Beach Access Issues
April 18, 2008

Reaction to ORV settlement is varied

Reaction to the proposed settlement of the lawsuit challenging the National Park Service’s interim protected species plan has been varied.

The settlement has not yet been approved by U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle.

The lawsuit was filed in October by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, against the National Park Service and other federal defendants.  Dare and Hyde counties and the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance were allowed by Boyle to enter the legal action as defendant/intervenors.

Details of the settlement are available in the Shooting the Breeze column on the front page of The Island Free Press Web site.

Here is what some groups and individuals had to say about the proposed agreement.

From Derb Carter, attorney with the non-profit Southern Environmental Law Center:

“In negotiating this compromise, we worked hard to ensure a balance between natural resources and public enjoyment of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Should this agreement be accepted by the court, we are hopeful that visitors and beach lovers will be able to enjoy all this unique region has to offer, from surf fishing to bird watching.”

From Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners:

“Access to our beaches is an essential part of our heritage and an important aspect of our local economy. Dare County has always supported -- and will continue to support -- open access to our beaches for the many traditional uses enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.  We all must continue to work together for the next two years to achieve a lasting ORV management plan that will protect both the wildlife and the lives of the people who live and visit Dare and Hyde counties and the Cape Hatteras National Recreational Seashore.”

From Jason Rylander, attorney for the Defenders of Wildlife:

“This proposed agreement should lay to rest any concerns that wildlife can't coexist with beach driving at Cape Hatteras. The partnership that put this deal together has demonstrated that we can protect our wildlife heritage while ensuring that traditions like beach driving, fishing and surfing will continue along the Seashore.”

From John Couch, president of the Outer Banks Preservation Association:

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow….But the beaches will remain open, and it will keep the local businesses operating. We are committed, and always have been, to or the process of negotiated rulemaking for ORV access.”

From Chris Canfield, executive director of Audubon North Carolina:

“This agreement would improve protection of bird species that have shown alarming declines over the last decades, while also providing for the enjoyment of the Seashore by all visitors. We believe birds and sea turtles would be given the chance they need while the Park Service develops a final and more comprehensive management plan – a process we look forward to participating in.”
From Allen Burrus, Hatteras Island commissioner and vice-chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners:
“Am I happy with this plan? No. But at least it allows opportunities for access to our beaches and keeps local businesses operating.”

From Rob Alderman of the Hatteras Fishing Militia Web site ( and the “Outer Banks Angler” cable television show:

“The local Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area management located in Manteo did not fail you. The National Park Service (Department of the Interior) in Washington, D.C., failed you and was willing to give this place away to special interest groups, with as little fight as possible. Seashore superintendent Mike Murray has been a good friend to both sides of this fight, constantly striving to balance the environment and access needs.

“There may be some people who question why certain details of the settlement agreement were not argued or why they were even allowed. The lawsuit and the injunction pertained to ORV access on our beautiful beaches, but the actual settlement went much further than that. The lawyers for Dare and Hyde counties and the ORV proponents fought very hard to get us the access they did in this agreement. Our lawyers had very little to work with, given that Judge Boyle had told the plaintiffs that he was willing to grant a full injunction. When the time came to vote on and sign this settlement, all who represented us were saddened and disturbed by parts of the settlement’s contents. The ORV proponents did not just agree to this settlement to protect access, as they also signed to protect the roughly 5,000 lives of those that live year round on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

“With the advice of the lawyers representing the counties and ORV proponents, these groups signed the agreement, because of the chances of an appeal or countersuit winning in court was low.

“Please don’t be discouraged by these events, nor should you think this is the end of it. This has only begun and we must stand tall and strong together.

“Please help us continue the fight with your voice. Don’t stop calling politicians, keep ‘Save Our Beach’ on your marquees, tell every man, woman, and child you see about this plight.

“No matter what.. We cannot lie down now, just because we lost round 1.”

