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Fish And Wildlife Service Says ORV Plan for Cape Hatteras National Seashore Could Be Helpful to Plovers, Sea Turtles


The National Park Service's preferred plan for dealing with off-road vehicles at Cape Hatteras could potentially adversely impact sea turtles, piping plovers, and seabeach amaranth, but U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials don't think that will happen. NPS photo.

While the potential exists for the National Park Service's preferred off-road vehicle plan for Cape Hatteras National Seashore to be detrimental to piping plovers, sea turtles, and seabeach amaranth, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials believe the plan will be at least minimally helpful to all three in the long-run.

In a lengthy "biological opinion" assessing preferred Alternative F in the seashore's Final Environmental Impact Statement on an ORV management plan, FWS officials conclude that management tools should provide sufficient protection of those three species to endure continued ORV driving on the 67-mile-long seashore.

But that conclusion comes near the end of the 157-page document, one that notes high up that "potential" exists for piping plovers, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, to be adversely affected during nesting, wintering, and migration seasons; for three species of sea turtles that come ashore to nest at Cape Hatteras, and their resulting offspring, to be adversely affected, and; for seabeach amaranth, a threatened beach plant with distinctive fleshy, reddish stems, to also be adversely affected by allowances for ORVs and pedestrians under the preferred alternative.

The bulk of the document is spent on biological backgrounds on the species, information that addresses their range, population numbers, habitats, population dynamics, existing threats such as predation and coastal development, even how climate change might impact them. It also examines how beach driving and pedestrians could affect the species, and examines baseline conditions for the species.

When it comes to human presence on the seashore, the FWS researchers noted that all of the concerned species are at a disadvantage. Vehicles can, and do, run over piping plovers and their fledglings as well as sea turtle hatchlings and buried nests in these settings, pets can scatter plover fledglings, and beach goers can harass sea turtles and their hatchlings, and crush plover nests as well as amaranth plants and scatter their seeds.

At the same time, the document notes, management actions seashore officials can take under Alternative F can be beneficial to all three species.

"These beneficial effects can be categorized as measures to limit the interaction of vehicles, pedestrians, and their pets with nesting, migrating, and wintering piping plovers and their nests, hatchling and juvenile piping plovers, germinating seabeach amaranth and nesting sea turtles and their nests, eggs, and hatchlings," reads one section of the report.

After analyzing all the potential impacts and the off-setting beneficial effects of Alternative F, the biological opinion concludes that:

* (i)t is reasonable to conclude that implementation of the proposed ORV management plan will allow the breeding population of piping plovers to continue to grow at CAHA, barring events such as major changes in habitat conditions due to storms. Under the proposed management plan breeding piping plovers will continue to be exposed to potential human disturbance that may cause the population to grow at a slower rate than would occur in the complete absence of disturbance, and may cause the breeding population size to stabilize at a level below that which the available habitat could support in the absence of disturbance. Because we do not have a means of estimating the population growth rate at a particular locale (without or without disturbance), or the actual carrying capacity of the habitat within CAHA, the magnitude of these effects is unknown.

* Despite the continued potential for some adverse effects, the USFWS expects implementation of Alternative F should afford a reasonable opportunity for successful nesting of sea turtles annually. The proposed management activities would contribute to achieving the desired future conditions for nesting sea turtles...

* The USFWS expects implementation of Alternative F to afford a reasonable opportunity for at least a minimal amount of successful germination annually at CAHA’s most significant sites (Bodie Island, Cape Point, Cape Hatteras spit and Ocracoke spit). This is expected to potentially produce a slight population increase of seabeach amaranth over the near term.


"Allowing one car per 20 feet of beach is an exceptionally liberal compromise that ORVers should be happy with"

If it were only this easy we would all agree. I personally look for a spot with no one and this is the main reason I utilize my street legal non tricked out vehicle to legally search for that spot.

