Recent comments

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    The business and people should have know this was coming. just as we all know the Bonner Bridge will be gone over
    the next 5 to 10 years and they wont replace it because of the enviros. After the next Isabel plows
    thur the area and washes the road out for the 15 million times. the place is disolete its like a closer artic circle just not as cold.
    I visit there about 20 times a year all thoughout the year. It's a beautiful place for sure. The fishing and surfing is outstanding but
    at what cost to the tax payer. A new bridge will cost 100 of millions and millions of dollars at what cost is it prohibitive to have
    access. Have a tax increase of the islanders???? I know Id be pi^%$off if I lived in chapel hill and had to pay taxes on a bridge that
    I would never use or see, only for going on vacation .The cost per island resident would be about 300,000,per resident oh and for vacationers
    tax the vacation home owners? The free lunch is over it you want it you write the check my checks are gone..... to pay the stimulus
    to the poor. out

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Yeah well.....try walking the beach in 2 years when it IS CLOSED TO PEDESTRIAN ACCESS TOO!!
    You are all being mislead into thinking you will still have pedestrian access. You will not! Furthermore, walk the beaches 3 months ago and tell me there was sufficient access. What you dont know is that a large portion of the beaches are open but the access ramps are closed so you cant get to those "open" sections....hence the warcry - "free and open access" Can't have free without the open! Open your eyes!!! You are being made a fool of!

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Yep Phil, I did it, and and I'll bet ya want to know why? Well I'll tell ya. I did it for my kid. With all the negative influences our children are exposed to these days like MTV poluting their minds, peer pressures at school and general madness of knowing their futures aint as bright as ours were promised to us. Spending quality time with our families is more important now than ever.
    Using an ORV to access the beaches on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area is how I spend my quality time with my child two weeks a year, once in the spring and once in the fall every year since she was old enough to walk, she will start high school this year. ORV use, surf fishing and bird watching, in my opinion aint a bad way to raise a kid these days, teaching our children about nature, species and plant identification and a heathly respect for our enviroment is a heck of a lot better than planting them in front of a TV, or just giving them some money and letting them run loose in a mall somewhere.
    I cant even count the times over the years that my daughter has had to educate pedestrians on the proper use of our seashore and areas where they are allowed and not allowed.
    Proper use of an ORV on Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area is a benefit to wildlife, without it the place would look like a landfill.
    The prevailing currents that made the Outer Banks bring trash and debris from cargo ships and dumping off the seashore to the area, With out volunteers with ORV's the wildlife would have no beach to nest on and thrive, because NPS, Autobum and DOW sure aint gonna do it, thats a fact.
    Just because someone drives an ORV on the beach that does not make them an anti-enviro, or evil, far from it. You might just find that they care more than you.

    BTW, we love to watch black skimmers on the north end of Orcacoke, their so cool!

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    You have no clue. I for one have degenerative back disease. For me and my 9 year old daughter to fish, I would need to walk 4 miles, carrying fishing equipment, umbrellas, cooler (No alchohol), etc. I guess you have never been to Hatteras island to make such an asinine comment. Check your premise, you, like DOW, Audobon, SELC obviously have an ulterior motive. OR, are you one who would prefer mankind die off and leave earth to the Animals?

    Editor: The closing end of this comment was deleted for its unneeded harshness. While the Traveler welcomes the debate over this issue, the hope is that that debate can be conducted without directly and needlessly attacking others.

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Here's to that Ranger just the other week, at the Camp Siberia Shelter in Olympic National Park who traded me honest to goodness to die for chocolate for a few hands full of GORP while the wind howled and the rain fell sideways.
    Here's to that Ranger who opened the door a half hour early in answer to my banging so that I could get a Bear Canister (free rental) because I just could not wait to get on the trail.
    My list goes back a little less than 50 years of camping and backpacking in Our National Parks,
    ...back to that first Ranger who took the time to answer a child's millions of questions all day long (what bug is this!)

  • Second Black Bear Euthanized In Yellowstone National Park   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Bravo Ted! It could not have been said better. I think that all of the bear and elk jams in Yellowstone and other parks certainly qualify as an unnatural human-induced circus. Frankly these situations frighten me way more than walking in known grizzly habitat. Your point is well taken and one not usually put forward in this forum.

    Your insights are a welcome addition. I look forward to more of your musings and observations which definitely extend beyond the normal fare of green-tinted left-leaning eco-environmental sentimentalism that seems to predominate among those who support and use national parks. Again bravo, keep the insights coming.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Don't pay any attention to the above comments. This story was linked to a fishing message board and now they are all dumping their trash here. Cape Hatteras is a lovely place, but you don't need an SUV to enjoy it. Go out there and you will see hundreds of people driving all over the place. The country is in an oil crisis and a war and all they are worried about is being able to waste hundreds of dollars in their gas guzzling vehicles to go fishing. They stake claim to it with all the indignity of a welfare queen waiting for their monthly check.

