Record Summer of Turtle Nesting at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Spawns....Debate

A sea turtle hatchling makes its way to the Atlantic surf at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. NPS photo.

It's hard to believe an object similar in size, shape, and even color to a Ping-Pong ball could threaten a way of life. But for many who call the Outer Banks of North Carolina home, that's how they view sea turtle eggs, as threats to their enjoyment of Cape Hatteras National Seashore and, for some, even their livelihoods.

And yet, these tiny white orbs are surprising biological spheres.

* They are laid by the dozen in relatively shallow holes their mothers scoop out of the beach;

* Their evolving occupants have their sex determined by the nest's temperature;

* They must survive raiding foxes, feral cats, ghost crabs, and human beach-goers, as well as turbulent surf whipped up by hurricanes, and;

* After about two months, the occupants must break out of their confining shells, dig their way to the surface, and skitter down to the ocean where they'll spend their next few years drifting on the currents.

The problem, as some see it, however, is that the precautions seashore officials take to protect these turtle rookeries and their offspring from off-road vehicle traffic and pedestrians are excessive. So excessive, they contend, that many of the the national seashore's 68 miles of beach are either directly off-limits to ORVs or require long walks, walks that simply are too long when you're traveling with young children, surf-casting gear, beach chairs, and coolers.

The turtles, though, seem to be thriving under these conditions.

In just five years the number of sea turtle nests on Cape Hatteras National Seashore has doubled, going from 76 in 2006 to at least 153 this summer, a record for a setting that seems to spawn more news over beach access than species preservation.

While groups such as North Carolina Audubon point to the record numbers of nests as proof that better control over where and when off-road vehicles can drive on the seashore's beaches contributes to nesting success, some ORV enthusiasts and those greatly concerned over beach access label such comments "propaganda" and "misleading," and lament that their tax dollars are, in effect, funding closures to protect both nesting sea turtles and threatened shorebirds, closures that deny them access to those same beaches.

What can't be ignored, though, is that this summer's nesting of sea turtles at Cape Hatteras was highly successful, with 8,255 hatched eggs sending thousands of baby turtles towards the Atlantic Ocean. The 153 tallied nests -- 147 of which were laid by threatened loggerhead turtles, and six by green turtles -- represented a sizable increase over the 104 nests counted in 2009 and roughly equals the number of nests at nearby Cape Lookout National Seashore, which doesn't have the same amount of ORV or pedestrian traffic as its northern neighbor.

But no one knows exactly what was behind the high productivity.

The Whims of Sea Turtle Reproduction

Female loggerhead turtles are thought to reach sexual maturity when they're about 35 years old, making one wonder whether there was a population boom in 1975 that was finally realized, reproductively, this summer. Or the high nest count could have been tied to a very good foraging year for female turtles to put on fat reserves to help them with their migration.

"It's classic to see fluctuations from year to year," said Dr. Matthew Godfrey, the sea turtle program coordinator for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "And it could be quite startling sometimes, especially with green turtles, but loggerheads you see it too. So it's not surprising to see a big change from year to year."

While there was a big change in nests at Cape Hatteras this past summer, Dr. Godfrey said that, overall, loggerhead nesting in the Southeastern states of North and South Carolina, and Georgia was good but not record-setting.

Concerns about the future of the loggerhead species are such that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is studying whether those sea turtles need to carry an "endangered" tag, not simply one proclaiming them "threatened." In considering such a change, the agency noted how beach-driving adversely impacts loggerheads.

Beach driving has been found to reduce the quality of loggerhead nesting habitat in several ways. In the southeastern U.S., vehicle ruts on the beach have been found to prevent or impede hatchlings from reaching the ocean following emergence from the nest. Sand compaction by vehicles has been found to hinder nest construction and hatchling emergence from nests. Vehicle lights and vehicle movement on the beach after dark results in reduced habitat suitability, which can deter females from nesting and disorient hatchlings. Additionally, vehicle traffic on nesting beaches contributes to erosion, especially during high tides or on narrow beaches where driving is concentrated on the high beach and foredune.

Groups that sued the National Park Service to force it to develop a formal off-road management plan for Cape Hatteras maintain that those efforts, to some extent, are behind the banner year. For the Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife, which retained the Southern Environmental Law Center to sue the National Park Service in 2007 over its lack of an ORV management plan for the seashore, the cause and effect are clear.

“The success of this nesting season underscores the need for a long-term ORV management plan at the Seashore,” Jason Rylander, staff attorney for Defenders, said in a release. “Our parks should be safe places for wildlife in addition to providing recreational opportunities for visitors.”

“Human disturbance is a primary factor in beach nesting success that is largely within the control of the Park Service,” added Julie Youngman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We believe the effective management of beach driving contributed to this year’s tremendous success.”

But no one at the Park Service or North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is so quick to cite the interim ORV restrictions that are scheduled to be replaced by a permanent plan next spring entirely for the nesting success. But the interim rules that resulted from a consent decree signed in 2007 to settle the lawsuit seem to be a step in the right direction.

"I would say that the consent decree definitely has helped us," said Britta Muiznieks, the seashore's wildlife biologist. "With the night driving restrictions that were a part of the consent decree, there's definitely been less disturbance to nesting turtles, as far as turtles attempting to nest as well as (actually) nesting."

