Beach Access Issues
April 9, 2008

Transcript of April 4 meeting in Boyle’s courtroom now available

If you couldn’t make it to Raleigh last Friday, April 4, for a meeting in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle in the case of a lawsuit over the future of beach driving on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, you can now read it all here on The Island Free Press.

Boyle had scheduled the court date to hear a request by the environmental groups that have filed a lawsuit over ORV use on the seashore and asked for a temporary injunction against beach driving on some areas of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore until the suit is settled.  However, two days before the meeting, the plaintiffs and defendants asked for a 7-day continuance to give them more time to finalize an agreement that, they said, that would resolve “all of the issues for all species in the case, not just the preliminary injunction, for presentation to the judge in the form of a consent decree.”

The plaintiffs in this case are the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which have asked Boyle to close some of the most popular areas of the seashore to off-road-vehicles until the National Park Service addresses its lack of a plan for regulating ORVs on the beach. The groups claim that the Park Service’s interim plan, designed to manage ORV use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches until a long-term plan is devised by a negotiated rulemaking process along with an environmental impact statement, does not go far enough to protect nesting shorebirds, including the threatened piping plovers and others, such as black skimmers, American oystercatchers, and least terns.

The defendants include The National Park Service, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior and others, including Cape Hatteras National Seashore Superintendent Mike Murray. They are represented by attorneys for the federal government.

Hyde and Dare counties and the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance are defendant/intervenors in the case on behalf of residents and visitors to the seashore. The counties and CHAPA are represented by the Washington, D.C., law firm of Holland and Knight and the Elizabeth City firm of Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland. The intervenors objected to a continuance.

Boyle granted the continuance, but did not set another date for the parties to appear in his court.  The plaintiffs, defendants, and intervenors are negotiating an agreement, to settle both the lawsuit, which was filed in October, and the request for an injunction, which was filed in February.

None of the details of the discussions have been made public, but there is a good chance that the agreement, in the form of a consent decree, could be filed in the case by Friday and would be public then.  Boyle would have to approve the agreement.

(This transcript was obtained by reader Dennis Gray of Dayton, Ohio, aka Denny in Dayton, and sent to The Island Free Press. Our thanks to Denny.)

To read the transcript of the April 4 meeting in Judge Terrence Boyle’s court, click here:

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