  • Second Black Bear Euthanized In Yellowstone National Park   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Kurt asks:

    But what happens to the bears if they don't have the habitat protections of a national park?

    There are some parts of Yellowstone that are simply off-limits to humans so as not to interfere with grizzlies. Should more limits be instituted?

    Black bears thrive in many parts of North America, without exclusionary habitat protection - without prohibiting human access. Black bears share the landscape with humans across much of our rural terrain. Nothing bad is happening to these populations, due to lack of human-excluding protections (on the contrary!).

    Grizzlies are at least a bit different case, yes, but experience in Alaska encourages us to hope that cohabitation - sharing the land - is not so unreasonable in their case either.

    The essential difference with grizzlies in Alaska, and in many rural conterminous regions with black bear, is that they are hunted. When bear are hunted, the cubs are taught that humans are to be avoided. This probably lasts for at least a few generations after the last negative experience with humans. It is not necessary to reduce the population (it is not even necessary that the hunting be fatal or injurious). In fact, they can actually overpopulate and still remain very wary of humans, if even light hunting activity continues.

    But when all hunting-conditioning ceases, then we have what is observed in the high country of the Olympic National Park: bears begin to regard humans as an inert feature on the landscape. They have no fear or concern about us. The question is, is this the final, stable state in the bears' changing response to humans?

    The sad answer is, not likely. Instead, bears will (individually, at first) continue to 'probe the resource' - meaning humans, and everything about them. They will push & explore the envelope, and this will lead to outcomes that will not be accepted. If a bear learns a valuable behavior - through human negligence or its own insistent investigations - and that animal reproduces, it will one day take the young to teach them what it has found to be of value.

    Wildlife managers across America are now to some degree sitting on a powder keg, with respect to bear & cougar that are insufficiently wary of humans. Exactly to what degree and how long & fast the fuse might be, is the subject of much speculation & disagreement.

    We do bears no favors, to let them reach a state in which they languidly lick blueberries while we fill our cameras. Just as it is our responsibility to instruct our pets that highways and automobiles are dangerous, the same ethic really applies to the conditioning of wild carnivores, that humans are the dominant predator the world over, and that to regard them in any other way - as a potential resource - is a dire mistake.

    Ultimately, if we exclude all humans from Parks, in the hopes that bears will not have to be trained to fear humans, they will naturally disperse beyond the Parks and begin spreading across the country, unaware that humans are different from any other medium-sized mammal.

    Yellowstone Park killed this most recent desensitized bear in hopes to forestall a more general outbreak of similar behavior. If it becomes evident that a free population of bears of unknown extent & distribution has adopted the same psychological stance toward people, then wildlife managers will likely be obliged to eradicate the entire population from some more or less large region.

    That is the powder keg that the Rangers were trying to contain, when they saw what this 130 pound subadult male black bear was doing.

    The underlying source of the problem is less that humans carry food on their backs, than that humans have chosen to treat bears as inert objects upon the landscape ... whereupon they have learned to reciprocate the attitude. Neither animal is inert, and to assume so is a possibly very expensive fallacy.

    What we have in some protected ecosystems today is uncomfortably close to an open-air version of Siegfried & Roy.

  • “10 Best National Parks”? National Geographic, You Have Got to be Kidding!   6 years 7 weeks ago

    "10 best" lists are pointless and ridiculous because each park has its own virtues, purposes and meaning to different people. Sure, you can compile a list of the best national parks based on the quality and diversity of the resources, accesibility to different groups of people, or quality of management, etc., but to do that, you'd quite nearly have to visit and study all 391 NPS units, or at least each of the 58 national parks. How many people have done that? How can you judge if Yosemite is somehow "better" than Yellowstone or other far-flung national parks? Apples and oranges, really. Have you been to American Samoa lately? I hear the local national park there is quite grand, but I have no way to know if it's "better" than, say, Congaree. It's just as difficult to get to American Samoa as it is to get to Kobuk Valley, and it's quite likely that anyone compiling "10 best" lists has been to neither. It seems most "10 best" lists are compiled to boost book sales, magazine circulation and tourism revenue. So, to indulge a bit of futility here, I've compiled my "10 best" NPS units list. It's guaranteed to be different from yours and, like any compiled in any book or blog, have little relevance to anything but my own self-gratification:
    10) Natural Bridges National Monument
    9) Grand Canyon National Park
    8) Great Basin National Park
    7) Rocky Mountain National Park
    6) Death Valley National Park
    5) Colorado National Monument
    4) Capitol Reef National Park
    3) Arches National Park
    2) Great Smoky Mountains National Park
    1) Canyonlands National Park

  • Did the NRA Infiltrate Groups Opposed to Overhauling Gun Regulations for the National Parks?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    As FrankC observes: Mother Jones? Yes, they could conceivably produce useful information, but if one is serious about presenting a case, corroboration is going to be more than normally important.