And, finally, a sampling of letters sent to The Island Free Press:

From  Baxter Shelton in Kannapolis, N.C.
“I feel for you business owners on the Outer Banks. But I can't spend my vacation time at a place without ORV access to the points. I was planning a trip for the month of May. Maybe next year if this situation is improved. Yes, I did write my senators and congressman.”

From Greg Williams of Eagle Spring, N.C.

“I feel deep sorrow for the hard working people on the island whose way of life is under attack. The way I see it, they were not counted as one of God's viable creatures that is also worth ‘preserving.’ When you start putting birds and turtles over people, I believe someone has their priorities mixed up. One judge played God, but he is not God. He made a mistake and now many innocent people will suffer from it.”

From Andy Digrys in Powhatan, Va.:
“The amount of vehicles on the beach is so high that it could stand a little restriction and if it helps the wildlife, all the better. I actually prefer parking my four-by-four in the parking lot and walking out to a beach that doesn't have a sea of bumpers blocking the view.”

From Danny Couch in Buxton:
“It is repulsive to me that the SELC's attorney fees will be paid, essentially, by citizen tax revenues. I feel sorry for the rank and file members of the Audubon Society, given the incompetence on public display by its leadership and the bullying influence exerted over them by the SELC and Defenders of Wildlife. I think every estate planner and benefactor ought to be given a primer on personal agendas and anti-social zealots that can and do mismanage their contributions. I will never be able to look at these people the same way again.”

From Ed Chepan in Burlington, Conn.:
“Sadly it appears to be an end of a 20-year era of our lives with the recent settlement. No point of traveling 11 hours when we have a state full of inaccessible shoreline and unreasonable public land restrictions right here at home. Once it starts, it doesn't end until all is lost. We have first hand experience of that. This will undoubtedly have a devastating effect on the economy there. And I feel sorry for the Park Service for the incredible burden that this will place on them -- not a job that any of them expected or that they studied and trained for.
“Our future vacations will focus on New Hampshire where the license plates read ‘Live free or Die.’ This sort of thing would never go there.”

From Jim Stanley of Midlothian, Va.:
“While I understand and appreciate the value of wildlife, I also feel a more equitable solution could have been reached. As someone who spends more than $5,000 annually each year in Hatteras, I can say without bias that the night-time restrictions and other measures in place will result in my family spending our time and money elsewhere. It is a true shame to see a paradise taken out of the hands of those who have supported it financially. Don't take my word on it -- ask the local businesses how things are during the next three years (if you can find any who remain in business).”

From  Mike Stokes of Kill Devil Hills:
“Well, here it is -- the consent decree ‘negotiated’ behind closed doors, out of view of the public. Where are we? China? What happened to transparency? What happened to the democratic process? I'll tell you what happened, ‘The Three’ -- Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife and Southern Environmental Law Center -- hijacked the process. That's what happened! These folks were a part of negotiated rulemaking but decided to pursue their own agenda in federal court, and they won.”

From Shawn Turschak in Chapel Hill, N.C.:

“Please let me know how I can help in this fight. I have a daughter with cerebral palsy who, in the absence of ORV access, would be unable to enjoy the beaches of the Outer Banks. As a longtime vacationer to Hatteras Island, this is very disturbing. These extremist environmental groups have no regard for the financial well-being of the small businesses on the island or the quality of life of the human beings on the island.”
From David Crews in Raleigh:
“I am glad a settlement has been reached. It is clearly a one-sided settlement that favors the environmental groups. The environmental groups took advantage of the situation. There is sure to be backlash from the agreement. I personally plan to get involved and pledge resources to ensure that the rights of the public are preserved.”

From Philip Smith in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“Last year our state imposed a state saltwater fishing license that I purchased (life-time license). I did so with the hopes that maybe some of that money would be used to further improve and protect the resource. That license grants me the right to fish in our ocean and estuaries, but if the agenda of these out-of-state special interest groups is successful, many of my favorite fishing spots will be inaccessible. It would only be fair to have the license fee refunded.”

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