06/27/08 — Legislation prohibits ORVs from riding Hatteras Seashore

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Legislation prohibits ORVs from riding Hatteras Seashore

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on June 27, 2008 1:53 PM

For hundreds of North Carolina sportsmen who race to the surf around the Cape Hatteras National Seashore each morning in hopes of reeling in a prized Spanish Mackerel or Blackfish, 2008 has been a year of disappointment.

Not due to poor fishing, but instead because of a consent decree legislation imposed on beach users in and around established waterbird nesting areas.

Several sections of beach have been closed to off-road vehicles (ORV's) rendering them inaccessible, while others have been shut down completely.

The current policy imposed by the National Parks Service is part of a consent decree that was ruled upon by a U.S. Circuit Court judge on April 30. The decision resulted from a suit filed by the National Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife, alleging inadequacies in the service's ability to manage protected and endangered species.

Three varieties of birds, including the Piping Plover, Least Tern and American Oystercatcher, live within the closed beach areas and have been identified as either protected or endangered.

With approximately 19 miles of prime surf-fishing territory closed for environmental protection, some local sport fishing groups and community organizations are calling for change.

A bill (S.3113) proposed by Sens. Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole is currently being considered in Congress and would reinstate the National Parks Service original management strategy and restructure or reopen several sections of beach.

"I share the concerns of many North Carolinians about the negative ramifications that severely restricting off-road vehicle use at CHNS will have on the local community and economy," Dole said in a related press release. "Beach users and members of the local community deserve to have their voices heard."

Several pro-beach driving groups such as the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA), the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association and the Outer Banks Preservation Association are actively supporting the bill, and are encouraging citizens to contact their state representatives in support of the effort to reopen the beaches.

"The consequences of the consent decree are economically destructive and have a negative effect on the tourist-based economies of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands," John Couch, President of the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA) said. "It has turned the public against the protection of wildlife, has frustrated the visiting public who are not getting the visitor experience they come to expect and are professing not to return next year."