    If an information-gatherer is falsifying identies and committing fraud to gain access & acceptance, than that is the material her opponents want to find & document. And if the NRA can be shown facilitating actual offenses such as those, then detractors of the NRA have something useful to their cause.

    Meanwhile, this is the Information Age, and those who ignore information are destined to end up where their opponents hope to put them.

    For the most part, meaningful NRA operatives are 3-button suits, exactly as in the case of their liberal opposition. It's mainly a professional lawyer game, and I doubt either side is attracted to amateur or freelance agents. Since the two sides have been at each other's throats for many decades, any sustained pattern of melodramatic skulduggery would be old news & common knowledge.

  • Creating Cape Cod National Seashore Forced the National Park Service to Think Outside the Box   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Since the "42" typo was only in the body of the article (the abstract correctly specified "47"), will you give me 50 percent credit? :-)

  • NPS Snowmobile Plan for Yellowstone, Grand Teton Bucks Science, the Public, and Itself   6 years 7 weeks ago

    There is a big difference between a vehicle that is being ridden or driven thoughtfully & considerately in the course of transporting oneself and achieving access, and a vehicle that is being used as a source of entertainment, in & of itself.

    In the case of Yellowstone snowmobile tours, each accompanied by a formal guide and restricted to set routes, the usual excesses of riding snowmobiles for amusement are curtailed and the participants' behavior can be expected to remain moderate. They are using the machine to access snowy country, and do not have a license to tear up the landscape at will (a popular activity of choice on snowmobiles).

    Highway motorcycles - which figure prominently in these comments - are nowadays sold as "crotch rockets": they are consumer entertainment products, by definition. The basic intent is to enable one to 'act up', and if there is a shocked & dismayed audience - all the better!

    Congress has in recent years systematically pressed to provide improved markets & venues for recreational vehicles in the context of all public lands, Parks included. Partly this is an economic stimulus idea, and it may also be partly to encourage those inclined toward conservative and consumer lifestyles in contexts which are sometimes dominated by liberal-environmentalist perspectives.

    Some will object aesthetically to the presence of snowmobiles in National Parks, at any level or style of usage. Some are simply offended by the machine, and prefer it not be allowed at all.

    Personally, I find the crasser forms of consumerism somewhat bovine, but I like that hard-working citizens pour unconscionable amounts of money into the corporate development of astonishingly excellent machinery. It is then up to each of us to decide how we personally use the equipment.

  • Creating Cape Cod National Seashore Forced the National Park Service to Think Outside the Box   6 years 7 weeks ago

    As a point of correction - Cape Cod National Seashore is 47 years old. I remember going to visit as a day trip with my parents and siblings when I was a small child. I never realized it had only just opened just after I was born. Thank you for the article and reminding me of such a wonderful place to visit. We currenlty live in Kansas and I will look for an opportunity to visit there again.

  • The Secret Life of Drugs in Parks   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I am an Olympic Peninsula local, and have enjoyed the Park as my backyard for over 50 years. As a youth, and at times as an adult, I have picked salal and swordferns, gathered wild mushrooms, peeled cascara bark, collected polypores, stuffed gunny bags with moss, and practiced other so-called forest-byproduct activities.

    I like it, quite a bit. Though it is not my favorite word ... it is good karma. In this respect, such work resembles tree planting (the Mother of All Brutal But Good Labors). It is very demanding, and the reward is downright pitiful, until one has trained, conditioned & inured herself. But it is very cool, to walk into the woods and do something that is productive, using only your own hands and (considerable) wits & skill.

    But both the industry and the culture have problems. The industry is very 'old school', and has manipulated the markets and the pickers for generations. This difficulty has attracted the stern attention of the Washington State Legislature, and other State & Federal bodies. We anticipate improvements, possibly dramatic.

    The culture of picking has a severe image & esteem problem. People who do this work are near the bottom of the social echelon. To 'stoop' to picking stuff in the woods, is not an option a person undertakes lightly. There are 'defenses' that will have to be maintained, socially, and internally.

    Yes, some pickers will be chronic drunks, unemployable pot-heads ... and illegal aliens. But families have put children through college, picking brush. There are those in remote, economically depressed (but wonderfully wild!) parts of the Olympic Peninsula who at least partly and sometimes wholly buy property and sustain themselves, on the profits of independent gathering in the woods. It is not prevalent to be that successful & productive at it, but it is possible and there are good examples.

    Pickers must know a great deal about a large number of 'patches' of terrain, to keep themselves active. There is often an element of informal proprietorship of the patches that are used ... and groomed, cared for, and even kept secret. For anyone who is at all serious about the work, who is glad to have what is often a part-time & seasonal source of income - there is very much a matter of reputation involved, and it is foolish to jeopardize it.

    Buyers are often on quota. Seasons often start slow, and taper off slow. Only a few pickers can be employed, under such circumstance. So the buyers will contact favored pickers, when demand is light. Doing anything stupid, like picking without permits, going into other folk's patches, or (the Mother of All Stupidity) doing anything illegal in the Olympic National Park - will lose one professional status, fast.