While those interim rules have been much protested by some on Cape Hatteras, led to verbal abuse heaped on Park Service staff, and spawned stories and videos depicting dire economic impacts for businesses along the seashore, something else has risen along with the numbers of turtle nests: The overall economy.

According to the Dare County Visitor's Bureau, July's vacation rentals along Cape Hatteras were at a record high; when the various tills were counted from motels, hotels, B&Bs, and campgrounds, the $101.7 million taken in in July was a 16 percent increase over July 2009 revenues.

Larry Hardham, president of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club, however, said those stats can be misleading in that they shadow pockets of the seashore's business community that are suffering due to the ORV and pedestrian restrictions.

"Even when one category, such as 'weekly real estate rentals' may be up; another category may be down. For example, motels which depend on spur-of-the-moment travel plans," Mr. Hardham pointed out. "Such short notice trips would be news of prized runs of Spanish mackerel, red drum, flounder or pompano at Cape Point, Oregon Inlet, Hatteras Inlet or Ocracoke Inlet. In prior years, news of these runs brought fishermen and their families, but with beach access closures these summer runs are undiscovered and this business is lost forever.

"... Even businesses that have managed to break even or show a slight increase have done it at a tremendous personal cost," he added. "They have had to work harder and longer to make less profit. They have had to discount prices/rates tremendously. Many have had to layoff/cutback/terminate employees. Many have not been able to hire summer college students like they normally would. Some have had to refinance or incur additional debt to continue in business. Some have had to cash-in their children's college funds."

More than once when the debate rises over ORV access vs. sea turtles or piping plovers (another threatened species that has spurred tighter regulation of beach driving), ORV backers have argued that human welfare should take precedence over that of wildlife.

You Need Two Sexes For Reproduction

But the welfare of that wildlife can't easily be dismissed, and science has revealed the importance of sea turtle nesting on Cape Hatteras, even if North Carolina's loggerhead nesting population reflects just 1 percent of all loggerhead nesting in the Southeast.

Though North Carolina pales greatly to Florida, which is responsible for about 90 percent of all sea turtle production in the Southeast, when it comes to sheer numbers of loggerhead nests and resulting hatchlings, its beaches nevertheless serve a key role in the future of the species. The sex of an incubating turtle, you see, is influenced by the temperature of the surrounding sands, and in Florida where the beaches are warmer than those in North Carolina, 85-95 percent of the hatchlings are female, said Dr. Godrey. In North Carolina, with its somewhat cooler beaches, the male proportion of the egg hatch rises to 40-45 percent, he said.

"Definitely, the males produced up here mate with the females produced in Florida," he said. "So yes, they definitely are important components of the larger meta population."

That temperature-influenced gender also factors into the national seashore's position to let nests remain where they are laid, rather than relocating them out of the way of beach-goers.

"We believe that we contribute to the male population of loggerheads, which is why we are looking very closely at our relocation practices in hopes that we don’t skew that number," said Ms. Muiznieks. "Florida produces almost all females, so if you’re looking at what we are contributing to the population, we believe that we contribute more males to the population as a whole. So it’s something that we are very aware of and we want to be careful with our manipulations because we don’t want to change that ratio if we can help it."

With that in mind, the seashore tries to avoid relocating nests -- something it does only when it's absolutely necessary, such as when an approaching storm could threaten a nest about to hatch -- higher up into dunes that hold more heat than lower areas, she said.

It's the seashore's relative hands-off approach to turtle management that concerns Mr. Hardham, a retired medical consultant who for 15 years has volunteered for the "turtle patrol" at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. He also recognizes the natural fluctuations in turtle productivity, but thinks those booms could benefit from volunteers guarding over turtle nests at night. Such volunteers would, when hatchlings are emerging, help them find their way to the water by creating "keyhole" enclosures that in effect would guide the turtles straight to the surf, he said.

"It's a complete package," he said, referring to using nest relocations, keyhole enclosures, and volunteers to protect the sea turtles. "Trying to utilize concepts that are used successfully elsewhere, bundling them together. To me the bottom line would be greater protection for the turtles and public access to the seashore. And a very highly educational program as well in the turtle watch program.

"To me it's a win-win situation. And just applying some commonsense."

Traveler footnote: At least six of the national seashores in the National Park System allow beach driving to various degrees. At Padre Island National Seashore, which is a nesting area for Kemp's ridley sea turtles, the most-endangered of sea turtles, officials are working to make permanent a speed limit of 15 mph for beach drivers, down from the previous 25 mph limit. How individual seashores deal with turtle nesting and beach drivers depends largely on which species of turtle is involved and whether it's a listed species under the Endangered Species Act.

Comments

Having respect for nature is the bottom line. There is no reason that the public must drive on the beach. I think mankind does enough damage to nature that this seems like a small thing to request.

Sea turtles, and turtle hatchlings, have been crawling onto and off of those beaches for eons. Wheeled motor vehicles have been doing so for decades. When the Park Service mission is both to protect and preserve these places AND allow for their recreational enjoyment, it's not that hard to come down on the side of the turtles during the relatively small window of time they need to reproduce. This is common sense. Restrict the ORVs when appropriate, and stop apologizing for it. Reckless beach behavior is at least one of the reasons most sea turtle species today are threatened or endangered. Give them a break -- and a brake.

