all the citizenry of this nation. In addition, but secondary, there should be consideration given to maintaining the physiography that existed at that time to the extent possible. I don't believe this to be arguable. If anyone wishes to change the content of the document, there is a procedure exactly for that purpose. The methods used to date have not followed that procedure. To the contrary, they have circumvented the process In a despicable fashion. We know it and they know it. The previous comments are a continuation of their "best available science", "best available interpretation", "best available assumptions" and best "I think it, so it must be fact".
I think, We know that consideration of the birds and turtles is an important issue. The vast majority of users of the shore share the concerns for the well being of these creatures. Granted, there are exceptions to everything, but the majority of people I have associated with on the shore love and cherish all of nature. When there is an attitude observed from some of the villagers or violations of restricted areas on the beaches, One should ask themself, why is that. What brought these people to feel the way they do and do the things they do. As to the way they feel, I can tell you it is because they feel that their rights have been trampled upon. As to the violations, these could be do to childishness, ignorance, anger, stupidity or a multitude of other reasons of which we may never know unless someone is caught and they tell us. We know they are a minute few, yet so many suffer the consequences To speculate serves no purpose. One thing we can all agree on is the fact that they are doing it for a reason, be it any of the above. Could it be that they think some of the restrictions are excessive. No, how could anyone think that. Ask yourself one thing, does the Consent Decree deprive Audubon or Defenders of Wildlife people from doing anything they have been accustom to doing or want to do. I don't think so. And before you start saying its for the birds and turtles, FORGET IT. We are way past that. There could have been cooperation on that issue but, it was your way or no way. Sure the ORV group pushed for as much as they could because that is typical in negotiations. So did the Plaintiffs. Don't say you didn't. the facts are in the Decree. So, I say don't even ask why some of the villagers feel the way they do or why the violations occur. You don't have that right. You may win this battle but, you don't have that right.
I intended to respond to some of the specifics being debated by Wheat and Dap Vs others but I better let it go.

Have to say Hello Kurt, Hope all is well.

Ron