    Established pickers very rarely go lunatic enough to strip product from the Park. A few might be so inclined ... if they thought they could get away with it, but that is essentially impossible. Usually, the hit 'n run Park rip-offs such as Jeremy mentions in this post, are the work of managed gangs of illegal aliens. The way it works on the Peninsula, a locally savvy & experienced Mexican brings in a group of naive compatriots who are extremely dependent on the boss. They know no English, don't know where they are, how go anywhere or do anything. They are deer in the headlights.

    These gangs are known to engage in a variety of unethical and illegal activities, within the picking industry, and other menial forestry-related venues. They are the primary source of the occasional illegal moss-theft or fern-stripping in the Park. The word stupid really applies to these violations, because it is impossible to conceal the activity, and it attracts the determined attention of a variety of officials & individuals ... including the buyers, who very much resent finding themselves on the phone with Park Headquarters, or with a Ranger law enforcement rig parked in front of their business.

    Picking in its many forms has the potential to be rehabilitated and made an attractive component of rural lifestyles. There are government agency initiatives aimed at this goal, for some years now. If your love of the hinterlands leads you to move from a developed area to a remote region, you will most likely have neighbors who participate in the business, and the opportunity to practice it yourself will arise. If so, I recommend trying your hand - and heart - at this very engaging enterprise.

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 7 weeks ago

    ". . . the quality of . . . interpretive presentations . . . isn't the direct or indirect result of NPS policy, training, screening or selection."

    I totally disagree here. Referring to my [Mount Rainier NP] experience again, had the ranger at least had her program audited or coached, I believe it would have been better than the program I saw. At Zion, we had a stinker, but through an intensive coaching program, his programs were elevated. The stinker I remember from Zion was hired, and he told me this directly, because he was half Japanese. (I also remember this stinker giving me the tour of admin and angrily pointing out that all the photos on the superintendents' wall were "old white guys".) At Sequoia-Kings Canyon, my boss hired a woman who was Hispanic simply because she was the highest ranked Hispanic on the list. On her Grant Tree hike, she went around telling visitors that trees had a lot of gravity (I think she meant mass) and making many factual and delivery errors. This policy of diversifying the staff, at least in my observation, is at least partially responsible for the decline in quality of NPS interpretive programs.

    Training at national parks is a mixed bag. I've had great preseason training at some parks ([Zion NP and Crater Lake NP]), and wretchedly horrible training at others ([Fire Island National Seashore and Sequoia-Kings Canyon NP]). For new interpreters, that training a crucial part in producing quality interpretive programs.

    Back to hiring, but I'll the issue of affirmative action behind: If the NPS came up with a better hiring/screening system, I believe the quality of interpretive programs would improve. The current hiring system, which I won't delve into--it would take pages and pages to describe--is broken. It's an entanglement of preferential treatment and relies on self-rating rather than investigation and demonstration of stated skills. It's an unfair and ponderous system of really meaningless numbers and artificial ranking.

    I agree that no uniform (not even one as uncomfortable and impractical as this) can make up for a substandard employee. Certainly, there are many fine interpreters and rangers out there on the front lines, but there seem to be more stinkers lately, as observed by Beamis, me, and others.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Excellent observations Ted. This would be a worthy discussion for a future NPT thread.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    This thread needs a rebuttal to the Va.-Pilot article referenced in the original text.

    I hearby submit said rebuttal, from the "Island Free Press", penned by Mrs. Irene Nolan, and island resident and long-time writer for several Island newspapers. It speaks for itself, and supports Dr. Mike Berry's article also include in this thread.

    *******************************************************************************
    Island Free Press

    By Irene Nolan
    *******************************************
    Move ORV debate back to Hatteras

    The Virginian-Pilot
    © August 4, 2008

    What they said

    The controversial consent decree about beach driving that's caused so much turmoil on the Outer Banks includes a provision that allows the parties to renegotiate the details. That's exactly what off-road vehicle users, environmental groups and local officials should begin doing as summer nears an end.

    Last week, a U.S. Senate subcommittee heard testimony on a bill, introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr and Rep. Walter Jones, that would scrap wildlife protections at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, imposed by an April 30 federal court order. Under the bill, those protections would be replaced with less restrictive guidelines the National Park Service had been using.

    Sen. Burr, a subcommittee member, said the change would let residents and visitors return to a tradition of protecting wildlife while enjoying the seashore "in a way that God meant it to be enjoyed."

    But the bill's prospects dimmed when National Park Service Deputy Director Daniel N. Wenk said his agency opposes the bill. He said the consent decree is a more effective way of balancing wildlife protection and recreational uses than the agency's previous strategy.

    According to Wenk, the decree's restrictions on beach access for off-road vehicles and pedestrians during nesting and breeding seasons have increased populations of vulnerable bird species and sea turtles. This year's figures for turtle nests are at a record high.