This is great news for the Seashore that has suffered so long under the wheels of destructive ORVs. Its been 3 straight record years for sea turtles after the NPS finally began to control vehicles on the beach. This is no coincidence. But it is of no surprise that an ORV cheerleader, like Hardham, describes the data as misleading and suggests taking sea turtle out of the hands of nature and putting it in the hands of man with artificial turtle hatcheries, a practice that has been proven time and time again to do more harm than good. Recommendations by sea turtle experts and the sea turtle recovery plans point to vehicles on the beach as a harmful threat to sea turtles and no credible expert describes beach vehicles as beneficial or even benign. Also no coincidence is that the region is experiencing record economic benefit. The businesses not doing so well should probably take down their disgusting anti-plover, anti-wildlife, personal attacks on local people who promote the protection of wildlife, and other vile propaganda that only drives the average seashore visitor from their business, because it is clear that people are avoiding those businesses...or maybe those businesses are not being honest about their economic demise. I was so disgusted by 2 local tackle shops and 2 restaurants that I visited, that I will never ever visit those businesses again and I will warn others to stay away also.

Thanks for another objective article on this subject.

"While there was a big change in nests at Cape Hatteras this past summer, Dr. Godfrey said that, overall, loggerhead nesting in the Southeastern states of North and South Carolina, and Georgia was good but not record-setting."

Dr, Godfrey may want to rethink his statement.

http://ameliaislandliving.com/fernandinabeach/2010/09/amelia-island-sea-turtle-nesting-bountiful-2010/

http://www.blufftontoday.com/news/2010-08-06/hilton-head-island-sees-record-sea-turtle-nesting-season

http://savannahnow.com/news/2010-09-04/sea-turtles-nest-record-rate-georgia\

It’s been a banner year along the entire east coast, far outside the reach of the Consent Decree.

Kurt, I respectfully request that you print the year-end data of not just the number of nests laid, but also the hatch rate within the seashore, as this is the true measure of successful management. Throw in Pea Island’s sans ORV data as well.

CHNSRA loses upwards of 35% of viable nests annually, mostly due to inundation, which is largely preventable. In some circles, this would be construed as a “Take".

The constant manipulation of information and data in the name of environmentalism to justify agendas that are clearly damaging the futures and economies of the people affected is one of America's sad tragedies. I sense a backlash though. The sympathies of the people are wearing very, very thin. And that's sad as well, because where balance should be created, the scales are going to tilt one way at the end of the day, and it won't be pretty.

Perhaps you can point to the manipulation, Mr. Johnston.

Also, for transparency's sake, don't you work for a New York PR firm and have a direct personal interest in continued ORV access to Cape Hatteras? I ask not so much as to call you out, but rather to provide readers with pertinent information so they might better understand your position.

For transparency's sake, yes I do. And yes, I have a serious personal interest -- the injuries people are suffering. For the record, I have always been a conservationist. Still am. And, for the record, my interests here are not financial, my work in this issue will continue to be pro bono. My interest here is civil liberties, and balance between responsible conservation, environmentalism, common sense, and true speak.

So, for your readers, I support the works of the National Park Service. I insist though, that responsible, balanced acts, works and directions be taken. That responsible, unbiased reporting be made. That numbers are not skewed to meet agendas. That the NPS be responsible to the taxpayers and brands that support it, and not forget who its core base really is.

To imply that the decrees in place destroying the economy of Hatteras has actually changed things positively impacting nesting there is irresponsible, out of touch and false. The mortality rate is unacceptable, as are the practices. Nesting is up all over the east coast, which is great - - but this while this area suffers the most stringent restrictions with the highest mortality rate...isn't rational. I respect your reports and appreciate your attempt at telling both sides, so I'm not calling you out either. In this quest that we all share, to protect our resources, we also are pinned with the responsibility to protect our way of life...ours, and that of mother nature. There must be logical balance. At Hatteras, as in other places, the balance is lost. I fear a backlash of public sentiment that will undo all the works of people trying to accomplish good. NPS and all other parties must get a handle on that.

Mr Johnston,
Since you're here and the topic has diverged to "manipulation of information," I was wondering if you could clarify a few issues I have with "piping mad".
Why wasn't there a disclaimer on the photo with beagle in the foothold trap stating it was being used for emotional value only and it had no connection to Cape Hatteras National Seashore?
Why was the picture of the closed Frisco Pier used, when the issues surrounding it being closed have nothing to do with the access issues?
Why was the picture of the closed motorcycle shop used when the issues surrounding it being closed have nothing to do with access issues? (domestic issue)
How many tax returns have you inspected that support claims of 30 and 40 percent reductions of income?
Thanks in advance for your answers.