"They know environmentalists are not trying to keep towels and sunscreen from beachgoers."

you are correct they are attempting to keep the beaches from the people with the excessive closures and now with the preferred permanent closure of areas. These closures will close the remaining beaches on 4/1/2011. Mark my words as it has done this for the past 2 years.

I am a reasonable person who expects to be treated the same, but when people believe that we are complaining about having 16 miles roughly to drive on they are WRONG. We are simply stating that with the size of these closures and the proposed permanent closures the 16 miles will be MUCH smaller and more restrictive if the 20 feet per vehicle is enforced. In fact the experiences of all will be affected. It really does not matter if you are there to drive on, walk on, or even levitate on the beaches because closed is closed. Now the NPS and Eviro groups are forcing more interaction between people and ORV's by shrinking the areas available. I do not see the areas referred as Vehicle free and usable to a family unless the are in front of the villages. These vehicle free areas also will close if a plover decides to land there. Simply put give me 20 feet per vehicle and I am happy, but do not pee on my shoes and tell me its raining.

This will be my last post. I apologise for anything I have said to anyone underserving of my criticism. Emotions due run deep on both sides. I am all for a practical policy of regulations, protections, education and funding for the shore.. I am for a permit system for all users as long as it is convenient to obtain, especially for the occassional visitor, that it is reasonable, intended to control and educate for the betterment and not used to punish and fee proceeds go to support and improvement of the shore, to the bennifit of ALL users. The policies concerning closures should also be practical and not used to punish which has not been the case to date.
The thing that troubles me the most is that I believe there are extremists that really do want to totally exclude those like myself from accessing the beach utilizing Motorized vehicles. No matter if it is done in a safe and conservative manner. Their extreme position and demands have caused others to develop an extreme attitude. If anyone cannot understand that then I don't know what to tell you.
I will finish with this. I do not believe the plaintiff groups will ever be satisified with any agreement short of eleminating the "orv" groups from the beach. Like so many laws and regulations in the past, its get your foot in the door and then pursue, pursue, pursue. I may be wrong, I sincerely hope I am. But I'll be ready to say I told you so if I am right.
I hope God will bless me and my family by allowing us to continue the great experiences we have come to enjoy on the shore and hope to see all of you there. Lets do good things together. It can be done. You just have to want to do it.

Wishing EVERYONE a Merry Christmas or other celebration of your choosing and a Happy New Year
( and especially you, Kurt Repanshek )

RON & Cecile (obxguys)

Matt and Ron are not going to answer any hard questions like: Do they personally believe an ORV in CAHA has ever crushed plovers and beach-nesting shorebirds (despite not having it documented)? Or Redford’s question, do they think 4000 lbs of vehicle doesn't take up considerable more space (and resources) than a person?

I try hard not to not be insulting in my remarks but find it difficult in having any discussion with guys like Matt and Ron. They know environmentalists are not trying to keep towels and sunscreen from beachgoers. They often end up being insulting or worse. The funny thing is I always start out feeling compassionate for Matt and Ron and the changes that are coming but often end up thinking they are getting what they deserve. I have no beef with a tricked out ORV. I enjoy seeing people of all ages enjoying the NP doing a myriad of recreational activities and I believe this NP was set-aside for people to enjoy doing these kinds of things in a National Park Setting (remember primitive wilderness). When the recreation impairs the resource (not just birds and turtles) it is time for management changes. CHNS is long overdue for changes.

Allowing one car per 20 feet of beach is an exceptionally liberal compromise that ORVers should be happy with. Having areas temporally closed for resource protection and alternatives to ORV access is something they need to get use to.


You realize the island is so narrow that the exhaust and noise from these vehicles will indeed reach the beaches.

I guess if you have to use a boat to reach a national park versus swimming you are the problem also. Please note that you have to use a diesel swilling ferry boat to reach Ocracoke island, but you could swim Yet there is not mention of that as being unacceptable access. Even the Enviros want the bridge to collapse and a Ferry being the only access to Hatteras Island, but this would bring miles of traffic jams for days at a time. Have you ever been to the island? Why has there not been any pedestrians accessing the areas closed off to ORV's? Because those areas are very harsh to access if you are bringing a family with young kids! Would you take your 6 and 3 yr olds to the back woods of Yosemite? If so what would you need....