    The Park Service's stance is remarkable, given the agency's years of foot-dragging on developing a plan regulating ORV use - delays that prompted environmental groups to file suit against the agency.

    The consent decree, which ended that lawsuit, was the result of an agreement signed by conservationists, park officials, a coalition of ORV users and Dare County officials.

    But business owners and ORV users are upset with how the new restrictions have played out. Several prime fishing spots have been closed in the past two months because birds were nesting nearby. The restrictions are easing now as the breeding season ends. Last week, ORV users regained partial access to Cape Point, a popular spot. (Nightly closures, designed to protect nesting turtles, remain.) More reopenings are expected soon.

    Even with the closures, ORV users and pedestrians have had broad access to the beach. On Thursday, Park Service figures showed 26.4 miles of the park's roughly 67 miles were open to ORVs and 58.5 miles were open to pedestrians. The majority of the prohibited area is due to normal seasonal or safety closures. About eight miles were closed because of wildlife.

    It's too soon to gauge the economic impact of the closures, but the effect doesn't appear to be as dramatic as feared. Retail sales tax figures for May and June aren't yet available; bait and tackle shops and other businesses are reporting a sharp drop in sales. Other economic indicators are generally positive, however.

    Carolyn McCormick, director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, said in an interview that "the closures did not help us in any way, shape or form." But, she said, key tourism figures in Dare County were good in spite of closures, gas prices, a weak economy and wildfire smoke.

    Comparisons of 2007 and 2008 figures show occupancy taxes on hotels and rental houses in Dare were up 6.3 percent in May and 2.85 percent in June. Year-over-year, gross revenues from the meals tax were up 5.12 percent in May but down 1.09 percent in June. (Numbers for July aren't ready yet.)

    Park Superintendent Mike Murray said it's too early to measure the effect of the consent decree on attendance, but an increase in May and decline in June generally fit trends reported by other parks.

    In the meantime, passage of a federal bill overturning the decree looks doubtful. It's unlikely the full House and Senate would take up the measure before the year's end.
    In any event, it's hard to envision Congress jumping into this contentious situation and generating a useful response. The consent decree left open the potential for tweaking the details. Islanders, conservationists and park officials should begin that work for next year rather than continue to spin their wheels in a time-consuming, unproductive debate on Capitol Hill.

    WHAT WE SAY

    It is true that the consent decree allows for modifications by the court at the request of the plaintiffs, the federal defendants, or the intervenor/defendants.

    The decree instructs that the parties must submit to dispute resolution before seeking modifications.

    And there is little reason to believe that the environmental groups, having gotten just about all of what they wanted, will give one inch on the expanded bird buffers, night driving, or complete closures for turtle nests after Sept. 15. (Before Sept. 15, the Park Service can provide ORV trails behind nest closures when possible.)

    Furthermore, the plaintiffs are now participating in a negotiated rulemaking process, with other seashore stakeholders, to devise a long-term ORV regulation. They claim to be participating in “good faith,” but we and others question that assumption. Until there was a consent decree, everything was on the table. Now, the groups will be negotiating from a base of the terms of the consent decree. We do not think the environmental groups will give an inch from what they got under the decree.

    Virginian-Pilot editorials continue to refer to the “less restrictive” interim plan.

    And, by the way, we don’t like the inference in this and previous editorials that it was the Wild West down here on the beach before the consent decree. The locals and visitors have lived with closures for wildlife protection for decades – closures that increased in size and time span over the years.

    Yes, the interim plan is less restrictive in some areas. The major differences are the size of the buffers, night driving restrictions, and the fact that the interim plan gave park management some discretion to make decisions when the closure calls were close ones. There is no discretion under the consent decree.

    The Southern Environmental Law Center, and now the Park Service’s deputy director Daniel Wenk, have proclaimed the consent decree a success after just three months.

    That anyone could declare a management policy a success in three months defies reason.

    The Pilot editorial specifically refers to sea turtle nests at a “record high.” The implication in the editorial and in testimony at the Senate hearing by SELC attorney Derb Carter is that this record high is a result of the consent decree.

    The facts do not support that the consent decree has caused this turtle nesting boom.

    Sea turtle nesting on the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on northern Hatteras Island is also approaching a record high. As of Aug. 4, there were 23 sea turtle nests on Pea Island, compared with 14 last year, which was considered to be a good year. And there has not been any driving on the beaches there in decades. It is perfectly possible to assume that it could be a record year for sea turtles on the entire North Carolina coast – not just on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore under the consent decree.

    Yes, there were seven piping plovers fledged on the seashore this year – and only four last year. But the percentage of fledged birds per breeding pair is slightly down this year.