As to your statement:
"To imply that the decrees in place destroying the economy of Hatteras has actually changed things positively impacting nesting there is irresponsible, out of touch and false. The mortality rate is unacceptable, as are the practices. Nesting is up all over the east coast, which is great - - but this while this area suffers the most stringent restrictions with the highest mortality rate...isn't rational. I respect your reports and appreciate your attempt at telling both sides, so I'm not calling you out either. In this quest that we all share, to protect our resources, we also are pinned with the responsibility to protect our way of life...ours, and that of mother nature. There must be logical balance. At Hatteras, as in other places, the balance is lost. I fear a backlash of public sentiment that will undo all the works of people trying to accomplish good. NPS and all other parties must get a handle on that. "
How specifically is the economy being destroyed? Specifics please, with concrete examples and dollar amounts.
Now, a number commonly used in a manner of "manipulation of information" is that 2009 had a 65 percent mortality rate, or only 35 percent survival rate. That's not accurate.
The emergence rate - hatchlings coming out of the nests - was near 35 percent, but another 10 percent were removed from nests, hence they can't be counted as emerging for a total of 45 percent. Now that’s not great, but it’s only ~5-10 percentage points below “natural survival rates”. The problem was a little thing called hurricanes and tropical storms offshore, not the relocation policy. Based on what I read in the 2009 annual report ( http://www.nps.gov/caha/naturescience/upload/2009%20Sea%20Turtle%20Report.pdf have you read it?), their efforts were heroic in the face of what was happening - storm surges washing up - and over - the dunes.
Finally, the “stringent restrictions” you speak of must be the relocation policy? I know they probably didn’t fill you in completely, but Cape Hatteras does not set the relocation policy, the state of North Carolina does. And from what I’ve read of the new recovery plan, relocation is going to become even stricter, especially on hatcheries.
I know though, you’ve probably been told of this magical place called Pea Island where they relocate everything and all the hatchlings survive. Actually though, they don’t:
Pea Island 2010
Nests: 14
In Situ: 4
Relocated: 9 (64.2%)
Lost: 2 (14.2%)
Incubating: 3
False Crawls: 16

Estimated Eggs to Date: 1184
Eggs Lost: 64 (5.4%)
Hatched Eggs: 754
Emerged Hatchlings: 721
Mean Incubation Duration (all): 51.1 days
Mean Clutch Count: 114.3 eggs (Relocated Only)

Mean Hatch Success: 56.9%
Mean Emergence Success: 54.3%
Nest Success: 57.1%
Beach Success: 46.6%
And Hatteras 2010 for comparison:
Nests: 153
In Situ: 90
Relocated: 63 (41.1%)
Lost: 6 (3.9%)
Incubating: 28
False Crawls: 112

Estimated Eggs to Date: 14878
Eggs Lost: 380 (2.5%)
Hatched Eggs: 8255
Emerged Hatchlings: 7242
Mean Incubation Duration (all): 56.7 days
Mean Clutch Count: 108.8 eggs (Relocated Only)

Mean Hatch Success: 58.4%
Mean Emergence Success: 51.6%
Nest Success: 57.5%
Beach Success: 57.7%

These are preliminary, but interesting anyway.

Crot,

Your comments have been refuted in detail on the Outer Banks Connection Message Board, so rather than address them, I'll just post a link and let the folks decide for themselves:

http://www.obxconnection.com/outer-banks-message-board/forumdisplay.php?f=3

A cursory reading of the messages will also reveal that your credibility has fallen to an all time low.

Have a nice day!

Rob

Kurt,

I, as an individual who resides in Virgina, (and as a member of the pro-access groups like CHAC, OBPA, and NCBBA), also have a "vested interest" in continued ORV access in CHNSRA, just as Mr. Johnston does.

I fail to see where his affiliation with the "Piping Mad" video has much, if any, bearing on this situation. I will assume that he is both an American citizen and a taxpayer, which should suffice as a prerequisite for being interested about access issues in OUR National Parks.

Our friend Crotalus also has a vested interest in motorized access, as he uses his own ORV to reach fishing destinations during the course of each year. He just sees things a bit "differently", shall we say.

Speaking of:

"The emergence rate - hatchlings coming out of the nests - was near 35 percent, but another 10 percent were removed from nests, hence they can't be counted as emerging for a total of 45 percent."

That's exactly the manipulation of data being discussed. Which is it, 35 or 45%?

Now that’s not great, but it’s only ~5-10 percentage points below “natural survival rates”. The problem was a little thing called hurricanes and tropical storms offshore, not the relocation policy."

"Only" 5-10% LESS than "Normal Survival Rates", which to me points at failures in management schema per the NPS/NCWRC/USFWS protocols for this area, if the emergence rates are HIGHER in other areas where they are left to let nature take its course. I also noted that you reference the "problem" as being storm-related and NOT human/ORV-related. That-a-boy!

One needs only look a few hundred miles to the south of CHNSRA to find higher hatch/emergence rates, IE South Carolina.

http://ccgnet.com/turtleteam/turtleupdate.php

The lowest rate I saw on the IOP page was 28%, the highest, 98%. Averaged out over 23 nests, 81.5% sucessful hatch rate.

The work there is done mostly by volunteers, who are not by any means trained beyond what the SCDNR supplies to the volunteer programs.

SC beaches, most of which have no Federal oversight, seem to fare much better than those with federal mandates for nest management, as do the rest of the states between NC and Mexico.

...and in SC, they do so with closures of this size, start to finish:

Oh, and they moves nests that are at even the slightest risk of innundation.

Funny, that....

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

Kurt,

I still respectfully request that you publish an article detailing the year-end CHNSRA/PINWR hatching/emergence data once it is available as a follow-up. This story is incomplete without it.

As promised, your article on this subject did indeed initiate a debate! (Has it never?)

Thanks for your continued objectivity and reporting on this issue.

dap

Well of course it's pertinent, Dap. PR firms are paid to spin a story. Certainly, it's good to know that Mr. Johnston is offering his services pro bono, as that wasn't previously clear and so it was hard to say what his motivation was in posting comments.