Matt Stubbs said:

I guess when you take your trips to the point in Cape Hatteras you walk out their with your children and wife and sit in the sand with your Birkenstocks and humm tree hugging tunes all day without needing water, food, sunscreen, or even a beach towel, just like the National Park (in your mind) was intending.

At least you didn't pull out the line about how all us Birkenstock people think of you ORV special interest lobby people as yahoo, redneck, beer-swilling, Dukes-of-Hazzard, doughnut-cutting, bird assassins.

Ron Saunders did pull out the self-righteous line to the effect that "we don't affect anything," when any kind of simple logic says that when "you" -- individually and collectively -- drive 4,000 pounds of internal-combustion machine up and down the beach on a daily basis, something will happen to the environment.

Justifying it because "it is my national park" doesn't change the environmental impact. "Out of sight, out of mind" does not cut it.

I pay the same taxes that you do. And I am bound by the same enabling legislation for CAHA as you.

You do not have a right to a bigger environmental impact, and a right to a bigger bite of the resources, just because you need an ORV to do your recreating.

Matt, You are wasting your time. Some of these guys have us beat. They know more about us than we know about ourselves.
Ref; My statement that "I don't recall disturbing any flora or fauna"
Crot's reply "therein lies the problem"
I had no idea my memory had gotten that bad. Maybe I am desroying the beach and killing the birds and turtles and just can't remember.
I am sorry Crot, wish I could meet you and apologise in person. Til then, please keep letting us know where we are messing up. We need you and your clairvoyant powers.

Ron (obxguys)


A little reality for you is that is "MY NATIONAL PARK" As I pay taxes and I will recreate in it as I please within the law. I do not own a "tricked out ORV" but I do own a 2007 stock Silverado pickup that does not leak oil. I can attest that I personally have never destroyed any flora and fauna as the areas I have driven on are SAND. To drive elsewhere would be illegal like the dunes.

In the years I have spent coming to Cape Hatteras I have never seen someone walk out onto the beach near the point. So who's vacation are we messing up if we drive out there to fish? I have also only seen the point as crowded as you speak of a few times in those 15+ years of coming down, but that is what your kind does. Find the extreme and say it is the norm to stir the enviro pot.

I guess when you take your trips to the point in Cape Hatteras you walk out their with your children and wife and sit in the sand with your Birkenstocks and humm tree hugging tunes all day without needing water, food, sunscreen, or even a beach towel, just like the National Park (in your mind) was intending.

matt Stubbs said:

“My desires is simply to have access to my National Park. . . .

Anytime I have mentioned driving on the beach, I have always stated it is to get to the recreation and not to recreate, but how could I possibly expect anyone such as you to remember a factual statement as that.”

It seems that the ORV special interest lobby wants all of the beach – “my National Park.” Drive anywhere, anytime to get where they want to go -- never mind what it does to the beach or flora and fauna, and never mind how it affects other people who also wish to enjoy the natural environment and its resources, without some tricked-out ORV making noise, making pollution, and creating transient hazards.

And once that tricked-out ORV gets to its recreation, it completely dominates and expropriates the location. One need only look at photos from the Point and Oregon Inlet to see ORVs parked door-to-door and two- and three-deep.

Here is what one member of the ORV special interest lobby members posted on another CAHA-related board as the necessities for recreation on the beach, once at the selected recreation spot:

"typical needs of my family for beach day....

2 surfboards
coupla' boogie boards
minimum 2 rods pp
tackle box
pyramid weights
rod spikes
beach towels
beach chairs (not everybody gets one)
cooler to hold (hopefully) fish caught
cooler for food & drink
bait cooler
2-5 gallon buckets
shelling bags
garbage bags

i've probably forgotten something"

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