    This year 11 pairs of piping plovers fledged seven chicks for a success rate of .64 chicks per breeding pair. Last year the six pairs fledged four chicks for a slightly higher nesting success of .67 chicks per nesting pair. Furthermore, the four chicks fledged last summer under the interim plan was a large increase from previous years. From 1999 through 2006, there were either no chicks or only one or two fledged per year. The average rate of fledged chicks per breeding pair over the last 15 years on the seashore is .66.

    One piping plover nest was lost in a storm this year. Another nest and the rest of the chicks were lost to predation, as has been the case in the past. There is no evidence the chicks were killed by ORVs. Environmental groups will argue that the consent decree with its increased buffers allowed more pairs to nest this year and more chicks to fledge, but there is no reason to believe that nesting and fledging would not have been up this year under the interim plan.

    The interim management plan was devised by the National Park Service in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and with public input. It went through a review process that resulted in a Finding of No Significant Environmental Impact (FONSI) and final rule publication in the Federal Register last July.

    Now the leaders of both of these services in Washington, D.C., are throwing their local management and staff under the bus by basically saying that they didn’t get the job done with the interim plan and the consent decree is better.

    Well, where has the Washington leadership been these past few years while the interim plan was being formulated?

    We can agree with the Pilot editorial that the Park Service’s stance on the legislation is “remarkable,” given that local park management sent several ORV plans forward to their bosses, beginning in 1978 --only to have those bosses in Washington take no final action.

    And the 35-year or so delay in having an ORV regulation is what has given the environmental groups the ammunition to get as far as they have – that and a sympathetic federal judge who was known to have a problem with ORVs on the seashore.

    The economic figures that are being thrown out by both sides of the beach access issue are totally meaningless at this point – unless, of course, you are one of the tackle shops whose business is down by 30 percent.

    First, most visitors don’t even know about the beach access issue when they get here.

    Next, occupancy figures will not show any fallout from beach access until next year. Most of Dare County’s occupancy taxes come from rental houses, and everyone who has rented a house knows that you do not get out of your contract unless there is a hurricane on your doorstep and maybe not even then. My brother-in-law died three days before his scheduled vacation on Hatteras in June, 1998, and the rental company made his widow, my sister, honor the contract. No refund. So you think anyone would get a refund because a few beaches are closed?

    The point is that even the folks who knew the Point was closed couldn’t change their plans this year.

    The question will be whether those people will come back again next year. And no one can answer that now – not Derb Carter and not The Virginian-Pilot editorial board and not the beach access advocacy groups.

    The question of how many miles of seashore beaches are open to ORVs can’t be pinned down exactly. It’s a moving target that changes every day as birds come and go and turtle nests reach their hatch window.

    In its editorial, the Pilot said 26.4 miles of seashore was open to ORVs. Today, I figured about 17, including three miles of beach south of Ramp 30 that was closed to ORVs over the weekend because of a turtle nest. That three miles of the beach is open to pedestrians, who can walk behind the nest.

    Finally, we can agree with the Pilot editorial that there is little or no chance that legislation to overturn the consent decree will pass this year – or maybe any year.

    There are only two more summers until there must be a final ORV regulation, so what’s the point?

    The point is that the process that environmental advocacy groups have pursued has ignored the work and input of the residents of and visitors to Hatteras and Ocracoke and the hard work of the local park staff.

    If the interim plan was good enough for the Department of Interior last year when the final rule was published in the Federal Register, why is it not good enough now?

    We still say that the National Park Service should go back to the interim plan until negotiated rulemaking is concluded.

    In the meantime, maybe the intervenors should ask the environmental groups for some changes to the consent decree for next year and see what happens.

    Can’t hurt to ask.

  • What Suggestions Do You Have For the National Park Service?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    It seems very doubtful that career Park personnel welcomed the new proliferating fee-systems. They did not envision themselves becoming nickel & dime collectors from an irate public. It is harshly dissonant to their self-image, to be rooting & grubbing from an often resentful & doubtful public, to support the Park budget.

    Most of the basic citizenry holds that these are our Parks, supported on the public purse, and that fee-systems are a manipulation. To what purpose this irritation of both the Park folks & the public is aimed, is the key question.

    That bureaucrats (Park personnel) become comfortable & territorial is a perennial problem for modern civilizations. That Park people have taken on very strong political positions - and even active agendas - aggravates their relationship with Congress, which isn't remotely as green & liberal-preservationist as tenured Park officialdom.

    I will speculate, that the idea to have the Parks support themselves through user fees, is a convenient ruse aimed to achieve goals which Congress could not expose to the light of day without a backlash.

    Although the public is largely conditioned to accept the situation as natural, it is by no means necessary that Park folks be activists for the Green movement. Essentially, the public tax dollar goes to support a large body of professionals all across the nation, who prefer policies & positions which reflect a minority Liberal-Environmental agenda. Neither Congress nor the public have a makeup or orientation that is reflected in the positions & attitudes of Park professionals.

    We in effect subsidize the Sierra Club et al, in the form of the Park payroll.

    It seems feasible that these mismatched viewpoints and political adversities have prompted Congress to embark on a cloaked campaign to 'shake up' the Park Service. Fees may be a device to that end.