As for Piping Mad, it seems to be one-sided in portraying the situation. And, of course, that's the problem with most stories: We hear from vested interests and there isn't always an unbiased view to help keep the record straight.

I cannot let this go by without comment;

(part of Kurt's article)
"Beach driving has been found to reduce the quality of loggerhead nesting habitat in several ways. In the southeastern U.S., vehicle ruts on the beach have been found to prevent or impede hatchlings from reaching the ocean following emergence from the nest. Sand compaction by vehicles has been found to hinder nest construction and hatchling emergence from nests. Vehicle lights and vehicle movement on the beach after dark results in reduced habitat suitability, which can deter females from nesting and disorient hatchlings. Additionally, vehicle traffic on nesting beaches contributes to erosion, especially during high tides or on narrow beaches where driving is concentrated on the high beach and foredune."

" Sand compaction by vehicles has been found to hinder nest construction and hatchling emergence from nests."

The above sentence is pure BS. Beach sand has been eroded by wind, water, and friction, each grain of beach sand is mostly a round shape-like a marble. Go ahead press down on a pile of marbles, let me know when you have compressed them, especially when the compressive force is removed.

The TV show, Myth Busters proved this theory with their study of the footprints left by the Astronauts on the moon. NASA backs this data up. Since there is no air (to blow) and no water (to wash & lubricate) only friction of movement has NOT caused the moon surface (dust/sand/small rocks) to erode (like beach sand). The footprints left, compacted this surface and because of the irregular rough surface the grains locked together, staying compressed. Beach sand cannot do this.

"Vehicle lights and vehicle movement on the beach after dark results in reduced habitat suitability, which can deter females from nesting and disorient hatchlings."

The above statement also cannot be documented on CHNSRA. Until this year when a "CONsent decree rule was broken by a driver on a closed beach running over a nesting turtle, no interaction has ever been documented. So, one foolish act in over 50yrs of time, does not make an issue. In the recent past when NPS kept the beaches open at night, new-hatched turtles were protected from vehicle lights be a dark fabric lining a path to the water.

NPS has done nothing to reduce Ghost Crab predation of baby turtles, which is second only to weather in destroying eggs and baby turtles.

"Well of course it's pertinent, Dap. PR firms are paid to spin a story. Certainly, it's good to know that Mr. Johnston is offering his services pro bono, as that wasn't previously clear and so it was hard to say what his motivation was in posting comments."

Roger that, thanks for the clarification, and I hope Mr. Johnston has exhonerated himself in the eyes of you and your readers by his comments.

Environmental groups such as SELC Cartel are known to do much the same with regard to "spin", as seen in the NC Audobon article, "Beach Bums":

http://www.audubonmagazine.org/features0701/incite.html

....and I expect they are in no way operating pro bono.

As for Piping Mad, it seems to be one-sided in portraying the situation.

While that is true, would you agree that the overwhelming majority of press that this situation has received has been the product of those associated with the SELC "stakeholders", and sometimes even the NPS?

They've had plenty of air time, much of it spent demeaning ORV users, and now we have finally found our voice through this video. Should we be faulted for playing the game in much the same manner as our detractors? I think not.

And, of course, that's the problem with most stories: We hear from vested interests and there isn't always an unbiased view to help keep the record straight.

No argument from me on that point, whatsoever. I seriously doubt if such partity will ever be found regarding this issue, as both sides are firmly dug in.

Again, thanks for keeping this issue on the pages of NPT!

Spin exists everywhere, unfortunately.

As to the overwhelming majority of press coverage, I haven't tracked it so can't say. In my dealings with the NPS, I didn't get the sense they were trying to spin things or offer one side over another. They're between a rock and a hard spot.

As for "playing the game in much the same manner," well, I think that simply feeds the spin allegations. What's accurate, what's not? And when the spin fails, then the lawyers are brought in. (See Yellowstone snowmobiles.)

Thanks for your comments Kurt. Regarding my "payment," that's not publicized because frankly I didn't think it was anyone's business, but, you are right, clarity on that is probably important. We have taken on this issue because we feel it's an important one...much larger issues at stake than ORV access at Hatteras.

Regarding Piping Mad, if you view it again, I don't think turtles are addressed here. We are focussed on the Piping Plover. So how did we get to Piping Mad in this thread? We are also focussed on the real economic damage south of the bridge. Someone in this thread asked earlier if I had examined the tax returns of these people and businesses. That question is about as funny as that person's yard flooding, which I hope it isn't again with all this rain. Of course we haven't examined tax returns. We did, however, speak with over 20 businesses and in several instances, were offered detailed histories of income from before the closures began and after. I don't think those people went to the trouble to fabricate pages and pages of false ledgers to impress me. Also, several people are in the video citing percentages of lost business and income lost. That person should ask those individuals the same question he asked of me.

