Wildlife Advocates Score a Win at Cape Hatteras

Credit: Emiliano Granado

Wildlife Advocates Score a Win at Cape Hatteras

A recent court ruling upholds law protecting wildlife habitat from off-road vehicles. 

By Chelsea Harvey
Published: 08/18/2014

There's been a victory for birds--and, in fact, all wildlife--at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

A law limiting off-road vehicle (ORV) access to the beach will remain in place, thanks to a June ruling by the Eastern District Court of North Carolina. The law is part of an effort to protect the vulnerable wildlife that make their home on the coast, though it had been challenged by a group of ORV enthusiasts hoping to get back on the beach.

The law has been hotly contested since its inception more than two years ago. Plans to better protect the shore began when the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife in order to preserve the local wildlife. The suit targeted ORVs on beaches, because these vehicles often crush eggs, confuse turtle hatchlings, and drive wildlife from the shore. In February 2012, the National Park Service implemented a new plan, which limited ORV access at certain locations and times, much to the chagrin of the off-roading community, which has vocally opposed the regulations.

The off-roaders quickly mobilized, creating the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance, and within the month filed a lawsuit to overturn the law. The court process lasted two years, culminating in the resolution to deny the lawsuit this June.

Some opponents of the law have argued that it could suppress tourism at the beach, but Walker Golder, deputy director of Audubon North Carolina, says the economy is looking good. "There's been economic benefit from having a balanced plan in place," he says, explaining that visitation to the seashore has actually been up since the plan was enacted. Audubon North Carolina has previously estimated that only 2 percent of seashore visitors drive ORVs

Still, Golder believes the conversation will be ongoing. "This is an important step, but the off-road vehicle advocates have stated clearly that they will continue to fight it," he says.

For now, the ruling is at least a temporary victory for Cape Hatteras, which is an essential habitat for nesting birds, turtles, and other wildlife.

"The National Parks and Seashores in the U.S. are some of the finest in the world, and they've been set aside to protect some of the most significant places in the country," Golder says. "They are, if you will, symbols of what this country is all about, and they need to be protected for everything they offer to everyone."

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Chelsea Harvey

Chelsea Harvey is a freelance writer with a special interest in wildlife conservation. Follow her on Twitter @chelseaharvey91.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine

Comments

I am a wildlife advocate and

I am a wildlife advocate and was formerly an avid supporter and contributor to both SELC and Audubon. I grew up watching birds. These closures are incredibly excessive and neither organization will ever get anything but contempt from me. It's just wrong

As a tree hugger who use to

As a tree hugger who use to live near the area and use to 4WD to the Point to fish, birdwatch and kayak it seems that before there was a good balance between wildlife and man (with the exception of a couple of idiots). I don't understand why now the balance is a problem. Unless something has happened since my last visit, which has been awhile since having to move away from the area keeping certain areas closed while being able to maintain others open was working well. As for only 2% with ORV I believe that was way under estimated plus the locals I have contact with tell me the economy has been hurt badly.

As a tree hugger who use to

As a tree hugger who use to live near the area and use to 4WD to the Point to fish, birdwatch and kayak it seems that before there was a good balance between wildlife and man (with the exception of a couple of idiots). I don't understand why now the balance is a problem. Unless something has happened since my last visit, which has been awhile since having to move away from the area keeping certain areas closed while being able to maintain others open was working well. As for only 2% with ORV I believe that was way under estimated plus the locals I have contact with tell me the economy has been hurt badly.

ll roads,houses,all of it. DO

ll roads,houses,all of it. DO NOT ALOW man to step foot on the islands at all !!!!!

You ORV people make me sick,

You ORV people make me sick, the beach is NOT closed you just cant take your ORV down there why dont you all stop crying and just park those gas guzzlers and walk down there or are you all yahoos just to spoiled now you just cant step a few feet away from your useless machines. You guys will get over it, heck you may even become a tree hugger yourself, me I love it!!

Hylton? U gonna carry all my

Hylton? U gonna carry all my gear coolers rods food ice bait and everything for me since I can't use my ORV ! Btw we stay two weeks so don't forget anything ;) let us use the beach just like we always have. N u don't know me so don't tell me I make a mess. We throw out more trash then we bring!!

Hylton? U gonna carry all my

Hylton? U gonna carry all my gear coolers rods food ice bait and everything for me since I can't use my ORV ! Btw we stay two weeks so don't forget anything ;) let us use the beach just like we always have. N u don't know me so don't tell me I make a mess. We throw out more trash then we bring!!

Dear Audubon and Defenders of

Dear Audubon and Defenders of Wildlife.,
Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to our dwindling shorebird populations, especially in the face of selfish hostility. Humans are ruining the earth for almost all our native species and it's heartwarming to know these native species have a voice to defend them. They need all the victories they can get!
Mary

Cape Hatteras National Sea

Cape Hatteras National Sea Shore the predator management team removed a total of 594 targeted species including: 130 raccoon, 111 opossum (220 opossum kits), 8 mink, 47 nutria, 5 gray fox, 2 coyote, and 9 red fox. Additionally, 61 feral cats captured in live-cages were removed. While conducting predator trapping 98 incidental captures were documented including 12 diamondback terrapin, 3 mud/musk turtles, 2 yellowbelly slider, 13 American crow, 3 clapper rail, 7 brown headed cowbirds, 13 European starling, 21 grackle, 23 eastern cottontail rabbit, and 1 muskrat I think these poor creatures would disagree.

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