  • Odes to the National Park Rangers Who Wear the Grey and Green   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Certain occupations are entitled to uniform remunerations due to the nature of the environment in which the operator is placed. My basic clothing doesn't qualify, but many of the "accessories" specific to the minimum safety level from hazards posed by the job are supplied by the employer....lab coats, respirators, protective eyewear, gloves, masks, foot-wear shields and the like, at ZERO personal expense to each employee. It's called the cost of doing business. To expect a park ranger to "stand out" so as to be easily identified in a crowd, for purposes of emergency contact, leadership, as on tours, hikes or interpretive walks, crowd control (or maybe management is a most proper description) or other required "quick ID" situation without a specialized and unique manner of dress is not being realistic. Thereby, the employee hired to conduct such functions should absolutely be permitted either uniform reimbursement or be outfitted entirely from the exterior clothing and for any "tools of the trade" as necessitated by the job; flashlights, canteens, radio, sidearm, holster and ammunition (as deemed necessary by park management, pending assignment to be conducted on any given daily rotational basis), backpacks, parkas, mukluks, and whatever other toys that are specific both generic to the position and specific to the location.

    Unfortunately Beamis, this wouldn't do a thing to elevate the quality of the written reports or interpretive presentations . On the other hand, that situation isn't the direct or indirect result of NPS policy, training, screening or selection. You do, after all, have to choose from the "best available", sad as that statement may be, both prior and subsequent to the quotas being fulfilled. And we can't force all government hires to be proficient in English, now can we? Why should they be any different than their superiors?

  • NPS Snowmobile Plan for Yellowstone, Grand Teton Bucks Science, the Public, and Itself   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Another issue with the park service and loud motorcycles is that the park police use them. A park police motorcycle officer roared by my house one sunday at 8 am while escorting some VIPs to the Mt. Vernon Estate. I drove over and asked him about his motorcycle. He agreed that it was much louder than it came from the factory, that it had aftermarket mufflers which were much louder. He had no idea that it might actually be illegal. He was a super nice guy and professional and it is not his responsibility to decide what mufflers are used on motorcycles (that is what I told him).

    There is actually a section in Section D of the federal regulations which states that federally procured motorcycles cannot exceed a decibel limit of 71, which is much lower than the decibel limit of 80 for street legal motorcycles manufactured after 1983.

    Anyway, this might be a barrier in getting park police to enforce loud motorcycles? What bothers me the most is that the practice by the park service police of using these mufflers sets a terrible example for the general public. There were people lined up to talk to the officer about his motorcycle, it is like a constant advertisement that loud motorcycles are perfectly ok.

    Plus, it seems to run counter to two National Park Service management policies that stress the importance of mitigating noise.

    4.9 Soundscape Management: The National Park Service will preserve, to the greatest extent possible, the natural soundscapes of parks.

    8.2 Visitor Use: For the purpose of these policies, unacceptable impacts are impacts that, individually or cumulatively, would unreasonably interfere with the atmosphere of peace and tranquility, or the natural soundscape maintained in wilderness and natural, historic, or commemorative locations within the park.

    (c) Low noise emission product standard. For the purpose of Low-Noise-Emission Product certification pursuant to 40 CFR part 203, motorcycles procured by the Federal government after the following dates must not produce noise emissions in excess of the noise levels indicated:
    (1) For street motorcycles with engine displacement greater than 170 cc:
    Date A-weighted noise level (dB)
    (i) January 1, 1982 73
    (ii) January 1, 1989 71

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    One thing people need to keep in mind is that despite the "ORV" being attached to this story wherever you read it, the problem is not just access for vehicles. It is also access for pedestrians. The Consent Decree calls for huge closures for both people and vehicles. It is true the pedestrian closures are smaller than for ORVs, however, even with the pedestrian closures the best beaches are closed to everyone - including surfers, kite fliers, etc. It's not just ORVs that we are talking about.

    Also, before you decry the mobile surf fishermen and their noise and pollution, you should realize that it is these folks who care more, and do more than anyone to preserve these beaches for everyone, including the wildlife. The NC Beach Buggy Association, for example, hosts regular "beach respect" outings where everyone pitches in and cleans up the beach. You also have to understand a bit about the area before you make statements about allowing evil ORVs. Cape Hatteras in large part is only a beach, it is not a resort community. In years past pre-dating the establishment of the park the only way to get around was to drive on that beach - there were no paved roads. Beach driving is a part of the history and heritage of the island. Hatteras Island is not like Myrtle Beach or Atlantic City - it is big and wild and natural. You can't take a boardwalk 200 yards to the surf. If you want to get to Cape Point for example - one of the most unique places in all the world - you need to travel about 1.5 miles one way from the nearest parking lot (which is going to hold very few cars.) Since May of this year sadly, you have not been able to do that - it was closed until recently. Now it is open for a short time before it will be closed again because of the magic September 15th date when turtle nest closures become full beach closures (no humans allowed). Someone who thinks this is about turtles or birds should try and explain why you can walk behind a turtle nest on the 14th just fine, but the 15th onward is not to be allowed. And no, it does not have to do with the possible hatch window - full beach closures are already setup around that starting at the 50 day mark for each nest.