Also Kurt, regarding Piping Mad...it can be construed as one sided, certainly. That was the side we chose to tell, because that story has not been adequately made public. It's the dark side of all of this that many would prefer remain, well, in the dark. The side of Audubon, DOW, SELC and NPS are told daily by their PR machines. Now, the people of the OBX have a machine as well. But again we have digressed from hatching turtles to Piping Mad. But since we are, another question that person asked regarding the beagle...that photo we are told was taken at Hatteras and was snared in a Park Service trap, along with about 1400 other animals in the depredation program there. Those numbers are published by the NPS, I have the list. Certainly, a program of that magnitude will have some collateral damage, like the beagle. Trapping is indiscriminate. How many incidentals occurred during the mink trapping season? I heard reports of over a hundred terrapins. Now, that was hearsay, but the sliding rig traps used to dispatch minks and otters logically would snare a terrapin. I do thank you though, for the nice piece recently published asking fisherman to include releases in fish traps to ensure terrapin safety. Perhaps the park rangers could do the same. I'm not sure what we can do about the fox that was shot at the beach however. I'm reminded of a Ken Burns documentary about Yosemite, specifically on efforts with wolf populations there, where it the voiceover says NPS will never intentionally harm animals in an effort to relocate...perhaps I misunderstood. But again, I've gotten off point trying to address the questions of that gentleman that doesn't give his name.

I agree totally with your comment on vested interests, and like you, I insist on balance. I applaud the increases in hatchings and your effort to report it. Ultimately we're all in the same fight....preservation, conservation, for both animals in our wild as well as those who walk on two legs. I'm sure you would agree.

Kurt, I do agree with your comment regarding NPS, they are between a rock and hard spot. That's unfortunate.

Perhaps I mispoke, which is not unheard of coming from this guy.

Yes, the NPS is in a tough situation, and generally shoot down the middle to the best of their abilities. Perhaps I should have left them out of the same group as the SELC, but my point was more towards the amount of press out of these groups all combined compared to that of the pro-access folks.

"As for "playing the game in much the same manner," well, I think that simply feeds the spin allegations. What's accurate, what's not? And when the spin fails, then the lawyers are brought in. (See Yellowstone snowmobiles.)"

Here I was talking less about spin, and more about using emotional words and imagery to convey a message supporting one's position. They use images and descriptions of tire ruts, dead animals and photoshopped lines of cars on the beach to get their point across, so I see no harm in letting folks speak truthfully from their hearts about their predicament and spreading that word.

Does that clarify, or muddy my earlier statement?

Mr Johnston,
(your statements in italics, my responses in bold)
Regarding Piping Mad, if you view it again, I don't think turtles are addressed here. We are focussed on the Piping Plover. So how did we get to Piping Mad in this thread?

You brought up “manipulation of information” of which Piping Mad is, IMO, a most egregious example.

We are also focussed on the real economic damage south of the bridge.

Are we? What is it? In exact net dollars?

Someone in this thread asked earlier if I had examined the tax returns of these people and businesses. That question is about as funny as that person's yard flooding, which I hope it isn't again with all this rain. Of course we haven't examined tax returns. We did, however, speak with over 20 businesses and in several instances, were offered detailed histories of income from before the closures began and after. I don't think those people went to the trouble to fabricate pages and pages of false ledgers to impress me. Also, several people are in the video citing percentages of lost business and income lost. That person should ask those individuals the same question he asked of me.

So if I came to you and said my business had made a million dollars because of the closures, you would report that statement as fact without verifying it? It’s in some of these people’s best interest to put as dim an outcome on this as possible – manipulate the information if you will. That’s why during the summers they were telling everyone all the beaches were closed, when they weren’t.

Assuming you viewed ledgers, you should be able to provide us dollar amounts of losses (without identifying the business), not vague percentages. Also, are these "losses" based on decadal averages, or against the best year they ever had? Do the losses exceed the national tourism trend in a recession (ie. there were eight consecutive quarters of decline in tourism-related employment prior to 2010)?

If I was making a video alleging to report the true state of affairs on Cape Hatteras, yes it would be my job to verify I was indeed reporting the truth and ask such questions of the individuals, but since it is you making the video alleging to do so, that makes it your job, doesn't it?

But since we are, another question that person asked regarding the beagle...that photo we are told was taken at Hatteras and was snared in a Park Service trap, along with about 1400 other animals in the depredation program there.

Now think about this for a minute. APHIS has footholds out (APHIS is the only agency to have trapped a dog on Cape Hatteras, as was reported here : http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/virginian-pilot-ledger-star-norfolk/mi_8014/is_20050610/peta-urges-park-ban-snares/ai_n41283403/ ) and captures a stray dog. They then take pictures of it before taking it to the SPCA? And then they give those pictures to your source? Why? To make matters even worse, the description of APHIS (the dog’s name) doesn’t match the picture of the one in Piping Mad.

It seems rather obvious to me that someone "borrowed" a banner photo from the PETA website ( here: http://www.peta.org/issues/wildlife/cruel-wildlife-trapping.aspx ) over an article about dogs trapped elsewhere and tried to attribute it to the NPS at Cape Hatteras. As you finish the full-length version, you should probably contact PETA and verify the source of the photo.

Those numbers are published by the NPS, I have the list. Certainly, a program of that magnitude will have some collateral damage, like the beagle. Trapping is indiscriminate. How many incidentals occurred during the mink trapping season? I heard reports of over a hundred terrapins. Now, that was hearsay, but the sliding rig traps used to dispatch minks and otters logically would snare a terrapin. I do thank you though, for the nice piece recently published asking fisherman to include releases in fish traps to ensure terrapin safety. Perhaps the park rangers could do the same. I'm not sure what we can do about the fox that was shot at the beach however.