    Imagine you grew up on Hatteras Island, imagine it was your parents or grandparents whose land was taken away from them by the federal government to create this National Park Recreation Area (no, it is not a "wilderness area"). They did not receive anything in return except a promise that the public would never be denied access to this resourse - now that is exactly what is happening.

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Because the access is sooooo long. If you are unfamiliar with the area in question look at it on a map. the dunes you cannot walk on The access areas in general do not allow for very many people to park and access with beach chairs, coolers, and the like. People with handicaps and restrictions with the ability to drive is considerate and compassionate the closures have restricted this access and shown that no knowledge about the true nature of this situation has been propaganded to such a degree that people do not realize what is at stake here. Human beings lives, livlihoods, and their childrens rights. Allowing an organization to sue our government and then have the tax payer (you and me) pay for the suit, dictate how where and when you can access public lands is an affront to our forefathers. If you do not believe like they do or act the way they want you to they sue. essentially forcing their will onto a free people. The interim plan was in place before the suit came about and was being effective. they are sitting in on the regulation negociations and you have to ask if they will negociate in good faith considering the suit. I believe not. The access to the beaches from each ramp from the closures have left no room to even turn around when there are a lot of people. read the report from the nps and do the math. you will see a spin from these organizations that should make you pause and do more research.

  • NPS Snowmobile Plan for Yellowstone, Grand Teton Bucks Science, the Public, and Itself   6 years 7 weeks ago

    I have done some research on the subject of motorcycle noise, I live close to the entrance of the GW Parkway which is a national park area starting at the Mt. Vernon Estate. Loud motorcycles often turn this area into what sounds like a racetrack.

    It turns out that there are indeed hard to find federal regulations that are designed to regulate motorcycles and motorcycle exhaust systems. Many state and local laws that contain language pertaining to mufflers for street legal vehicles which is meant to reference the federal regulations. For example, a reference to "standard factory equipment, or comparable to that designed for use upon the particular vehicle as standard factory equipment" when referencing exhaust systems (muffler) will allow an officer to simply visually inspect a motorcycle muffler for the required EPA label which will be present if the muffler meets those conditions (stock or designed as stock replacement for street legal muffler).

    These federal regulations are EPA Title 40, Part 205, Subpart D (motorcycles) and Subpart E (motorcycle exhaust systems).

    Subpart D—Motorcycles

    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=9d2dcc1c4ab65a26531fdd1d7bf8e83d&rgn=div6&view=text&node=40:24.0.1.2.11.4&idno=40

    Subpart E—Motorcycle Exhaust Systems

    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=9d2dcc1c4ab65a26531fdd1d7bf8e83d;rgn=div6;view=text;node=40%3A24.0.1.2.11.5;idno=40;cc=ecfr

    Motorcycles evidently cannot be [legally] manufactured to be loud. Owners replace the factory exhaust which must meet the federal regulations with an aftermarket exhaust system designed to make at least 2 to 4 times as much noise as a street legal muffler.

    How could park police enforce these laws, is it possible?

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    This is so typical of a ignorant comment to make an all inclusive statement like "ORV's should not be on the beach" and "if fisherman want to fish the point let them walk their gear out". Well in your fabulous well thought out plan lets consider the handicapped and small children. Should we just post a sign stating you are not welcome? These inclusive statements are exactly why we fight you so hard. You will exclude anybody out there to further your cause. I only wish people like you would learn to think before you speak!!

  • How is Cape Hatteras National Seashore Faring Under Travel Restrictions?   6 years 7 weeks ago

    Carol has not even got a clue what CAPE HATTERAS NATION REACTIONAL SEASHORE is about. It is not a wilderness area!!!!! A group of special intrest groups, (Dow, Audbon and Sleg), have formed an alliance and threatened to sue and close six for the most fished spotes on the outer banks. Under this threat a conscent decrees was forced down the throats of those involved. Thses groups got more than their six spots shut down. When you close the ramps to the beach you shut down more than just that area. You shut down the entire beach because of lack of access to the space between enclosures because you can't get to there.

    Aside from not being able to fish the economic empact of this will eventually kill the local economy. I spoke with the owners of some local bait and tackle shops and their bussiness is down anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent from last year. the local motels and campground are having similar problems. The reality agents are not hurting because of the time frame for rental houses, usually 6 month to a year in advance. Next year will be the telling story on their situation.

    I spent a month starting May 12 thru June 10 2008. If this concent decree is not over turned beore next year I won't be spend any money going somewhere I can only ride the roads. People go there mainly to fish and enjoy Gods creation called the ocean.