I do have to thank you for that part of the video. I’m still trying to figure out how the NPS can tell a European red fox isn’t native. I’m working on it though and will get back to you. As an aside, had the fox bit a child out there and then ran off and the child had to go through rabies shot regime, I’m sure everyone would have been screaming to the mountains that the NPS should have taken care of the problem before someone was injured. A fox sitting out on the beach, in broad daylight, while people travel back and forth is completely out of character for the species and the NPS acted properly for public safety. As for the terrapins, if true it’s too bad there’s been that kind of by-catch and hopefully they’ll change tactics. But around here, if the NPS is involved, unsupported hearsay today that 100 terrapins were killed, becomes fact tomorrow that 1,000 were killed. You failed to address why you used pictures of closed businesses for which the closings had nothing to do with the closures or access issues. If there’s been “real economic damage” can’t you change the photos to businesses that have actually closed because of the closures? I would recommend some, but I can’t recall any off of the top of my head.

While it may be anecdotal, even though some business owners agree, this September has been the busiest I can recall, as if Labor Day never ended. Perhaps tourists are adapting to the changes?


Dap, this whole issue is clear as mud;-)

Emotional words and imagery do indeed convey messages, just as do run-over turtles and tire ruts.

The problem for the bystander -- and this is not specific to Cape Hatteras, but to just about any controversial issue inside or outside the national parks -- is discerning from the spin what is true and to what extent.

While there might be hardships in some sectors, there seems to be an overall boom in others. Turtles have been killed, and there has been a record year of nesting. The enabling legislation for Hatteras talks of pristine wilderness, yet beach driving goes way back.

And that's just skimming the surface of this tangled issue.

Refresh my memory: has anyone talked about mediation for arriving at an ORV plan? I know there were committees appointed and many meetings that, largely, went for naught en route to the NPS's draft management plan.

Just out of curiosity, would the players on both sides agree to sit down with an impartial mediator, present him/her with their views, and accept his/her decision on beach driving? With the understanding, of course, that that decision would have to abide by the requisite Park Service and ESA mandates?

Dapster,
Oh, and [South Carolina] moves nests that are at even the slightest risk of innundation.

Funny, that....

Come on Dap, you shouldn't make such claims without even checking them out first:

South Carolina 2010:
Nests: 3135
In Situ: 1479
Relocated: 1656 (52.8%)
Hatchery: 325 (10.3%)
Lost: 155 (4.9%)
Incubating: 444
Unknown: 22
False Crawls: 4463

Estimated Eggs to Date: 316932
Eggs Lost: 15097 (4.7%)
Hatched Eggs: 205201
Emerged Hatchlings: 194832
Mean Incubation Duration (all): 52.3 days
Mean Clutch Count: 112.9 eggs (Relocated Only)

Mean Hatch Success: 65.5%
Mean Emergence Success: 62.2%
Program Nest Success: 75.8%
Program Beach Success: 41.2%

http://www.seaturtle.org/nestdb/index.shtml?view=2

They lost more nests, then Cape Hatteras even had.

Kurt,

Agreed. Extreme turbidity has been part of this since 1978, give or take a decade...

Issues with such huge disparities as this, when examined in detail, usually show that the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes. I would hope the informed reader would be able to find the middle ground between the two, taking neither at face value without further research on their own part.

Battling with statistics on all relevant CHNSRA subjects represent only numbers on paper, putting it in terms of human social and socioeconomic impact is hard to express, much less quantify. Hence video interviews of those effected for all to see.

Refresh my memory: has anyone talked about mediation for arriving at an ORV plan? I know there were committees appointed and many meetings that, largely, went for naught en route to the NPS's draft management plan.

See failed NPS Negotiated Rulemaking process, which the SELC parties jumped ship from mid-process, going against their own pledges not to do so.

Just out of curiosity, would the players on both sides agree to sit down with an impartial mediator, present him/her with their views, and accept his/her decision on beach driving? With the understanding, of course, that that decision would have to abide by the requisite Park Service and ESA mandates?

I think you just described a Federal Appellate Court, which is where this will likely be decided, hopefully in our lifetimes.

"Come on Dap, you shouldn't make such claims without even checking them out first:"

Ummm....

I did an average of the relatively small sample area on Isle of Palms, SC, turtle nests to date per the website sourced. You do the math. It still comes out to 80+%.

They lost more nests, then Cape Hatteras even had.

Granted, but Look at the numbers again, especially the ones in (*).

Lost: 155 (4.9%)

155 = 4.9% OF 3,135 nests.

This is about percentages, not raw numbers. 4.9%<35% of "X", no?

Mean Hatch Success: 65.5%
Mean Emergence Success: 62.2%
Program Nest Success: 75.8%
Program Beach Success: 41.2%

These percentages are kind of important too. Not sure what "Beach Sucess" entails.

In 2009, Georgia lost approximately 15% of their nests, and relocated 40.2%. South
Carolina lost 12.9% and relocated 48.9%.

In contrast, CHNS only relocated 25% and lost 35.6% in 2009,
with no hurricanes within 400 miles of our coast.

I would find such data hard to defend.

Nest Success - This is calculated by the total number of nests that hatched with > 10% emergence success divided by the number of nests laid.

Beach Success - This is calculated by the total number of nests laid divided by the total number of crawls (nest crawls and false crawls).

Actually, CAHA relocated 31 percent of their nests in 2009 (they had 32 percent emergence).

Cat 2 Bill was 434 miles off shore, and Tropical Storm Danny parked 80 miles off-shore. Both hit with significantly high surges - some over wash of the dunes at Sandy Bay. Then there was Nor' Ida.....
But we got pretty large swells this year from Danielle and she (and then Colin) was on the other side of Bermuda. Each successive storm erodes the beach and gets closer to the nests.

But if it's about the percentages, this year CAHA has lost 3.9 (6) percent of its nests and PINWR 14.2 (2).

Kurt,

Thanks for the article. It is all very complicated.

I think it is important to note that Mr. Hardom is one of the spokespeople for ORV access in CHNS. As you stated he is president of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club (CHAC) whose mission statement reads in part:

“Cape Hatteras Anglers Club serves as a "Watch Dog" organization over all individuals and agencies that would close or limit access to our beaches.”

Turtle nests have little affect on pedestrian access because pedestrians can walk in or behind the dune to get around the turtle nest. The turtle closures are very small in comparison to bird closures and the beach between the turtle nest and water is closed only at the hatching window. Protocols are in place that allows Park Biologists to excavate the nest if it fails to hatch.

Mr. Hardam’s opinion that pedestrian closures are affecting business or that ORV advocates have concerns for pedestrian access is not so straightforward. When ORV leaders refer to pedestrian access areas I assume they mean the beach adjacent to the 4 month seasonal pedestrian access only areas in front of the villages and all the available ORV accessible areas that pedestrian may access but seldom do. Many visitors don’t want to recreate among parked vehicles or negotiate tire-rutted beaches associated with ORV routes.

ORV spokespeople are not in favor of pedestrian routes being established around bird resource closures. They cite a study that shows vehicles are less likely to disturb birds than pedestrians. I am not aware of any study conducted in CHNS that looks at specific pedestrian access routes that detour around bird closures. In addition the studies they cite don’t address the issue of which type of access (pedestrian or ORV) is safer for chicks and nesting birds. It seems reasonable that pedestrian routes that bypass resource closures could be established quicker and with less intrusion than alternate ORV routes. One would also think that pedestrian access is better than no access at all.

Four other national seashores allow no beach driving at any time and 3 others have ORV plans that allocate considerably less available beach to ORV use than CHNS and or set ORV carrying capacity limits. Cape Lookout National Seashore is in the process of forming an ORV management plan. Currently the entire beach is available for ORV access. However, ORV use is limited in Cape Lookout National Seashore because visitors using vehicles can only access the Park by one small private ferry. Padre Island National Seashore is all designated for ORV use because Texas Law classifies beaches as roads.

CHNS’s enabling legislation does not specifically mention ORV use as a stated recreational activity but does spell out a test as to what activities are appropriate, which is:

“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”.

All of Hatteras Island’s economy has been impacted by the national recession, the collapse of the real estate market and local home building trade. ORV advocates seldom acknowledge these factors when discussing economic concerns. It is a stretch to insinuate that resource closures have created all the economic hardship that Mr. Hardom suggests. It is likely that negative and misleading information (overstating pedestrian access issues) by ORV advocates has contributed to some of the economic problems.

While Mr. Hardom has been president of CHAC their annual fishing tournament has grown to 120 teams. The tournament teams all use ORVs to fish in the National Seashore during the tournament. According to their website this fishing tournament is now considered to be the largest fishing tournament in the world. So obviously fishermen still find Hatteras a desirable and accessible fishing destination despite current NP turtle management practices.

Dadgum Ghost Crabs. There's your problem. Put a bounty on 'em, say 50 cents each. Then let the kids catch 'em and turn 'em in by the bucketful. Do this every year starting right before hatching time till the end of it :)

Dapster,

Spin is interesting.

You implied that environmental organizations were dishonest about filling a lawsuit about the Park’s Interim Protected Species Management Plan (IPSMP).

“which the SELC parties jumped ship from mid-process, going against their own pledges not to do so.”

Not so.

In fact in May 2005 and again in December 2006, Defenders issued a notice of intent to sue the National Park Service for failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and two Presidential Executive Orders and other federal laws and regulations with respect to its authorization of unlimited off-road vehicle use at the seashore.

This was all well ahead of the reg/neg and the paperwork was filled before the reg/neg got started. If this were correct the ORV lawyers would never have let the reg/neg get started with those environmental organizations.

In the court of law that is how the ball bounces. It is exactly how I would expect the ORV access organizations to behave if the roles were reversed.

If those organizations had not sued the Park the Park would be managing or mismanaging (depending on your POV) protected species under the IPSMP today.

More spin from my POV.

“photoshopped lines of cars on the beach”
Look at your posted pictures in the comments of the “Traveler” to see lines of cars on the beach.
http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2010/09/all-was-not-lost-when-loggerhead-turtle-determined-nest-cape-hatteras-national-seashore-was-run-over6818

“Sir, it is painfully obvious that you are categorically against all ORV use on any beach, for any reason”
http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2010/09/all-was-not-lost-when-loggerhead-turtle-determined-nest-cape-hatteras-national-seashore-was-run-over6818

I have never advocated for eliminating all ORV use in the Seashore. I am advocating for protecting resources, preserving a National Park experience and ORV use. And believe all 3 things can all be accommodated in CHNS. Oh yea, and that recreational users obey CHNS regulations, like not driving on the toe of the dune.

SS1

Hey Kurt,
If anyone wonders why the Reg/Neg attempt failed, well, I think the preceeding pretty well explains it.
Regards,
Ron